MOUNTAIN DOG BERNESE
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THE BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG: HISTORICAL INFORMATION
by BMDCA JUDGES EDUCATION
I n the course of time, the sport of dogs has developed a way to judge and evaluate its breeding stock. Each breed has a set standard by which it is judged. The standards are generally purpose driven and, depend- ing on the breed, sometimes fashion driven; the latter not being preferred in a working dog. Standards of dogs from non-English speaking countries may suffer from inaccuracies or misun- derstanding in translation to English. For instance, what one culture under- stands as a guard dog, another under- stands as a watchdog and, yet, another understands as a watchful dog. It is to be noted that Swiss farms are very dif- ferent from American farms. In the case of the Bernese Moun- tain Dog, the AKC standard was origi- nally a direct translation from the FCI standard at the time of recognition in 1937. The first BMDCA revision, made in 1980, and the second, made in 1990, reflected changes in the FCI standard as well as incorporation of AKC require- ments. Major changes included raising the height on the lower end and adding a section on movement. The historical essence of the Ber- nese Mountain Dog is that it has been a farm dog of the midland regions of Switzerland, mostly around the city of Berne. In that capacity, it was primar- ily used as a companion and watchdog to the farmer and his family. It alerted his owner to unfamiliar visitors. It may have been used as a dog to pull a cart. A large dog, well-muscled and with sturdy bone, was needed for this task. It may have been used to accompany cows to pasture but not for long dis- tances as dogs that work on a range. As most Swiss farmers had a small number of cows, the dog was not required to
MOSTLY AROUND THE CITY OF BERNE.” “IT HAS BEEN A FARM DOG OF THE MIDLAND REGIONS OF SWITZERLAND,
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BE GOOD WATCHDOGS.” “THE MAIN BUSINESS OF THE DOGS ON BERNESE FARMS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN TO
manage large herds. The Bernese Mountain Dog was not a herding dog for sheep and goats as these animals were not kept usually on Ber- nese farms except in very small num- bers. In other parts of Switzerland, especially in the alpine regions, such tasks were done by smaller, quicker dogs such as the Appenzeller and Entle- bucher. The temperament of the Ber- nese Mountain Dog was never to be sharp or shy. The history of the breed, therefore, is one of a watchful farm dog. Those fanciers who wish to have conformation dogs, obedience, draft, agility, tracking or herding dogs would be wise to heed the heritage of the breed and mind that this is not a breed of any one specific sport but is a Swiss farmer’s companion. ADDITIONAL HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ON BERNESE FARMS by Margret Baertschi The term “farm” or “farm dog” does not mean the same thing when used for Swiss or Bernese farmers as when it is used in the USA. The farm in the two countries/continents is two very different things. In order to get an idea what the duties of a farm dog on a farm around Berne were like a hundred years ago, one must have seen a Bernese farm and understood its functioning. The main business of the dogs on Bernese Farms have always been to be good watchdogs. These farms were built at a distance from each other, each one situated more or less in the center
of the land that was cultivated by the farmer’s family. A dog that announced strangers (man and other animals) which approached the farm or the nearby meadows was essential for the security of all the living creatures there. The land belonging to a farm was from about 5 ha for the poorer farmers up to 15 ha at the maximum for the rich- est farmers (1 ha (hectar) = 2.47 acres). Up until about 1830, the farmers did not have a great number of cattle (cows), because they had no use for the milk. Their main income was from differ- ent kinds of grain: wheat, barley, oats etc. (maize was unknown). The cattle and some sheep, horses and swine moved freely around the houses and in the nearby forests. The crops were fenced to save them from being eaten by the animals. The cattle did not have to go far. Only after about 1840, when the cheeseries were built and farmers could sell their milk at a reasonable price, the farmers started to have more cattle (about 6 to 15 cows at the maxi- mum and some heifers and calves), as many as they could nourish on their land. Poor people (day-laborers) kept a few goats instead. At the same time, the farmers started to keep the cattle in stables, not only in winter but all the year round, through summer. This means, that there was not a lot of driv- ing to be done on the farm itself. The few sheep (maybe 6 to 10) that were also kept on some farms could move freely in the nearby poorer parts of the land that were not cultivated
and in the forests. It was the butchers who also kept dogs to drive the cattle they bought on the farms to distant places where they were either slaugh- tered or sold to other merchants. I have found reference to these facts lately in a newer publication of a his- torian who specialized in the history of farming in the Canton Berne from 1700 till 1914 (First World War). His name is Prof. Dr. Christian Pfister; he lectures at the University of Berne. Mrs. Egg-Leach, an English woman, referred to the dog as a weaver’s cart dog. Mrs. Baertschi questions the use of a dog as such as her experience was that the dogs were used to pull milk. Perhaps Mrs. Egg-Leach knew a few weavers who used their dogs but nev- er met anyone in her travels that used the dogs for milk or cheese. Does this example mean that the dogs were sole- ly used as weavers’ dogs? No. But we can conclude that the dog was used a draft dog. REFERENCES Baertschi, Margret. BMDCA Alpen- horn, February 2001. “Our Swiss Con- nection: Herding? Driving? Drafting? Some Breed History.” Egg-Leach, L. AKC Gazette, April, 1937 (?). “The Bernese is a Loyal Dog of the Swiss Alps.” Paschoud, Dr. J.-M. “ The Swiss Canine Breeds.” Schweizerische Kynol- ogische Gesellschaft SKG, 1994. Raeber, Dr. H.C. Hans. “Die Sch- weizer Hunderassen.” Albert Mueller Verlag, Ruschlikon-Zurich, 1980.
