Bernese Rescue & Rehoming

Welcome to the Club’s Rescue page where we give information about the club’s Rescue activities to help Bernese in need of new homes.  

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Great Britain’s Rescue organisation is in existence to help any Bernese who is in need of a new home. We will take in Bernese of any age and we try to get a full picture of the temperament and needs of the dogs who come into our care. Reputable breeders will be willing to help with any Bernese of their breeding who is in need of rehoming and sometimes a phone call to the breeder is all that is needed to put this in place. Unfortunately, not all breeders are responsible and where breeding is done as a commercial venture, breeders are not in the slightest bit interested in helping the dog that they so willingly sold years, or even just months, earlier. It is also a fact that some dogs have been purchased from places where the new owner would not want them to go back as conditions were bad. That is where the BMDC of GB Rescue comes into action.

If you are thinking of looking for a Rescue dog or feeling you might need to give up your own Bernese, and there are many valid reasons for having to do so, people’s health and circumstances can change through absolutely no fault of their own, then please read the information on this page and then use the contact details below to get in touch.


As you may be visiting this page to initiate a response to an urgent need we start with our contact details.

The BMDC of GB RESCUE is open 365 days of the year and we are always willing to talk through any problems and to be asked to help with a dog at any time of day but if your need is not urgent, please observe the protocol below


SANDRA GATWARD (Rescue co-ordinator) 01202 872217


GLYNIS SAWYERS (Assistant co-ordinator) 01750 32292


Any messages left on our answer-phones will be returned but, whether looking for a dog or providing a home, please do not use email to contact Rescue.


For most people, giving up the dog that they have had for years is a heart-rending decision but the dog’s welfare has to be considered and if the dog is being left for hours because of a change of circumstances or the owner is having to move somewhere unsuitable for a dog, giving him/her up may be the kindest option. Having said that, an older dog would be better staying with the people that (s)he loves and moving into somewhere tiny rather than losing all that (s)he knows but we do appreciate that sometimes the owners consider this not to be an option and we are there to help in any way that we can. If the owner has died, it seems a better decision for the dog to get him/her placed straight away through the BMDC of GB rescue (or the rescue organisation of one of the other Kennel Club registered Bernese Clubs) than to have a well-meaning family member or friend take him/her, even though the person does not really want him/her, because we find that eventually (s)he comes into rescue and then (s)he has endured two changes of home rather than just one. Death, marriage break up, loss of job or moving abroad are the most common reasons given for giving up a dog. The dogs settle amazingly well into a new home and we receive very positive reports on the rehomed dogs and photos showing how well they are doing. We also encourage new owners to bring them along to our Swiss Party, Garden Party or Working Day where parades are held for these special dogs to be proudly showing how happy they are.

People decide for a variety of reasons that they are unable to keep their Bernese but sometimes just talking things through with Glynis or me may allay fears and even prevent the dog having to be rehomed. We are always happy to give advice.

When we are contacted to help with a Bernese, we put things in place as quickly as possible. I will ask a lot of questions which will be the first step towards establishing what type of home will be ideal for that particular dog. The next step is for me to contact one of our assessors who will be prepared to go to the home and meet the dog and make some assessments of his/her character. This assessment is done before we agree to take the dog as we all have to be honest and agree that not every dog will be suitable for rehoming. A dog who has bitten will not be suitable to be placed in a family home. A dog’s future is never decided by one person alone and occasionally, but rarely, we may decide that a dog is not suitable to be rehomed. A dog with a history of aggression must be an unhappy dog and we cannot take chances with people’s safety. In these rare cases we try to persuade the owner to do the kindest and most responsible thing and have the courage to take him/her to be put to sleep. It is cruel to be less than honest about your dog’s temperament, to pass him/her into Rescue and possibly let him spend the end of his/her life in kennels before being taken by a stranger for that final visit to the vets.


The assessor will also have the “Form of Release” for the relinquishing owner to sign. We trust our assessors to respect complete confidentiality as they will probably be given the dog’s papers at this meeting and these remain the property of the club. Nothing which identifies the breeding of the dog is passed to the new owner. It is the policy of the BMDCGB Rescue to leave the dog in his/her existing home if at all possible until a new owner has been home-checked and a suitable date for a hand-over has been agreed with all parties. We find that this is far less stressful for the dog than being put in a temporary foster home and then having to be moved again. Obviously, if the relinquishing owner needs the dog to be removed immediately, we can do this. Sometimes it may be necessary to put a dog with a carer or in a kennel as a temporary measure, either to assess his/her character more fully or because the dog has special requirements and an ideal home is not ready, waiting and home-checked, but this is not our preferred course of action. After a successful home-check, the potential new owner will travel to meet the dog and bring him/her home.


