Top Dog at BernerWise
So you want to buy a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy? It’s not hard to understand that one. Let’s face it, photos of adorable Berner puppies are very alluring.
Plus, they’re great, loving dogs and wonderful family pets. I’m sure you’ve heard all about those things, too.
Decision’s made! It’s time to go buy a puppy.
You figure this really isn’t a big deal. It’ll take a few weeks to find one. After all, you’re a Googling fool. Just fire up the search engine and plug in Bernese Mountain Dog puppies for sale. Voilà. There are plenty of dogs for sale.
You look at a few sites and scroll through some pics. You’re a little shocked at the prices. You’d thought you’d pay $400. And the cheapest you see are $895 to $1,195 a piece. But finally you find a cute one you like (that’s half a continent away). Great news! They’ll ship the dog to you for free!
Stop, right there! You’re getting ready to make a big mistake
Please stop right there before you plug in your credit card or write a check. This isn’t like making a purchase at Amazon.com. You are getting ready to make the BIGGEST MISTAKE of buying a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy (or any puppy).
If the description above sounds familiar, then you are more than likely getting ready to buy from a breeder who primarily cares about one thing – making money. And those breeders will dramatically increase your chances of heartache.
How do you spot a responsible breeder?
In general, there are four kinds of breeders:
- Responsible breeders
- Backyard or hobby breeders
- A puppy broker
- A puppy mill
Responsible breeders are the only ones you should be dealing with. So how do you tell which ones are responsible? There’s a lot that separates the responsible breeder from the rest. But at this point in your search, it’s fairly obvious:
- A responsible breeder is not likely to sell a puppy that cheap. Expect to pay in the range of $1,600 to $2,400 (at least in the Northeast U.S.).
- Responsible breeders generally don’t sell puppies directly on the Internet.
- Responsible breeders don’t sell to buyers they’ve never met.
So why are there so many of these other folks selling Bernese Mountain Dog puppies? Simple: There are more people who want Berners than there are Berner puppies. So that brings out sellers with less than quality credentials.
‘I just want a pet, not a show dog’
So you’re probably saying, “Eileen, I just want to buy a pet – not a show dog. We just want a dog to love, and we hear Berners are so wondeful. Plus, they are beautiful. Why should we spend more money? We don’t need a grand champion!”
Trust me, when you buy from a responsible breeder, you’re not likely to be buying a grand champion. A breeder doesn’t sell show puppies to a new owner who doesn’t know what they are doing.
But there are more important reasons for coughing up the extra dough at the beginning.
Here’s the skinny:
- Berners are not known for long life spans – the average lives only 6 to 8 years. But I know people whose Bernese Mountain Dogs only made it to 3 years old, and other whose dogs lived to be 12 (and I hear others that make it to 15).
- Berners have a history of medical issues, such as cancer. And since they are big dogs, they also have a tendency toward joint issues, such has hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and arthritis.
Responsible breeders know this and take seriously the job of trying to better the breed. Not only do they want the dog to look good and conform to “the standard,” but they take great care in breeding for temperament, health and orthopedics.
Yes, responsible breeders charge more, but not necessarily because they “deserve” it.
They charge more because they spend more in order to produce a better dog. They spend money on the health scans before they breed a dog. They study the lines of the sire and dam. They take genetics into consideration. And when you buy a dog from them, the responsible breeder is with you for the life of the dog.
Picking a breeder: Do you really want to roll the dice?
The other three types of breeders don’t care and don’t spend the time and money it takes to better the breed.
When you choose a breeder other than a responsible breeder, you are basically rolling the dice and hoping your dog is sound. Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry” kinda said it the best: “Do you feel lucky?”
Now, to be fair, just because you buy from a responsible breeder doesn’t mean your dog won’t have these problems. After all, Mother Nature plays a major role here.
Berners are both a financial and an emotional investment
But at least you know that you’ve protected your investment as best you can. And these dogs are an investment.
And once you add up the food bills (big dogs eat a lot), vet bills and the emotional connections with you (and your kids), owning a Bernese Mountain Dog gets to be a very serious financial and emotional investment.
It is better to pay an extra $400-$500 up front, than risk burying (literally) your whole investment three years down the line.
Plus, after a few years that extra few hundred bucks will be only a tiny sliver of your overall expenditures. Your best chance of making that investment last is by buying from a responsible breeder.
So slow down. It’s going to take awhile to find a Berner worth buying
A reasonable amount of time to find a Berner puppy? Let’s say three months to a year.
