About Great Bernese
ARE A DESIGNER BREED
BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
Bernese Mountain Dogs and Great Pyrenees and are both ancient breeds, from the Alps of Switzerland and the Pyrenees Mountains, on the border of France and Spain.
Both were bred to be livestock guardians, working dogs and loyal companions.
OUR GREAT BERNESE
Although my descriptions are likely similar to how other websites or other breeders would describe Great Bernese characteristics, the information provided here is a description of our family dogs, as well as their offspring, along with the consistent reports from their new owners, year after year.
Our dogs start with good genetics and receive lots of love and enthusiasm, as well as consistent age-appropriate training from us, (experienced breeder/trainers).
They are raised in a stimulus rich environment with socialization, exercise, great nutrition and good healthcare.
Great Bernese are such nurturing, loyal, sweet, happy and loving dogs!
They are fabulous and nurturing with children and other animals.
They get along well with other dogs.
They are smart, easily trained, and highly responsive.
They are calm, patient, level-headed and well-mannered.
In a variety of settings, they tend to make good decisions on their own, without the need for our direction. Our attention can then be on other things as needed, trusting that we do not need to worry about where they are or how they are behaving.
They are loyal companions, trustworthy, confident, courageous and reliable.
They remain playful throughout their lives.
They enthusiastically join in with the pace of they day.
They are active for outdoor activities but they are naturally calm whenever appropriate.
They can go all day long on a hike or horseback ride but when they are in the house or on a restaurant patio, for example, they calmly lay at our feet.
They are fun to travel with because they are eager to participate in the activities of the day but they are quiet and well-behaved in the vehicle, the hotel, and other public spaces.
They have a smart and intuitive way of recognizing when an individual, (animal or human) has unbalanced energy or an emotional need; whether they are sad, insecure, anxious or even too hyperactive, Great Bernese will often take it upon themselves to help lift the spirits of any human or animal.
They make great Therapy Dogs as well.
Our four Great Bernese, Max, Lilly, Spoticus and Skya go nearly everywhere with us every day. Even if it is for a day of doing boring errands, they always want to come along.
They have a true gift for bringing joy to those around them, no matter how brief the interaction.
They have an almost magical way of capturing the attention of people, drawing them in to brighten their day and even creating huge smiles from afar.
They attract admirers pretty much everywhere that they go so we hear a lot of compliments and questions about them, as well as getting their photos taken.
Sometimes it feels like we are driving around with celebrities in our truck but it warms ours hearts to see how much joy they bring to others!
Out in public places, we regularly hear comments like, "Meeting your dogs really made my day! I can't tell you how much I needed this today!"
It is as if they are natural therapy dogs, without any formal training.
Most people do not recognize the breed but some still make attempts to guess, based upon their memory that one large breed starts with the word "Saint."
So far, our two favorites are, "Is that a Saint Barn-yard?" and "Is that a Saint Germain?" Well, they tried!
They are easy as puppies and seem to arrive with all of the basics already figured out!
Plus, we give them daily, consistent, guidance when they are puppies.
ABOUT THE BREED - ON OTHER WEBSITES
Some websites state that Great Bernese are more loyal to one family member over the others but we have not found that to be true at all.
Not only do they share their love equally with each family member, they tailor their affection to the specific play style and snuggle style of each member of the family, to include the other family pets!
Some websites emphasize that Great Bernese are stubborn but that has not been my experience with our dogs.
Perhaps you already noted that there are 100's of photos of our dogs on this website, without the dogs being held for the photos or without wearing a leash, (except in places with leash laws).
This helps to illustrate that they have been receptive to our training, they are good listeners and easily managed, in any setting.
You may have also noted that even at a very young age, our puppies make great eye contact with us, indicating focus and enthusiasm for training.
It does not take them long to learn to "smile" for the photos either, as you can see from their earliest photos.
When I asked these puppies to come and sit for the photo below, Molly had to briefly excuse herself from the group to go potty before returning. The others were sitting and holding their smiles for about 30 seconds. Millie and Riley got tired of smiling but they never lost eye contact. They are such cuties.
In contrast, willful or stubborn dogs (or untrained dogs) may need to be held by their owners to achieve something as simple as sit, stay and look at the camera for a photo.
Any stubbornness that may be listed as a trait on other websites is thought to come from the Pyrenees side, as they were bred to be independent thinkers and not reliant upon human direction. Those were necessary attributes, given their remote locations and responsibilities.
Even without humans to direct the Great Pyrenees way up there in the Pyrenees Mountains, the dogs still needed to follow a hierarchy and work together as a well-orchestrated pack, for their own safety and the safety of their flocks.
