Frequently Asked Questions

Below, (in no particular order), are some frequently asked questions by potential and new owners about Bernese Mountain Dogs.

Readers should note that usually replies can only be given in general terms. No one can say that all Bernese are exactly the same in type or temperament and will fit the characteristics outlined. No matter what the breeding of any dog the next biggest single influence on its behaviour will always be the training and conditioning it is given from day one of its time with you. It is rare for dogs of any breed developing any behavioural problems in their homes not to have contributory factors from their owners, although this may sometimes be inadvertently. Whilst choice of breed is important the responsibility is always with the owner to make sure they know how to ensure that their dog learns to behave in an acceptable fashion.

Also many of the points made, favourable or otherwise, will apply to lots of other breeds and some questions do not have an exact answer as personal opinions come into play. All we would say is read these answers and evaluate all other advice you can find and make up your own mind.

The best advice before buying a dog would involve meeting some dogs and their owners not only at a show or event but try to see dogs in a domestic environment.

What are they like with children?

Generally speaking the answer I usually give is ” …as good as any other breed.”
I would not pretend that BMD are better than lots of other breeds but generally speaking they do seem to have an excellent affinity with children. Even Bernese who do not normally live with children can often be found making little friends at fun days and shows etc. This is not to say that any dog should ever be trusted completely and left unsupervised with children, especially toddlers or exuberant older children.

Although there are a few who are very wary of selling puppies to homes with small children, most owners and breeders view the Bernese as good family dog and being friends and even playmates with the children of the house is a lovely part of this. However, children should always be taught to behave appropriately with all animals and, particularly whilst the dog is still a puppy, care should be taken to give the dog respite from attentions of small children as it needs plenty of rest and a child free resting area should be strictly maintained.

How much do they eat?

The usual answer to this is not nearly as much as some people think. Bernese are not a giant breed, being described as “above average size”. Whilst growing puppies do need a good quality diet for the first few years of their life, as the dog reaches maturity its nutritional needs are not so great and more harm than good will be done by overfeeding.

Specific advice cannot be given as there are a colossal amount of types of diet and each will dictate various amounts and just like people all dogs are unique and lifestyle will . The rule has to be to follow the guidelines for any particular food but most of all take advice from your breeder or another experienced owner if you are not sure. Ask your vet to weigh your Bernese when you visit so that you are aware of your dog’s weight in order to accurately assess feeding from directions given by manufacturers. Many people have their own preferences but most Bernese will eat all that you give them and can easily become overweight if allowed so some strictness can be required. An overweight Bernese is not an attractive sight and the consequences on general health and joints can be very serious.

It is important that dogs, especially young puppies, are not given excessive supplements. Most modern complete feeds are scientifically researched to have correct amounts of vitamins, minerals etc. Serious harm can be done to the young growing dog by over nourishment.

Many people feed their own dietary combinations usually based on more natural based regimes but this can need experienced judgment and it is a fact that many Bernese do very well on modern complete foods. It is important that you find a settled diet for your dog and, if introducing changes, you do this gradually.

One further point worth making is that many owners feed their Bernese two small meals a day instead of one large one which can help to reduce the chances of developing gastric torsion or bloat, however this does NOT guarantee bloat will never affect your dog as food is only one factor. Bloat is a very serious problem of trapped gases in the digestive tract causing twisting and expansion of the gut. This is not only an extremely painful condition but can be fatal within a few hours if not recognised and urgent veterinary surgery is required if the dog is to have a chance of survival. If ever you are worried your dog may have bloat you need to contact your vet immediately whatever the time, tomorrow morning will be too late. Most animals can suffer from this condition and it is by no means restricted to Bernese. To further reduce the risk of gastric torsion exercise should not be taken immediately (an hour) before or after (within 2 hours) feeding.

Do they get on with other animals and pets?

Bernese origins are as Swiss farm dogs so it is normally inherent in their nature to be very tolerant of other friendly animals. Any dog will be curious about cats and other domestic animals it comes across but a rush to investigate, especially from a puppy, should not be interpreted as aggression. Bernese generally are very ambivalent to other animals having a natural curiosity but not exhibiting any hostility. Whilst out walking years ago I remember briefly losing my adult male and finding him in the middle of a field standing upright on his back legs nose to nose with a very large horse who appeared just as curious as he was!.

