The following is the standard, followed by my comments in “quotes and Italics.”

General Appearance- The Bernese Mountain Dog is a striking, tri-colored, large dog.

“Some of the dogs you see in the ring today are not striking or large.  This is not a Giant breed but should have enough substance to appear large.”

He is sturdy and balanced.  He is intelligent, strong and agile enough to do the draft and droving work for which he was used in the mountainous regions of his origin.

“A dog that appears clunky and out of balance cannot be strong and agile.”

Dogs appear masculine, while bitches are distinctly feminine.

“This should be obvious but many of our top winners have been either bitchy males or doggy bitches and you could not tell from ringside which were the boys and girls.”

Size, Proportion, Substance- Measured at the withers, dogs are 25 to 271/2 inches: bitches are 23 to 26 inches.

“Most of the dogs in the ring today will fall within these guidelines.  Just remember that if most of the entry is small, a dog with lots of substance may appear too large. The same is true if most of the entry is large. A smaller dog that still has the bone and substance is just as correct. The overall balance and substance is much more important than size alone.”

Though appearing square, Bernese Mountain Dogs are slightly longer in body than they are tall.  Sturdy bone is of great importance. The body is full.

“If you find dogs that are truly square they will not move properly. A slightly longer dog will have much more power in his movement which is very important for him to do his job.  Sturdy bone is really an odd term and causes lots of discussion.  I feel we want as much bone as possible with out making the dog look clunky and not being able to do his job as a farm dog.”

Head-Expression is intelligent, animated and gentle.

“We see many dogs that in fitting with the all American showdog are so animated they have totally lost the gentle look.  This should be a breed that you can trust with anyone and being gentle is a big part of their personality.  An overly animated dog would have a hard time getting the milk to the dairy with out spilling most of it.”

The eyes are dark brown and slightly oval in shape with close-fitting eyelids. Inverted or everted eyelids are serious faults. Blue eye color is a disqualification.

“We do see some lighter brown eyes in the breed. While the dark brown is preferred I am not bothered by a lighter eye as long as it does not hurt the expression. A glaring yellow eye is really unattractive.  Some dogs have a really black eye and I feel that this hurts the expression also.  The old standard said “full of fire” and this is hard to define so they dropped it but I like an eye that is a red brown and slightly darker than the rust of the dogs coat.  It is a working dog so eye color should not be a top priority.  We do see round eyes that really detract from the expression and often are a sign the head shape is wrong.”

The ears are medium sized, set high, triangular in shape, gently rounded at the tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When the Bernese Mountain Dog is alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base; the top of the ear is level with the top of the skull.

“The most common fault you will see with ears is where they are set too far down the side of the head. This gives a houndy appearance.”

The skull is flat on top and broad, with a slight furrow and a well-defined, but not exaggerated stop.

“We see some dogs that have very little stop and tend to be collie like, which is incorrect. We also see ones that have a Saint Bernard stop. This goes with round droopy eyes and have a harsh look.  The stop we want is defined but gives a soft sweet expression.”

The muzzle is strong and straight. The nose is always black. The lips are clean and as the Bernese Mountain Dog is a dry-mouthed breed, the flews are only slightly developed.

“We want a full muzzle which blends softly with the rest of the face.  In the Saint type heads you will see some drooling, which is incorrect.”
The teeth meet in a scissors bite.  An overshot or undershot bite is a serious fault.  Dentition is complete.

“Most of the bites are fine but please check for complete dentition. We do not have a big problem with missing teeth, but several years ago we had a bitch in the breed finish with 15 missing teeth.  I don’t worry about a couple but this should never have happened. The judges just never checked.”

Neck, Topline, Body- The neck is strong, muscular and of medium length. The topline is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep and capacious with well-sprung, but not barrel-shaped ribs and brisket reaching at least to the elbows. The back is broad and firm.

“Please use your hands to check topline and brisket because the coat can be very deceiving in both places.  We have very few dogs today that have the proper outline due to the fact that many have very straight shoulders and no neck.   This breed should have a topline that flows nicely from the top of the head down through a nice neck and solid back, continuing in a smooth line through the tail. Many today are sort of stumpy dogs with little neck and high tails.  If you check, you will find that a lot of these dogs have bad toplines with a big dip behind the shoulder.”

The loin is strong. The croup is broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion.  The tail is bushy. It should be carried low when in repose. An upward swirl is permissible when the dog is alert, but the tail may never curl or be carried over the back.  The bones in the tail should feel straight and should reach to the hock joint or below.  A kink in the tail is a fault.

“Gay tails are common in the breed especially in the males that tend to get excited about the bitches in the ring.  It can ruin the outline and should be faulted to that extent.  Check the tail set to see if it is really a bad set or just an excited dog.  We do have short tails so you should check for kinks and length of the tail.”

