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Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Make Good Guard Dogs? Facts & FAQ

Written by: Kerry-Ann Kerr

Last Updated on July 8, 2024 by Dogster Team

Bernese mountain dog with toy on carpet in living room

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Make Good Guard Dogs? Facts & FAQ

The Bernese Mountain dog is sturdy and good-natured. They are working dogs from the farmlands of Switzerland, and they make excellent guard dogs. Although they’ve been companion animals for several years, they were initially bred to pull milk carts and protect the farm.

So, if you’ve got your sights set on the Bernese Mountain Dog for guarding, you’ve picked a strong contender. However, there is more to this breed than just guard duty, so we’ll also take a look at what you should expect from this gentle giant.


Bernese Mountain Dogs and Guarding

The Bernese Mountain Dog, affectionately known as the Berner, is friendly and alert. While aggression isn’t the natural response for this dog, they make good guard dogs. They’re large canines that can use their size, serious face, and loud bark to intimidate an intruder.

Although guard dogs are typically not trained to bite or attack a stranger, they will be trained to act aggressively without actually following through. This training method prevents accidents from happening, like a dog biting a family member or an innocent stranger.

Any guard dog will need the training to create boundaries for any aggressive behaviors. Berners are intelligent and loyal, which makes them easier to train than some other breeds. When it comes to any type of training, the earlier you start, the better. It’s also important to note that the Berner doesn’t respond well to harsh corrections (like many dog breeds), and their feelings are easily hurt, so positive reinforcement is important to keep the training on track and to keep the bond strong between the trainer and dog.

bernese mountain dog with a leash
Image Credit: Kokokola, Shutterstock


Family Life With a Bernese Mountain Dog

You might be wondering what life will be like in general with a Bernese Mountain Dog. If you’re thinking of getting a pet for a specific purpose, like for guard duty, you still need to consider how it will fit in with your home and family. Are they good with children? Do they get along with other dogs? Let’s take a look at this breed in more detail.

Are There Any Behavioral Problems to Worry About?

Problems arise if you expect your Berner to lay around all day and do nothing. They are excellent family dogs but will only fit in with some family types. You have to meet your Berner’s exercise needs; it’s recommended that they get at least an hour of exercise a day and have some off-leash time and the opportunity to run around a secure, safe yard. This means apartment living might not be suitable for the Bernese Mountain Dog.

Are They Good With Children?

little boy sits on a bench with a bernese mountain dog
Image Credit: IVASHstudio, Shutterstock

Yes, Berners are known to be gentle and sweet, but no matter how gentle and sweet a dog is, it doesn’t mean they have unlimited patience with being treated like a pony or having their ears pulled or fur grabbed. Children must be taught how to interact and play with a dog to keep them and the dog safe.

Berners might also demonstrate herding instincts, especially as puppies, and they will chase and nip at your children’s heels. This will typically fade as your puppy grows up, but you can reduce the behavior with training if needed. You will also have to teach your children not to react with fear or anger when this happens.

Do They Get Along With Other Dogs?

Yes, Berners have an easy-going temperament, so they get along with other animals. Each individual personality will be different, so the best way to ensure your pets can live together is to expose your dog to other animals as early as possible.

Also, you will need to be aware of your Berner’s size. They have been described as goofy, especially when playing, so an adult could easily hurt a smaller dog. When Berners mature, they can reach around 100 pounds.

Woman walking two bernese mountain dogs a sunny day in the park
Image Credit: tugol, Shutterstock

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs Have Any Health Problems?

Unfortunately, Berners have short life spans and only live about 7–10 years, on average. Also, because of a small gene pool, they have health problems related to inbreeding. If you are thinking of taking a Berner into your home, you’ll need to be aware of some of the health problems they can develop:

  • Cancer: They can develop cancers like histiocytic sarcoma
  • Cruciate Disease: This is when the joint becomes painful and wobbly because the cruciate ligament (which holds the knee together) is damaged
  • Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): This condition causes gradual paralysis of the back end
  • Elbow Dysplasia: The elbow joint doesn’t fit together properly and eventually leads to arthritis
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)/Bloat: The dog’s stomach bloats and twists around itself
  • Hip Dysplasia: The hip joint doesn’t fit together properly and eventually leads to arthritis
  • Hot Spots: Patches of sore, infected skin
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Loss of sight which will worsen over several months/years



The Bernese Mountain Dog is a friendly, loyal, gentle giant, which might seem like a strange combination for a guard dog. But this breed is easy to train and has an intimating bark that is worse than their bite, and any intruder will turn and run before they find that out. These dogs require exercise and space to run and play, so while they make fantastic family pets, they will need a large environment to stay healthy and happy.

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Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

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