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Behaviour and character of the Bernese Mountain Dog – what am I like?

In order to properly understand the character of the modern Bernese Dog, one should imagine how the life of their ancestors was like. Swiss farmers needed good guarding dogs with a suitable personality and character, therefore dogs were selected for breeding mostly on the basis of behavioural features. Let us imagine a very large, fenced area with fields, orchards, vegetable gardens, a house for a large family and various kinds of farming buildings, such as a stable, a barn, a henhouse and a granary. And then imagine a settlement located at a distance of several kilometres. Bernese Dogs were supposed to guard everything that was located on the farm, watch people’s livestock and scare off intruders. They had an unhindered contact with other animals and a permanent contact with man - but not only with the master, but with the whole family. In fact, Bernese Dogs were never alone. They had to be self-confident and even-tempered, they could not have a tendency to hunt, roam or chase other animals neither on the farm nor in the fields and forests. They could not abandon their “workplace”. Shy and aggressive dogs were useless for Swiss farmers on their farms, therefore they were not bred.

For many ages, Bernese Dogs lived in the Swiss countryside, where they continuously developed these skills until they became permanent. These dogs are not meant to be police dogs, retrievers or hunting dogs, to perform agility sports, or run by a bicycle – any efforts made to teach a Bernese Dog to perform such activities will come to nothing; they will be received by the dog with reluctance and lack of understanding. It does not mean that Bernese Dogs do not have retrieving in their blood. They do, but it is not based on pointless fetching of a thing that does not belong to the master and does not smell like him or reminds a pet – Bernese Dogs love to carry in their muzzles things connected with their masters or to keep other dogs on the lead, because it is related to the work of a shepherd.
Bernese Dogs are self-confident, but at the same time gentle, vigilant, but not noisy, devoted to trust people and animals, friendly for strangers. They are eager to undergo basic training, but one should remember that as a consequence this is a very important thing in this case, due to the dogs’ strong personality. They are extremely intelligent, self-reliant and independent dogs with inborn willingness to cooperate with people. Bernese Dogs do not require any special training. Many of them demonstrate great intelligence while working as people's guards, but in order to be able to do this, they need a favourable occasion and an example rather than monotonous training. However, one should remember that Bernese Dogs must have some duties or form of activity – a Bernese Dog left unattended will be unhappy.

One should remember that despite the aforementioned features that have become characteristic for this breed, the individual character of each Bernese Dog is a result of both inborn factors and acquired features. Psychological predisposition is inherited. Although a standard Bernese Dog does not have a hunting instinct, is not aggressive nor fearful, proper socialization of the dog from the very beginning is required, in order to preserve and strengthen the features that are characteristic for this breed. Only proper socialization and training by the master may cause the character and personality of our Bernese Dog to match that of a model Bernese Dog rather than a dog of a different breed.
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