Most Bernese come into Rescue through no fault of their own but it will often be advisable for the new owner to gently train the dog to enable him/her to fit in well and behave in an appropriate way. Some who come in may have been allowed to steal from the worktop or chase cats, for example. These behaviours will need modifying and will take patience on the part of the new owners. With time and perseverance you should end up with a dog to be very proud of but that also applies if you buy a puppy: they take an equal period of training to become your ideal companion. Having said that, many of the rescues, especially the older ones, are almost faultless in their behaviour and it is very rewarding to give a home to a slightly older dog.

When you contact us to express your interest in adopting a Bernese, a lot of questions are asked which will enable us to match the right home to the dog who needs one. Our Bernese are not placed on a “first come, first served” basis. Everything has to be as well matched as possible so that the dog stays in his/her new home and is not returned because we have got it wrong. We need to know the ages of children at your home (resident or visiting); whether there are elderly or frail people living there or visiting; whether you have other dogs, cats, chickens (you would be surprised how many chicken/duck killers we take in!) We ask your work schedule; your garden fencing; the walks you want a dog to be able to do, etc. We note your preference for dog or bitch and what age of dog you would consider. Would you take one with health problems? There is no “right answer” to any of these questions: it just enables us to get a picture of what type of Bernese you are looking for and to match you with a suitable dog. Sometimes it is a long wait, others are offered a dog fairly quickly. Mostly it depends on how specific you are in your “wish-list”.

“A youngster, bitch only, must be good with children” request could take longer to match than the “any Bernese, any age” ones.

After the initial phone contact, you will be sent a form to complete and return. When this comes back it will be filed and will be the first thing I refer to when looking for an adopter so, if the form is not returned, you have a slim chance of being contacted.

At some stage, a home-check will be carried out and ALL members of the family need to be at home for this and then it is a wait for the right dog. Not every dog we get in for rehoming is suitable for every home. It is however, very frustrating to think that we have loads of good homes waiting only to find, on phoning, that people have not waited for a rescue Bernese: they have gone and got a puppy or another breed and have not bothered to let us know. That is why finding the new home can take HOURS on the phone. Please be prepared to wait. The right dog is worth waiting for and it would be a good idea to contact the rescue BEFORE you are desperate for a dog. We are in the enviable position of usually not having dogs waiting for homes: we always have homes waiting for dogs. Bernese do not sit in kennels in my home in Dorset waiting for someone to take a weekend drive to choose one! When you are offered a dog it is your choice whether to go and see if you like him/her. The dogs are rarely on your doorstep and sometimes a drive of many miles is necessary but we would not ask you to do this if we did not consider you and the dog to be a very good match. If you do decide to give a home to one of our dogs, please take a dog disc with you and put this on his/her collar BEFORE you put him/her in your car for the journey to his/her new home.

Families who adopt a dog from us are asked for a voluntary donation to BMDC of GB Rescue. Amongst other things, this enables us to continue to care for and treat the sick and elderly dogs that we take in. There is a “Custody and Control” legal document to be signed when you adopt a dog from us and also an agreement to keep the dog on a lead for a minimum of a MONTH off your premises and a WEEK in your garden. The reasons are explained. If the dog is not neutered, you will sign a contract agreeing to have him/her done at a time we deem suitable or (s)he will have to be returned to the Rescue. (Obviously this condition is somewhat age and health dependant.)


If at any time, there is a change of circumstances and you are unable to keep your Rescued dog, (s)he MUST be returned to the BMDC of GB Rescue: you may not rehome him/her yourself.

We are very grateful to the new owners who keep in regular contact to let us know that all is well. Photos are very gratefully received.


