7 reasons NOT to get a Bernese Mountain Dog
Despite what you may have read elsewhere, Bernese Mountain Dogs do shed. Although it depends on many factors, such as climate, temperature in the environment, their health status, nutrition, etc, Berners shed significantly, and they also have long, thick coats which makes the issue worse. If you are not ready to regularly pick up their long hairs and the fluff from their undercoat from your floor or carpet, you may want to reconsider getting a Berner.
Also, Berners are really good at tracking all kinds of stuff on their coats into your house, such as mud, dirt, dust, ticks and everything else that an active, energetic Berner was exposed to outside. Guess whose job it is to clean it all up? Yeah, not your Berner’s. You know what else will be your job? Brushing through that luscious, long coat – on a regular basis. Preferably weekly. If you don’t brush your Berner, their coat will get tangled and matted, and you will end up having to go to a professional groomer to “untangle” the mess. Some unfortunate Berners have to be shaven bold after their owners fail to groom them for months.
Commitment to work
I hate to break it to you, but any dog is a lot of work – or should be, if you plan to be a good owner. This especially applies to Bernese Mountain Dogs. Berners are extremely intelligent and highly obedient. They will obey your commands because they want to please you. They will carefully watch everything you do to make sense of the situation, and will surprise you with their intelligence and an ability and desire to participate in your life. However, you will need to invest a lot of work upfront to raise a dog like that. A lot of Berner owners never invest enough time and work into their dog.
They don’t know how to teach their Berner the basics, such as walking on leash without pulling, or behaving correctly when meeting other people or dogs. If you want to have a well-behaved Berner, it’s essential to invest time to learn how to train them, and then actually do the training – regularly, especially when your Berner is still a pup. You also need to take Berner’s natural instincts into account. A Bernese Mountain Dog is not a German Shepherd, or a Labrador retriever.
A Berner doesn’t just follow a command right away. They follow your command because they love you and accept you as their leader. Most of all, because they want to please you. But they will only love you this much if you spend enough time with them – time on walks, hikes, but also time time training. Find a dog club where you can work with an instructor that will teach you how to train your dog. Take a few private classes if you can. Then train your Berner on your own, using what you learnt in class, at least twice a day.
Find a way to integrate the commands in your every day life with your Berner, so that both you and the dog see how useful the commands can be and how they fit in your daily activities.
Apart from learning the commands, you also need to teach your Berner how to live with you and your family: what they are allowed to do and what they aren’t, what is expected from them. This includes whether they can hop on your bed or sofa, whether they can be in the dining room when everyone is eating, whether they have access to certain rooms in the house or not. Restrictions and limitations that you put on your Berner’s behavior within your home not only make the dog more pleasant to live with for you. (No dog bum on your favorite sofa if you don’t like that type of thing.)
It also makes life with you easier for your Berner. When they are clear about the rules and know what pleases you and what doesn’t, and what’s expected from them, it reduces their stress levels and makes them more confident in their every day life.
If you are not ready to invest significant amount of time working with your Berner, you might want to consider getting a different dog, perhaps a smaller one, and the one that doesn’t require as much guidance and attention. Both you and the dog would probably be better for it.
Don’t get a Bernese Mountain Dog if you want a guard dog
Berners are large dogs. They are also muscly and powerful. To most people that don’t know the breed, they can look quite frightening. But if you want to get a Berner thinking that they’ll be your guard dog – it’s not the best idea.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have definitely guarded farms and homes traditionally, as well as flocks of cattle and sheep, and carts with produce. Those instincts are very much alive to these days. Your Berner will definitely alarm you with a loud bark if a strange comes in to your yard or home. They will watch the stranger, even if they let them in (after your approval). They will be polite and maybe even wag their tail, but they will not be very happy if a stranger tries to take something out of your home or yard.
However, Berners are not great as body guards. They will not protect you the way a German shepherd would – it is simply not in their nature. If you need a body guard dog, choose a German Shepherd, Rottweiler, or a Doberman.
Don’t get a Berner if you are a couch potato
Some dogs are more suited to live inside, with a family that prefers watching Netflix every night to jogging or walking and mall strolling on the weekends instead of hiking in the nearest woods. Some smaller dogs of lap dog variety would fit that type of family perfectly.
