BMDCGTC Rescue committee
Coleen Carroll
Lisa Fosdick
Nancy Mayer
John Somheil


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Frequently Asked Questions.

Appearance

How big will a Bernese Mountain Dog be when full grown?
Males: Height at the withers is 24-28 in (61-71 cm) Weight is 85-110 lb (39-50 kg)
Females: Height at the withers is 23-27 in (58-69 cm) Weight is 80-105 lb (36-48 kg)
(Withers = the ridge between the shoulder bones)

Do they shed?
It has been said that a Bernese Mountain Dog sheds once a year - it just happens to last 365 days. Because this is a double coated breed with long fur there will not a be a day that you don't find their hair on the floor, gathered around, behind and under things, clinging to your clothing and face, and even in your food! The Bernese also "blow" their coats twice a year. With intact females this is in conjunction with the heat cycles while the rest will do so seasonally in the spring and fall. Blowing their coats is a truly amazing amount of hair to be brushed out on a daily or every other day basis. Being comfortable when it comes to dealing with this much loose fur on a year round basis is a big necessity!

My Dog/Puppy's fur is falling out in clumps. What is wrong?
The first time you see your dog or puppy blowing their coat it can be quite startling to notice the numerous tuffs of undercoat that are suddenly sticking out from their fur and falling on to your floor. You may also find at these times that you will end up covered in fur whenever you pet or hug them. Blowing their coat can take anywhere from a few weeks to more than a month and during this time you will want to brush them at least once every day or two. Brushing them frequently with a pin brush or undercoat rake will help to prevent the coat from getting matted. (This is a truly remarkable amount of fur so don't be surprised that you are removing "bags of fur" at a time.) It can be helpful to start brushing your puppy before they need it so they get use to the process.

How can I tell if my BMD is over or under weight?
One way to tell if a BMD is the correct weight is to feel their ribs. At the proper weight the ribs should feel like the back of your knuckles when your hand is relaxed. To thin would be if the ribs feel like your knuckles when you make a fist and obese is if you can't feel the ribs. Overweight would be the in between area of correct weight and obese. There are many good benefits to keeping our dogs the correct weight so you might want to feel the ribs on your dog every week. It is much easier to keep them at the correct weight then it is to get them to lose weight.

Finding A Puppy

Does the Bernese Mountain Dog come in different sizes or with short hair?
There are 4 Swiss Breeds known as "Sennenhund" and all of them sport the same unique tricolor coat and markings. While the two larger breeds share a heavy build and a calm temperament, the two smaller ones are more agile. These 4 breeds range from medium in size to very large and the Bernese Mountain Dog is the only variety that possesses a long, silky coat. From largest to smallest the 4 breeds are: the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Appenzeller (the only one with a curled tail) and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.

How much does a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy cost?
Just to purchase a well bred puppy will be in the $1,500 to $2,000 range and this is only the start of what your true cost for a puppy will be. There is the cost of high quality food, the initial wellness check plus ongoing and as needed visits to your vet, health testing and spay/neuter that will likely be a part of the puppy contract you will sign, training classes and supplies such as collars, leashes and crates. The cost of your puppy will be even more if it's your desire to show your dog.

What is the Bernese Mountain Dog personality like?
The BMD is a very people oriented breed and has a very strong NEED to be with people all the time. Include them in EVERYTHING you do and you will have the happiest and most loyal dog EVER! Leave them alone for long periods of time and they will become aloof, standoffish, and completely miserable. They can be headstrong and stubborn yet a harsh word or tone of voice can devastate them so training needs to be handed in a consistent but gentle manner.

Will a Bernese Mountain Dog fit into my household?
Having a BMD is a lifestyle instead of just having a pet. This is a loving, smart, large breed with a short lifespan that NEEDS to be a part of the family! They bond closely with their family and will be miserable if left alone for hours on end. They can be headstrong and stubborn yet they are sensitive & loyal friends who will sit on your feet, lean against you, lay on you and let you know when they are feeling ignored (which is often). They shed a lot, may slobber, love the snow and aren't great in the heat. They will make you smile, they will make you laugh and one day, when they cross the rainbow bridge, they will break your heart more than you can ever possibly imagine. If you're ready for all of this then the Bernese Mountain Dog may be the breed for you.

Is the Bernese Mountain Dog an indoor or an outdoor dog?
The guiding principle is that a BMD wants to be where it's people are. They love the cold weather and don't do well in the heat at all but even as working farm dogs in the Swiss Alps they are always with the family. This makes them more of an indoor dog that needs daily outdoor activities to do with their people. If you are looking for a dog that you can keep outdoors most of the time this isn't the right breed for you. If you are willing to base the outdoor activity time on when it is cool enough for them to be safely outside (Early mornings/Late evening in hot weather) and are willing to fully engage in that activity then this may be a breed that you'll enjoy having as a family member.

Life Expectancy

How long will a Bernese Mountain Dog live?
While the life expectancy for the breed is 10 years the average BMD will only reach 7 years in age.

