Bernese Mountain Dogs are a true family companion. They are sweet, affectionate, easy-going, take well to children and are extremely patient with kids climbing all over them. They have the energy to play all day, and will happily flop down by the fireplace for a little rest and relaxation with the rest of the family. They do just fine with other pets, are polite to strangers and sometimes think they are lapdogs, despite their size.
Bernese Mountain Dogs enjoy naps and relaxation just as much as the next dog, but they do require a lot of activity. They are a winter dog – their long coats aren't designed for long, hot summers – and they will enjoy romping in the snow, and if possible, pulling children around on a sled. They are not apartment dogs; they need lots of room and a yard to romp in. They will enjoy taking evening walks with the family, and will proudly trot alongside mother and baby stroller.
Socialization is very important with a Bernese, and it should begin as early as possible. They can be shy around new people and if they don't learn to accept strangers and new situations, they can become overly timid and anxious.
A confident, consistent, but gentle hand is needed with this breed. Though some males can be dominant, overall this breed is docile and should never be treated harshly. They respond best to lots of reinforcement and a few treats. They can be stubborn and slow to learn, so patience and an even keel are important for anyone training a Bernese Mountain Dog. Despite their initial stubbornness, they do well in basic obedience training and can be graduated to advanced tricks and agility.
The natural shyness of this breed can lead to anxiety problems in adolescence and adulthood. Bernese puppies should be socialized to accept new people and new situations as joyous events, rather than things to be feared.
Separation Anxiety can be common in this breed. They enjoy spending time with people, and if left alone for long periods of time without proper exercise and activity, destructive tendencies can develop.