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WITH SARA KARL, SANDY NOVOCIN, ABBY PATRIZIO, NANCY STEWART & DEBORAH WILKINS
SARA KARL I’m a Breeder/Judge and BMDCA Approved Judges Mentor from Peyton, Colorado. I was a stay at home mom and now I fancy myself a stay at home grandma. SANDY NOVOCIN I’m a Breeder/Judge and BMDCA Approved Judges Men- tor. I reside in Mt.Airy, Maryland and am a retired elementary education teacher. I have been a breeder/judge since 1998 and have owned Berners since 1979. ABBY PATRIZIO I’m a Breeder/Judge and BMDCA Approved Judges Men- tor from Connecticut. I’m a compliance Officer at a com- munity bank and outside of dogs, I spend time with friends and family. NANCY STEWART I’m a Breeder/Judge and BMDCA Approved Judges Mentor from Scottsdale, Arizona. Outside of dogs, with what little time there is, I love to travel both in the US and abroad and am an avid reader, particularly enjoying historical biographies or fiction.
dog show family for thirty years and most of my time is still spent on dog related activities and organizations. I am an AKC delegate and judge. I enjoy worldwide travel and adventure, bird watching, collecting interesting things on the beach, reading and current events. 1. Your opinion of the current quality of purebred dogs in general, and your breed in particular? SK: I think the quality of purebred dogs now is, generally, good. Bernese are much better quality on the whole but we do still struggle with consistency in size in particular. SN: I think a lot of purebred dogs these days do not really resemble the breed standard as they should. I feel too many people tend to breed to big winners and end up producing dogs that do not actually follow the standard. Many judges see these dogs and assume they are correct. Judges must make sure they know the standard of each breed they judge and not just think they know what they should look like from what they see in the ring. When I started showing my first Berner in the late 1970s, this was a wash and wear dog. We bathed them, trimmed their feet and, perhaps, cut their whiskers. Today, this has become a dog that people spend hours grooming as they scissor and cut them as they were not to be groomed. This is a farm dog and needs to be in natural condition with little grooming actually needed. Movement years ago was not good in the rear. I hardly remember the front as the rears were so close and weak. Today, most of the rear movement has improved but we definitely have some issues with our dogs front move- ment. Tail carriage is to be off the back and we also have some that ruin the side movement as they go around as the picture in your mind is broken when you see a tail that is not as described in the standard. Today we do see a lot more dogs that we, as breeders, might wish to use in our breeding programs. In years past, it was difficult to find a Berner you might want to breed to. AP: Depends on the area of the country but the quality in general is pretty good in most breeds; Bernese Mountain Dog quality is lacking. NS: I think the current quality is very good in most breeds, especially at the specials level. The classes will always have dogs that, probably, would be better left home but people have to learn sometimes by trial and error.