Whilst some just would never do it a few Bernese have been known to chase sheep and the usual common sense controls over any dog should be enforced whenever appropriate. It is no use whatsoever after an incident saying to the farmer, or the police, “well, he’s never done that before”.

Overall though, the short answer to the question is normally a resounding “Yes”.

Are they good "house" dogs ?

What people usually mean by this question is will the dog in any way act as a guard in the house to deter unwanted visitors. The usual requirement is to bark and make people think twice about entering uninvited. Many Bernese are excellent at this, we had a large bitch that had a terrific booming bark and absolutely no one who didn’t know her entered our garden unsupervised. However, everyone who did know her just walked right in through the gate and let their small children in as well. Obviously the flip side is that a willing barker can be a nuisance sometimes and it can be hard to strike the balance. Although they may bark when they first have something to be excited about most Bernese will quickly settle down again.

Some dogs will behave totally differently when at home to when they are out, or when they live alone to when they live in a crowd. A dog should never be encouraged to bite or bought with this in mind as whatever the intentions it is almost inevitable that sooner or later the dog will bite and this will almost certainly be the wrong person and a Bernese is large and powerful enough to quickly do a lot of damage to anyone, especially a child.

Whether your Bernese is a “barker” or not or the sheer presence of a decent sized dog is often enough to deter a stranger from entering.

How much do they cost ?

As I update, (in October 2018), the typical answer seems to be around £1800 – 2000. One does sometimes hear of a few puppies being advertised or sold for much more but generally these seem to be from breeders (and usually dogs) that few people have heard of and so we can make no comment as to the general quality of the puppies or the “after sales” and advice you may receive. Frequently reputable breeders will supply the dog with a limited insurance (see point 14) and indeed the ABS requires breeders to supply insurance. In recent years the legal requirements on breeders have changed and the new Animal Welfare Act from October 2018 only increases their legal responsibilities.   Likewise a recent trend amongst puppy farmers, or more especially mass importers of puppies, seems to be to sell at a significantly cheaper price to make sure they sell their stock. Whilst some of these puppies are healthy there are significant numbers of buyers who have serious issues and end up spending much more than they have saved on vet’s fees.

Whilst a first impression may be that breeders must make lots of money proper breeding is a complicated business and should not be taken lightly. Stud fees and expenses, expected and unexpected veterinary bills and high costs of quality diets can combine to make litter rearing a financially costly affair not to mention the demands on time and energy in rearing a litter. Breeding and selling dogs should not be undertaken lightly and the responsibility to new owners and the puppies does not come easily to some people. The legal implications if the dog develops any problems are also something a serious breeder will have considered.

Sometimes a breeder may have larger costs to recover, maybe the cost of importing a dog and may decide to charge a little more than the usual rate. A few breeders may decide to charge more for puppies from very well known successful show dogs which cost money to campaign or charge higher stud fees. Very few breeders will charge less for pet quality as opposed to show quality dogs although sometimes obvious faults, such as blue eyes or badly mismarked may be sold at a reduced price. One reason for this is that it can be very difficult to tell with certainty at the age when the puppies are sold how they will develop and many breeders take the view that all their puppies are pets first and foremost and any show potential is just a bonus. As they should be viewed as excluding the dog from breeding many breeders will give a reduction in price for an obvious but otherwise generally harmless fault such as badly mismarked. Your breeder should always be willing to give advice and feeding instructions and always be available for follow up assistance. Good breeders will gladly answer your awkward questions, as well as asking you a few, and if you are not happy with any response then the advice has to be to walk away and take further advice from elsewhere. Often your breeder will require you to take your puppy to your vet within a few days to have a complete check up to confirm that your puppy has been supplied in a good healthy state.

Lastly, one important fact to remember when assessing price is that paying a higher price is absolutely no guarantee of a better quality puppy. In fact a higher than average price may indicate that the breeder’s motives may be about money rather than improving the breed.

Which is best - a dog or a bitch ?