Why is the average life span shorter than the expected life span?
The Bernese Mountain Dog faces a variety of genetic and environmental issues that can directly affect how long they may live. The cancers are often aggressive, bloat is almost always fatal and there are numerous other diseases and health issues to be aware of when you are considering or living with the Bernese. Check out our Health and Safety pages to learn more about the specific health concerns of the breed.

Rescue

Where do most of the Berners requiring rescue come from?
Most BMDs requiring rehoming come from owners who are no longer able to care for them because of changing life circumstances or issues with the dog's health or behavior. The majority of reasons dogs are in need of rescue could have been anticipated and avoided, e.g., family members prone to allergies, breed health and temperament issues, maintenance costs, grooming requirements, exercise needs, etc. Responsible pet ownership requires an honest and factual assessment of whether a specific breed breed is right for you. Not all breeds fit all lifestyles.

How do adult Berners adapt to their new homes and families?
Adult Bernese are very loyal to their humans yet do surprisingly well in new homes. The bonding time can take a while but generally they begin to settle into the routine within a month. We strive to make sure that the right dog goes to the right home and with the correct expectations for the care and nurturing each dog will need.

I don't have time/energy for a puppy. Is an adult rescue/rehome dog a better choice for me?
Not necessarily. Many rescue BMDs have little or no training and/or behavior issues that require the same amount of vigilance that a puppy requires. In general, the careful supervision needed for a smooth transition is less for an adult rescue dog but it is still necessary. Adults require the same amount of planning and care that a pup does. Your new adult dog will need to learn the rules of your home. This is best accomplished in the beginning with good supervision and containment. An unsupervised adult dog that does not know the rules of the house can do much more damage than a pup. Lots of early guidance and positive feedback will help your dog adjust quickly.

How long is your waiting list?
We keep a list of potential adopters. The dogs are not placed on a first-come, first-served basis, but rather as a best match to an adoptive home that will be the best place for the dog. We have lots of potential adopters and with so few dogs a year, the wait can be long.

Can I get a puppy through rescue?
It is not likely.

Can I use this dog for breeding?
No. All Berners placed through the BMDCGTC rescue program are spayed or neutered prior to release to the adoptive home.

Is there a guarantee?
Sorry, no. We collect whatever information on the dog that we can and pass all of it on to the potential adopters so that they can make an informed decision. But no one can foretell the future. If the adoption does not work out, you are required to surrender the dog back to the BMDCGTC rescue program.

I've heard that Berners are one-person dogs. How well do they adjust to their new owners?
Surprisingly well. Even ones from good homes that were surrendered to us have re-attached to their new families. It takes love and patience for all of them to overcome whatever baggage they have. So far, they have all done well.

Do your rescue dogs ever come with AKC registration papers?
Sometimes we get papers on surrendered Berners and gladly pass them on to adopters. It is helpful for health history. If the new owner wants to participate in AKC events, they can apply for an ILP number for the dog. The dog is then allowed to join in all AKC events other than Conformation like any registered dog.

I want to get on your adopter list, what do I do now?
You can fill out an application here.

Training

How old should my puppy be when I start training?
The training of your puppy actually starts the day you bring them home (normally 8-12 weeks old). Training at this age is done in short little lessons of 3-5 minutes each and involves POSITIVE exposure to potty training, crate training, leash & collar training, what items are appropriate to chew on, their name, and basic manners. It's important to remember that puppies have short attention spans at this age so doing several short lessons each day or working it into the times you're playing is great. Just look for the signals that they are getting tired or bored with training.

What training classes should I take my puppy to and when?
Most breeders recommend starting with puppy kindergarten once your puppy is 11-12 weeks old and then going right into basic obedience after that. This is so you can build a working relationship together and have a polite and well behaved family member. Before finalizing who your trainer will be by signing up for a class - it can be helpful to ask if you can observe a class they are currently teaching. This will give you a feel for how they interact with the owners and puppies/dogs so you can decide if they will be a good match for you.

Why is it important to start training my puppy right away?
The Bernese Mountain Dog puppy is fluffy and totally adorable so it can be easy to just smile and let them do some of the cute things all puppies want to do (jumping up on you for example). It is important to remember, however, that they grow very quickly (going from 14-20 lbs at 8 weeks to 50-75 lbs at 6 months) so there are many things that are more easily taught when they are younger and have a strong desire to explore their new world with your assistance. It is also important to have a good working relationship with this breed because they want to/need to have a job to do. An important key to training the BMD is to use positive methods and to be consistent in your expectations.

Why should I train my puppy?
Your puppy is always learning. Your choice to train him will simply direct his learning in a direction that benefits you both. You'll be teaching him how to interact appropriately with other dogs and people, and while you do this, you'll build positive communication skills that will last you a lifetime. Positive and fun training projects improve your dog's confidence and build your relationship into a partnership. Since you don't speak dog, and your dog doesn't talk, it's in both of your best interests to take the time to enroll in a good dog obedience class.