Although usually bewildered and sometimes unwilling to get in the car which is taking them away from all that they know, dogs are remarkably adaptable, especially if food and love are available in the new home. It is VITAL that these dogs are not put under pressure to do things which are worrying them: do NOT expect them to go readily to everyone in the house (offering treats with loads of eye-contact is almost certainly going to frighten the dog.) Let the dog decide who (s)he is comfortable with and when to approach. Hard as it is, the dogs who come round quickest are the ones rehomed by sensible people who can basically IGNORE them until the dog is relaxed and makes the approach. This can take days or even weeks, depending on the individual. We ask new owners to be sensible and keep them on a lead for a month so that, if the dog gets frightened on a walk, (s)he is unable to run away. They all seem to settle amazingly quickly and are very rewarding in unconditionally giving their love to their new family. Occasionally we are asked to rehome 2 Bernese together (or a Bernese with a Newfoundland or even a Bernese with a Yorkie!) So far we have managed to keep the 2 friends together, but the temperament of the pair is taken into account and we try to do what is best for them. Homes where they will take two are a Godsend and we are very grateful for those.

We take old dogs and young dogs, healthy or “creeky” and we never put a dog to sleep because of age if the dog is well. If you would consider taking an oldie, please contact me. Actually, the 5 or 6 year olds seem the most difficult to place as they are not old enough to get the “sympathy vote” and, of course, almost everybody says, “the younger the better”. We are also willing to help breeders to rehome a dog that they have had returned to them. This is done for a donation to Rescue.


If someone asked you to recommend a breeder would you suggest someone who you didn’t know personally or, at the very least, knew someone who had had satisfactory dealings with that breeder? Would you recommend someone whose breeding moral standards you didn’t know, someone who does not do all the health tests (or ignores them), someone who offers no support when they have your money in their hands, someone who does not offer a lifetime of support for the puppies that they bred or even, in fact, someone who says , “I have never bred that problem before so I can’t / won’t help you and your dog.” Or “I’ve got your £1000 +++ so off you go.”

I am sure that you would be more responsible in your recommendation than that.

Why then would you recommend someone who hopes to adopt a rescued dog or who sadly has to relinquish their dog to contact a person whose standards you don’t personally know?

My belief is that any relinquishing owner has a right to receive progress reports and photos of their previous dog (via the rescue, not direct contact) for a reasonable period of time after letting their dog go. This should reassure the previous owner that the dog has settled well and is happy with his new family. Direct contact would not be advisable but updates for a while through the rescue co-ordinator might make a difficult decision just that little bit easier.

What about those kind people who open their hearts to a dog needing a home, sometimes not even having seen a photo. All the known facts about the dog are carefully explained by the GB rescue; nothing hidden, nothing ‘rose-coloured’. We always present the full picture when offering a dog to someone. After all, we want the dog to go to the very best place, not to keep bouncing back. These wonderful adopters make their decision to proceed or not based on these facts. Then I usually can forward a photo. In 19 years, I have never known anyone to refuse a dog on his looks. I know the most wonderful people who have opened their homes to a new dog, successfully. Many of them have had several dogs from GB rescue.


To enable people to make an informed choice about which “rescue organisation” to trust, I think it would be helpful if those of you who have, “Been there, done that and got the tee shirt” could let people know of your experiences.

Did you get emotional support; did you ask for financial support and get it; was financial or other support offered without you having to ask? (Circumstances explained if possible please.) Did you or did you not get the support that you expected and hoped for? Did you get support above and beyond your expectations?

Was the dog that you were offered carefully and accurately assessed before being accepted for rehoming and offered to you? Were you home-checked? Especially for those relinquishing their dogs, were you kept fully informed throughout the entire procedure as the rescue went ahead and were you happy with the communication process?

The GB club rescue provides full aftercare support throughout the dog’s life. We don’t just support the dog; we support the new owners as well.

This may be your only opportunity to tell it how it was, good or bad and encourage people to benefit from your experience and take the route that you did to rehome your Bernese or to acquire a new family member.

I do realise that it will be easier to write if your experiences have been good ones but how will others in a similar situation to the one you were in, learn who to trust unless the truth is told, warts and all. If you need to rehome your Bernese or you hope to adopt an older dog, would you not appreciate some facts on which to base your decision?

       Please share your experiences. A lot of money is raised for some rescue organisations. Donors need to be sure that their money really is going to the dogs!

Sandra Gatward GB Club rescue co-ordinator.


The club was invited to take part in the Kennel Clubs Rescue area at Crufts 2010. During the day we were visited by Royalty and the dreaded TV cameras.

Glynis was asked to comment and the result was posted on You Tube.