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Are Bernese Mountain Dogs Herding Dogs? The Interesting Answer!

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

Bernese mountain dog

Initially, all dogs were designed to fit a specific purpose. And what was the result? A vastly versatile list of canines that look, act, and serve separate purposes.

All dogs fall into a specific category: sporting, herding, pointing, etc. When it comes to the Bernese breed, like their other Sennenhund cousins, they were elected herding dogs by developing breeders. If you’re a big fan of the Bernese Mountain Dog and need to learn more about its breed history and what its purpose is, we’re here to explain.

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Bernese Mountain Dogs as Herders

Bernese Mountain Dogs started with a specific purpose in mind—to be a farm dwelling jack-of-all-trades. Farmers use these beautiful dogs to herd livestock, protect farm life, and transport dairy—and the work ethic still shows through in the breed today.

If you have a Bernese Mountain Dog and are starting to see herding characteristics, these are likely just natural breed instincts. These dogs have the desire deeply ingrained in their DNA and do best in homes where they feel purposeful—not idle.

bernese mountain dog with collar sitting on long grass
Image Credit: Enna8982, Shutterstock

Breed History: The Basics

If you have ever wondered about herding in the history of the Bernie—think no harder. The German name is Berner Sennenhund and literally translates to “Bernese Alpine Herdsman’s Dog.”

The Bernese Mountain Dog was one of four breeds developed in the Swiss Alps. These mountains were treacherous and hard to manage, making it much easier on farmers if they had help. So, these dogs performed tasks that farmers desperately needed to keep their quality of life up.

For this type of work, they needed a few things: loyalty, intelligence, physical capabilities, and trainability. These dogs had the important job of keeping livestock in check to avoid falls to larger predators lurking about.


So, where does the Bernie scale with loyalty? Off the charts. These dogs are absolutely superb delights, meshing with families, individuals, strangers, and other pets like it’s not a problem. These peppy, energetic dogs lead a life with curiosity and faithfulness.


Bernies are impeccably intelligent. They easily pick up on concepts and stay patient and steady during training. They make lovely pets for those looking to train for a specific purpose. Because of their natural intuition, they would even make terrific candidates for service and emotional support.

Physical Capabilities

To adequately protect, the Bernese needed to be physically strong and capable. So, they were bred to withstand harsh natural elements, hold their own against predators, and be able to pull their own weight. Bernie’s are still master athletes today.


Bernese Mountain Dogs are highly trainable creatures. They can learn basic manners, but it doesn’t have to stop there. You can teach your Bernie extensive concepts and advance the training to an impressive degree. There is really no end in sight with how much they can and want to learn.

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Requirements for Proper Exercise

With a specific breed, mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Since these dogs work best with a task in mind, making your canine feel occupied throughout various parts of the day is important. These dogs require quite a bit of room to run off some steam.

If you live in a city or apartment setting, you will have to take them out for frequent walks and other forms of exercise. Since these dogs are incredibly friendly, you can easily take them to dog parks, and they will delight in spending time with their own kind.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are highly athletic. They require a decent amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy. On average, your Bernie should have roughly 120 minutes of exercise per day per breed. However, some may want more or less depending on life stage, health state, and age.

For example, a senior Bernie with arthritis may need significantly less exercise than a year-old pup who can’t get enough playtime. But as a general statement, healthy adults need a decent amount of physical activity daily to be content.

bernese mountain dog running in the yard
Image By: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock

Potential Issues with Lack of Exercise

We all live with strict schedules that pull us away from our home life. Whether you work all the time or run the kids to sports daily, your dog is going to be alone sometimes—it’s inevitable.

However, with a breed like this, they should never be trapped in a kennel all day. If you need a lackadaisical doggy, plenty of breeds do well in that situation—but the Bernie isn’t one of them.

If you deprive your Bernie of appropriate exercise, they can develop poor behaviors, and it could increase separation anxiety. These two things are very different, and they should be addressed separately.

If your dog is simply displaying poor behavior, there are certain mannerisms they might display.

Puppies and young adults that are deprived of regular exercise can develop behavioral issues that can be challenging to deal with. These look like excessive chewing, destructive tendencies, obnoxious vocalizations, attention-seeking, and neurotic actions.

True separation anxiety is a different story. Nine times out of ten, there is always a very obvious trigger that sparks separation anxiety. Separation anxiety occurs when your dog is afraid to be left by itself.

So, when an event sparks this fear, they display this specific set of behaviors.

Working with a professional to fix any of these issues can significantly help you and the dog. So, if you are running into a bit of trouble finding your groove and have a few problems that need to be solved, tons of people in your area are fit for the job.

Your vet will always have top-notch recommendations if you need help determining where to look.

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Luckily, the Bernese Mountain dog is an excellent breed that works well in various home settings. This herding breed was multipurpose in the beginning and still requires a job to do today. So, always make your Bernie feel like they are a part of things around the house.

If you ever run into any issues you aren’t sure how to solve with your Bernie—that’s okay. It happens. Get in touch with a professional to get back on the right track.

Featured Image Credit: david muscroft, Shutterstock

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