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Purchasing a Bernese Mountain Dog Puppy

A guide for buyers of Berners

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Rapidly increasing fraudulent sales of Berners Read This

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There are three main considerations in purchasing a Bernese Mountain Dog; temperament, health, and show qualities. For those interested in a family pet, temperament and health are most important. For those interested in a show dog, in depth study of the breed is advisable. Purchasing a brood bitch or stud dog requires an even higher level of care and the consideration of additional factors. It takes patience and persistence to find the right puppy. Rushing to buy the first pup available is typically the biggest mistake novice buyers make.

My Ideal Breeder

Defining what makes a good breeder is not as easy as it seems. Equally good breeders have different styles. There are also valid differences of opinion as to what constitutes a good breeder. The following is a composite profile of my ideal breeder.

Researching A Litter

To help organize your research, download and print the litter check form. A through breeder will have done all of the necessary research long ago so your task will not be as daunting as it first appears. In addition to the relatives found in the pedigree you should also inquire into the siblings and half siblings of your puppy if any exist from previous litters.

Finding Breeders

Most important, never buy a dog from a pet shop. There are few absolutes in the dog world but this is one of them. The brutal histories behind pet shop dogs and the disgusting ways they are bred are almost beyond belief. Instead, you should obtain your Berner or any dog from a breeder, rescue organization, or humane society.

There are several ways to find a breeder and you should try as many of them as you can. As you make your initial contacts, ask for additional names to call. With time and patience you can network your way all over the country and even the world. It is worth while to keep good notes of all your conversations and keep any written material you receive well organized. As you finalize your decision all of this information will be helpful.

Unfortunately, there is no sure method to find a superior breeder or dog. The national and local clubs can give you a start, but always remember that they cannot guarantee the services of their breeder members. Even a few good references is not enough to assure success. Finding a truly good dog takes hard work - there are no shortcuts.


Most breeders use a contract to formally state the conditions of the sale. There are about as many types of contracts as there are breeders but a few general trends are found. First, there is usually a distinction between pet and show dogs. At about seven weeks of age a breeder will evaluate a litter and select one or two show prospects - the rest will be designated family pets. A good breeder demands high quality homes for all of their pups, but if possible will place the show prospects with people who like to show. Pets are normally sold with a requirement that the owners neuter the dog at an appropriate age. Pets are sometimes sold with a "limited" registration from the AKC that prevents any of their offspring from ever being registered which may cut down on casual backyard breeding. Limited registration may be changed by the breeder to full registration at a later date which allows for more complicated contracts in which a breeder and owner can wait and see how a pup grows up.

There is a wide class of contracts in which the breeder retains some of the breeding rights to the dogs they sell. These may involve co-ownership or not. There is potential for abuse in some of these arrangements as people who simply desire a family pet become breeders by proxy without knowing what they are doing. If you are not ready to be a fully responsible breeder in your own right, then be wary of becoming involved in someone else's breeding plan. When problems arise you don't want to hear yourself telling a puppy buyer that you're just the "co-breeder" and you don't really have any answers. Finally, be very certain that you understand exactly what you obligations are in this type of contract.

Show dogs (and sometimes pets as well) may come with a guarantee that they will pass their hip and elbow x-rays. If they fail, the breeder may replace the dog or refund part of the purchase price - usually back to a pet price. More and more breeders are now requiring that all of their dogs be x-rayed for hips and elbows when they are old enough. This includes pet and show dogs since they all provide valuable genetic information which will help improve the breed in the future. Most contracts contain a buy back clause that requires buyers to sell the dog to the breeder or give her the right of first refusal if the owner must get rid of the dog. This is consistent with the principle that a breeder is ultimately responsible for the life of every dog they breed.

Copyright 1996 BMDCA, last update October 10, 2004
Philip Shaffer,