Is the Bernese Mountain Dog a good guard dog?

When it comes to choosing a dog breed for your home, one factor to consider is its suitability as a guardian. Bernese Mountain dogs, often affectionately known as “Berners,” are well known for their gentle nature and striking appearance. However, when it comes to guarding, are Bernese Mountain dogs up to the task? In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the characteristics of Bernese Mountain dogs and determine whether they make good guard dogs.

Bernese mountain dog background

Before delving into their guarding abilities, it is important to understand the origins of the Bernese Mountain dog. Originating from the Swiss Alps, these dogs were originally bred for farm work, particularly for grazing and pulling carts. They are part of the working dog group, known for their strength and usefulness in a variety of tasks.

Physical characteristics

Bernese mountain dogs are large and sturdy dogs known for their striking appearance. They typically weigh 70 to 115 pounds (32-52 kg) and stand 23 to 28 inches (58-71 cm) tall at the shoulder. Their fur is thick, with a tricolor pattern consisting of black, white and rusty spots. This coat serves them well in cold mountain regions, but also requires regular grooming to keep it healthy.


One of the most defining features of the Bernese Mountain dog is its gentle and friendly temperament. They are known for their affectionate nature and are often described as “gentle giants”. Berners usually get along well with children and tend to get along well with other pets. Their calm and relaxed demeanor makes them great family dogs.

Protective instincts

Although the Bernese Mountain dog may not have the aggressive nature usually associated with guard dogs, they do have some natural guarding instincts. These instincts are rooted in their history as farm dogs, where they were responsible for protecting livestock and property. Here are some key aspects of their guarding instincts:

  1. Alertness: Bernese mountain dogs are naturally alert and attentive. They have excellent hearing and a keen sense of smell, which allows them to detect potential threats or unfamiliar sounds and smells.
  2. Loyalty: Berners are known for their loyalty to their families. They develop strong bonds with their owners and often display protective behavior if they feel any danger or discomfort.
  3. Deterrent presence: Their large size and impressive appearance can act as a deterrent to would-be attackers. Just one look at a Bernese Mountain dog can make people think twice before approaching your property.
  4. Vocalization: Berners are not usually aggressive barkers, but they will vocalize when they feel something is wrong. Their deep, loud barking can be enough to alert you to any unusual activity.
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Restrictions as watchdogs

Although the Bernese Mountain dog has some guarding instincts, it is important to recognize their limitations as guard dogs:

  1. Friendly: Their gentle and friendly nature means they may not be naturally inclined to be aggressive towards strangers. Instead, they may approach strangers with curiosity rather than suspicion.
  2. Non-Confrontational: Berners are generally non-confrontational and tend to avoid conflict rather than engage in it. They may not attack quickly, even in situations where guard action is needed.
  3. Lack of Aggression: Unlike some breeds specifically bred for guarding or protection, Bernese Mountain dogs do not have the inherent aggression often associated with such roles. They are not prone to aggressive behavior.
  4. Size and Strength: While their size can be intimidating, it’s important to note that Berners aren’t particularly agile or fast. In a real threat situation, they may not be as effective as smaller, more agile breeds in physically deterring intruders.

Education and socialization

To make the most of the Bernese Mountain dog‘s guarding instincts, early training and socialization are essential. Proper training can help them recognize what a threat is and how to respond appropriately. Socialization introduces them to different people, animals and environments, which can help them develop confidence and better judgment in unfamiliar situations.

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Also, it is very important to teach them when to defend and when not to. This balance is vital to keep them from becoming overly aggressive or anxious in everyday situations.


In summary, Bernese Mountain dogs are not usually considered traditional guard dogs because of their friendly and gentle nature. Although they have natural guarding instincts and can serve as excellent guard dogs, they may not be suited for roles that require aggressive protection. However, their size, loyalty and vigilance can still make them valuable assets in terms of deterring potential threats and alerting their owners to unusual activity.

Ultimately, whether a Bernese Mountain dog makes a good guard dog depends on your specific needs and expectations. If you are looking for a breed that combines guarding instincts with a loving and affectionate temperament, the Berner can be a great choice. However, if you need a very protective and aggressive guard dog, you may want to consider other breeds that are better suited for this role. As with any other dog, proper training and socialization are key to bringing out its best qualities, whether as a guard dog or a beloved family companion.

Frequently asked questions about Bernese Mountain dogs as guard dogs

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Are Bernese Mountain dogs good guard dogs by nature?

Although Bernese Mountain dogs have natural guarding instincts, they are not generally considered aggressive guard dogs. They are better known for their gentle and friendly temperament.

Do Bernese Mountain dogs bark a lot to alert their owners to a potential threat?

Berners are not overly barky, but they will howl if they sense something unusual. Their deep roar can be an effective warning.

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Can Bernese Mountain dogs be trained to be better guard dogs?

Yes, with proper training and socialization, Bernese Mountain dogs can be taught to recognize potential threats and respond accordingly, making them excellent guard dogs.

Do Berners get along with other pets when guarded?

So, Bernese mountain dogs, as a rule, get along well with other pets and can coexist peacefully, while carefully performing guard duties.

Are Bernese Mountain dogs aggressive towards strangers?

Berners are more likely to approach strangers with curiosity than aggression. Their friendly nature may not make them ideal for aggressive guard roles.

Are Bernese Mountain dogs protective of their families?

Yes, Bernese mountain dogs are loyal and protective of their family. They can show defensive behavior if they feel danger or discomfort.

Do the Berners have the physical strength to hold back the intruders?

Their large size can be intimidating, but they are not as agile or fast as some guard dog breeds. Their presence alone can deter intruders to some extent.

Are Bernese Mountain dogs good at deterring potential threats without physical aggression?

Yes, their size, loyalty, and vigilance can make them valuable for deterring potential threats with their mere presence and alerting owners to unusual activity.

Are Bernese Mountain dogs recommended for families looking for a guard dog and pet?

Bernese Mountain dogs can be a great choice for families looking for a combination of a loving family pet and a dog with natural guarding instincts.

What are the key considerations before adopting a Bernese Mountain dog as a guard dog?

It is important to consider your specific needs and expectations. Berners may not be suitable for roles that require aggressive protection, so evaluate your security needs accordingly.

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