But not Bernese Mountain Dogs. These dogs were bred to help the farmers with their farm animals, out on the pastures, outside all day long. They are fairly docile, but still very active dogs. They have musculature that requires exercising and working. They have thick fur that protects them from the cold, but also makes them uncomfortable if they have to stay inside for too long. Their minds are wired to work alongside with humans, controlling herds, protecting a stray lamb or calf and herding them back to the flock.
They get bored if all they do is lie on the living room rug watching TV with their owners. If you are not into hiking, walking, jogging, biking, and you don’t have a farm, a Bernese Mountain Dog may not be the best choice for you. Or, rather, you may not be the best choice for a Bernese Mountain Dog.
Don’t get a Bernese Mountain Dog if you don’t have patience
Like all big dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs age and mature slowly. While you can expect a dog of almost any other breed to start behaving like adult by 1-1.5 years old, not so with Bernese Mountain Dog. These giant goofs don’t stop being rowdy teenagers until about 3-4 years old. This means they will still get in trouble and various antiques way longer than other breeds, and if you ever owned a puppy or a young adult dog, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you want to only spend one year to get a well-behaved, calm, reliable dog, you might get slightly disappointed with a Bernese. If you do get one, be ready to spend at least three years “in the trenches”.
Don’t get a Bernese if your whole family isn’t on board
This one is important. Not everybody makes a good dog owner. Having a dog is a lot of work , and lots of commitment. Even if you think that you have what it take s- and maybe you do! – what about your whole family? It’s not rare that, while one member of the family is passionate about getting a pet, others may not share the passion. Quite often, once the pet is in the house, the “reluctant” members of the family come around and warm up to the new dog or cat and everything works out beautifully.
But it’s not always like that. Although I wouldn’t recommend pushing to get a dog of any breed if someone in the family isn’t along with it, it is especially so with a Bernese Mountain Dog. They are not like regular, easy breeds of dogs.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are large. They take space – in all senses of that word. They will occupy a large area in your living room, kitchen and your car. They will not be “invisible”, like a smaller dog could potentially be. They will be very prominent and take a large part of your home, your time, your budget and your life. The whole family may need to make sacrifices to accommodate the dog’s needs.
You will have to sacrifice sleep-ins in bed to take your pup out. So will your spouse.
You will have to make space for the dog in the back seat of your car, right next to your kids. You will have to clean after your Berner if they track dirt in the house, shed all over the sofa, vomit or have diarrhea in the middle of the living room. So will your partner. You need to be sure they are as ready for the downsides of having a dog as they are for the upsides. If they didn’t even want to have a dog in the first place, it may seriously complicate things and influence the whole atmosphere of your home and family to the worst. And you know what else can make your family situation worse? The means you have to spend to support your dog! Which brings us to:
Do not get a Bernese Mountain Dog (or any dog) if you cannot be sure you can afford it both now and long-term. This does not only include feed, toys and other supplies. The main type of bills that you may have to endure and that may put a serious dent in your family finances are vet bills. Bernese Mountain Dogs lifespan is normally 7.5-9 years, and although they are a fairly healthy breed, they can still have various health issues, including some pretty grave ones.
Even if your Berner lives to the ripe 10 years of age and dies peacefully in their sleep, you will still have to pay for the regular vet check-ups, dewormings, sterilization etc. A dog is very much like a kid – you can pretty much rely on them in terms of getting regularly sick / food poisoning / accidents etc. Add to that grooming costs, teeth maintenance, potential cost of chewed up furniture, leashes, toys, crates, special car seats/covers for your dog, and it all adds up quite a bit, especially for such a big dog.
Unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t tend to live very long. Even a healthy Bernese Mountain Dog lifespan is normally around 7-10 years, and often it’s even shorter: only 6-8 years. A Berner will become a huge part of your life – you are likely to love them with all your heart. Your family will probably (and very likely) also fall in love with the dog. That makes it so hard to let them go when the time of their life is nearing the end.
This is probably the worst part of owning any dog, but almost any other breed will give you closer to 10 years of life with your dog, and some go as long as 15 years! Not so with Bernese Mountain Dog. Take that into account if you are thinking about owning a Berner.