How to Care for Bernese Mountain Dogs

Four Methods:Providing the Right NutritionGrooming Your DogCaring for Quality of LifeMonitoring Her Health

The Bernese mountain dog is a large dog originally from Switzerland that was intended to be a farm dog.[1] These dogs are great with humans and make great pets for the right people. Since it is so large, these dogs need specific care and living arrangements to be happy and healthy. If you are considering one of these dogs, there are some things you need to know to take care of them.

Method 1
Providing the Right Nutrition

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    Feed her the right food. Bernese mountain dogs have special dietary needs. Since they are so large, these dogs need a dog food that is high-quality and provides a balance of nutrients. Look for dog foods that have real ingredients instead of fillers. The first three or four ingredients should be meat and vegetables. Meat by products and wheat should be farther down on the list.
    • If you are unsure of what to feed your dog, ask your vet or the breeder you get your dog from.
    • Bernese mountain dogs will live long, happy lives with these foods. However, look out for food sensitivity or intolerance in relation to certain ingredients. This can cause your dog to vomit, have diarrhea, or experience skin irritation.[2] If this happens, see your vet to help determine what is causing the issue.
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    Consult an animal nutritionist. If you are unsure of certain foods, you may want to make your own dog food or put your Bernese mountain dog on a raw diet. This may be a good choice, but you will have to work with an animal nutritionist to make sure your dog is getting a balanced diet. This is important since your Bernese mountain dog, as well as all dogs, need certain nutrients to be healthy, just like humans.
    • Ask for a referral from your vet for a trusted and qualified animal nutritionist. There are also many online sources that describe the different homemade foods you can make.[3]
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    Feed her the right amount. To avoid over or under feeding your dog, follow the suggested food amount on your pet's dog food. This will be a considerable amount since Bernese mountain dogs are so large, so make sure your dog is getting the right amount. To decrease this risk, feed your dog the recommended amount every day and avoid feeding her too many treats or table scraps.
    • Consider giving your pet natural treats, such a baby carrots or unsalted canned green beans.[4]
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    Avoid certain foods. There are certain foods that can harm, and in some cases kill, your dog. This is because your dog's body cannot process certain foods, which is why the foods cause problems. Keep these away from your Bernese mountain dog, which can be more difficult since she can easily access counters and even low shelves. Keep these products in closed shelves that she cannot reach. These foods include:
    • Chocolate
    • Avocados
    • Grapes and raisins
    • Certain nuts
    • Alcohol
    • Onions, garlic and chives
    • Yeast dough
    • Sugar free foods[5]
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    Keep an eye on her weight. Although Bernese mountain dogs are large dogs, they can still be overweight. This may be hard to spot since they are already so big, but you should always be aware of your dog's weight. The recommended healthy weight for a female Bernese mountain dog is 100 pounds and 110 pounds or a little over for a male dog.
    • Your Bernese mountain dog is considered overweight if she weight 10 to 20% more than her ideal weight. This is around 110 to 120 pounds.
    • Anything more than 20% in weight is considered obese. Obesity can greatly decrease her lifespan and cause many health problems.[6]
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    Hydrate your dog. Dogs need a constant supply of fresh and clean water to help them digest their food. Since Bernese mountain dogs are so large, she will likely drink more than a smaller dog, so keep a close watch on the water levels to ensure she has plenty.
    • You should also clean the water bowl every so often with dish soap and water, then rinse and dry it. This will cut down on any possibility of algae or bacteria that may grow in the bowl if not cleaned properly.