This is a very common question amongst those who have decided to buy their first Bernese Mountain Dog. The answer is very much a personal issue but there are some factors you may wish to consider. Most people would agree that the dogs can be that little bit more impressive in appearance but on the other hand some will prefer a pretty bitch. Obviously if you want to breed you need a bitch, but if you don’t want to breed then to avoid the inconvenience of seasons then many people would recommend spaying bitches at some stage whereas some would say get a dog in the first place if you don’t want to cope with seasons.

In terms of temperament I have always found the dogs and bitches very faithful ………………………… until someone across the room opened a packet of biscuits that is!. An obvious difference is size (and weight), there is quite a range from the largest dog to the smaller bitches and the latter may fit into your house and car more easily.

Some might have experienced a “problem” dog which has improved after castration but this drastic course of action often makes no difference and should not be considered a routine cure all. Usually these kind of problems can be best avoided by recognising the need for good behavioural training early on in life especially as Bernese are a powerful dog. Most Bernese are easy going and very biddable but, like all breeds, there are a few which can become dominant and contrary to what some will tell you, this can just as easily be a dog or a bitch. First time owners of this type of dog may need good support or problems can quickly develop, training from an early age is essential.

Back to the original question I’m afraid the only advice that can be given is to meet and get to know as many examples of each as you can and make your own mind up. As previously make sure you see dogs and bitches in domestic environment not just at a show to judge them in the context in which you will have to live with them. Many owners will be happy to welcome you into their home to meet their dogs and discuss their experiences of the breed.

Are they easy to train?

The simple answer is “Yes” as long as it is done correctly on a reward basis. The main reason for this is that most Bernese are very responsive to treats and titbits etc and once they have “learnt to learn” rapid progress can be made. Whilst you cannot expect a Bernese to ever compete with the likes of Border Collies at the very highest obedience level of serious competition they are capable of very good standards. On an everyday life front this can easily translate into learning acceptable behaviour and basic commands as long as YOU take the trouble to learn how to do it correctly.

Where can I see some Bernese Mountain Dogs?

The obvious answer is at a show or other club event but it is always recommended that you also try to see Bernese in a domestic environment before deciding to take one into your home. The lovely dog you saw in a show may look very different when putting his chin on your dinner table or blocking out the television. The club should be able to provide you with names of owners in your area who will be willing to let you meet their dogs and ask more questions.

Club events and other shows are available from this web site or other linked dog sites and General Championship show dates can be obtained from the Kennel Club. (For this you need to know that Bernese are members of the Working Group as these shows spread over several days and you need to attend on the correct day).

It is worth noting that the contacts you make at this stage may well be important later in helping you find a puppy if you do subsequently decide to own a Bernese.

What are the common ailments and How long do Bernese live?

These are too big a subjects to summarise properly in a paragraph or two. Whilst some would tell you that Bernese are prone to many illnesses and conditions, others feel that they are not especially different to other breeds. Whilst the truth is hard to establish it is true that we have to keep things in perspective but at the same time highlight the problems we have. Like every other breed Bernese do have their problems but many of these are common to other breeds as well. Some people do seem to want to paint things absolutely as bad as possible whilst others seem to ignore things and say we have no particular problems. The truth is, as always, somewhere in between the extremes you hear about.

Surveys of average age at death have shown an age of around 8 with cancer being the cause of around 40% of deaths.

Read through the health section of this site where many of the issues are dealt with more properly. In the meantime your best advice is to ask as many breeders and owners as you can and evaluate their replies against all the others. If you have a Bernese then we would ask you to contribute to the various health schemes that are run by the clubs from time to time, usually through the Bernese Breed Council.

How do I find a breeder and a puppy?

This can be a difficult task sometimes, especially for your first Bernese. At times there are not many puppies to be found. Often your best hope will be a good contact you have made during your enquiries, sometimes the club may be able to help but often breeders have more puppy buyers on a waiting list than they have puppies to sell.

However, do not despair. Sometimes breeders may deliberately take the discouraging approach when you first contact them but are willing to let you see the puppies. This may be to assess you and your family as potential owners before promising you a puppy. Remember most breeders main objective is to place the puppies in the best possible homes so even if they don’t have a puppy for you this time you may be first in line next time or they may be able to recommend you to someone else.