DEBORAH J. WILKINS
I’m a Breeder/Judge and BMDCA Judges Education Committee Chair. I am associated with Abbey Road Bernese Mountain Dogs, est. 1988. I am retired and now spend my time between our homes in Minnesota and Corpus Christi, Texas. We have been a
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WITH SARA KARL, SANDY NOVOCIN, ABBY PATRIZIO, NANCY STEWART & DEBORAH WILKINS
In Bernese Mountain Dogs, we have lots of “good show dogs”. However many of our winning dogs at the all breed shows lack true Bernese type. This is a breed that should not be allowed to become a generic show dog at the expense of proper dog as described in the standard. DW: The breed has improved dramatically over the past thirty years. The dogs in the show ring today are much more consistent and embody the breed standard. Class dogs may appear to be “all over the map” but this can be attributed to the very slow maturation of the dogs. The best dogs are those that are strong, sturdy and balanced or good breed type and temperament. 2. The biggest concern you have about your breed, be it medical, structural, temperament-wise, or what? SK: I think we struggle with the consistency of our general outline. There is too much variation on how this breed looks on first impression. SN: Medical: Since I have also raised two other breeds for over 35 years , I know for a fact that Berners have a lot of health issues that I have not had to deal with in my other breeds. Orthopedics are always an area to work hard to get consistent soundness. We can x-ray elbows at a year and get normal and then re-x-ray at two years and find one elbow grade one or even both. We have been told to go ahead and use those grade one elbow dogs in a breeding program if they do not exhibit problems and don’t always seem to produce it since our gene pool is small and 1 / 3 of our gene pool does not have clear elbows. DM has been a big problem in our breed, although there are breeders who still do not feel it is a problem they need to deal with as they continue to think it is only an old age problem or feel the tests are not reliable. I bought a dog in the early 1990s who had to be put down at age six due to his inability to stand alone anymore. I do not call age six an old age problem. It is true that some do not show signs of DM until older and since many Berners do die between eight and ten years, they may not see it. But why take a chance? I have followed the tests for DM for years and have found it to identify dogs that breeders need to be careful when breeding. If one has a good idea as to the status of the genetic make up of their dog (whether it is a carrier, at risk or normal) then the breeders can hopefully discon- tinue to produce DM. The only problem here is that people who do have carriers or at risk and continue to use the normals in breeding are continuing to produce more carriers. Breeders need to continue to breed some normals to normals so that we still have dogs with nor- mal genetic make up to use in these breedings of carriers and at risk dogs.
Structure: Our fronts need a lot of work. Some are quite wide and the dog continues to throw out their front legs rather than move toward the center. Some pasterns are just too loose and the dogs are pounding down and not reaching forward. Our tail carriages also need a conscious effort on breed- ers’ part to improve. A carriage straight out from the topline gives a lovely side movement. Sometimes the tail can be carried a touch higher if the dog is excited but should never have a curl or swing up and over. Some breeders do not feel that this is a fault, so they do not strive to improve this area. Our dogs need to be balanced—not too long and not too short in body and not too tall or too short on leg. Front and rear angles in both front and rear should match with the dog. Every once in a while I have seen a dog that is really overdone in the rear. I certainly hope this is not a new fad that we see in our breed. Temperament: I have only seen a couple Berners that have been aggressive in the ring, but I have seen some that have been a little soft in the ring. Part of this is socializing the dogs but also part of this is judges not really knowing how to examine a Berner. I have seen judges at our National Specialty have their tie dangling in the face of the dog as they go to examine them rather than wearing a tie clip so that the dogs were not hit in the face. I have seen judges lean over the dogs head from behind the dog’s neck to try to see if the bite is good on both sides, rather than being in front of the dog and looking from side to side. Sometimes, I think the Berner gets a bad reputation due to the technique used in judging them. AP: My biggest concern is health with overall quality right after that. NS: The generic show dog, as mentioned above, and tem- perament. The sweet disposition and steadiness of the breed is paramount and should be the top priority in any breeding program. DW: Longevity. The average lifespan of a Bernese is seven to eight years. Cancer is the primary cause of early mor- tality. Bernese fanciers are very participatory in health research, giving generously in hopes of improving the lifespan of this breed. The Berner Garde Foundation ( www.bernergarde.org) is the hallmark of this devotion to this wonderful breed. 3. The biggest problem facing you as a breeder? SK: Age—I’m getting too old to show my own dogs and whelping a litter is a lot of work! AP: My biggest problem is finding a good quality stud dog with good health and temperament. NS: Finding a stud dog! We have so much information today on health and pedigrees available, especially through
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WITH SARA KARL, SANDY NOVOCIN, ABBY PATRIZIO, NANCY STEWART & DEBORAH WILKINS
people in the breed as possible and make sure they are from different parts of the country and are involved in a wide variety of activities with the breed. For the new judge, talk with as many breed mentors as you can. Watch a draft test and Berners doing agility and obedience, as well; they are very versatile. Above all, get your hands on the dog before making any decisions and always reward type if the dog is sound. DW: Be patient and start with a quality dog from a reputable breeder that is healthy, sound, of good breed type and sound temperament. Surround yourself with educated, experienced dog people and know your breed standard. Also find good mentors and listen to them. Never com- promise on what is in the best interest of the breed and the foundation of your prospective breeding program. Judges: this is a hands-on breed; know and understand the breed standard. Remember, this is a versatile, work- ing farm dog that’s capable of guarding hearth and home, driving livestock and pulling carts of milk to market. 5. Anything else you’d like to share—something you’ve learned as a breeder, exhibitor or judge or a par- ticular point you’d like to make? SK: I know they can be tempting to put up when they are cute and flashy, but please don’t fall for that. AP: A Bernese Mountain Dog should be able to pull a cart of milk to the market without the milk turning to butter. It’s a good visual to have in your head. NS: In addition to the above, the Bernese Mountain Dog owners and breeders are a kind, sharing and fun group of people who truly love their dogs. Get to know them and enjoy the experience of spending time with the breed and their people. 6. And for a bit of humor, what’s the funniest thing that you ever experienced at a dog show? SK: I had a friend who was in the ring and her pants fell down! She hadn’t fastened them properly in the bath- room prior to that and oops! AP: My first time in the ring, my slip was hanging down four inches below my skirt and I didn’t know it until it was over. Everyone else had a good laugh though. NS: Too many to mention, but I certainly remember the time an exhibitor lost her shoe and fell in the ring. The dog took the leash in his mouth and finished his go-around before going back to the handler to see what happened. DW: I was doing a recall in the obedience ring when half way on the return my dog stopped; the distraction was the cry of a small child. My dog looked at the baby, then at me, trying to decide which was more important for her to attend to. Fortunately, she did return to me with a per- fect front and we only lost a couple of points. Obedience competitions were always my exercise in humility.
