Bernese Mountain Dog temperament – what to expect?
When deciding on adopting a dog, it’s very important to consider the temperament of the breed you are interested in. In this article we will talk about what Bernese Mountain Dog temperament is like.
Bernese Mountain Dog temperament: energy levels
Berners and kids
Bernese Mountain Dog and your other pets
Bernese Mountain Dog and other dogs
Bernese Mountain Dog temperament: a Berner on a walk
Bernese Mountain Dog and boredom
The temperament of Bernese Mountain dog is largely defined by the origins and the history of this breed. Traditionally, Bernese Mountain Dog was bred and used in Switzerland as a working farm dog, particularly working with sheep (as a sheep dog) and other kettle to guide and guard herds to and from pasture, and also pulling carts with produce (such as milk, cheese and other dairy) and supplies to and from Alpine towns and villages.
As a working dog, particularly working with herds of cattle and smaller animals such as sheep, certain temperament traits were valued and bred for in Bernese Mountain Dogs. A good farm dog had to be fairly placid, docile and not aggressive. Dogs, especially large dogs, can be lethal to smaller animals like sheep (and especially young lambs). This was absolutely unacceptable in Bernese Mountain Dogs.
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This is why this breed was developed to be very friendly towards farm animals. It is very effective at herding sheep and cattle and working together with shepherds to guide the herds where they need to go. At the same time, Bernese mountain dog was supposed to be able to protect the herds from predators and strangers.
This is why well-bred modern-day Bernese Mountain dogs are generally calm, docile and very friendly towards their people, even though they rarely work as farm or shepherd dogs anymore. It is in their genetic make up to pay attention and work closely with their people.
They are excellent companions and, although they are not aggressive, they will protect you and your family if you are attacked. You can sometimes even get your Bernese Mountain dog to work as a babysitter, “herding” your kids together if they run away.
Bernese mountain dogs are very devoted to their family and will love you and your family selflessly. Although they have thick fur and are generally just fine outside in almost any weather, it is not a good outside dog. They need to be close to their people at all times. So if you prefer to keep your dog outside of the house, Bernese Mountain Dog might not be for you.
Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred as working dogs. As such, they have moderate energy levels and do need a certain amount of exercise every day. To keep your dog happy and healthy, you will need to spend at least an hour a day walking your dog outside, whether it’s hiking, jogging, playing fetch in the park or anything else you can come up with.
Because Bernese Mountain Dogs are working dogs, and very smart, your dog will be especially happy if you have “work” for it to do. Ideally, a sheep farm 😉
If you don’t have a sheep farm, just take your Bernese on long family walks, where your pup can have some good time playing with your kids, chasing balls or sticks or exploring local terrain. Anything that gets your dog’s body and mind busy will help them stay mentally and physically happy and help you have a nice, well behaved and well temperamented dog.
Unlike some other breeds, Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t need a lot of intense, prolonged exercise. As long as they get their hour a day, they will be fine lounging around your house or napping on the couch for the rest of the day. They are big dogs and do well in larger spaces, such as a house.
However, if you live in a small apartment, have a busy schedule, demanding career and not a very active lifestyle, a Bernese Mountain Dog may not be for you. First, an apartment might be too small for a large dog such as Bernese. And of course, if you cannot commit to spending quality time with your dog on a daily basis, you will not have a happy dog.
Although Bernese Mountain dogs are usually very well-temperamented, a dog that’s stuck in a little apartment without much access to outside stimulation and exercise will very soon get cabin fever and might display irritability and aggression towards you or your kids. This is not standard behavior for a Bernese, but they are working dogs and they do need exercise and stimulation to be happy.
Bernese Mountain Dog is excellent with kids. Although they are big dogs, they are extremely gentle, calm and docile, and are particularly attentive to “smaller animals”, such as your kids 🙂 It is in their genetics to be careful with small animals, and they do have a herding instinct.