It is unusual for established and reputable breeders to need to advertise puppies in publications such as the local “Free Advert” type of paper or on the internet. Whilst we cannot comment here on any specific people these are not normally the place to find puppies from reputable breeders who, in Bernese at least, will usually have more than enough buyers via word of mouth or contacts from club events and shows or passed on via enquiries to clubs or other breeders. Whilst this situation may change from time to time it is relatively rare to see Bernese puppies advertised anywhere so best beware and it is recommended that you make your own contacts. There seems to be more and more breeders with no little real interest in the breed beyond how much they can get for their puppies. Horror stories from people who have purchased puppies from these types of breeders are becoming more and more common so please beware. Ask any prospective puppy seller about the health of your puppy’s relatives, not just hip and elbow scores. Often this information will be offered but if the breeder has difficulty answering your questions then it is probably something they haven’t considered. If you aren’t happy for any reason then walk away.

How important are markings?

Markings are sometimes taken out of context by beginners. People worry that the tan on their puppy’s cheek may not be exactly symmetrical or they have a little more white on one foot than another or there is no white tip on the tail etc. Exact comment on these matters is an individual matter of degree and whilst it is true that absolutely perfect markings would be aspired to by all of us, most breeders and judges would say that as long as the markings are basically correct there are far more important structural and temperament issues to concentrate on. Having said that we would not want to loose the beautiful tri-coloured markings which are a big part of the breed’s attraction and so more seriously mismarked dogs should not be bred from. However mismarked dogs can still have a full and normal life and can be found in displays pulling carts and working in other areas and can sometimes be obtained more cheaply from breeders because they should not be bred from.

Another sometime “imperfection” which you may come across is a small patch of white hairs on the back of the neck. This used to be mentioned as tolerated in the standard and, whilst it should not be actively encouraged, as long as it is a very small patch it should not be a big problem in your puppy and can even grow out altogether.

Puppies sometimes have small pink patches around their lips, these will normally disappear as the dog grows and as a general rule the white areas on your puppy will shrink a little as he or she ages, if you haven’t noticed compare photos of a dog when mature and as a puppy. Sometimes a clear faced puppy will develop freckles as it matures but again these are nothing to worry about.

What activities can I do with my Bernese?

One of the attractions of Bernese is their versatility. One of the first things you will do with your first Bernese is draw a crowd when you take him/her out. You will soon learn that Bernese are people magnets and most of them know it and delight in the attention!. This can make them especially suitable for PAT (Pets As Therapy) dog work, this being the hospital and home visiting organisation. This can be a very satisfying activity with your dog and can bring great credit on the breed by bringing much enjoyment to people who are no longer, or temporarily, able to have a dog of their own.

As they are generally very willing to please, especially for a biscuit, Bernese can be easy to train for all manner of tasks. Some years ago there was a Bernese guide dog but these were discontinued because of the size. At the club fun events you will see “pet” owners trying carting, agility, obedience, showing and having great fun in the novelty events. Most of these dogs will only try this on the one day of the year and the Bernese adaptability is clearly demonstrated. For the more serious Bernese can successfully enjoy competing in obedience, agility (but best to restrict some of the apparatus due to their weight), flyball etc but it has to be accepted that if your sole aim is to be a top competitor in general competition then a Bernese is not really for you and the more active and agile Border Collie may be more suitable.

Basically as long as they are with you they will try anything for you. We have achieved great satisfaction assisting Father Christmas deliver the presents at school or works parties by means of a decorated cart. I have given talks at schools assisted by the dogs who always get a great response usually winning over the kids who are “scared” of dogs, our dogs have assisted making uncomfortable physiotherapy fun for a disabled young man by joining in whilst lying alongside and and these types of things are much more satisfying than show wins, (good job!!).

Why do I need insurance?