the breed health database, Bernergarde. Knowledge is power, but finding the dog that meets the needs of a specific bitch can still be a challenge. DW: The bigget problems are the rapid increase in popular- ity of the breed, anti-dog legislation and high volume commercial breeders and puppy mills. Along with puppy buyers unwilling to wait for a quality, responsibly bred puppy. 4. Advice to a new breeder? Advice to a new judge of your breed? SK: To a new breeder, try and stay in touch with the roots of the breed and don’t create fads. New judges should learn about the roots and history of the breed and not fall for fads. SN: If I were a new breeder , I would try to find the breeder who is interested in the health clearances of each dog as much as the show record of each dog. In this breed, you need to start with a dog with a good healthy background that also exhibits type at the same time. I would also look into the breeding background of the dog you might want to purchase. This breed is not always easy to breed; too many bitches have to be bred by AI’s or whelp by C-sections. Males lose their sperm count early and can not be counted on in older years, even if they are still alive. One needs to find bloodlines that have bitches that tend to breed and whelp naturally. This is a breed that has lots to offer to its owners and breeders, but it is also a breed that the breeders need to be knowledgeable and know what they are doing. AP: New breeders should find a mentor with many years of experience in the breed to help guide them in making good breeding decisions. New judges should look for a draft style dog with good bone and substance and use their hands to examine the dogs. NS: To the new breeder, align yourself with a mentor who you respect and can have an open line of communica- tion with. Don’t be in a hurry to produce puppies. Study everything you can get your hands on, talk to as many “OBEDIENCE COMPETITIONS WERE ALWAYS MY EXERCISE IN HUMILITY.”
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Official Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog
General Appearance: The Bernese Mountain Dog is a strik- ing. tri-colored, large dog. He is sturdy and balanced. He is intelligent, strong and agile enough to do the draft and drov- ing work for which he was used in the mountainous regions of his origin. Dogs appear masculine, while bitches are dis- tinctly feminine. Size, Proportion, Substance: Measured at the withers, dogs are 25 to 27½ inches; bitches are 23 to 26 inches. 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. Head - Expression is intelligent, animated and gentle. 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. 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 for- ward and raised at the base; the top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat on top and broad, with a slight furrow and a well-defined, but not exaggerated stop. 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. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. An overshot or undershot bite is a serious fault. Dentition is complete. 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. 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. Forequarters: The shoulders are moderately laid back, flat- lying, well-muscled and never loose. The legs are straight 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. 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 com- pact and turn neither in nor out. 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. Color and Markings: The Bernese Mountain Dog is tri-col- ored. 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, on 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 than black is a disqualification. 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 transmit- ted 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 center line. 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 atten- tions of strangers. Disqualifications: Blue eye color. Any ground color other than black.
Approved February 10, 1990 Effective March 28, 1990
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The MighTy BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
DENISE DEAN I live outside Flagstaff, Ari- zona, out in the Ponderosa pines on 23 acres and own a dog grooming shop in Flagstaff. I have been grooming dogs since 1970 and still groom sev- eral days a week. I have been breeding and showing dogs for over 40 years and judging since 1997. JANE HAEFNER I live in Mukwonago, Wis-
the Bernese Mtn. Dog Club of America with an average score of 194 (Ch. Bev’s Star Buck V Mi-Ja’s). In 1992, I saw a strong need for breeder-judges for our breed. At the time I applied there were only four recognized breeder-judges in the United States. I currently judge 18 Working breeds and my plan is to finish the Working group and go on in Toy breeds. SARA KARL We live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Right now I’m enjoying spending time with my first grandchild. I have had Bernese since 1986 and started showing that year. I have been judging since 2006. SHARON SMITH I live outside of Atlanta in the
consin and outside of dogs I vol- unteer my free time at church and Women for MACC (Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Can- cer.) I also love to read, and take walks with my dog. I have been in dogs since the late 70s and started first showing in obedi- ence with a Rough Collie and
Carrollton Area. My husband and I moved here with seven Bernese after retiring from our Advertis- ing Agency in New York. Now we manage our rentals and dab- ble in real estate, and still breed Bernese. I started showing dogs in 1970s with Golden Retriev- ers. I switched to Bernese in 1984 when Goldens become so
then acquiring my first Bernese in 1982; putting a CDX on Ch. Bev’s Winter StormWatch showing in conformation since 1983. In 1988, I had the top Novice B dog as recognized by
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1. Describe the breed in three words. DD: Strong, sweet and hug-able. JH: Striking, sturdy and loyal. SK: Tri-colored, substantial and agile. SS: Strong, sturdy and moderate angulation. DW: Strong, sturdy and balanced.