But the wait and the time, research and energy you’ll need to put into it will be worth it.
How to spot a responsible Bernese Mountain Dog breeder
Responsible Bernese Mountain Dog breeders:
1. Won’t sell you a puppy without meeting you.
2. Will interview you. They want to get to know you and what your situation is at home. They’re picking you to be an owner as much as you are picking them as a breeder.
3. Want to ensure that the puppy’s temperament and character will match you and your family. The breeder may be able to suggest a specific puppy from the litter.
4. Insist you visit his or her facilities to meet not just the puppies, but the mom and inspect their living conditions.
5. Encourages you not to rush into becoming a Bernese Mountain Dog owner.
6. Give you a complete rundown on the quality of the dam and sire, plus proof of any titles completed. Responsible breeders also are delighted to show you their dogs’ pedigrees, their health and genetic clearances, including details on the litter’s ancestors, which should include their ages and causes of death if they’ve passed on.
7. Explain their breed’s history and unique characteristics.
8. Generally only breed Bernese Mountain Dogs. (There are exceptions. They may also have a second breed. But steer clear of breeders who are producing a lot of different breeds.)
9. Don’t allow puppies to go to a new family until they are 8 weeks old.
10. Require a contract outlining both their responsibilities and yours. And it’s written in plain English. No confusing small print.
11. Require that you will return the dog to him or her should you be unable to keep the dog at any point in the dog’s life.
12. Require you to spay or neuter any dog that isn’t of show quality.
13. Never sell puppies to a broker or pet store.
14. Don’t always have a litter of puppies ready to sell.
15. Are always trying to better the breed.
16. Show their own dogs. They will have dogs with championship titles (conformation). Expect to see titles in other areas, such as obedience, rally, drafting, versatility. It demonstrates that they know what a “quality” dog looks like and they are breeding dogs to be even better.
17. Are members in the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America and likely to be active in local clubs in their region.
How do I make sure I am getting a Bernese Mountain Dog that won’t have health issues?
The short answer is that you can’t. Mother Nature doesn’t always follow the rules. Sometimes things just happen.
But you can reduce the risks.
First, work with responsible breeders. They will not knowingly sell you a puppy with health problems. Plus, there will be realistic guarantees in their contracts.
Second, you can check the health of your puppy’s ancestry at Bernergarde.org.
Berner-Garde Foundation maintains a database on Bernese Mountain Dogs. It is voluntary, but responsible breeders regularly add the health certifications of their dogs in this database. If your puppy’s mother, father, grandparents aren’t in the database, then you should be wary of buying a puppy from that breeder.
If you type in your breeder’s name, you see every dog they have. You will be able to look at the every dog’s:
- health certifications
- list of titles
- copies of his or her pedigree
- all of the dog’s relatives
- all of a dog’s litters
This is an invaluable source if you’re in search of information about your puppy’s history.
Also note, that all four types of breeders will offer you puppies that can be registered with the AKC.
But understand that AKC registration says nothing about the health and genetics of the dog. and that’s what you really care about.
How do I find a responsible breeder?
Since most Google searches are going to turn up lots of dubious breeders, brokers and puppy mills, you’re going to have to do some digging.
The best place to start (in the U.S.) is the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) at www.bmdca.org.
Not only is this site a wealth of information about the breed, they have a great directory of active responsible breeders.
Just plug in your name and location, and they will give you a list of active breeders in your region.
It will be up to you to contact the breeders themselves in the search to find a breeder that matches you. Those breeders may or may not have a current litter. So if you find one you like (and who approves of you), you may have to wait awhile, but you’re on the right track.
You can also dig deeper and contact the local club in your region. Almost all of them have web sites with plenty of information about their programs and breeders. You can get a full list of those local clubs at BMDCA, too. That list is at:
Plug in your breed and area, and the free service will show you a list of breeders who currently have puppies available in your region.
Warning: This is not necessarily a list of responsible breeders. Some responsible breeders do list their litters here, but not all do. So if you find a breeder on this list, make sure you do your due diligence using the information I’ve provided here and also information from BMDCA.
Great sources of information for you to check out
Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America: The main resource and authority on Bernese Mountain Dogs in the U.S. A must for all Berner owners
BMDINFO.org: A great resource of Berner information. Includes good breakdown of what it costs to own a BMD puppy and great checklist for determining who is a responsible breeder.
BernerU Blackboard. Part of the Berner University web site. Include lots of great information from the sessions done each year at the BMDCA National Specialty.