Is the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed a good family pet?

April 3, 2024
Posted in blog
April 3, 2024 Bryan Striegler

Is the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed a good family pet?

Bernese on leash

Most people when they are looking into buying a dog plan on it being a family dog. Some people will want it for protection, but the majority want a dog that loves everyone and is part of the family. Not all dogs are great family pets. If you’re reading this, you are probably wondering if a Bernese Mountain dog is good for families. That answer will really depend on each person and their personal values, so let’s look at all the things I think you should consider.

Size

I’ve always loved big dogs, and that’s one of the reasons I went with a Berner. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large breed, typically weighing between 70-115 pounds and standing 23-27.5 inches tall. I don’t know exactly how tall or heavy mine are, but they are somewhere in that weight range and Finn is close to my height when he stands up (5’10).

Bernese in back of carThere are a few things I think you’ll want to think about with this size. One, big dogs do tend to eat more. Keep that in mind when you are thinking about long term cost. Two, big dogs can knock you over. I’ve only been knocked over once in 6 years, but it is a possibility. They might be behind you, bump into you, or even jump up. Some of this can be fixed with training, but if you are older, it might be a problem. Three, big dogs can look scary. This can be a good or bad thing. I don’t mind my dogs looking that way to robbers, but I don’t want guests to be afraid. The good news is that they are such happy, loving dogs, the size won’t scare people.

Personality

I personally think the biggest reason to get a Bernese Mountain Dog is their personality and temperament. Again, people might have different feelings based off this, but it’s what I feel. They love people, and become very attached. This means they want to be with you, which can lead to anxiety and behaviors to try to get your attention. Finn loves to shove his head under my arm, and Emma will climb up on top of me. I appreciate the love. They are also giant goofballs. Just look into their eyes and you’ll see silliness, and they are known for doing all types of goofy things.

Bernese sitting on top of person on couchCoat

Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick double coat that comes in a striking tri-color pattern of black, white, and rust. Their coat is moderately long and requires regular grooming to prevent matting and keep shedding under control. I try to brush mine once a week or so, but honestly, the hair is always going to be there.

Bernese Mountain Dogs shed throughout the year. I’ve yet to really pinpoint when the worst time is, but my biggest guess would be around summer time. This really is the biggest problem with them. The hair is everywhere. If you’re a neat freak, it means you’ll want to invest in a robovac or two.

The other thing about their hair is it made for them to be out in the cold. This is great when it’s snowing or cold. The low temps won’t bother them one bit. The problem comes in the heat. We will talk more about that later.

Care

All dogs are going to require certain things, just like any other pet or children. Caring for a Bernese Mountain Dog involves regular grooming, exercise, and veterinary check-ups.

Proper socialization and training are important for Bernese Mountain Dogs to become well-adjusted companions. I wish I had spent more time taking Finn around other dogs. He does well, but he can be a bit standoffish at times. They are intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train with positive reinforcement techniques.

family walking bernese mountain dog

Bernese are in the working class, so they want to be doing things. It’s a good idea to give them mental stimulation through interactive toys and games can help prevent boredom and destructive behaviors. Finn and Emma really like chasing balls or playing tug o war.

LIFE EXPECTANCY

This is the saddest thing about having Bernese Mountain dogs or any big breed. The average lifespan of a Bernese Mountain Dog is between 7 to 10 years. When you are thinking about how the dog will affect your family, this has to be considered. Losing a dog can be heart breaking, especially if you feel like it was a short about of time.

Like people, there are certain things you can do to make sure your Berner lives as long as possible. Make sure you’re doing all the things listed above in the care section.

Finn-with-dog-toy

Monitoring their weight and addressing any health concerns promptly can also contribute to a longer, healthier life. One thing I’ve found and try to do as much as possible is a raw diet. Processed food isn’t good for people, so why would we think our dogs eating it would be a good idea?

EXERCISE NEEDS

Bernese Mountain Dogs are a working breed known for their strength and endurance. They require daily exercise to stay healthy and happy, including walks, playtime, and mentally stimulating activities.

Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking or running can help burn off excess energy and prevent boredom in Bernese Mountain Dogs. Regular exercise also contributes to their overall well-being, both physically and mentally.

dog on edge of the bed

Providing opportunities for your Bernese Mountain Dog to engage in activities that cater to their instincts, such as pulling carts or playing fetch, can help their exercise needs while strengthening the bond between you and your canine companion. I’ve thought about buying a cart for years. I know the kids would love to be pulled around. I just don’t know how easy it is to train them to do it.

TRAINING

Training a Bernese Mountain Dog should start early to establish good behavior and obedience. They are intelligent and eager to please, making them responsive to positive reinforcement methods during training sessions. Luckily, with Finn, we worked on training. He still remembers the commands we worked on, listens well, and does great on a leash. Emma, on the other hand, got no training and it shows.

Bernese on leash

Consistent training helps prevent behavioral issues in Bernese Mountain Dogs, ensuring they grow up to be well-mannered companions. The training is good for helping them follow commands, but they also view it as time with you and work, so it serves more than one purpose.

Bernese Mountain Dogs and Kids

If you are looking for a family dog and you have kids, you might have some concern about a giant dog. What if the dog gets angry? What if the kid messes with them? I’ve found that most dogs love children, especially if they are raised around them from a puppy.

Bernese on lap with child

Bernese Mountain Dogs are known to be gentle giants, making them excellent companions for families with children. Their patient and affectionate nature allows them to form strong bonds with kids, providing them with a loyal and loving playmate. I know my dogs love my kids.

kid playing with Bernese mountain dog

Supervision is recommended when Bernese Mountain Dogs interact with young children due to their large size, but their gentle demeanor and protective instincts make them trustworthy around kids.

One thing I believe is it’s good for kids to be around dogs. Growing up with a Bernese Mountain Dog can have a positive impact on children, teaching them responsibility, compassion, and the joy of caring for a pet. Even seen that with my old dogs and with the puppies we’ve raised as well.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs suffer from any health problems?

Just like life span, you want to make sure your dog isn’t going to suffer from major diseases or health problems. Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to certain health issues, including hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and certain cancers. If a breeder is doing their job, the chances of you having issues should be slim. Genetic testing can be done to see if a dog is a carrier.

Can Bernese Mountain Dogs tolerate hot weather?

As I mentioned before, Bernese have a lot of hair. This is great for cold tempteratures, but it can be a problem with the extreme heat. From what I’ve personally seen, they can handle up to 80 degrees pretty easily. When it starts getting hotter, I would not leave them outside. In those temps, they are constantly finding a cold place inside to lay down.

Bernese outside in snow

This is something important to think about. If you are the type that is gone a lot during the day and leave your dogs outside, a Bernese might not be for you. The hot temperature could definitely hurt or even kill them.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs need a lot of space?

Given their large size and energetic personality, Bernese Mountain Dogs do benefit from having ample space to move around and exercise. A spacious backyard or access to a nearby park allows them to burn off energy and stay physically active.

While Bernese Mountain Dogs can adapt to apartment living with proper exercise and mental stimulation, having a larger living space is ideal for this breed. Providing both indoor and outdoor areas for them to roam freely helps prevent feelings of confinement and promotes their overall well-being.

Bernese dog giving kisses

With all that said, my dogs do well with small amounts of space a good chunk of the day. They like to be right next to me whether I’m sitting at a desk working, on the couch, or in my bed.

Should your Family get a Bernese Mountain Dog?

This really is something that will vary from family to family. Bernese are not for everyone. Take a look at all the traits and things we talked about earlier and decide if they are what you want or things that you can handle. For me, I love my Bernese and I hope you do too!