“This is a carTing dog ThaT pulled a carT laden wiTh huge Milk cans downhill To The cheesery; HE IS THE DRAFT HORSE OF DOGS,
2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? DD: I always find that question hard to answer, as there are so many things that make them a BMD. When you start looking at single parts you tend to fault judge, so the only one that is a real must have is a solid temperament, as without this you really do not have a Bernese. JH: Balance and temperament. The dog must be balanced to pull a cart or do any work around the farm. By balance he must have bone in proportion to his body type. He also must have the proper temperament. He should stand for examine and not back off. SK: As a breeder, my answers are longevity, soundness and temperament. As a judge, I want to see a good front, head and substance, as I feel this is where the breed is lacking at this time. SS: As a breeder-judge, type is foremost. This is a carting dog that pulled a cart laden with huge milk cans down- hill to the cheesery; he is the draft horse of dogs, not a fine-boned thoroughbred. That being said, I also look for soundness and moderate angulation front and rear; this is a dog that should be moved at a slow, working trot. It is incorrect to look for the type of reach and drive you would want in a Sporting breed. DW: The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large, tri-colored, sym- metrically marked, strong, sturdy, balanced dog of good temperament. These are the traits that define breed type. The beautiful expression, the beautiful moderate length coat and the harmonious balance of the entire dog are the things that I look for in this breed. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? DD: Some are getting too large and heavy-boned, our stan- dard call for sturdy bone and if too excessive, the dog would fail as a good around-the-farm dog. Also with that, many heads are looking more like a Newf or Saint and losing the soft, sweet look so important to the breed. JH: I don’t feel there are any traits becoming exaggerated, but our dogs are being moved too fast in the show ring. They are a draft dog and should be shown in a slow, con- trolled trot not out at the end of a lead with an extended flying kick out around the ring.
noT a fine-boned Thoroughbred.”
popular that showing became an all day affair. I started judg- ing in 1990, I am now approved for the Working group, Gold- ens, Best in Show and provisional for the Non-Sporting group.
Our home is in Prior Lake, Minnesota; however, I am also a “winter Texan” spending October through May in Corpus Christi, Texas. My husband and I enjoy traveling. Recently we enjoyed an 8-day safari in South Africa followed by two weeks on the island of Mauritius. I spend my free time hiking the beach and bird watching. I participate in various activi- ties sponsored by the American Association of University Women. I am a delegate to the American Kennel Club. I spend most of my free time fulfilling my duties in several dog clubs. I have lived with purebred dogs for over 60 years; I’ve been showing since 1988 and judging since 2001.
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SK: I think that this breed is headed in the right direction right now. I do fear that sometimes breeders only want size in their puppies (to the detriment of other good traits). SS: The only exaggeration has been imposed by many judges. The standard has a long explanation of markings, mostly because the Bernese has a complicated marking pattern and it takes a lot of words to describe. This does not make it a “Marked Breed”, like a Saint Bernard is a “Head Breed”. Markings are the icing on the cake; when I get down to two dogs of equal type, soundness and correct moderate reach and drive, then I may consider markings. DW: I think the greatest exaggerated trait would be heavy, bulky, giant breed dog features. This is a large breed dog
with moderate angulation. The Bernese should not be clumsy or bulky, nor should it be too racy or lean.
4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? DD: We have many more decent dogs, but fewer really outstanding dogs. We have so many that are decent all- around dogs, but have lost the outline and carriage that a really beautiful Bernese can have. JH: Our dogs have improved immensely, particular in head type. Good sturdy bone has improved where years ago we lacked bone. Breeders are to be commended for breeding a better dog that is more uniform in size.