Most breeders, and the club, would usually recommend that you take out veterinary and third party insurance for your dog. Most reputable breeders will supply your puppy with a few weeks (typically 6) insurance arranged with the option to extend this for a year. It may be obvious that any veterinary requirements could be expensive and this cover is self explanatory but third party liability does not always occur to people. With the best fencing and procedures in the world accidents can happen and your dog could escape and wander onto the road causing an accident for which you as the owner could be liable for damages. Everyone is aware of the increasingly litigious society in which we now live and your dog could merely run up, bark and frighten someone in the park and potentially leave you with problems. Fortunately these incidents are rare but they ARE happening and adequate insurance is an common sense part of modern dog ownership in our increasingly litigious society. So, if you do only take out a cheap policy make sure you at least have decent 3rd party cover.

Insurance itself is a very variable commodity. Many of the supermarket chains offer good value pet insurance as well as the larger insurance companies and their specialist subsidiaries. Sometimes large differences in premium may be noticed but you should always check the small print of the cover being offered. Like many other areas dog insurance is, generally speaking, a competitive market and large differences in price should always be investigated thoroughly. For example a cheaper cover may only permit veterinary claims up to a certain amount or only one claim for any single condition or you can only claim for a year for any one problem. Others may have larger limits and allow ongoing conditions to be treated for life. Sometimes premiums become higher for older dogs or certain conditions for certain breeds may be loaded or have larger excesses or even be excluded completely from cover. Basically it is a competitive market place and overall you usually get what you pay for.

Why has the breeder endorsed my registration?

Many breeders endorse your registration with “not to be bred from”. This means that any puppies from your dog cannot be registered at the Kennel Club. This restriction can be lifted at a later stage and may be subject to you obtaining a satisfactory hip and/or elbow score or just the breeder satisfying themselves that the dog has developed to a sufficient quality to be bred from. This is a common option taken and is usually explained and eventually lifted once the breeder is happy with the dog.

Sometimes you may obtain your puppy under what are known as “breeder’s terms” this usually means the breeder may be entitled to a free puppy back if you mate your bitch and/or insist on choosing a stud dog and/or you being obliged to mate your bitch even if you decide not to etc. If any kind of future entitlement or control is mentioned this need not be a bad thing but you must be very clear exactly what your obligations will be and get something written down and signed by both parties.

Another endorsement usually taken up is “Not for export”. This is also nothing to worry about but means that the dog cannot be sold on and exported (or at least it cannot be reregistered with any other overseas Kennel Club). This done because in the past there have been problems with people deceiving breeders by buying Bernese under the pretence of wanting a family dog but once taken the dog has been immediately sold on to a third party and soon found to be exported to an undesirable country. Some years ago this problem was addressed by the club resulting in rule 23 which basically says that persons exporting to certain countries will be liable to expulsion from the club. If you are genuinely buying a family pet or even (hopefully) a breeding dog or bitch this endorsement is nothing to concern you and consequently most breeders would not anticipate removing this restriction and the club would recommend any breeder applying it to all general puppy sales.

The important thing in every case is to be clear with your breeder about any restrictions or endorsements and know about any strings attached to your purchase. If there are endorsements then make sure you know what you have to do to get them lifted if you might want to breed. Some breeders may say they do not expect to lift any restrictions which is fine as long as they make this clear and you understand and accept this.

What are the Hip and Elbow Schemes?

Like many other breeds Bernese can suffer from conditions causing mild or severe lameness and pain originating from problems in the hip or elbow region. Often the presence of these conditions can be detected by X-ray of the dog once it is of a certain age. After the dog is over 12 months of age your vet can take X-rays of hips (1 X -Ray) and elbows (3 X Rays of each) and these are sent off to the BVA/KC (British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club) where they will be assessed by a panel and given a score to give an idea of the presence of Hip Dysplasia (HD) or Elbow Dysplasia (ED). The scoring system for each is completely different.

A score is given for each hip between 0 (perfect hip) and 53 (practically no hip joint). These are sometimes expressed by owners as 2 scores right hip first (e.g. 10:4) or sometimes as one total score (e.g. 14). Basically the lower the score the better the hips have been rated the breed average being around 16. Opinions vary greatly as to how much emphasis to give to these scores but most would agree that all breeding stock should be hip scored and depending on the score some level of consideration given to selection of a mate.

