Berner for You
Before we begin, let us look WHY you want to buy from a breeder.
The clinical truths about pure breeds, mixed breeds, and designer breeds
I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet
You think you want a show dog?
The Real cost of a Bernese Mountain dog (written quite a few years ago)
The Canine Contradiction (well done description of the breed)
An open letter to prospective puppy buyers.
So now you have decided that a Berner may be the dog for you? We obviously think these dogs are the perfect match for us, but they are not necessarily the perfect dog for everyone. We apologize for starting out with any negative tone, but all breeds of dogs come with their strengths and weakness’ and it is important that you rigorously evaluate which breed of dog will best complement your lifestyle. Their attributes are many, but we will start with what some people would consider their cons.
To begin with, they are BIG. When you sit in your chair with your cup of hot drink…they look you in the eyes, and promptly “bump” your elbow. You pet for a few minutes, tell them you adore them, and softly send them to their special spot. They do not move. Next comes the Berner “hug.” They assume that the first message was certainly not clear. They bump again, they wrap one of their HEAVY paws around your leg, and look adoringly into your eyes…Have you figured it out yet? they seem to say. So, again you pet their big heads, you assure them that you love them, and firmly insist that they must go to their special spot. No go. Next, they are in your lap (if you are quick, you put that hot drink down!). They moan and verbally tell you what they have been trying to say all along. They adore you! They can’t live without you! And the distance you are asking of them is simply beyond what they can take. So, you work them off your lap, and you get down on the floor with them. You pet, roll, wrestle, and finally settle back for your drink, book, or whatever was planned. They sleep with their head on your foot and are finally content. You on the other hand, realize you must change your clothes, vacuum the chair and carpeting, and pick up any disrupted item that happened during the routine greeting. This is pretty much a daily occurrence at our home.
They have long, strong, bushy tails. These are wonderful for dusting the furniture of dust and any knick-knack that may be cluttering your table surfaces. Those tails are also good for sending small children sprawling, Christmas tree ornaments flying, and well, you probably get the picture. When the wet feet come in the house…. But on the good side; there is nothing like those happy tails when you come home!
They are loud! When a visitor approaches the house, the neighbors and all surrounding know that someone new is about. We personally like the warning system, but when the dogs are indoors, their bark rivals any high-tech LOUD security system. We can appreciate, however, that these are not dogs that just love to hear their own voices. If they bark, there is a purpose. Out of doors is loved by the Berner…but they prefer if you are there with them, otherwise they choose to stay indoors basking in your love and always finding a spot on or behind your feet (This is especially annoying when attempting to move around your kitchen while cooking!)…and since I last updated this page, I have added another 4 to my kitchen:)! Works for me but can’t say that everyone loves the hop scotch pattern on my floor!
Grooming is a must with this breed. Weekly brushing, clipping of nails, and occasional bathing. This can be looked upon negatively or positively depending on your likes/dislikes. Our dogs get brushed daily (Okay…now that I have SIX of these, we brush once a week!), because it helps me (Shelly) relax and spend some one on one time with my dogs. We also choose to allow our dogs on our light carpeting, and this helps maintain LESS hair and LESS dirt than otherwise. The picture below shows the beginning of “blowing a coat.” This happens twice a year and this was day one. We will continue too see this much coat removed for about two weeks.
Exercise is another must with these dogs. They are not high energy dogs but are working dogs. If their minds and bodies are not occupied, they become depressed, unhealthy, and sometimes destructive. Although my dogs have ample room to roam, they love their daily walk. Shyla especially loves to trot beside us when we bicycle. Exercise must be monitored though. Until the dogs are two years of age, their joints are not solid. So, if you are looking for that jogging partner, you MUST wait. Not everyone wants to do that. Their exercise must also be judged by weather. Cold weather…go for it. Hot weather? WATCH OUT! These dogs have heavy coats, lots of body, and thus can be a prime target for heat stroke. In the summer, we do EARLY morning walks (not jogs) or late evenings. Sound judgment is a must when exercising Berners.
