The four breeds of Sennenhund, with the original breed name, followed by the most popular English version of the breed name:
- Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Greater Swiss mountain dog
- Berner Sennenhund, Bernese mountain dog
- Appenzeller Sennenhund, Appenzeller
- Entlebucher Sennenhund, Entlebucher mountain dog
The Bernese’s calm temperament makes them a natural for pulling small carts or wagons, a task they originally performed in Switzerland. With proper training they enjoy giving children rides in a cart or participating in a parade. The Bernese mountain dog is slightly longer than it is tall, and it is highly muscular.
The head of the Bernese mountain dog is flat on the top with a moderate stop, and the ears are medium sized, triangular, set high, and rounded at the top. The teeth have a scissors bite. The legs of the Bernese are straight and strong, with round, arched toes. The dewclaws of the Bernese are often removed. Its bushy tail is carried low.
Like the other Sennenhunde, the Bernese mountain dog is a large, heavy dog with a distinctive tri-colored coat, black with white chest and rust colored markings above eyes, sides of mouth, front of legs, and a small amount around the white chest. An ideal of a perfectly marked individual gives the impression of a white horseshoe shape around the nose and a white “Swiss cross” on the chest, when viewed from the front. A “Swiss kiss” is a white mark located typically behind the neck, but may be a part of the neck. A full ring would not meet type standard. The AKC breed standard lists, as disqualifications, blue eye color, and any ground color other than black.
Bernese Mountain Dogs shed year-round, and the heaviest shedding is during seasonal changes. Usually the Bernese will only require a brushing once a week, with more in spring and fall, to keep its coat neat and reduce the amount of fur on the floor and furniture. The Bernese will only require a bath about once every couple of months or so, depending on how high its activity level is and how often it spends its time in the dirt.
Special attention should be paid to the ears of the Bernese Mountain Dog, as they can trap bacteria, dirt, and liquid. The risk of an ear infection drops with weekly ear cleanings using a veterinarian-recommended cleanse
The breed standard for the Bernese mountain dog states that dogs should not be “aggressive, anxious or distinctly shy”, but rather should be “good-natured”, “self-assured”, “placid towards strangers”, and “docile”. The temperament of individual dogs may vary, and not all examples of the breed have been bred carefully to follow the standard. All large breed dogs should be well socialized when they are puppies, and given regular training and activities throughout their lives.
Bernese are outdoor dogs at heart, though well-behaved in the house; they need activity and exercise, but do not have a great deal of endurance. They can move with amazing bursts of speed for their size when motivated. If they are sound (no problems with their hips, elbows, or other joints), they enjoy hiking and generally stick close to their people. Not being given the adequate amount of exercise may lead to barking and harassing in the Bernese.
Bernese mountain dogs are a breed that generally does well with children, as they are very affectionate. They are patient dogs that take well to children climbing over them. Though they have great energy, a Bernese will also be happy with a calm evening.
Bernese work well with other pets and around strangers.
Cancer is the leading cause of death for Bernese Montain dogs. They are prone to hip dysplasia, hereditary eye diseases, bloat and gastric torsions.