“THE BEAUTIFUL EXPRESSION, THE BEAUTIFUL MODERATE LENGTH COAT AND THE HARMONIOUS BALANCE of The enTire dog are The Things ThaT i look for in This breed.” 4 )08 4 *()5 . "(";*/& + 6/& t
SK: Yes, I think they are improving. There is much more consistency of type and movement is better. SS: I think the breed has improved greatly since I started judging back in the 90s. Many dogs back then were small, dysplastic, high in the rear, snipey-headed, cow hocked, etc. Now we have the hips knocked, much better size, bone, level toplines, well-balanced, etc. We still often find type hard to keep, but that’s also getting much better. DW: The dogs have improved significantly in the last 30 years. They are far more balanced and sound. Conscien- tious breeders have worked diligently to produce dogs with sound orthopedics front and rear. There is far more consistency in the dogs we see in the ring today. We used to see incorrect tail sets, kinked tails, bad bites and struc- tural issues that inhibited correct gait. Most of the dogs today embrace the Breed Standard with minimal fault. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? DD: If new judges really study our proportions, appearing square though slightly longer than tall, they will do well. We have many that are way too short of leg and with that, lose the outline of a beautiful, sound dog. We have a good standard if judges just pay attention to it. JH: I don’t feel the new judges do misunderstand our breed. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America has had an excellent Judges Education Committee in place for years and with numerous breed mentors and now with numerous regional specialties for new judges to see a large entry. The American Kennel Club has also instituted excellent policies to educate all judges. SK: I think new non-breeder-judges put too much emphasis on markings. SS: I think new judges have a hard time with the long expla- nation of markings. They try to memorize all that and
think it is very important. I always think, ‘Build the cake first, then decorate it, if the layers are crooked or falling apart all the frosting will not make it right.’ It really helps to judge in Europe, the dogs are much darker marked. This is the home of the breed’s country of origin, so I think they know best! DW: Too many judges think color markings are the defining breed characteristic of breed type. They place too much emphasis on the white tip of the tail or the inverted Swiss cross marking on the chest. The Bernese Mountain Dog should be a strong, sturdy, balanced farm dog that can guard hearth and home, drive a small herd, pull a cart and be a trustworthy companion to his family. All breeders desire perfect markings; however, first you have to bake the cake, then you frost it. Another area that con- fuses new judges is coat. The Breed Standard states the dog is shown in natural coat and undue trimming should be discouraged. Deciding if a coat has been scissored can be challenging. This often confuses the new judge when trying to prioritize the dog’s strengths. I find that many new judges think bigger is better. The bigger the dog, the better he can pull the cart. A 25-inch dog is just as acceptable as a 27 ½ -inch dog provided the dog is strong, sturdy and balanced. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. DD: This is a wonderful, sweet breed and should be enjoyed by everyone who judges them. We have some great people involved with the breed. SK: This is a Working breed and as such, should be able to perform the job they are bred to do. They should not be clunky or awkward in their movement, they should be beautiful to look at and a joy to watch moving around the ring.
“THE BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG CLUB OF AMERICA HAS HAD AN EXCELLENT JUDGES EDUCATION COMMITTEE in place for years and wiTh nuMerous breed MenTors and now wiTh nuMerous regional specialTies for new judges To see a large enTry.”
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T he overall balance and symmetry of the Bernese Mountain Dogs being produced by highly dedi- cated breeders today are far superior to those being bred in 1937 when the breed was first rec- ognized by the American Kennel Club. Some were long in body and many showed a great tendency for being sway- backed. For anyone who may not clearly understand my use of the term balance, it refers to a dog being proportionate in conformation; body-wise, in measuring the distance or height from the withers (top of the shoulder) to the ground at the front feet. The length from the same point on the shoulder to the base of the tail or rump of the dog should be the same. However, Bernese Mountain Dogs are meant to be slightly longer in body than they are tall. The topline should be level. A topline that somewhat slopes down to the rump is not a significant fault. The topline should definitely not start lower at the shoulder and go up to the rump. This is only a part of the overall picture of balance; for while the above is correct, there are other aspects to consider. A deep chest withwell-sprung ribs and hindquar- ters in proportion with the chest is highly desirable. A shal- low chest or too much tuckup in the loin section does not at all add to the balance of the dog. In the bitches, I have too fre- quently seen a tendency for the topline to soften after a litter or litters of puppies, so a good solid topline from the start is especially important. A Bernese Mountain Dog with a robust body should also have substantial bone in the legs that goes well with his chest circumference. Fine bone quality in his legs would not go with the heavy substance. Heavy bone quality with a more petite body would be better, but still is not balanced. A large, heavy-boned Bernese Mountain Dog should also have a large head of equal quality, for if all other qualities are in balance, a small head with a snipey muzzle would great detract from his balance and the overall picture of conformation. Conversely, large head on even a slightly more refined dog would not be very desirable either. The perfect Bernese Mountain Dog has yet to be born. But, conscientious breeders continue to make great strides towards thegoal of producing that very special dog. Balance is critical in the breed and all evidence proves BMDCAmember breeders are keeping balance at the spearhead of their breed- ing programs. Significant headway in the Bernese Mountain Dog has been made in that direction and I am certain it will be continued. by williaM j. given balance & The BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
SS: This is a wonderful breed, loyal to a fault. They can be standoffish to strangers; their human is the only one for them. They tolerate judges, but most are not going to stand and wag like a Golden, it just isn’t in them. DW: The Bernese Mountain Dog is a versatile Working breed dog that is devoted to his family. He is willing to do what his master asks of him. Many owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs will tell you that this breed touches your soul. The human/dog bond is like no other. 7. And, for a bit of humor: what’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? SK: The funniest thing I’ve seen is Team Obedience at the Bernese National! SS: The funniest thing I ever experienced at a dog show, was when a friend of mine stood listening to an instant breed expert, who was paying no attention to her dog, while she told anyone and everyone just how much she knew! Her dog became aggressive to my friend’s dog and my friend asked her to control her dog. The instant expert became enraged, and jerked her dog back. The next day as we waited to go in the ring, my friends dog wandered out to the end of her leash and sniffed the instant expert’s dog. She became enraged again and my friend whipped around to her and said, “Oh relax, she’s a novice bitch, just like you.” “THIS IS A WONDERFUL, SWEET BREED and should be enjoyed by everyone who judges TheM.”
