BUYING A BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG
Many people finally decide that a Bernese Mountain Dog is the correct breed for them after reading a general description and learning about the characteristics expected for the breed. Many Bernese ARE indeed typical of the breed BUT do be aware that some Bernese possess very few of the desirable attributes most associated with the breed.
There can be HUGE variations within any breed of dog and Bernese Mountain Dogs are no exception. Physical differences are fairly obvious, even to the untrained eye; some Bernese are heavy set and stocky whilst others can be lighter in build and more `racy`. The most important variations to take into account are those of temperament. Some families (bloodlines) of Bernese are much more active and highly strung than is generally desired, and some are also more independent and consequently less biddable and difficult to manage.
The cost of buying a Bernese may vary somewhat and the cost is not directly linked to quality.
Most breeders sell all the puppies in their litter for the same price regardless of whether they are male or female or wanted as a pet or show/breeding dog. Sometimes a breeder may have a puppy that has a major fault or physical defect which is usually reflected in a reduced price. Do not assume a higher priced puppy is of higher quality - some puppy farmers and commercial dealers charge VERY high prices for VERY poor quality Bernese. Be sure you know exactly what you are buying.
The average UK price in 2011 for a carefully planned, well bred, purebred, Kennel Club Registered Bernese puppy from an established, experienced, reputable, specialist Bernese breeder is £1000 - £1400. That price should include some initial insurance cover arranged by the breeder, plus a pedigree, diet and rearing advice, and the Kennel Club Registration Certificate which may be available at the time of collection or a written promise that it will be forwarded on.
Everyone planning on buying a Bernese Puppy is strongly advised to purchase Canine Insurance cover for Loss, Veterinary Fees and Third Party Liability.
Before speaking to breeders or arranging to visit their home to view their dogs it is wise to spend a few minutes writing down a list of preferred attributes, in order of merit, of the factors which you regard as important in your new Bernese. Many conversations evolve away from a specific topic and may puppy purchasers get diverted from asking questions which they had planned to ask!
You might wish to consider the following points;
Would you prefer a puppy reared within a home environment opposed to a kennel or outbuilding?
Is your priority to buy from a knowledgeable, experienced, specialist breeder?
Does it matter to you if your puppy is bred by an opportunist "cash-crop" breeder or commercial dealer/puppy farmer?
What kind of temperament and activity level would you require your Bernese to have?
Is it important for the sire and dam to have good Hip Dysplasia (HD) Scores or Elbow Dysplasia (ED) Grades and do you know how to interpret those Scores and Grades?
Are health issues associated with Bernese important to you when making your purchase?
What is/was the health status of the close relatives of any puppy you may be interested in?
Does the lifespan (age at death) of close relatives of a litter concern you?
Will the puppy be Kennel Club Registered and if not why not?
Have you confirmed, to your own satisfaction, that all the information the breeder/seller has given you is correct?
And of course there are many more questions you might consider as being relevant to making a wise and informed decision.
Markings and quality may have some bearing on the price of a Bernese puppy but that is by no means always the case. A knowledgeable, dedicated and caring breeder will want to know as much about you and your family and circumstances, as you will need to know about the breeder and the Bernese puppies and their parents.
BEWARE of breeders who offer joint ownership deals, or breeding-terms agreements as this will affect your everyday ownership rights.
Also, BEWARE of breeders who charge more than the average price – they may imply their dogs are superior, but that is rarely the case. There should be no difference in price between male and female puppies.
It is common practice amongst UK Bernese breeders to place non-breeding endorsements (restrictions) on puppies sold as family pets and companions, and for both seller and buyer to sign any agreement or contract, BEFORE THE PUPPY LEAVES THE BREEDER'S PREMISES.
Always visit the breeder of any puppies you may be interested in at their HOME to be sure that the parents are exactly the type of Bernese you hope to acquire. On their home ground, Bernese should greet visitors eagerly and in an obviously friendly fashion. Any Bernese who adopt or continue a threatening posture even after their owner has greeted you and allowed you entry to the premises should be viewed with not only extreme caution, but their suitability as breeding stock has to be in question.
