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Working and Training

Coming from a working background, Berners enjoy the challenges of learning new things. Most Berners are eager to please their owners and can be trained quite readily in a variety of areas. Because of the breed's eventual large size, it is to the owner's advantage to begin obedience training (household manners and basic obedience commands) at a young age. However, since Berners as a breed are slow to mature, both physically and mentally, owners should not push puppies in training too rapidly; these dogs are definitely not obedience "child prodigies." The training of a Berner puppy requires firmness, consistency, and lots of patience, and is most successfully accomplished with many brief, fun training sessions. Despite their large size, the majority of Berners are "soft" dogs and do not do well with harsh corrections. To avoid the possibility of orthopedic injury, a Berner should not be asked to jump or pull loads before the age of two.

Draft Regulations
Working Dog Awards
Versatility Award

A hundred years ago, Bernese Mountain Dogs worked at guarding the farm, herding cattle, and hauling milk cans to the dairy. The guarding ability is greatly diminished these days (although Berners still make good watch dogs), but the herding instinct and draft capabilities remain intact in many dogs. Although at this time Berners are not permitted to compete in AKC herding events, the majority of Bernese will pass a herding instinct certification test, and some owners actively train their dogs in this area. Berners are eligible to compete in trials offered by the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) and the American Herding Breed Association (AHBA).  Many Berners participate in AKC obedience and tracking tests, as well as agility competition. They have also been quite successful as therapy dogs and, to a limited extent, as search and rescue dogs.

It is draft work that receives the most attention from Berner owners. The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America offers four titles in draft work: NDD (Novice Draft Dog), DD (Draft Dog), NBDD (Novice Brace Draft Dog), and BDD (Brace Draft Dog). The trial rules for these titles require a dog or pair of dogs to demonstrate both control of the cart and strength and endurance to pull a load. 

The BMDCA offers a Versatility Award to those Bernese that show the ability to excel at several activities.  To earn this award a Berner must earn a conformation championship, a Novice Draft Dog title, and one additional title such as a tracking title, an agility title, or a herding title.

The BMDCA has also established  the Working Dog Award and the Working Dog Excellent Award - to honor those dogs who carry on the working tradition of our breed. 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America allows Berners to earn their Working Pack Dog title.  This title requires the dog to carry a percentage of its weight on a ten mile hike on four separate occasions. At the novice level the dog carries 20% of its weight and at the pack dog level the requirement is 30%.

Philip Shaffer,