Health and Care


In a recent study conducted by the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America it concluded that the average life span is around 94 months. Females live slightly longer than males. Large dogs don’t live as long as small dogs due to:

  • Their bones and joints need to support a greater weight and they may suffer skeletal and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Their hearts pump blood through a large body so it wears out more quickly.
  • They have proportionally more growth hormones surging through their metabolic system and studies have suggested growth hormones shorten life.


  • Always ensure your dog has access to fresh drinking water, shelter or shade especially during hot weather.
  • Dogs generally toilet regularly each day. If the dog appears to have diarrhoea, or to be constipated, or if there is blood present, a vet check is important.
  • Keep you dog healthy by not allowing them to become overweight. Diet is a contentious issue as pet food manufacturers make a lot of money from our love of the dog. You should do some research on the nutritional requirements of your large breed dog. There is a lot of nutritional information readily available. It is important to feed your dog a high quality diet containing a reduced amount of protein to keep growth steady. There are many types of biscuits available and you should do some research on the one you intend to use to ensure it will suit the needs of your dog. Alternatively you may like to feed your dog a mainly raw diet. Whichever diet you choose it is important to keep your dog lean so you are able to feel the ribs and see a waist.
  • Ensure puppy vaccinations are completed as scheduled. Please consult with your breeder or vet re booster shots. Maintain heartworm treatment. If travelling to the Eastern States check first with your vet for paralysis tick treatment.
  • Contact your dog’s breeder, or your local vet if you are worried about the health of your dog. If necessary get a second opinion from another vet. You, or your vet, may like to talk with the Club’s patron Dr Steven Metcalfe at Applecross Veterinary Clinic who has an extensive experience with Bernese and has a particular interest in the breed.
  • Never leave your dog tethered on a correction collar or check chain.
  • Never leave your dog in a car unattended. Heat build up in a car can be extreme.
  • Be alert in hot weather to the possibility of heat exhaustion. If your dog is suffering from the heat then cool them quickly, preferably with cool, running water. In particular, cool the head, neck, paw pads and stomach. Lay the dog in the shade on a wet towel. A small amount of Gastrolyte salts, available from Chemists, can be mixed with drinking water in extreme conditions.
  • Avoid activity after meals to help reduce the risk of bloat or colic. Click on the Bloat Chart link below print and keep handy.

Bloat chart

  • Bernese may grab and swallow food items that can cause a blockage in the stomach or intestine. Corncobs, avocado stones, peach stones and some bones are particular problems and should never be given to your dog or left within his reach. Excessive drinking, vomiting, straining and a general lack of energy may indicate a blockage; always check with your vet.
  • Always keep your 24 hour emergency vet service number handy.


It is important that your canine companion is well trained.
Whether your Bernese is young or old, once fully vaccinated, it is strongly recommended that you take yourself to dog obedience sessions.
These help you provide good learning opportunities for your Bernese.

Bernese Mountain Dogs make loving companions but can be sensitive in some situations and so need to be handled with a firm but gentle hand. An obedience course is a must for a dog of this size, but it must be one that focuses on positive reinforcements rather than harsh corrections or severe reprimands.

Dog obedience training can lead to trialling your dog either informally, at the Club level, or formally to gain the titles of Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellent (CDX), and others. Ask your breeder or trainer for more information.

The Canine Association of Western Australia has information on a variety of recognised training courses available.