All living beings have health issues and purebred dogs are not exception. They have issues with hip & elbow dysplasia, but purebred dogs seem to have a few more. My personal belief on this matter is that it is due to the small gene pool that pure breeds come from. Bernese Mountain Dogs are no different. They have issues with Hip & Elbow Dysplasia, Cruciate ligament rupture, Bloat, Entropion/ectropion, Kidney failure, & Cancers (and any other physical ailment that can be found in the canine world). Any reputable breeder will only breed dogs that are free of these conditions, but not even that guarantees that one or more of these disorders will not show up in their offspring. Treating these diseases can be costly. When entering a relationship with a Berner, it would be unheard of to say that caring for their medical needs was more than planned, so simply put him/her down. These are members of your family and when adopting a Berner you are taking on the same obligation as if you had adopted another member of your family. Some conditions do require that for the dogs’ benefit, that he/she will be humanely put to rest to relieve suffering, but this is not usually the first option.
The hardest part for everyone is the longevity of this wonderful breed. Steps are being made in the right direction with the worldwide life expectancy moving from 7 years to 8 years, but still not long enough, or back to their original life span. We feel blessed that many dogs within our lines have lived well past these numbers and more than not, have lived into their double digits with some hitting teens. Personally, we look for lines that have had above average life expectancy and focus on more outcrossing than line breeding. Both types of breeding have negative and positive results, but we choose to throw our dice without crossing at this point. The positive aspect of out-crossing is diversity within the gene pool, but the negative aspect is a higher level of unpredictability regarding unknown health history. Berner-Garde has been the most valuable of tools as pairing is decided, but it is only as valuable as the information that has been entered.
There are social issues in this breed as well. This breed is devoted to you. Friendly, but aloof to strangers (if you are present, otherwise the stranger is firmly warned off), and cannot stand to be alone. Some breeds do very well with a walk once a day, a little play time, and back in their run. This would undo a Berner. Although a few hours apart from you is fine, when you are home, they are miserable if they are not with you. And misery for a Berner will be turned into your misery (Did we mention that these dogs are SMART? They know when you are home or not, and they know how to get even if they have too!). So, do you want a constant companion? Although we love to have our dogs riding in the car with us, not everyone wants a hundred pound (more or less) dog sitting in the front seat with them (don’t forget that they leave LARGE nose prints on your windows, not petite ones 🙂
But, if you are looking for a dog that hangs on your every mood and breath, that adopts your family as his own, that loves the outdoors, is wonderful around other animals, that alerts you to danger, and gives the impression that your dog is of royal blood, maybe you DO need to look at the Berner a little more. One of our puppy owners mentioned that they felt as though they now had a celebrity with them wherever they went!
As we reflect upon the “cons” we have mentioned, we cannot help but think that many of the items are what endear us to our Berners. But this is not so with everyone…So please, click on some of our links, read more books, visit our kennel or another, and make an educated decision as to what type of breed would truly compliment you and your family.
For us, we love those BIG, HAIRY, LOVING dogs! I love watching my children roll around on the floor with a huge dog and KNOW they are in safe paws.
“It’s been over 12 years and three Bernese Mountain Dogs since my husband and I first met Shelly Leary. My husband and I are from Massachusetts and while we have a number of breeders on our coast, we have three times now chosen (and will continue to choose) to travel to Oregon and have the joy of bringing a “Shelly puppy” (as I like to say) into our family.
After losing our first Berner (not a Shelly puppy) to histiocytosis at five years old, we knew we wanted to find a breeder that put health and longevity first. After doing extensive research and talking with Shelly, we decided she was the breeder for us. She puts a lot of time and energy into her breeding program. She is knowledgeable in so many areas: genetics, whelping, socialization, nutrition, and exercise to name a few.
No question is too small (even if you happen to ask it more than once, which I have been known to do). She genuinely cares for both the pets and the owners.
As a breeder she is professional. She keeps thorough records of their early development, engages in early stimulation by having them be exposed to different noises, people and experiences. She has a knack for placing just the right puppy with just the right family.
She is accessible and receptive to any questions you have at any stage of your relationship with her. And she loves to hear updates on how our pups are and what they are up to. As both a person and a breeder, Shelly Leary is one you can rely on and trust.”