These large dogs are working dogs and built for hard work. But despite their size and strength, Bernese Mountain Dogs are sweet, affectionate, and gentle dogs. They’re great family dogs because they love their people and love to be included in any activity! As Jackie Brown put it for The Spruce Pets: “They are protective but not aggressive, loyal but independent, and energetic but not exhausting.”

Illustration: The Spruce/Kelly Miller

This breed is rather large, with many standing 23-28 inches tall at the shoulder (around 2 feet or more) and weighing 80-110 pounds. Unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs do have a shorter lifespan than most other breeds (with the average lifespan being around 6-8 years), in large part because of the health issues they face. Common health problems for this breed include cancer, hip/elbow dysplasia, eye and cardiac diseases, hypothyroidism, blood clotting, bloat, and autoimmune diseases.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are part of the working breed group and originated in the Swiss mountains. In addition to draft work (pulling carts to market), these dogs were also used on farms to help out farmers, watch over the livestock, and drive dairy cattle. This breed has many talents and would do well in a variety of activities like tracking, herding, guarding, search and rescue, hiking, and competitive obedience. Because of their history, Bernese Mountain Dogs will need training and daily exercise and mental stimulation to help them be happy and healthy.

While Bernese Mountain Dogs make great family dogs, they do require some training and can’t be left alone in the house or yard for long periods, as they might become destructive to either try and find you or keep themselves entertained. Like other breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs will feel much more secure if there are clear rules for them to follow and will thrive in a structured home and routine. The good news is that in general, they are relatively easy to train!

These dogs are not recommended for apartment life or with folks who aren’t able to provide daily walks in some way. They will do best with a large, fenced-in yard and with people who can spend a lot of time with them and give them plenty of exercise and entertainment. And because of their coats, they’re sensitive to heat and hot weather so colder climates work well for them.

Their long, thick coats require some extra care, including daily or weekly brushing. Like some other breeds, they do have a double coat with a long outer coat and short, fluffy undercoat and do shed year-round. They will also ‘blow coat’ twice a year, which means losing a significant amount of their undercoats in a short period of time and requires more brushing. As far as coloring, Bernese Mountain Dogs are tricolored: black, brown, and white.

They also tend to drool quite a bit, which will end up on you, themselves, and all over the house! If you are a fastidious and incredibly clean person, this breed may not be for you. But for many devoted to the breed, the near-constant mess of fur and drool from a Berner is worth it because of their devoted love for their people and companionship.

There is a lot to know about Bernese Mountain Dogs and plenty to consider before getting one! These dogs are kind, loving, and great family dogs; on the other hand, they also get anxious and bored if left alone for long periods of time and can get destructive. Additionally, they’re not recommended for apartment living, for those in hot climates, or for those who can’t stand messes or who might be very busy with work.