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JUDGING THE BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
By Mary Alice Eschweiler and the BMDCA Judges’ Education Committee
O ne’s fi rst impression of the breed is a large, balanced, strong, tri- colored dog with a self-con fi dent charac- ter. Traditionally, this breed has been a Swiss farmer’s all-purpose dog, working as a companion, draft dog, and drover. Th e dog appears square, but should actually be slightly longer than tall. Sturdy bones are an essential feature. One must keep the ideal BMD in mind. Th e balance, essence , outline, char- acter, coat, head, and proper carriage are the elements to consider. Remember, any dog can gait soundly or correctly, but if he lacks the essence of the breed, he is not an ideal BMD. No single feature should over- power the impression of the whole dog. A dog measuring 25 inches compared to a dog measuring 27 ½ inches are quite di ff er- ent in size; however, both can be correct as they are within standard and have sturdy bone. Th e quality of the dog, including substance and balance, takes precedence over height in your evaluation. When approaching the dog, you should feel a sense of steady character. Shyness or aggression is not tolerated. Aloofness should not be equated with shyness. Many times, puppies will greet you with enthusiasm, or some with a look of concern. Work with the handler to make it a good experience for the puppy even though it will interrupt a routine examination. As a farm dog, the Bernese, though alert, is not an excitable dog. Inspection of the head will reveal important breed details. Expression is in fl uenced by markings. A moderate stop, medium ear size and placement, slightly oval - not round - eye shape and dark eye color contribute to expression. A pro fi le will allow you to compare the length of
When watching the Bernese Mountain Dog in the show ring, imagine that this dog would willingly be able to pull a cart unaccompanied to the cheesemaker.
Markings can create an optical illusion, as demonstrated in the above illustrations showing different amounts of white on the same head.
muzzle and skull and backskull, also depth of muzzle. Feel the head for su ffi cient stop, and for breadth and depth of topskull. Remember this is a dry mouth breed. Take note of bite and dentition. Allow the owner to show you the bite and dentition. Continuing the examination will require a judge to do a complete hands-on evaluation of the dog, starting with feel- ing for a medium neck, good prosternum, depth and breadth of chest and formation of the shoulders, upper arm, elbows, and
transition into the back. Do not depend solely on your eye in judging structure. Con fi rm that the front legs are well under the body and well behind the prosternum as this is an important element of a cor- rect outline. Going from the skull down the neck, into the topline, to slope of croup, to set of tail and down the tail, feel- ing for a kink, is invaluable to your judg- ment. Check for length of tail, reaching at least to the hock. Check for depth of body, rib cage and strong loin. Be aware of
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Type, soundness and balance should be considered first. Color and markings, with emphasis on symmetry, are very specific but perhaps have been overrated in our selection of breeding stock. The Standard describes ideal markings; variations are to be expected. Al l the dogs presented above are acceptably marked.
