Bernese Mountain Dogs are large, powerful, but friendly dogs. They are a little clumsy on agility trials, but they have few peers in strength competitions.
They have beautiful coats that you can see from a block away.
There is one more important fact you need to know before you adopt a Bernese Mountain Dog:
Bernese Mountain Dogs shed. They shed on a seasonal basis.
Some seasons are worse than others. Bernese Mountain Dog puppies have just an undercoat of relatively short hair until they are about seven months old. Then an overcoat of thick, long hair comes in.
When you have a Bernese Mountain Dog in your life, you will get dog hair on your clothes. You will have dog hair on your floors and on your furniture.
You may even find dog hair in your lunch.
No matter how much you dust, sweep, and vacuum, your Bernese Mountain Dog will leave hair behind.
If you are a fanatic about keeping your house clean, a Bernese Mountain Dog probably is not a good choice for you.
But there are things you can do to make your Bernese Mountain Dog’s shedding more manageable.
Do you need a professional groomer for your Bernese Mountain Dog?
Everyone who owns a Bernese Mountain Dog has their own way of dealing with shedding. Some owners will spend a few days with their adorable Bernese Mountain Dog puppies and start looking for a groomer.
You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in grooming expenses over the lifetime of your Bernese Mountain Dog if you follow one simple rule:
Start taking your Bernese to the groomer when they are puppies.
Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t automatically like grooming.
They need to be socialized to the grooming experience early in their lives, preferably before they are seven weeks old.
The same way Bernese Mountain Dogs need to be given happy experiences with their siblings, visiting dogs, vacuum cleaners, riding in cars, and cats, they need an early happy experience with the dog groomer.
Dogs learn who their friends are when they are in the first four months of their lives. Their brains are wired to learn who their enemies are (or at least who and what poses a hazard) at the ages of six to twelve months.
If you take your Bernese puppy to the groomer when it is young, it will recognize groomers as friends for the rest of its life.
If you wait until your Bernese puppy is approaching its first birthday to get its coat groomed by a professional, you will meet resistance from your dog over professional grooming the rest of its life.
Choosing the right groomer for your Bernese Mountain Dog
How do you find a groomer with experience grooming Bernese Mountain Dogs?
The breeder who sells you your Bernese puppy is a good place to start when you are searching for a groomer. Their groomers will have years of experience in Bernese coats.
Highly professional breeders tend to hire highly professional groomers.
The best groomers will be aware of the special skin care needs of Bernese Mountain Dogs, such as cellulitis and leukemia-related changes in the skin.
Your groomer will be alert to other early symptoms of canine diseases and help you get to the vet in time.
Just as a side note, it’s really important to have pet health insurance if you adopt a Bernese Mountain Dog.
You can generally rely on any groomer recommendations from the breeder who sells you your puppy.
But if you are looking for a groomer on your own, ask these questions when you go to them for the first time:
- Is this grooming shop clean?
- Does the groomer have experience with Bernese Mountain Dogs?
- How much does each session cost, and what is included? What are the “extras,” and how much do they cost?
- Does the groomer have liability insurance?
- Will the head groomer groom my dog, or an assistant? Will it be the same groomer every time?
- Is the groomer licensed?
- What kinds of products does this groomer use? (Is my dog allergic to them?)
- How many dogs will be in the groomer’s shop at one time?
- Are waiting dogs crated? Do they get potty breaks?
- Will the groomer show me what to do between visits?
- Does this groomer have references?
It may take a few visits to the groomer for everyone to feel comfortable, that is, you, the groomer, and your Bernese.
Be straightforward about what you expect, and ask honest questions. If you get great service, leave a great tip.
Grooming your Bernese Mountain Dog at home
There is no getting around the fact that Bernese are high-maintenance dogs. Just achieving acceptable grooming will take a considerable and consistent investment of time.
