Breed Spotlight; Bernese Mountain Dogs


The affectionate, gentle, and loyal giant.

This breed is one of my favourites! They make great giant pillows, are always happy to see you (the tail wagging, so excited they can’t control themselves kind of happy) and they are great with kids. What more could someone want in a dog? Well that’s simple – more time! On average the Bernese lives to be about 6-8 years; that means a heartbreak every 7 years (or earlier as has been our experience). But my mom absolutely loves these dogs, so they have been a large part (and I do mean large – usually 50+kg large!) of our life. Let me share some of our stories.

Our first Bernese Mountain Dog we named Bear. He was huge! When he stood up on his hind legs he was as tall as most of us. He truly did live up to be a gentle giant. Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally very intelligent dogs, but Bear was not the smartest dog in the world. What he lacked in brains, he made up for in sweetness. Growing up on a farm, he loved the kittens in the barn. He was always trying to lie down right beside them, trying to paw and play with them – he didn’t realize that if he wasn’t careful he could accidentally sit on one or trap one under his giant paw. His heart was in the right place. Even newly hatched baby chicks, he was very excited to spend time with. Bear did have a couple of run-ins with porcupine quills – he never learned that lesson. The best thing about Bear was that you could get him so excited that he would leap crazy high in the air, bursting with energy. Bear had the long Bernese coat so the tangles were always a battle. He needed weekly brushing and frequent baths to try to stay on top of his coat. Sadly, Bear was only 5 when he passed away very suddenly. At that time I wasn’t a veterinarian yet but thinking back now, I suspect it was either a heart condition or a bloated and twisted stomach that ended his life so unexpectedly.

About 6 months after we lost Bear, we got a new puppy named Marley (yes – named after the movie “Marley and me”). Now in that movie, the dog dies from a twisted stomach and I tried to discourage this name since the Bernese is also prone to this condition but my mom would not have any of it. She loved that name. Marley was a little bundle of energy. She loved the snow and the freedom of running. Marley was a very smart dog, great with kids and absolutely gorgeous and I think she knew it (she was great for taking pictures of her). She would greet everyone that came onto our long farm driveway as though they were a long-lost friend and was happy to see them. Sadly, this would also be the end of Marley as she was hit by a car just before she turned 2 years old.

Currently, we have Daisy. For a Bernese, Daisy is still a bit on the smaller side (around 30kg at 10 months of age) and she doesn’t have the long curly hair coat (which has been great for me as I am not stuck brushing her as much and trying to untangle her). Daisy is still a puppy and is living up to the fact that the Bernese can sometimes act a bit goofy. She gets so excited when someone comes over that I think her brain short-circuits and she gets overwhelmed and just cannot contain herself. At only 6 months of age, Daisy ruptured a ligament in her knee and was put on strict rest for 6 weeks. I think she has saved up all this extra energy to use now. Lol.

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a lot of energy and they need to be kept busy. They originated as a working dog and when they do not have things to do, they get into trouble. Unfortunately they are quite prone to numerous medical conditions; they have a high risk of cancer and musculoskeletal issues making them a short-lived dog.

So why do we accept that we may have a heartbreak every 7 years? Simple – because we love them.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Simone Herrlinger