How long will it take to train my puppy?
This always depends on a number of factors; including how much time you practice when you are not in class (and what the quality of your practice time is) and what activities you want to do with your dog. Because training your dog is really a process of learning to communicate with her, however long you spend will end up improving your long-term relationship. Generally, however, you should plan to spend about 15 to 20 minutes per day, in 3 to 5 minute increments, training your dog or puppy. And as in any other pursuit, your results will depend to a great extent on your commitment to the program!

What qualities should I look for in a trainer?
Find a trainer who: 1) Is committed to finding positive ways to teach and train 2) Really enjoys working with and teaching the human students as well as their dogs 3) Has experience working with many different breeds and backgrounds of dogs 4) Not only understands the science of behavior and how it works, but is good at explaining it to you and helping you apply the principles to training your dog 5) Engages in regular continuing education

Your trainer should model good training practices with their own dogs as well, wherever they are on the training continuum.

How much will it cost to train my puppy/dog?
Good training classes can cost anywhere from $100 - $150 for a 6 to 8 week class that meets for about an hour each week. The classes you take are really an investment in the quality of life you and your puppy will enjoy together. They help you to learn to work together while building a foundation for your relationship.

Should I train my dog myself or send him out to a board and train facility?
It's highly recommended that you take your dog to class yourself if at all possible. Good training teaches you how to communicate with your pet, so any time you spend learning how to train your dog will benefit your skills and your relationship. If you find that you're struggling in a particular area, you can contact your instructor for extra help. Often, they may offer private sessions or be willing to work on a problem area for you while you are at work or have other things to do. If for some reason you must hire a trainer and place your dog in a board and train setting, make sure the trainer has the ability to communicate to you how to work with the dog after the training is over. Sessions to work with the owner and the dog should be an integral part of the Board and Train package.

Should I teach my puppy to do tricks?
Absolutely! You must remember that from your dog's perspective, all obedience training is "trick training". David Letterman notwithstanding, there really is no such thing as a "Stupid Pet Trick". Tricks are fun to teach, for both you and your dog, and they help engage your pup's brain as he learns how to do them, build his confidence, and improve your positive training and communication skills. Add to this the fact that most dogs who know how to do tricks on command are perceived as smarter than average, and you can see that teaching your puppy tricks will have long term benefits for both of you.

I'm really having trouble potty training my puppy! He just doesn't seem to get it! What should I do?
Potty training can be frustrating, especially when you hear stories from friends about how fast their puppy picked it up (or you had that Perfect Puppy that figured it out in a day & never had accidents thereafter). Potty training begins at around 5-6 weeks when puppies start to form surface preferences for pottying. When you bring the puppy home between 8 and 12 weeks, your most important input will be to 1) supervise closely, 2) give outdoor opportunities often (reward when the pup obliges by eliminating outdoors), 3) confine when you can't supervise, and 4) make sure to take the pup out soon after eating and/or drinking. If you're good about those things, then the final piece of potty training - communication between the two of you that the pup needs to go out will be fairly simple.

My puppy is biting me! Why do they do this?
Puppies explore the world with their mouths and as they get older they also begin to teethe. Just like human babies, they need things to chew on to assist them with the teething process. This gives your puppy 2 different reasons to chew on things, including the people, with those very sharp needle like puppy teeth! As a part of their litter, they started an extremely important developmental process, known as bite inhibition, where they began to learn not to hurt their playmates. (If you bite me to hard - I will yipe and won't continue to play with you.) This learning process continues when you bring your puppy home. With your feedback the puppy continues to acquire the ability to control how soft or hard they are biting and learns what items (toys) are appropriate to chew on.

My puppy won't stop is biting me! What can I do?
First, interact with your puppy gently and keep a chew toy handy so when the pup uses those needle-teeth, you can offer the toy instead. (This is not the time for games of tug or roughhousing.) While you are interacting with your puppy, if you do get bitten, don't be afraid to give a loud "Ouch". Many puppies, upon hearing this, will back off; if yours doesn't, put them in their crate with the chew toy, and turn your back for about 60 seconds. If the puppy is quiet, take them out and resume your gentle play/petting. Repeat these interactions until the puppy realizes that biting is followed by the loss of their chance to play with you but puppies that play nicely and only bite their toys get to play more. If you're consistent for 1-2 weeks, the biting should stop.

Why should I consider Crate Training my puppy?
Having a puppy or dog that you can crate is much more useful then you may think. If you need to leave them at the vet, take them to be groomed, board them, bring them to a hotel with you, take them to a training workshop, or want to compete with/show them then you will find that these are times when they will be in a crate or kennel of some sort. And, as puppies in your home, it will assist you with house training, keep them safe when you're unable to supervise them or when they're in the car, and it will give them a place to go when they want to feel safe (thunderstorms etc) or they just need some alone time. Training your puppy to use a crate is not difficult, can be done in a positive manner and will prevent them from being stress out by those times when it is necessary to do so.