At least the process is straightforward if you have the right equipment on hand:
- Stainless steel brushes and combs
- Detangling spray
- Detangling dog shampoo
- Cotton balls
- Ear cleaners
- Dremel grinder or nail clipper
- Canine toothbrush and canine toothpaste (Toothbrushes designed for humans won’t reach surfaces of back teeth and human toothpaste can cause mouth irritation in dogs)
- Styptic powder
- Low-heat hair dryer, or regular dryer with filter that fits over the blower
Bathing your Bernese
Medical experts recommend bathing your dog twice a week to eliminate the dander that causes sneezing, wheezing, and rashes in people who have allergies to dogs.
In most cases, this approach works well.
There aren’t really any non-allergenic or hypoallergenic dogs — certainly not Bernese Mountain Dogs — but giving them a bath twice a week usually eliminates the dry skin that becomes the dander that sets off the allergies.
This approach won’t work with Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Bernese Dogs have dry skin. Too much washing makes it worse.
If you give your Bernese Mountain Dog a bath more often than once a month, you increase the production of dander.
Giving your dog a bath to help your allergies actually makes the dog allergy problem worse.
Shaving your Bernese Mountain Dog
There is one thing to remember about when to shave your Bernese Mountain Dog:
You should never shave your Bernese in an attempt to help them stay cooler.
Their dense undercoat doesn’t just protect them from cold. It also protects them from heat. Shaving your Bernese Mountain Dog makes heat stress worse, not better.
Detangling and haircuts
It’s OK, however, to take scissors to mats and tangles in your Bernese Mountain Dog’s fur. First give any mat or tangle a generous application of detangling spray.
Then attempt to comb through the tangle with a stainless steel comb. Gently use the comb to untangle your dog’s coat in the locations where mats are most likely to occur: behind the ears, under the tail, near the armpits, on the chest.
If your Bernese is calm and won’t wiggle, you can also trim the hair between the toes and tiny up hair on the ears.
Tangles are much easier to remove when hair is dry, so work on tangles before you bathe your dog. There will also be a lot less hair going down the bathtub drain.
Other Bernese health-maintenance tasks
There is not a lot you can do to make Bernese Mountain Dogs shed less.
You can only try to keep up with their shedding, so you don’t have drifts of hair on your floors and you don’t start leaving your own trail of dog hair around the office.
But there are some other health maintenance tasks that you should handle in addition to grooming. These tasks keep your dog healthier and your home healthier.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have big, floppy ears. When a Bernese gets its ears wet, they can trap water inside. Bacteria can grow in the trapped water.
Use cotton balls or a damp washcloth — never Q-tips — to gently and carefully dry any dampness in your Bernese Dog’s ears.
Every time you groom your dog, not just every time you bathe your dog, check the ears.
If you detect odor, redness, or infection, schedule an appointment for a visit with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Tooth and gum care
Veterinary studies show that 80 percent of dogs develop gum disease by the age of three. Tooth decay and gum disease increase the risk of systemic diseases and liver, heart, and kidney problems, studies show.
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly not only prevents tooth decay and gum disease, it also protects your dog’s internal organs.
You can’t reach a dog’s back teeth with a toothbrush designed for people. You will need a canine toothbrush, available at any pet supply store.
You will also need toothpaste formulated for dogs. Toothpaste for people usually contains sodium lauryl sulfate or related chemicals that cause severe irritation in your dog’s mouth.
It can take a couple of months of training sessions to get your Bernese comfortable with a tooth brushing routine.
It’s important that you feel comfortable handling your Bernese Mountain Dog’s muzzle and reaching into the mouth.
Your dog can pick up on any fear or anxiety you feel and become fearful and anxious about tooth brushing.
Let your dog taste the toothpaste (liver-flavor is a favorite) from your finger before you put the toothbrush in its mouth.
Then gently brush teeth top and bottom, front and back. Incorporating dental care into your grooming routine can add years to your dog’s life and keep their breath sweet, even if shedding is constant.
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