In some cases, what is perceived as “Stubborn” may instead be a lack of understanding of the breed.
For example, before I had Great Bernese, I had a purebred Great Pyrenees who would join us on remote, mountain camping trips, on horseback.
When we arrived to the spot where we were going to set up camp for the night, my Pyrenees would leave my side and head off into the woods.
I would see him off in the distance, moving in a large serpentine pattern, in a general circumference around our new primitive camp.
After he made his way all of the way around the camp, he would come back to sit beside me but he would continue to scan in all directions.
His behavior could have been misinterpreted as wandering or stubborn.
In actuality, he was behaving exactly as a Gradian Breed should in that mountain setting, where large predators are at home.
Without any prompting from me, my Pyrenees was clearing a perimeter around our camp to ensure that there were no threats to our safety, the safety of my horses or my Alpine Goat, named “G-A-A-A-be”. (Pronounced in a goat voice. When people asked his name, he answered for himself).
Getting back to Great Bernese…
There may indeed be some stubborn Great Bernese out there but I have never viewed my dogs as stubborn.
There is absolutely nothing stubborn about our breeding pair, Max and Skya! They are on the opposite end of the spectrum, as far as being eager to please.
I think that all dogs have the occasional times where their recall is just a little slower, (our Lilly is the occasional offender there) and most of them will test us, to some degree, when they are “Teenagers” at around age one.
Our consistency is paramount for our well-mannered dogs and my philosophy is…Never give a command that is not followed through to a success. I do not want my dogs to ever contemplate whether I am serious or not about asking them to come, if a car is coming. “Come” means right now, no matter the circumstance.
NATURE and NURTURE
Each dog is an individual and their experiences shape their lives, just as they do with humans.
In addition, over countless generations, dog breeds have been developed and refined for specific traits and behavioral tendencies, in order to perform their intended roles.
I encourage you to do your own research about Great Pyrenees and Bernese Mountain Dogs, as a means of gathering more information about Great Bernese, to help you to determine if they are the ideal breed for your lifestyle.
Most purebreds or 50/50 hybrid/mixed breed dogs will display their breed specific traits and seem to enjoy doing the activities that they were bred to do.
For this reason, I have held the belief that our dogs should ideally be offered a lifestyle that either matches what they were bred to do or at minimum, they live in an environment that provides suitable substitutes, with similar physical and mental enrichments.
Since our puppies are bred to be family dogs and do not go to homes where they will be full time livestock guardians, (where they never leave their livestock and are not part of a human family), their human family becomes their most important relationships.
Just as livestock guardians stay with their livestock, Great Bernese really need to be with their family, as much as possible, day and night.
This is not a breed that does well being stuck out in a backyard all alone, day in and day out.
Not that any dog should be left with so little attention but Guardian Breeds, in particular, are best suited for people who work from home or who can take their dog to work, stay at home mom's, retirees, multiple family members who come home at offset times of the day or people who work part time and put in the time to get their dogs out for exercise before or after work.
Basically, any schedule that allows their Great Bernese to be with their family as much as possible.
Of course there are some times when our dogs are home without us but they are most happy when they are with us, no matter what we are doing.
Besides, we are usually powerless to resist their sad faces if we ever suggest they stay home because we are only making a quick trip to the store.
Daily exercise is important as well so active families are best suited for Great Bernese.
They love to go for hikes, go to the dog park, the mountains, the beach, boating, playing in the snow, run around on a farm or a large acreage with other dogs, go for a walk or a run, etc.
They are good swimmers and enjoy swimming, once they gain confidence in their swimming abilities.
As puppies or inexperienced adults, most of them will only volunteer to go in to the water chest deep, until we give them more encouragement.
For their safety around water, they should be confident swimmers.
At around age 4 months - 5 months, I gave all of my puppies brief swimming lessons by holding them next to me, with one arm under their abdomen and the other around their chest.
With calm and reassuring energy, I walked backwards into deeper water, keeping them facing the shore or the easiest pool exit.
They may paddle with their feet or relax completely in my arms but I keep holding them and calming them until they are relaxed.
Then I give them a little push towards shore, while keeping their hind end up so their back stays level.
If you do not keep their rear up, they may forget to paddle with their back legs, which causes them to sink in the back and splash with their front legs, which is frightening for them.
I gave them lots of enthusiasm and encouragement for their "Good swimming" so we made it a fun experience.
We repeat this a few times or several times in a row and from there, they are proficient swimmers and will follow us out for a swim or go in on their own.
Our dogs make good decisions on their own but they also follow our wishes for who is friend or foe on our property.