Be sure to buy a Bernese puppy ONLY from a breeder who enjoys the company of their own dogs as members of their family within their home, and who rears their Bernese litters within an ordered and well managed household and not relegated to a kennel or outbuilding away from the house. A litter of puppies does indeed generate a lot of mess, but house reared puppies are much better socialised and well handled and therefore adapt to their new homes and owners more quickly and with no obvious trauma. Kennel reared puppies inevitably suffer stress when taken away and faced with household noises and activity.
Be sure to inspect the parents of ANY puppy you may be interested in, or at the very least YOU MUST SEE THE MOTHER INTERACTING WITH HER PUPS BEFORE paying a deposit and ensure the terms of the deposit are put in writing before parting with any money. Most breeders will not require a deposit, preferring to allow a potential buyer complete freedom to change their mind rather than have one of their precious puppies collected by a buyer who would have preferred to cancel the booking but ultimately decided that didn't want to lose their deposit.
Also, to avoid disappointment, it is wise to confirm EXACTLY WHEN you will be able to make your choice, and EXACTLY HOW MANY puppies will be available for you to choose from. It is most unwise to select your puppy before 4 or ideally 5 weeks old, and at that stage most breeders will supply you with a diet sheet and information to help you prepare for the arrival of your new puppy. Before that age, any assessment or selection from the litter will be made on size and markings, and both those qualities will change drastically in coming weeks. Sensible breeders will expect you, as a potential puppy purchaser, to make a provisional booking to confirm a definite interest, but then everything is put on hold until the puppies are big enough to view and all parties can meet each other. By 5 weeks old, it is easier to determine the character and temperament of the litter, and the physical differences and breed specific qualities of the puppies will be much more obvious. It is common practice for large breed puppies such as Bernese to be ready for collection and taken to their new homes between 7 and 8 weeks old.
NEVER, NEVER BUY A BERNESE FROM ANY BREEDER WHO SUGGESTS THEY MEET YOU TO VIEW THEIR PUPS AWAY FROM THEIR PREMISES AT MOTORWAY SERVICES OR SIMILAR.
SOME OF THE WORST BREEDERS WITH THE WORST TRACK-RECORD HAVE DEVELOPED VERY SKILLED AND CONVINCING SALES PATTER TO ENABLE THEM TO ACHIEVE A PUPPY SALE.
The average lifespan of Bernese Mountain Dogs is a point of concern among breeders, owners and those who may be interested in owning the breed. In common with some other large breeds, it would seem that many Bernese deaths occur at about seven or eight years old and sometimes younger. It is true that some Bernese breeders rarely report Bernese they have bred reaching beyond that age, whilst other breeders consistently have Bernese which reach twelve years and beyond. There would appear to be familial tendencies of expected lifespan. Some breeders are convinced that feeding, exercise etc. and general management routines may also have in influence on longevity. An experienced breeder will advise on the best rearing practices to follow for dogs of their specific bloodlines.
Most breeds of pedigree dogs, including Bernese Mountain Dogs, can be affected by abnormalities known to occur in the breed. These problems should not be exaggerated, but purchasers should be aware of potential defects and enquire as to the soundness of a breeder’s stock. Some diseases or defects are inherited, whilst some are more complex involving many factors.
Large breeds such as Bernese Mountain Dogs grow extremely fast and puppies often go through very uneven growth stages which inevitably puts great stress on immature skeletons. Rearing a large breed puppy to adult soundness takes great care, time, effort and the addition of some luck.
When visiting a breeder to view their Bernese, be sure that you like EVERYTHING about the parents and other family members of any puppies you may be interested in – their temperament, character, activity level and how well they interact with people. If there is anything at all that makes you unsure, then DON’T BUY!