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How Smart Are Bernese Mountain Dogs? Where They Rank Compared to Other Breeds

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

human hand holding bernese mountain dogs paw

How Smart Are Bernese Mountain Dogs? Where They Rank Compared to Other Breeds

Bernese Mountain Dogs are big, gorgeous, loyal, and eager to please. They are also very calm and easygoing and have big hearts that match their size. But are these dogs smart, and how smart are they? The Bernese Mountain Dog ranks as the 27th most intelligent dog. Although they aren’t as intelligent as German Shepherds, their agility and ability to understand commands make them some of the easiest dogs to train.

In this article, you’ll learn precisely how intelligent Bernese Mountain Dogs are based on the three standard dimensions of canine intelligence.


The Bernese Mountain Dog’s Instinctive Intelligence

Instinctive intelligence is the natural ability of a dog to do what they were initially bred to do with little or no human intervention. Like most ancient dog breeds, the Berner was not bred primarily for companionship. As late as the 1800s, Berners were used in dairy farmyards as work dogs.

Bernese Mountain Dogs have immense strength and an incredible ability to follow instructions. They were originally used for transporting heavy loads and could pull up to 10 times their body weight. The dogs were so good at their jobs that they could make deliveries without being accompanied by their owners!

Berners were also bred as herding and guard dogs. They rounded up livestock and drove them in the desired direction. While they are not an aggressive breed, the dogs can growl, bite, and even knock down strangers because of their instinct to guard and protect their families.

Bernese Mountain Dog
Image Credit: Othmar Sigrist, Pixabay

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s Obedience & Working Intelligence

“Obedience and working intelligence” is the ability of a dog to learn quickly through obedience training and retain what they learned. Berners rise above the pack for being incredibly fast at understanding the connection between a verbal command and the actions that should follow.

Thanks to their natural desire to please their owners, Bernese Mountain Dogs are very cooperative during training sessions. They can master a new behavior with just a few repetitions. Be consistent in your commands for the best outcome, and only use positive training methods. Despite their size, Bernese Mountain Dogs are sensitive. Harsh or punitive training methods can make them stubborn and unresponsive to training.

Again, it is important to start training as soon as your dog turns 4 months old. Also, provide plenty of mentally stimulating toys to keep your furry friend’s brain sharp. The effort and commitment you put into your dog’s training and mental stimulation can determine whether they reach their full potential.

The Bernese Mountain Dog’s Adaptive Intelligence

A dog’s adaptive intelligence is their ability to learn from their environment and past experiences. Berners excel in this sector and quickly warm their way into their owners’ hearts for being practical jokers. For instance, your furry friend will be keen to master an action that elicits your laughter and will repeat the action to earn your attention and affection. They can also tell when you are about to leave and may hide your car keys to convince you to stay.

They may also stand at the doorway, hoping you can go together. The Bernese Mountain Dog learns tricks faster than most dogs and can decipher a command on the first attempt. However, what makes the Berners exceptional is their ability to communicate their needs better than the average dog.

bernese dog cuddling with his owner
Image By: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Why Is the Bernese Mountain Dog So Smart?

The Bernese Mountain Dog is intelligent because they were originally bred for farm work. Protecting the flock, driving cattle, and guarding the farm requires more than average IQ. The eagerness of the dog to please their owner is a bonus that makes them quick to follow commands.

Moreover, Bernese Mountain Dogs have outgoing personalities. They love lots of attention and affection, which makes them eager to learn new commands. The dogs are also smart, which sharpens their adaptive intelligence and allows them to communicate their needs better.


Cues Your Bernese Mountain Dog Is Smart

Interestingly, even dogs of the same breed are not equal in their cognitive skills and IQ levels. Here are three simple indicators that your gentle giant has a sharp brain.

1. It Remembers Commands Without Practice

Bernese Mountain Dogs learn new tricks with ease. They are easy to train because they only require a few lessons to understand and practice a command. Moreover, Berners are exceptionally great at retaining their training. An easy way to know you have an intelligent dog is to test whether they remember the commands you taught them months ago. For instance, if you taught your dog how to “roll over” as a puppy, you can tell they are intelligent if they still know how to do it as an adolescent.

woman doing obedience training with bernese dog
Image By: Kzenon, Shutterstock

2. It Knows What You Are Up To

An intelligent dog can anticipate your actions. For instance, they might learn that you put your shoes on before picking up your coat and leaving. They may act hyper and needy to convince you not to go or to take them with you when you are getting dressed.

The intelligent nature of Berners also makes them manipulative. They learn from observation and master how to communicate their needs and get what they want. Your pet will have a way of telling you to take it for a walk.

3. Your Pet Exhibits the Best Qualities of Berners

Bernese Mountain Dogs are natural work dogs and guardians of livestock. They exhibit outstanding levels of instinctive intelligence and excel at carting/drafting competitions. Furthermore, Berners make good herding dogs. Their protective nature makes them excellent watchdogs that can turn aggressive to protect their family members. As a people pleaser, your dog will also want to ensure you always approve of what they’re doing.




Bernese Mountain Dogs are calm, pleasant, and very intelligent. Their instinctive intelligence allows them to do many tasks, while their obedience and working brainpower make them easy to train. The dog’s adaptive learning ability also adds to their overall smartness.

If you have always wanted to own one of the smartest, calmest, and sweetest pups on the block, the Bernese Mountain Dog is an excellent choice. However, you must invest time and effort in training your pet to keep them happy and healthy.

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Featured Image Credit: Vad-Len, Shutterstock

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