Elbow scores are between 0 (best) and 3 (worst) and only the score for the worst elbow is given. The BVA/KC recommendation is that only dogs with a score of 1 or 0 are bred from. Whilst virtually all British Bernese will be hip scored some owners are not so keen to use the elbow scheme for various reasons, a common one being the number of X Rays required on a young dog. Others feel that the amount of heritability of ED conditions has not been satisfactorily established, and whilst there may be a familial aspect to its occurrence, environmental and dietary factors in the very young puppy are much more significant according some experienced owners.

In many other countries certain levels of hip and elbow scores have to be achieved before a dog may even be considered for breeding. This can mean that an otherwise “perfect” dog may be excluded from passing on its qualities of temperament and construction etc because it has a single, not necessarily too serious, fault. Many British breeders would feel that this strict approach can given an over emphasis onto selection for these traits and sometimes produces dogs which have good hip and elbow scores but do not look like good typey Bernese.

In Britain breeders are free to make their own decisions of what characteristics they wish to concentrate on when selecting breeding stock and hips and elbows can be kept in proportion, There have been dogs with very low scores who have had clinical problems and dogs with very high scores who have been symptom free and had full active lives. Parents with very low scores have produced high scoring offspring and vice versa. A dog may have a low score but this does not mean it has a good elbow and shoulder structure. All these cases illustrate that specific scores should not be over-emphasised and an overall view of parents, grand-parents and siblings may be of much greater value.

Whatever your opinion you should ask any prospective supplier of your puppy if the parents have been scored and what consideration they have given to hips and elbows in their bitch and choice of stud dog. In summary scores should be considered but taken into consideration with the rest of the dog’s qualities and temperament should always be at the top of the priorities. The club’s code of ethics recommends scoring under both schemes and asks that consideration is given to improve mild cases but that serious cases are excluded from breeding programmes.

How important is a hernia?

Some may consider this a strange question to include but I have been rung up lots of times and asked about his. Typically the query is something like “….my new puppy has a hernia and the breeder says it doesn’t matter but my vet says I’ll have to have her operated on “. The fact is lots of Bernese do have small umbilical hernias from birth. Again opinions as to why are varied, hereditary, pot luck, caused by the bitch pulling instead of biting the cord and lots of other reasons. Whatever the cause it is a fact that lots of owners, sometimes in discussion with their veterinary surgeon do not have them operated on. Some vets are very keen to operate and whilst the degree of the hernia may be a factor I have known some dogs with a very large hernia have completely trouble free lives. I can think of one bitch who had a huge hernia but her experienced vet agreed that she would be OK to have a litter and she successfully whelped a very large litter with no problems. Whilst the club cannot recommend that you contradict your vet, if the hernia is causing no problem then ask him or her if an operation is really necessary or even ask for a second opinion. As always, take advice from your breeder or other experienced BMD owners as well and make your own mind up.

How much exercise do they need?

A very common question and again common sense plays a part in the answer. any dog will be able to walk and exercise for longer if it is accustomed to it. Dogs, like people, require regular exercise to stay properly fit. You have to build up gradually and maintain the required level. You cannot neglect your dog 90% of the time and then expect him/her to just be able to go long walks on holidays once a year or when you suddenly feel like it. Remember, whilst you are shopping or working away from home and maintaining at least some condition your dog is left idle at home. Like all dogs Bernese love their walks and make good companions. Possibly because of their heavy boned build Bernese running around energetically can become tired quite quickly whereas a well conditioned dog should be capable of walking for miles and miles. In their traditional working life they were basically plodders accompanying the Swiss farmers around at walking pace or pulling carts at a sedate rate.

If you wish a dog to run for miles alongside your horse or bicycle then a Bernese is not the dog for you. They are simply too heavily built to have that kind of high performance mobility. However a properly exercised adult will have no problems keeping up with most people on normal activities and walks.

The above applies to the adult dog but care has to be taken with the growing dogs. Bernese are not totally skeletally mature until around 2 years old, (this is why in some countries they have to be 2 before they can be hip scored), and care has to be taken not to strain the joints of the young dog. Some young puppies can have more enthusiasm than sense and can easily damage themselves through lack of rest. Puppies do need exercise to develop properly though and common sense has to come into play in assessing your young dog and finding a balance between rest and play. Sometimes walks need to be mostly on the lead because 2 minutes twisting around off the lead can do more damage to your puppies joints, especially in play with older dogs, than an hours walking. Your breeder or an experienced owner should be able to help you assess things for your dog.