Forequarters- The shoulders are moderately laid back, flat-lying, well-muscled and never loose. The legs are strait and strong and the elbows are well under the shoulder when the dog is standing.  The pasterns slope very slightly, but are never weak.  Dewclaws may be removed.  The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes.

“Fronts are a major problem in the breed today, with many that have a very upright shoulder.  The ones with strait shoulders that have very little reach usually move cleaner coming at you and some judges see this as a better front.  This big heavy dog needs shoulder angulation to keep from pounding the front.  It says’ Moderate’ so we do not want an extremely angulated front, but if the legs when viewed from the side are well back under the dog, then you will have a decent shoulder.   We see many dogs today that front legs that come out of the body at the very front and this just shows you the front is wrong and ruins the outline.  Feet on the breed are generally very good.”

Hindquarters- The thighs are broad, strong and muscular.  The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks.  The hocks are well let down and straight as viewed from the rear. Dewclaws should be removed. Feet are compact and turn neither in our out.

“ This is good.  I think you all know what a good rear is.”

Coat-The coat is thick, moderately long and slightly wavy or straight. It has a bright natural sheen.  Extremely curly or extremely dull-looking coats are undesirable.  The Bernese Mountain Dog is shown in natural coat and undue trimming is to be discouraged.

“There is a lot of discussion about over-grooming of the Bernese.  Some people put a lot of mousse on the dog and blow dry the hair until it stands strait away from the dog.  Please fault these dogs for this, and if it is by far the best dog in the ring, please say something to the handler when you pass out the ribbons.   This practice ruins the outline of the dog.  If the dog’s coat is of the right texture it is very hard to get the coat to do this.  Most of these dogs lack the bright natural sheen as their coats are too soft.  If you can see that a dog looks trimmed other than the feet and whiskers, please penalize it.  Puppies often have very curly coats.  This is not a fault in a puppy.”

Color and Markings-The Bernese Mountain Dog is tri-colored. The ground color is jet black.  The markings are rich rust and clear white.  Symmetry of markings is desired. Rust appears over each eye, on the cheeks reaching to at least the corner of the mouth, on each side of the chest, an all four legs and under the tail.  There is a white blaze and muzzle band. A white marking on the chest typically forms an inverted cross. The tip of the tail is white.  White on the feet is desired but must not extend higher than the pasterns. Markings other than described are to be faulted in direct relationship to the extent of the deviation. White legs or a white collar are serious faults. Any ground color other that black is a disqualification.

“The markings of this breed are important and it is one of the only breeds that calls for such specific markings.  However, their importance should never be put above the other parts of the standard.  The vast majority of the dogs you’ll see in the ring will have acceptable markings and the amount of white on the face, feet, chest and tail should not matter as long as it is within the standard.  Most breeders would rather have to little white instead of too much. The Swiss feel that the amount of white is not really important as long as the dog has the rust in all the right places.  Lots of white is very flashy but do not discount the dog with less white as long as does not ruin the overall look of the dog.  I find that in judging I really don’t pay attention to markings unless they are outside the standard.”

Gait-The natural working gait of the Bernese Mountain Dog is a slow trot.  However, in keeping with his use in draft and droving work, he is capable of speed and agility. There is good reach in front. Powerful drive from the rear is transmitted through a level back. There is no wasted action.  Front and rear legs on each side follow through in the same plane.  At increased speed, legs tend to converge toward the centerline.

  “The standard says it all in regards to gait.  Please look for a dog that has power, not speed, in his gait.  This is a big heavy dog and should take good long powerful strides and cover a lot of ground with each step.  We have many dogs that take many, many steps and look like the are working very hard at going around the ring.  A really good mover appears to move without much effort.  These short-strided dogs are often very clean coming and going but do not have the power needed to do the job.  The dog with proper type and power is rarely the cleanest mover coming and going.  Please give some leeway to coming and going or you will generally come up with your winner as the all American show dog, and not the dog that looks like a Bernese Mountain Dog.   Please have the handlers slow down in the ring.  Speed can hide a lot of faults, and it  is not typical of the breed.”

Temperament- The temperament is self-confident, alert and good-natured, never sharp or shy. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attention of strangers.

   “We do have problems in the breed with shyness. Please do not put up a dog that is afraid and has its tail pinned against its tummy. Please excuse any dog that will not stand for exam.   I do not fault a dog that just stands there and takes it all in.  This breed can be very laid-back and I would not fault this.  Some are wild show dogs.  This is really less typical than a quiet dog, and should not especially be rewarded.  This breed should be sweet and project a friendly, easy going attitude.”

Blue eye color.
Any ground color than black.

Approved February 10, 1990
Effective March 28, 1990

“In closing, please look for burly dog with good bone, full body and beautiful soft sweet expression.  Good flowing powerful movement the covers the most ground with the least effort.   A proper dog in profile is a beautiful picture of strength and harmony, with all parts flowing together.”

Thank you for your time.

Denise Dean

Please e-mail me if you have questions: