A Bernese Mountain Dog German Shepherd mix combines the giant Bernese Mountain Dog breed from Switzerland and a German Shepherd Dog.
The Berner and German Shepherd breeds were founded for very different historical reasons, and they have different looks and temperaments too.
Their mixed breed puppies can be very variable and surprising!
The Bernese Mountain Dog German Shepherd Mix
But before you run to your local breeder or rescue, it’s important to know what you can expect from this remarkable hybrid.
If you’re looking for the brains of a German Shepherd and the calmer demeanor of a Bernese, then you may have found your match.
But be prepared to get outside and play with this hybrid, because you can bet it’s going to be raring to go.
Where Does the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Come From?
To understand what this mixed breed is all about, we can look at its better-known purebred parents.
German Shepherd Dog (GSD) History
In the late 1800s, a German cavalry officer named Captain Max von Stephanitz had a vision. He wanted to create the ideal herding dog, so he bred herders from across northern and central Germany until he had successfully produced the first German Shepherd Dogs.
This new breed’s intelligence, speed, and agility quickly made the GSD popular among sheep farmers worldwide.
Over the years, the demand for herding dogs has all but disappeared, but the authoritative GSD has proven itself to be the ideal worker in another area as well: law enforcement and military.
Bernese Mountain Dog History
These dogs have a long history of working on farms in the agricultural region of Bern, Switzerland.
There they were used as cattle drivers, guard dogs, and – most notably – drafting dogs who could pull loads many times their own weight.
Just as the GSD was coming into existence in the late 1800s, the Bernese Mountain Dog went through a precipitous decline in both quality and numbers.
Thankfully, a Swiss breed club took an interest in the dogs and successfully reestablished the breed.
In 1926, the first Bernese Mountain Dogs came to the United States, where they quickly became very popular as both farm dogs and as loyal companions.
Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix History
Because it is a mixed breed dog, there is no well-documented origin story to share about the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix, but the motivations behind creating new designer mixes are usually similar.
Mixing two purebreds together tends to decrease the likelihood of some health issues.
Also, mixed breed dogs will have some combination of the traits of both parent breeds.
So creating a new cross can help temper a breed’s less-desired traits.
But with a mix, there are no guarantees!
Fun Facts About the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix
This mix is often referred to as the Euro Mountain Sheparnese.
Some of the earliest canine movie stars were German Shepherd Dogs.
Two of them – Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart – even have their own stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!
Bernese Mountain Dogs are popular celebrity companions and can be found at the side of A-listers like Hillary Duff and Chelsea Handler.
Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar lost her own Bernese in May of 2019 and remembers her as the “most loving dog and friend.”
Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Appearance
The Bernese Mountain Dog is an extra-large breed, and the GSD is a large breed dog.
As a result, a mix of these two breeds can be expected to be quite large, with males standing between 25 and 28 inches tall at the withers and females slightly shorter at 23 to 26 inches.
There is a large weight range with this mix, depending on whether the pup inherited more of the herding or the drafting body type.
Males can range from 80 to 110 pounds, while females will weigh 75 to 90 pounds.
Their bodies tend to be very proportional, with a long muzzle and ears that may be erect like a GSD or floppy like a Bernese.
They have thick, medium-length coats that vary in color but tend to resemble the Bernese more closely.
That means black, tan, and cream colors are most common, with white often seen on the chest or face.
Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Temperament
Both breeds are loyal family members who tend to be good with children.
While the more relaxed Bernese Mountain Dog is known as a gentle giant, the German Shepherd Dog is happiest when there’s a job to do.
Since both parent breeds were originally farm workers, the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix can be expected to be very energetic and keen to be put to work around the home.
These dogs will be very friendly and loving with their families.
However, there is a chance that they could act aggressively toward strangers or other dogs.
According to a 2008 study of breed differences in aggression, the German Shepherd ranks among the highest in both inter-dog and stranger aggression.
The Bernese, on the other hand, is among the least aggressive breeds.
So it will be important to socialize the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix well.
Give it plenty of exercise, and focus on early training.
This dog needs confidence to be the trustworthy and faithful companion you want.
Training Your Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix
One of the best features of this mixed breed pup is that it tends to inherit some of the calmness of its Bernese parent while boasting the brains of the Shepherd.
But it also means that you’ll have to dedicate a lot of time and energy to training.
It would be wise to start young and train it like a purebred German Shepherd Dog.
Socialization is extremely important for these dogs.
Exposing them to as many new people, dogs, and situations as possible will minimize the chance they’ll develop the aggressive tendencies mentioned above.
To get the most out of training sessions, exercise your Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix heavily before you start.
This will allow your pup to focus on learning.
Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Health
It’s true that, in general, mixed breed dogs have fewer health issues related to genetics than purebreds.
But here we’re mixing two breeds with well-known health problems.
It’s safe to say that the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix will be at a higher risk of developing health issues that affect both parent breeds.
These would include hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia, conditions where the hip or elbow joints do not form properly.
While the prevalence of these conditions is declining, affected animals can develop mobility problems, pain, and early-onset arthritis.
Both of these breeds are also prone to gastric dilation and volvulus (bloat), a life-threatening condition that requires emergency surgery to replace and decompress a twisted stomach.
