Choosing the right dog breed can be both exciting and a bit overwhelming, especially when the breeds are as charming and similar as the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Both breeds share a majestic presence and a friendly nature, but they also have unique traits that might make one a better fit for your lifestyle than the other.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the key differences and similarities between Bernese Mountain Dogs and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. From their origins and physical characteristics to their health, temperament, and care needs.

Bernese Mountain Dogs vs Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs: Which Is Right For You?

The main difference between Bernese Mountain Dogs and Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs lies in their size, coat, and exercise requirements. While both breeds originate from Switzerland and share a friendly, loyal temperament, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is larger and has a short, dense coat, making it less demanding in terms of grooming compared to the Bernese Mountain Dog’s longer, silkier coat. Additionally, the Greater Swiss requires more vigorous daily exercise, making it ideal for active owners or families.

In contrast, the Bernese Mountain Dog, with its slightly more reserved nature, is better suited for those who can provide moderate exercise and are looking for a calm and affectionate companion. Understanding these differences is crucial for potential dog owners to choose the breed that best fits their lifestyle and home environment.

FeatureBernese Mountain DogGreater Swiss Mountain DogRecommendation
OriginSwitzerlandSwitzerlandSimilar heritage; choice doesn’t depend on origin.
SizeLarge; 70-115 poundsLarger; 85-140 poundsChoose Swiss for larger size; Bernese if slightly smaller size is preferred.
Coat and ColorLong, silky, tri-colorShort, dense, tri-colorSwiss is better for less grooming; Bernese for those who prefer a more “fluffy” look.
TemperamentAffectionate, loyal, slightly more reservedSociable, confident, alertSwiss for a more outgoing temperament; Bernese for a calm and composed companion.
Health and LifespanGenerally healthy; 6-8 yearsGenerally healthy; 8-11 yearsSwiss might be preferable for a potentially longer lifespan.
Exercise NeedsModerate; enjoys walks and playHigh; requires vigorous daily exerciseActive owners might prefer Swiss; Bernese suits less intense exercise routines.
Living RequirementsNeeds space, not suited for apartmentsNeeds ample space, not suited for apartmentsBoth need space; neither is ideal for apartment living.
TrainingIntelligent but can be stubborn; needs patienceVery trainable and eager to pleaseSwiss might be easier for first-time dog owners due to trainability.
Grooming NeedsHigh due to longer coatModerate due to shorter coatSwiss for those who want lower maintenance; Bernese for those prepared for regular grooming.
Ideal OwnerBest for families or individuals with spaceGreat for active individuals or familiesSwiss for active lifestyles; Bernese for those looking for a gentle family pet.

Origin and History of Both Dog Breeds

bernese mountain dog playing
Image: Envato Elements

Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog, known in its native Switzerland as the Berner Sennenhund, originates from the canton of Bern. This breed was primarily used as a farm dog in the Swiss Alps, where its duties included herding cattle, pulling carts, and serving as a companion to the farmers. The breed’s ancestors are believed to be brought into Switzerland by the Romans over 2,000 years ago.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are distinguished by their long, silky tri-color coat and gentle demeanor. Despite their size, they were valued for their ability to perform a variety of farm tasks without excessive aggression.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Similar to the Bernese, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund) also hails from the Swiss Alps and shares a common ancestry with the other Swiss Sennenhund breeds. The “Swissie” was primarily used as a draft dog, herder, and general farm dog. They are the largest of the Sennenhund breeds, developed to handle more physically demanding tasks such as pulling heavy carts.

This breed’s short, dense coat was an adaptation to the rugged mountain life, requiring less grooming but providing ample warmth.

Common Origins and Historical Differences

Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog descended from mastiff-type dogs brought to Switzerland by Roman armies. However, their paths diverged based on the specific needs of their regional environments and the tasks they were bred to perform.

The Bernese developed a longer coat suited for the colder, more variable climate of the Bern region, while the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s shorter coat was practical for the slightly warmer conditions in central Switzerland.

Over time, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog became recognized for its strength and endurance as a draft dog, while the Bernese maintained a versatile role in herding and companionship. These differences highlight the breeds’ adaptations to their roles and environments, shaping their physical and temperamental traits as we know them today.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in a forest
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Image: Envato Elements

Ideal Owner and Lifestyle Fit

When deciding between a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, potential owners should consider their own lifestyle, living situation, and what they seek in a canine companion. Each breed offers distinct characteristics that may be more suitable for different types of owners and environments.

Who Should Choose a Bernese Mountain Dog?

  • Families with Children: The Bernese Mountain Dog is known for its gentle and patient nature, making it an excellent companion for families with children. Their calm demeanor and affectionate personality help them form strong bonds with family members of all ages.
  • Owners Seeking a Companion: If you’re looking for a loyal and affectionate companion to share in quieter, less physically demanding activities, the Bernese might be the right choice. They enjoy being part of family activities and are content with moderate exercise, like daily walks and playtime in the yard.
  • Owners With Moderate Exercise Habits: Potential owners who enjoy regular but not overly strenuous outdoor activities will find a good match in the Bernese. They are energetic enough to join on walks and hikes but do not require the intense physical activity that some larger breeds need.
  • Owners in Cooler Climates: The Bernese Mountain Dog’s thick, long coat makes it particularly well-suited to colder climates, where it can thrive and stay active outdoors without discomfort.

Who Should Choose a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog?

  • Active Individuals or Families: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is ideal for active individuals or families who enjoy outdoor activities and can provide the dog with plenty of exercise. They thrive in environments where they can expend their energy and enjoy challenges.
  • Owners with Space: Similar to the Bernese, Swissies do best in homes with plenty of space where they can move around comfortably. Their larger size and high energy levels make them unsuitable for apartment living.
  • Experienced Dog Owners: Due to their size, strength, and energy, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is often better suited for experienced dog owners who can handle and train large breeds. Proper training and socialization are essential to ensure the dog is well-behaved and manageable.
  • Owners in Variable Climates: The Swiss’s short, dense coat makes them adaptable to various climates, though they are still robust enough to handle cooler weather. Owners living in regions with a mix of seasonal conditions will find them to be resilient companions.

Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog make wonderful pets, but choosing the right breed depends heavily on your lifestyle and what you can offer your pet.

Consider not just your current living situation, but also your ability to meet the exercise, grooming, and space needs of these magnificent dogs. Whether you choose the gentle Bernese or the robust Swiss, understanding and meeting their needs will ensure a happy and healthy relationship.