Don’t be surprised if you discover that your Bernese chooses to play a role of babysitter with your kids and herd them back if they run too far away. Bernese Mountain dogs are also extremely patient. This is the dog that will let your kids climb on it, pull it’s hair, kiss it’s face, and will most likely just calmly walk away if it gets to be too much.
Of course, as with any dog, you need to exercise caution and teach your children how to act safely around your dog. Any dog can and will snap if a child accidentally pokes it in the eye or causes it pain in some other way. So just teach your children to be careful around your dog (and any dogs, which you should be teaching them anyway), and you will see that your kids and your Bernese will become best friends!
If you already have other pets and would like to introduce a Bernese Mountain dog to the family – that’s great. You will probably have more trouble getting your other pet to be friendly towards the Bernese than the other way around.
Calm and friendly, a Bernese will likely take some polite interest in your other pet/pets and will try to become friends with them, or at least tolerate them just fine. Bernese Mountain Dogs have zero hunting instinct, so even the smallest pets such as hamsters, cats and birds should be safe around your Bernese.
Of course, as with any animals, introducing your existing pet to your new Bernese (or vice versa) should be a gradual and careful process.
The way your Bernese Mountain Dog interacts with other dogs depends to a significant degree on early socialization and training, but in general, Bernese Mountain dogs are calm and almost indifferent when it comes to other dogs.
If you have a male dog (not neutered), it may take interest in female dogs around, but if you train your dog well, they will walk right by any ladies they may meet (although they may sniff another dog out of curiosity).
If your male meets another male, they will generally just walk by, unless the other male displays aggression or gets onto your dog’s territory (your backyard etc). Having said that, Bernese Mountain Dogs are a large breed, and it is very important not to neglect their training and socialization so that you may enjoy a well behaved dog in public.
A calm, friendly, but energetic dog, your Bernese will be a great companion for a walk in the park, a hike in the mountains, a jog in the woods, or a stroll downtown. As I already mentioned, Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t have hunting instincts, so, if your dog is well trained, you can even walk it off leash (in the allowed areas!) and not worry about your dog hurting another smaller dog or a cat etc.
Your Bernese also won’t bolt into the nearby bushes from you chasing a raccoon or a squirrel. Full of pride and dignity, your Bernese will mostly calmly walk nearby (unless they are still a puppy, that’s a whole different story).
Bernese Mountain Dogs are working dogs at heart. Throughout hundreds of years of their evolution alongside humans, Bernese dogs always had lots to do on the farm, be it pulling carts or herding animals, or protecting flocks from predators.
Because of that, hard work is literally in these dogs’ blood. Although modern day dogs spend more time lounging in front of TV on their owner’s lap rather than doing active physical work outside, Bernese Mountain dogs still need to have something to occupy their attention and provide them with physical exercise.
If you don’t give your dog enough work/entertainment outside, your Bernese could become unhappy, restless, irritable and potentially destructive. That includes destroying your furniture (all that chewing!), stealing things (hiding your socks where you will never find them), or even displaying aggression.
If you think of adopting a Bernese, you need to keep this in mind and consider whether you will have the time, energy and desire to work with your dog and provide it with enough physical and mental stimulation.
If you live on a farm, you might as well get a Bernese Mountain Dog because you will be getting a helper in your every day activities, and he dog would never get bored. But if you are an apartment dweller – just think twice (or three times!) before you take on the responsibility of caring for this wonderful breed.
Interaction with their people is also critically important for a Bernese. Traditionally, Bernese Mountain dogs were very close to their families. They are genetically predisposed to be close to people, to be interested in their owners daily activities and to take active part!
If you are always at work and prefer going out to a bar or a party at night, your dog will be mostly alone all day. That’s not a great way to live for any dog, but especially for such family-oriented dog as Bernese Mountain Dog. If you are interested in a Bernese, make sure you are going to be giving enough attention and love to your pup on a daily basis! You will definitely not be disappointed by the love and attention they give back to you!