German Shepherd Dog Health
Other health issues affecting the GSD include:
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, a condition causing malabsorption of nutrients
- Bleeding disorders such as von Willebrand disease and hemophilia A
- Eye issues such as cataracts and retinal degeneration
- Skin issues including pyoderma (bacterial skin infection) and atopic (allergic) dermatitis
- Cauda equina syndrome, which compresses the end of the spinal cord, causing progressive weakness and paralysis.
Bernese Mountain Dog Health
Large breed dogs tend to have higher rates of cancer at a relatively young age, and this is especially true for the Bernese.
Other health issues affecting the Bernese Mountain Dog include:
- Eye issues such as progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts
- Atopic dermatitis
- Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) disease
- Other cancers such as lymphoma and mast cell tumors.
Genetic Testing and Health Screening
Parents of the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix should be screened by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip and elbow dysplasia.
A complete eye exam of both parents by a veterinary ophthalmologist is also recommended.
Lifespan of the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix
Like its parents, the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix can be expected to live about 7 to 10 years.
Find the longest living dog breeds in this article!
Grooming and Feeding the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix
These thick-coated dogs will need daily brushing, especially during the warmer months when they shed more heavily.
Keeping their ears clean is key, so use a gentle cleanser to remove debris as needed.
Bear in mind that these large, active dogs will eat a lot of food, but exactly how much depends on the food you buy.
Ask your veterinarian how many calories your dog should eat in a day to stay healthy.
Feed a high-quality large-breed puppy food to your growing dog, then switch to an adult diet once your pup’s full-grown.
Avoid boutique, exotic, and grain-free diets, as veterinarians have found links between these diets and dilated cardiomyopathy.
Do Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Make Good Family Dogs?
Based on its parent breeds, this mix can be expected to be good with children and might suit a family with a very active lifestyle.
Most families will find it difficult to give this dog the time and attention it needs to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, though.
Rescuing a Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix
A good starting point is Adopt a Pet.
They can help you find a dog in need of a home in your area.
Finding a Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Puppy
Whenever you’re looking for a puppy, steer clear of pet stores and any questionable “breeding” facilities that may be a puppy mill.
Check out this guide for great pointers on how to make sure you find the perfect pup.
While mixed breed dogs are growing in popularity, reputable breeders may still be hard to find.
Ask potential breeders lots of questions, especially about temperament and health.
Good breeders will have health certifications for the parents and will be very familiar with the traits of their pups.
Raising a Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Puppy
Raising a puppy right is a lot of work, especially when you choose a clever, energetic mix like this one.
Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Products and Accessories
Here are some great guides to help you care for your new dog:
- Toys for German Shepherd Dogs
- Chew Toys for German Shepherd Dogs
- Shampoo for German Shepherd Dogs
- Dog Ear Cleaner
- Dog Whistles
Pros and Cons of Getting a Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix
- May be aggressive toward strangers or dogs
- Thick coat that sheds and requires regular brushing
- Needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation
- Intelligent and highly trainable
- Loyal and friendly companion
- Great fit for active lifestyles
Similar Mixes and Breeds
Not sold on the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix?
No problem. Check out some of these similar mixes:
- Labernese: Bernese Mountain Dog Lab Mix
- Bernedoodle: Bernese Mountain Dog Poodle Mix
- Bernese Mountain Dog Golden Retriever Mix
- German Shepherd Golden Retriever Mix
- German Shepherd Boxer Mix
- Border Collie Lab Mix
Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Rescues
Since this is a relatively new mixed breed, there are no rescue organizations specific to the Bernese Mountain German Shepherd mix.
Please add your breed-specific rescue organization in the comments below.
These two organizations have links to breed-specific rescues nationwide:
The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of Canada runs a nationwide rescue program there, while German Shepherd Dog rescue organizations can be found provincially.
Is a Bernese Mountain German Shepherd Mix Right for Me?
This is probably not the right choice for you if it will be your first dog.
But if you live an active lifestyle and you want to dedicate your time to exercising and training a dog, it will gladly return your devotion in spades.
Tell us about your mix in the comments below!
References and Resources
Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Standard. American Kennel Club, 1990.
Cutts, S. Bernese Mountain Dog – The Gentle Giant of the Canine World. The Happy Puppy Site, 2018.
Duffy, D. L. et al. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2008.
Erich, S. A. et al. Causes of death and the impact of histiocytic sarcoma on the life expectancy of the Dutch population of Bernese mountain dogs and Flat-coated retrievers. The Veterinary Journal, 2013.
German Shepherd Dog Breed Information Center. The Happy Puppy Site, 2018.
German Shepherd Dog Breed Standard. American Kennel Club, 1994.
Gough, Alex. Breed predispositions to disease in dogs and cats. Wiley Blackwell, 2018.
Klopfenstein, M. et al. Life expectancy and causes of death in Bernese mountain dogs in Switzerland. BMC Veterinary Research, 2016.
Oberbauer, A. M. et al. Long-term genetic selection reduced prevalence of hip and elbow dysplasia in 60 dog breeds. PLoS ONE, 2017.
Wahl, J. M. et al. A review of hereditary diseases of the German shepherd dog. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 2008.
What Genetic diseases and/or conditions should my breed be screened for? Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, 2018.
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