Sometimes growing puppies go through growth periods when they become tired especially quickly or may have a strain which recurs before disappearing. Whilst any serious obviously painful or persistent limps should always be taken to the vet, many milder forms of lameness will improve with a short restricted spell with little or no free running and short and steady lead walking.

Why do I need to socialise my dog?

Sometimes people are puzzled when breeders tell them to socialise their new dog. This means giving the dog experience of all that you will expect it to cope with in later life. Things like the car, traffic, children, crowds, other dogs etc. If you keep your dog away from these things during his formative “youth” when he is programmed to be curious and learn things, you cannot complain if he becomes wary of them when he is older and thrown in at the deep end. Dogs are programmed to be wary of new experiences but this natural wariness can be much more easily overcome when the dog is young than when it has been allowed to become engrained in the character of the older dog.

This is not to say you can just expose a young dog to things and automatically expect him/her to cope and accept things. Every dog is different and whilst some will just accept anything they encounter if you have a more cautious type then you will have to work a little harder to make all the new experiences in life a positive and happy memory. Dog behaviourists and trainers make much of their living putting right problems in older dogs originating from this vitally important development period. For example if your young dog is wary of strangers then have some of his favourite treats available whenever he meets anyone new, ask them to give him food before the encounter becomes an issue. If he doesn’t like traffic when out walking distract him with treats for a short period of exposure. If he doesn’t like the car, just put him in for a very short time, (maybe just moments to start with), don’t even go anywhere, and reward him inside the car before he gets out gradually increasing the time. Feeding him or her in the car is another possibility to engrain a positive experience to replace the apprehension. Most of these “cures” are variations on a few themes and the correct management of the young dog can save much unnecessary frustration later in life.

The VITAL first step you must take though in ensuring your dog has good temperament is to check out the characters of the parents. Temperament can be highly hereditary so it is important to give yourself a good chance from the beginning. Poor temperament is one of the common things ‘poorer breeders’ will compromise on because the warning signs can be easy to excuse to less experienced enquirers. Be extremely cautious of accepting any excuses for poor temperament of either the puppies or the parents and if you have any suspicions at all walk away and take advice.

The VITAL second step is to make sure the puppies have been raised during the first few months in a household environment. This means they will be accustomed to household noises and smells. Some unscrupulous people raise the puppies in sheds or other outhouses where they never see or hear or smell anything other than each other with the result that everyday things can induce great fear when they get to your house. Sometimes puppies are raised like this but brought into houses for viewing and sales so as always if you have any doubts at all do not commit to buying and walk away to take advice.

Where can I find out more?

There are many Bernese sites on the internet, some club sites and some individual owners sites. Like everything else on the internet the content and worth of advice will vary and you have to judge it for yourself. There are some excellent books on Bernese Mountain Dogs and some of these are available from the club shop. These include The Bernese Mountain Dog by Diana Cochrane, The Complete Bernese Mountain Dog by Jude Simonds and The Bernese Mountain Dog Today by Dr Malcolm Willis.

You can join The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain and receive the magazines and other literature and begin to build up your overall knowledge. The various Bernese Clubs hold occasional seminars, some of which are aimed at novice owners. Whilst it is important to read as much as you can the best experience is directly meeting the dogs and talking to their owners. This can be via local contacts made through enquiries or by visiting club events or general dog shows. Crufts at the N.E.C. in March is the most famous show and whilst there will be a few Bernese present in the Discover Dogs section on every day and people to talk about the breed you need to attend on the day that the Working Group is being shown to see around 200+ Bernese. There are another 26 several day Championship shows around the country throughout the year where there will be a significant number of Bernese there on Working Group Day. There are 4 Bernese club Championship shows each year with larger entries as well as the club Open shows. So there are lots of opportunities to see real Bernese and “interrogate” their owners.

Answers compiled by Steve Green and endorsed by the club committee although for some of the questions if you ask 15 different people you’ll get 20 different opinions!!!