slab-sided dogs, lacking in depth of chest or fronts that are too narrow or too broad. Th e BMD has a full body, meaning that there is only a slight amount of tuck-up. Underline is as important as topline. Hindquarter evaluation is accom- plished by examination of the well- developed upper and lower thighs, sti fl e and hock. Hindquarters are strong and powerful. Your judgment should not be fooled by the artistry of grooming in hocks, sti fl es, or croups. Th e moderate angulation of rear should complement the angulation of the front. Th e hands-on evaluation includes the coat. Th e coat is thick and moderately long, and straight or slightly wavy. Th e BMD is to be shown in a natural coat. Excessive groom- ing is to be discouraged. Even though we like to see dogs presented well and in good condition, grooming and handling skills do not change a mediocre dog. Trimmed feet and tidy ears should su ffi ce. Dogs that have the heavy coat on the top of the croup are not to be penalized. Please feel for the cor- rect topline and chest development and not just judge from across the ring. Markings Facial and leg markings may cause opti- cal illusions, such as a darker face giving a sterner look, or a white blaze giving the illusion of a broader head, or white higher on the inside of the foot a ff ecting what one sees in movement. Absence of white on feet or tail does not take away from the quality of the BMD. A dog or bitch with less than
perfect markings can produce puppies with perfect markings. Incorrect markings are to be faulted in direct relationship to the deviation from the Standard. Although a great deal of our Standard is devoted to the description of markings, they are only a part of our Standard. Gait In judging the gait, realize the struc- ture of the dog is the primary in fl uence. Carriage is an element that draws the eye when viewing the side gait and thus related to structure and balance. One element of good carriage is a fi rm topline and lack of roll. A well-made working dog should carry the head forward rather than high when in motion. A slow trot is the natural and preferred gait of the BMD, however, with a medium trot, as the dog’s feet converge to the center line of gravity, one can better assess reach and drive. As the dog moves, the tail carriage may be carried high or straight out, but a tail carried over the back or curled is undesirable. A dog that “ fl ies” around the ring is not necessarily a cor- rect BMD and, especially, if that dog is 30 pounds lighter (lower end of the standard) than another who might have a slower trot consistent of draft dog and at the upper end of the Standard. Th is is not to say larger dogs move slower, it is simply a reminder that the dog that races around when view- ing the side gait is not necessarily the best or correct dog. Dogs that are heavily coat- ed on the lower chest may appear to have incorrect movement. Dogs that have been
trimmed between the forelegs are not to be rewarded. Proper evaluation is best done with the dog moved on a loose lead. Judging As in any other breed, remember that no dog is perfect. Even though a dog may score well on individual details, the proper balance and breed details are essential and the dog must be considered as a whole, rather than by its separate parts in the fi nal evaluation. When viewing a group of dogs from across the ring, remember balance and proportions of what is under the coat. Be kind to our dogs as this is a gentle breed. Be kind to exhibitors. We have many owner- handled dogs that may be the best dogs in the ring. Become familiar with the Standard. If you are unsure of the breed, pursue opportunities to observe and discuss the BMD with our mentors who will gladly devote their time and share their knowledge.
The BMD is to be shown in a natural coat. Excessive grooming is to be discouraged.
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LIVING WITH THE BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
By Mary Alice Eschweiler
he Bernese Mountain Dog is a breed in the Working Group which originated in the mid- lands of Switzerland. It has been known as
the farmer’s companion in the the Canton of Bern, working as a companion, watch- dog, cart puller or draft dog, and has been known to herd small numbers of cows. Th ese tasks have been the reason for the breed’s amiable temperament which has translated into a gently, large, loyal com- panion with relatively low energy levels. Th e Bernese Mountain Dog is charac- terized by its large size, generally 23-26 inches, 80-100 lbs for females, and 25 -27 ½ inches, or 90-120 lbs for males. Th e coat is shining black and long and easy to keep clean with weekly brushing. Th e black coat is accented with white and tan markings on the face, chest and legs. Th e attractive markings are what often intrigue those to the breed, but it’s the sweet nature and character of the dog that are far more important to those who have owned them. Although known locally to the Bernese farmers, toward the end of the 19th cen- tury, the breed was nearly extinct. A group of Swiss farm dogs were sought out and exhibited in 1904. By 1908 the breed was recognized in Switzerland. Breeding for speci fi c characteristics re fi ned the breed. Th e breed was slow to get established in the United States, being fi rst recognized by the American Kennel Club with a pair of dogs in 1937. Th ere were only a few litters every year thereafter until American fanci- ers formed the Bernese Mtn. Dog Club of America (BMDCA) in 1968. Because of its sensitive nature, the Ber- nese Mountain Dog makes the ideal fam- ily dog. Life is best for this dog when it is with its family. Although they adapt well to cold and rainy weather and abso-
lutely love snow, they much prefer to be wherever their owner is, whether indoors or out. Caution must be taken in hot cli- mates. Both because of the long coat and the black color which absorbs heat, the Bernese Mountain Dog is not suited for extreme heat. Moreover, they do not do well as kennel dogs. Th ey get along well with other animals, but they are closely bonded to their human. Th ey require regu- lar exercise but are not high energy dogs. Many dogs have excelled in the obedience,
agility and tracking venues being able to endure the rigor of those sports but they are not natural retrievers. What they do love to do is pull carts! Th e BMDCA has the largest draft tests program in the world with many enthusiasts earning their titles. Puppies grow quickly into large dogs. Because of this, good socialization, manners and basic obedience skills should be taught from the beginning of the dog’s life. Most Bernese Mountain Dogs begin to settle into their mature low-key nature around the age
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