Method 2
Grooming Your Dog

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    Take care of her fur. Bernese mountain dogs have long, silky fur that needs weekly care. Brush her fur at least once a week to keep it from getting tangled and knotted. This will also help her skin development and encourage circulation.
    • You should also check for ticks and fleas while brushing her. Look close at the skin and run your fingers over her fur while your brush her to check for ticks.
    • Also use this time to check for any skin abnormalities, such as cysts, lumps, or bumps. Also look for skin irritation and redness. If you find any, you should contact your vet to find the cause.
    • Bernese mountain dog's fur is not generally cut short but is just kept trimmed neatly.[7]
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    Trim her nails. In addition to taking care of her fur, you should also take care of her nails. You can get your vet to do this or you can try it at home. It may be hard to do it at first at home, but after she gets used to it, she will likely let you do it. Just make sure you know what you are doing so you avoid cutting to much off and injuring the quick of her nails. This is painful and may cause them to get infected.
    • Even if the vet takes care of her nails, you should groom the fur around her paws. It should be kept neatly trimmed but long enough to keep her paws covered.[8]
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    Take care of her teeth. Bernese mountain dogs benefit from brushing their teeth every day. This will help remove plague and bacteria that builds up in her mouth. Never use human toothpaste on a dog because it can cause illness because the fluoride is poisonous to dogs. Buy dog toothpaste and a dog toothbrush, which can be bought at pet stores or from your vet.
    • You may have to start slow to acclimate her to the feeling of brushing her teeth. Start off by letting her lick the toothpaste off your finger, rubbing it into her gums with your finger, and then brushing a little at a time until she lets you do all of her teeth. This may take a week or more.
    • While you brush her teeth, also look for loose or damaged teeth and check the overall health of the mouth.5
    • You can also give her dental fortified treats or food to help fight plaque buildup. If your dog gets a lot of buildup despite bushing her teeth, your vet can clean her teeth as well.[9]

Method 3
Caring for Quality of Life

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    Have large enough living arrangements. A Bernese mountain dog cannot live in a small apartment or house. Since they are so large, they need adequate space. She can be very happy in a medium sized or large house. If you don't have a large house, consider housing her outside. Many Bernese mountain dogs can live quite happily outside, especially in cold weather, as long as they have the right supplies. This includes:
    • A large dog house
    • Plenty of insulated bedding, such as dry, clean straw and a warm blanket
    • Access to shade during hot weather
    • Access to plenty of water
    • Make sure you never chain your dog up outside.[10]
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    Exercise your dog. Bernese mountain dogs need to exercise daily. Start with at least a 30 minute walk or job twice a day. Just putting them outside is not enough, especially if your yard is small. Consider running or jogging with your dog as she gets stronger. This will help burn more energy and help her be happier.
    • In addition to walks, play games with your dog, such as Frisbee or fetch to give her more exercise and make it fun. Plus, it will help her bond with you more.[11]
    • Never give your Bernese mountain dog small toys or balls because she may accidently swallow it, which can cause her to suffocate or choke.
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    Socialize her. Starting when she is a puppy, your Bernese mountain dog should be socialized with other dogs as well as people. Introduce her to people and dogs through walks in the park or through a neighborhood. Consider taking her to a dog park with other dog lovers.
    • If you can't find a group or dog park on your own, many pet stores and community groups have socialization classes. This will her start this process in a safe and controlled atmosphere. manners.[12]
    • You can also take her to obedience classes at the same time, which also gives her exposure to other dogs.

Method 4
Monitoring Her Health

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    Get regular check-ups. To keep your dog in good health, you need to make sure you take her to the vet often. This will ensue her continued health and well being. This starts before you get her with the breeder, who will her at six weeks for an exam to check for hernias and worms as well as eye, heart, ear, and lung problems as well as proper vaccinations.
    • At 12 weeks, your dog needs her rabies vaccination.
    • If you live in an area where Lyme disease is common, you might need to look into the Lyme disease vaccination. This may also be helpful if your dog spends a lot of time outside or if you live on a farm.[13]
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    Look for breed specific diseases. There are certain conditions that Bernese mountain dogs are more prone to have. These conditions hip dysplasia, bloat, and cranial cruciate ligament rupture, which attacks the knee. They also have an increased risk of cancer.
    • If you notice your dog showing signs of sickness, such as lethargy, decreased appetite, vomiting, restlessness, or pain, talk to your vet immediately. These can be signs of bloat.[14]
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    Have your dog spayed or neutered. When your dog is six to nine months old, consider having her spayed or neutered. This will provide health benefits for her, such as the decreased chance tumors, testicular cancer, and urinary tract infections. It can also help with some behavioral issues and unwanted puppies.[15]
    • If you want to breed your pet, you obviously should not do this.
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    Provide preventative medication. To ensure the overall health of your dog, give her preventative medication. This can be flea medication, such as topical ointments or flea collars. This also includes heartworm medication, which comes as a once a month tablet or a shot that lasts up to six months. These will kill any heartworm organisms in your dog’s system.
    • Make sure she is regularly checked for heartworms. This disease if widespread and can cause major issues, even death.
    • If your dog does end up with heartworms, treatment is available but is generally hard on her as well as you. It is also expensive and may take months to get rid of.[16]

Sources and Citations

  2. The 5 Minute Veterinary Consult. L.P Tilley and F.W. K. Smith, Jr. (eds) 2000. Blackwell
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