One of the friendliest giants of the dog world is the Bernese Mountain Dog. Bred to keep Swiss farmers company, pull carts, and watch over the livestock, they’re a hardy and placid breed that loves to be around people. As working dogs, they’re also highly energetic and need at least 1 hour of exercise split into two or more short sessions a day.
You should adjust your Bernese Mountain Dog’s activity depending on their age and energy levels. This guide will tell you more about how to exercise these dogs and how much activity they need.
What Are Bernese Mountain Dogs?
In the Swiss Alps during the 1800s, four dog breeds were developed to work the farms and guard livestock alongside the local farmers. The Bernese Mountain Dog was one of these breeds, and they were bred to be hardy enough for the cold mountain weather, alert the farmers to uninvited guests, and pull carts (often filled with cheese) for delivery to the locals.1
Since they were bred to be companions and watchdogs for the farmers rather than for herding livestock,2 the Bernese Mountain Dog is energetic but doesn’t have much stamina. This makes them easier to manage than other working dog breeds, like the Border Collie.
The Bernese Mountain Dog might not be one of the best dogs for warm weather or high-stamina jobs, but they are a good family dog. They are gentle and affectionate despite their size, with a loyal protective streak and a fondness for all sorts of activities, provided that they get to spend time with you in the process.
How Much Exercise Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Need?
Bernese Mountain Dogs are a high-energy breed with limited stamina, but some individual dogs can be more active than others. The breed is well known for their puppy-like nature until well into their seniority. Depending on your dog’s personality and age, the amount that you should exercise them varies but not by much.
The younger your dog is, the more cautious you should be about exercising them. Since they’re a large dog breed, it can take 2–3 years for a Bernese Mountain Dog to finish growing.3 During this time, too much exertion can lead to damage to their bones, muscles, and joints before they’ve finished developing.
Make sure the activities that you do with your puppy don’t strain their growing joints. If your puppy seems tired, give them plenty of rest to recover. Mental stimulation is a good alternative to physical activity while your puppy grows. Avoiding stairs and jumping are commonly recommended activities to restrict at this time.
Most of your Bernese Mountain Dog’s formal exercise should happen once they reach adulthood. At this point, your dog has stopped growing but will be full of boundless amounts of energy that need to be managed properly.
Although the Bernese Mountain Dog isn’t a breed with a high level of endurance, they’re still highly energetic and require at least 1 hour of exercise a day. This is best split into multiple sessions rather than all at once.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a life expectancy of 7–10 years,4 and as they age, they’ll steadily become less active. This is partly due to the natural aging process, but some individuals will have health issues in their senior years.
Aging doesn’t mean you should let your dog laze around all day, though, as older dogs can develop arthritis and stiff muscles and joints. Finding a balance between relaxing and a low level of activity can help manage the side effects. Make sure you don’t overdo it; too much exercise will put too much pressure on your elderly dog’s joints and increase the risk of injury. Your dog will guide you as to how much exercise they can do.
Some Bernese Mountain Dogs continue to be just as active well into their seniority, and you should adjust their exercise accordingly.
Activities for Bernese Mountain Dogs
The Bernese Mountain Dog is robust and energetic, with a keen enjoyment for multiple activities as long as they get to spend time with you. Depending on the individual dog, they might enjoy some activities more than others, but they’ll likely love to try everything.
Remember to adjust these activities to suit your dog’s energy levels and age. You also need to pay close attention to the weather. Bernese Mountain Dogs are prone to heatstroke due to their thick double-coat and shouldn’t spend too long outside on hot, sunny days.
One of the tasks that Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally bred for was draft work. They were also used as delivery dogs and pulled carts filled with cheese during the 1800s.
Many modern dogs also love pulling carts. You can train them to pull a cart in the yard, around your farm, or during cart-pulling competitions.
The easiest way to keep your dog active in both mind and body is by taking daily walks. Your Bernese Mountain Dog needs at least 1 hour of activity every day, which should be spread into manageable chunks. A long walk in the morning and again in the evening will give your dog plenty of time to stretch their legs and sniff around the neighborhood.
It’s always fun to play with friends and your Bernese Mountain Dog will think so too. Spend time at your local dog park to let your dog play with other canines. If you have enough space at home, invite a friend and their dog over so you can enjoy a quiet time at home while your puppy gets to play with a friend.
All dogs love to dig, and the Bernese Mountain Dog adores having the chance to make a few holes in the ground. While you should avoid encouraging this behavior in your home or your yard, taking regular trips to your local beach is a good way to get them to exercise through a walk and allow them to dig in the sand.
You shouldn’t just rely on regular walks to wear out your dog; a game of fetch in the backyard or your local dog park is good exercise too. Your Bernese Mountain Dog might be too big to play with indoors, but they’ll appreciate the fresh air. The best part of a game of fetch is that your Bernese Mountain Dog gets to spend time playing with you.
Walking around the neighborhood can get repetitive, which makes the occasional walk along a nature trail that much more appreciated. Choose a cool day, pack water, and let your Bernese Mountain Dog sniff along your favorite nature trail. You might even be able to let them go for a swim if there’s a lake nearby.
Teaching your dog how to enjoy the pool is a great way to get them exercise. Puppies can also enjoy the activity, as it puts little strain on their body. Remember to never leave your dog unattended, and always make sure they know the way out just in case they get tired.
There are days when walking your dog isn’t possible. Perhaps you overslept and had to rush to work, or maybe the weather is too stormy or hot to walk your dog. Your Bernese Mountain Dog doesn’t have to miss out, though; exercise shouldn’t be limited to physical activity.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are highly intelligent, and if they’re stuck indoors all day, giving them something to do will stop them from getting bored. Puzzle toys are among the best ways to do this, but you can also hide treats around the house for them to find or work on obedience training.
Properly training your Bernese Mountain Dog isn’t only a good way to ensure that they know how to behave, but it also serves as a way to keep their minds active. Overall, the breed is a quick learner and easy to train due to their intelligence, and they excel at obedience. They’re also active enough for agility, and with consistent training, you and your dog could be good enough for competitions.
Benefits of Regularly Exercising Your Bernese Mountain Dog
Keeping your Bernese Mountain Dog active doesn’t just alleviate boredom and prevent them from developing destructive tendencies; it can help them stay healthy too. A regular walking schedule can help manage health problems that your Bernese Mountain Dog can develop as they age, like pain and stiffness from arthritis, and it minimizes the risk of obesity.
Don’t walk your Bernese Mountain Dog immediately after they eat, though. They can be susceptible to developing bloat, which can be triggered by exercising too soon after eating.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are an active breed but aren’t working dogs that require endless amounts of activity. At least 1 hour of exercise a day, split into short walks, playtime, and training sessions, is enough for these dogs.
You should adapt your exercise schedule to suit your individual dog’s needs. Remember that puppies and senior dogs should be exercised gently to reduce stress on their joints.
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