Dürrbäch Dog, Yellow Cheeks, Four Eyes? The former farm dog from the Bernese Highlands goes by many names and enjoys worldwide popularity as a family dog. Bernese Mountain Dogs treat their families with great warmness, although they would rather be in the great and chilly outdoors.
Bernese Mountain Dog
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The Bernese Mountain Dog's docile and friendly nature has made it one of the most popular farm dogs across the globe. Thanks to its high tolerance level, it reacts in a very calm manner to environmental stimuli.
This gentle demeanor makes the Bernese a perfect family dog. In fact, they enjoy playing with children and experiencing their loving devotion. Male dogs can get territorial with other males from time to time. Furthermore, the Bernese Mountain Dogs can be stubborn. After all, it has great self-confidence and significant intelligence that allows it to challenge some orders. However, temperamental puppies can also easily be trained.
This dog breed is large with males ranging from 64 to 70cm in height and females 58 to 66cm. Another defining characteristic is their tricolour fur. Black is the most prominent colour and covers the torso, throat, head and tail like a cloak. A blaze is located on the forehead and extends down to the snout, reaching the corner of the lips at the furthest point. In addition, they sport a white cross on the chest, white paws, and tip of the tail. The reddish-brown markings on the cheeks, legs and at the side of the chest hair offer appealing accents and complement the tricolour fur. Furthermore, the reddish-brown spots under the eyes lend the Bernese Mountain Dog are typical of the breed.
Their long fur is soft and shiny and offers these farm dogs protection from the cold. In contrast, this hairy pedigree breed doesn't tolerate the heat well.
It's unclear from exactly which dogs the tricolour farm dogs originate. It's suspected that Molossers and Mastiffs are amongst their ancestors, which were brought to the Alps by the Romans.
In more precise terms, the story of the modern Bernese Mountain Dog began at the start of the 20th century and is closely linked to an area called Dürrbach and its local tavern. The guest house's courtyard acted as a meeting point for villagers, travellers and merchants and was the home of these large, tricolour dogs. Upon the advice of a Bernese innkeeper, the Dürrbäch Dogs were shown at a canine exhibition for the first time in 1902. Here and at the following exhibitions, interest in these attractive dogs grew rapidly. In 1907, the Swiss Dürrbach Club was founded in order to lead the pedigree breeding process. Swiss geologist and cynologist Prof. Dr. Albert Heim, who worked on drafting the first breed standard, was behind the suggestion to rename the Dürrbächler as the Bernese Mountain Dog.
When utility dogs gradually ended up out of work due to industrialisation, many of these dogs were not required as working dogs. For this reason and their gentle demeanor, they became popular as family pets. Therefore, breeders gave priority to maintaining social characteristics. For a short time, these pedigree dogs were considered so-called “fashion dogs”. As a result, many had character faults and hereditary defects caused by uncontrolled mass breeding. Thankfully, fans of the original breed type put an end to this period. Health is once again the determining factor of today's breeding selection. Nevertheless, Bernese Mountain Dogs still have a low life expectancy of 7 to 10 years. Joint problems, renal diseases and cancer are the most common illnesses this pedigree breed has to contend with.
As family dogs they frequently tend to be overweight due to insufficient exercise and the wrong diet. For this reason, they can suffer from joint problems and other secondary ailments. Hence, a healthy male Bernese Mountain Dog should not weigh over 55kg, whilst 45kg is the limit for the slightly smaller female.
Choosing the right breeder
A good breeder will dedicate their heart and soul to their dogs and certainly won't be in it for the money. They generally breed as part of a registered association and can be contacted through this means. Take your time when choosing a breeder – it's best to visit them and their dogs several times in order to gain an overall impression of their selection. Make sure to pay attention to the space, its cleanliness and location of the puppies. They should be kept close to the breeder's living spaces, and not in a dingy basement or shed. It's important that dogs used for breeding are vaccinated and have undergone all recommended health check-ups. What's more, a good breeder will never tout a puppy to you. On the contrary, they will provide you with comprehensive information over the course of your dog's life. The breeder should also make sure you can provide their dog with suitable conditions.
Your dog's diet is something you should definitely give thought to beforehand. Your breeder should provide advice and can give you a comprehensive nutrition plan for the first few weeks the puppy lives with you. When you eventually wish to change the food, you should phase out the standard food very slowly and gradually so that your dog's stomach can accustom.
You should ensure to feed your dog breed-appropriate food. The best food is high in meat content and mixed with lots of fruit and vegetables. You can opt for either dry or wet food. The BARF is popular as an alternative method. Proponents of this method emphasise the valuable ingredients that still feature in raw meat and vegetables, but which are lost when boiled. There are many factors that determine what a dog needs. The right diet isn't just affected by breed and sex, but also by weight, age and activity level.
Along with nutrition, you primarily need to consider how to house your dog in a species-appropriate manner. First of all, large Bernese Mountain Dogs need lots of space, so a house with a garden or even a farm is ideal. These freedom-loving dogs are definitely not suitable for living in city apartments. Consider too that puppies aren't allowed to climb the stairs during the first few months after they are born in order to protect their legs, which are still not fully grown. As a result, an apartment without a lift is entirely out of the question. A ground-level entrance to your home can also be a great advantage at a later date, when your fully-grown dog reaches old age and is longer able to climb the stairs but is too heavy for you to carry.
Sufficient grooming is important. Their fur should be brushed at least two to three times a week in order to avoid felting and to maintain shine. During the moulting period, it's best to tackle the fur on a daily basis. In addition, the eyes, ears, claws, pads, skin and teeth should be checked once a day and cleaned if necessary. These routines gives you the opportunity to notice abscesses that could be a sign of cancer and treat accordingly.
Exercising your dog for fun and health
Bernese Mountain Dogs need lots of exercise and activity. As a owner, you should have the inclination and above all the time to do exercise with your pet. This Swiss pedigree breed really enjoys both long walks with its loved ones and challenging mental activity too. Intelligence toys and training for draught dog sports, rescue or tracking work are good options for these smart canines. However, Bernese Mountain Dogs can only take part in a limited range of dog sports. Sports focusing on speed with abrupt movements, such as agility, are too challenging and unnecessarily taxing for these large, heavy dogs.
The gentle giant with many skills
Draught dog sports, rescue dog work, tracking searches or training to be therapy dogs are suitable options for these harmonious but tenacious Swiss canines. They can be let off the leash to run free, since they show no tendencies to hunt or run astray.