On our Montana property, we told our dogs that we like watching the wild deer and wild turkeys so no need to chase them away.
Remarkably, over time, the deer learned that our guardian dogs were there for their protection as well; keeping out the coyotes, wolves, bears and mountain lions that passed through our property before getting chased off by our dogs. It is not that we do not like those magnificent animals as well but we had foals, chickens and a goat that needed protection from the large predators.
The deer even understood the meanings of the dogs different barks and reacted accordingly.
For example, the deer stayed with us when the dogs did a playful bark when wrestling with my son or the deer the ran away when the dogs did an alert bark, when a vehicle was arriving to our property.
It was fascinating to see the deer, turkeys and our dogs work together. They intermingled without any distance between them and my son and I were also welcomed in to the deer herd and the turkey flock.
The momma deer (does) even brought their newborn fawns to see us.
One would think that the wild prey animals would run from all predators (the dogs and the humans) but the deer, the turkeys and the other birds learned that these dogs and these humans meant them no harm.
We did not worry that the deer were getting too tame for their safety. They were still every bit as wild and instantly recognised my son and me from our visitors, no matter what clothes we were wearing.
The deer always made a quick exit and disappeared into the woods when any other dog or stranger came to our house and they knew they were coming long before we did.
The two dark spots on the left side of this photo are Max and Lilly, lying in the snow among the wild deer, while we are enjoying a cozy backyard fire.
They are also very good at relaxing.
These wonderful doggies have a way of inspiring us to alter our lives to include them as much as possible.
Next thing you know, you will be planning your vacations around pet friendly lodging and doing activities that the dogs will enjoy the most.
The sedan is traded in for an SUV or a truck so they have more room and your new property is purchased with the dogs in mind.
Oh don’t think it won’t happen to you! These dogs are so worth it though!
Great Bernese are big, huggable dogs.
Our dogs and their offspring have a weight range of 75 lbs - 129 lbs and a height of 25” – 29”.
Skya is our smallest Great Bernese, at 75 lbs. She was tiny, compared to our puppies, when she arrived from her breeder.
We were surprised that Skya’s puppies are about the same size as Lilly’s puppies. Lilly is significantly bigger than Skya.
We anticipate that the Max and Skya puppies will be 90 lbs. – 110 lbs as adults.
So far, Skya’s puppies average 25 lbs. at 10 weeks and 60 lbs. at 6 months. We do not have any adult weights on them yet.
Great Bernese may be prone to some of the same health problems that large and giant breeds are susceptible to but veterinarians tell me that the mixed/hybrid breed, resulting in greater genetic diversity, (especially when breeding 2nd generation Great Bernese) tends to create healthier dogs, compared to the two purebreds alone.
They tend to have longer lifespans than the average Bernese Mountain Dog, up to 12 1/2 years.
Some of our puppies inherit double dewclaws on their hind legs from their Pyrenees side, which are a breed standard for Great Pyrenees.
They should not be removed. We have observed that they act as snowshoes and add more stability on steep terrain.
COLORS and COAT PATTERNS
Besides increasing genetic diversity for the healthiest puppies, really neat colors and coat patterns come from breeding Great Bernese to Great Bernese!
After moving our dogs from Whitefish, Montana, to near Phoenix, Arizona, (for a few years), I can share that they have a pretty wide range of temperature tolerance but they definitely prefer cooler weather, as expected.
In Arizona, all of us are spending more time indoors than we would like, for the necessity of air-conditioning.
We look forward to moving back to the mountains, as soon as it is feasible. Excessive heat (like here) is not an ideal environment for mountain dogs.
Like most breeds, they do shed but that is why robot vacuums and lint rollers were invented, right?
Neither Bernese Mountain Dogs or Great Pyrenees are likely to boredom bark (especially if their needs are met) but Pyrenees are more likely to alert bark.
Our Great Bernese dogs briefly bark to let us know if something is amiss or may need our attention around our home or horse farm.
For example, they let us know when a vehicle has arrived on our property, when they hear coyotes nearby, when a gate was left open and our horses were running around loose in the yard, or the time that a hot air balloon unexpected landed in our pasture and scared the horses.
We appreciate these notifications so for us, the dogs are discerning and bark to communicate at the appropriate times.
In summary, Great Bernese are happy, affectionate, nurturing, empathetic, loyal, fun-loving, athletic, engaging, calm, smart, brave, intuitive, responsive and quite entertaining too.
They seem to enjoy making us smile every day.
I cannot express enough how wonderful they are in every way!
I have had a diverse group of dogs my whole life; purebreds, mixed breeds and even a Timber Wolf-Hybrid but Great Bernese are by far my favorite breed.