Guide to Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise Requirements

Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog was originally bred as a working farm dog from Switzerland. Their duties were to herd cattle, pull carts and to be watchdogs.

They are friendly, intelligent and are easy to train. The Bernese Mountain dog is very social and enjoys both human company and the companionship of other dogs and pets.

The Bernese Mountain Dog was bred for the cold weather and has a thick coat for this purpose. It is important to take this into account when exercising them in warmer weather. For more on how to exercise a dog in hot weather see here.

How much exercise does a Bernese Mountain Dog need

Being a working breed the Bernese Mountain dog is relatively high energy and require a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour of exercise and activity every day. To keep them in top condition and in good health 60 to 90 minutes daily would be better.

Exercise is crucial for this dog not only to occupy them and prevent boredom but to also maintain a healthy weight. They can be prone to being overweight or even obese without a good diet and energy-burning activity. For a guide to calculate if your dog is overweight see here.

There are three main types of exercise and activity you must provide your Bernese Mountain Dog every day.

  • 1. Daily walk
  • 2. Purposeful Activity (see exercise ideas below)
  • 3. Mental stimulation

This recommended exercise quantity and ideas are for a healthy adult Bernese. The exercise needs of a puppy are different as they are still growing. The wrong quantity and type of exercise can cause injury to a puppy with growing bones and joints. See the bottom of this post for more about how to exercise a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. The life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is between 6 to 8 years of age. This is a relatively short lifespan compared to other breeds.

Exercising an older dog can be a balancing act. Too much exercise can leave them sore and stiff. See the bottom of this post for more on exercising an older Bernese Mountain Dog.

How soon to feed before or after exercise

The Bernese Mountain Dog and many of the deep-chested large breed dogs are prone to bloat or torsion. For this reason, it is important not to feed your Bernese too soon before or after a walk or exercise.

Bloat is a digestive issue that causes a dog’s stomach to fill with gases blowing up like a balloon. Torsion also referred to Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) is where the top and bottom ends of the stomach twist. This can trap gases and cut off circulation. Both these conditions can be fatal if not treated immediately.

To learn more about reducing the risk of bloat or torsion in your Bernese Mountain Dog see here.

Bernese Mountain Dog Daily Walks

The daily walk is essential for a Bernese Mountain Dog not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Bernese to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across.

Ideally, the daily walk should be 30 to 45 minutes daily but more would be ok.  Every dog is an individual and some may need more or less. Monitor your Bernese on the walk. If they are lagging behind or panting excessively you should cut the walk short.

The walk can be just once a day, or two walks a day would be better if your schedule allows. Dogs also like routine, so try to schedule the walk for around the same time each day. Daily walks are much better than nothing all week and a big walk at the weekend.

If your Bernese Mountain Dog has good recall and comes on command, walks at the park, or out on trails off the leash are ideal. Alternatively, you can use a retractable leash or long lead to allow them more freedom while maintaining control. In general, Bernese Mountain Dogs are obedient and easy to train and usually have good recall.

You can add extra resistance to the walk by using a weighted vest or dog backpack. It is recommended that no more than 10% of their body weight be added. This is more than sufficient to tire them and strengthen their muscles without overworking them. Other ways of increasing the resistance on the walk are to walk on sand or include uphill sections in the walk.

Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise Ideas

In addition to the daily walk, your Bernese Mountain Dog will require other purposeful activity and free play. This will aid in burning pent up energy and keeping their muscles strong.

Here are some suggestions of ways to provide exercise and purposeful activity for your Bernese Mountain Dog.

Play with other dogs

BMD play

Provide the opportunity for your Bernese to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills. Most Bernese Mountain Dogs are friendly with other dogs and love social activity with them. If you are unsure you should supervise the play.

Hiking

The Bernese Mountain Dog has a good level of endurance. If you have access to the great outdoors and some good walking trails they can make an ideal hiking partner.

Tug of War

Tug of war is a great strength-building game for all dogs.  Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to.

The purpose of strength-building exercises for dogs is not necessarily.  to build muscle bulk. Strong muscles provide protection for the joints and tendons helping to prevent potential injury.

Cart Pulling

Bernese Mountain Dogs were bred to pull carts. If you live in a place that gets snow, shed pulling is also ideal and fun for you both. It is not necessary to have too much weight in the cart. Around 10% of their body weight is more than sufficient for a good workout.

If you are going to do pulling with your Bernese it is crucial to use a correct harness. These are designed to spread the weight evenly over their bodies to avoid injury.

View a correct pulling harness here on Amazon.

Backyard agility

Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon. You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.

Stair Exercise

A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.

Walking up steps or a hill strengthens the rear legs as the full body weight of your dog is on each leg as the step. As they descend the stairs they are using the opposing muscles for stability. For more on stair exercise for dogs see here.

GoBone

The GoBone is the ultimate motorized dog chase toy. Just touch the GoBone and it will keep your dog entertained for up to 8 hours. Alternatively, you can use the app to control the GoBone yourself. This makes for a fun game for both your dog and you. The  GoBone is tough and made from durable materials. However, if your dog does chew it you can get a replaceable exterior cover.

To make it even better for your dog you can place treats inside the wheels. Even more reason your dog will love one.

Apart from the GoBone, there are a couple of similar chase toys also available including the Wicked Bone and the PetGeek Play Bone. To learn more about the various options see Dog toys that move on their own.

Digging

Many Bernese Mountain Dogs enjoy digging. This is a natural instinct for many dogs and can become a problem. You probably don’t want your dog digging up your yard or garden or even your carpet.

You can’t completely train a natural instinct out of a dog but you can redirect the behavior. If your Bernese Mountain Dog likes digging consider getting them a digging pit or provide toys that cater to that digging instinct. For recommended dog toys for diggers see here.

Mental Stimulation for Bernese Mountain Dogs

All dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this. This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.

Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Bernese Mountain Dog to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Due to their high intelligence, try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.

In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Bernese to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.

Scenting and nose games

All dogs can have a keen nose. Playing scenting and nose games helps to provide mental stimulation. Read “12 Scenting and nose games for dogs” for some ideas.

Chew Toys

Provide your Bernese Mountain Dog with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to occupy them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw.

For more on the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys click here.

Learning

Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.

Food enrichment

Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your dog to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.

Enrich their environment

Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.

How much exercise does a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy need?

Bernese Moutain Dog puppy

The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult dog. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.

Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. An activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.

The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys.

Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.

As your puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.

The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Bernese puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.

Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.

For more on exercise for your Bernese Mountain Dog puppy read “How to exercise your puppy”.

How much exercise does an older Bernese Mountain Dog need

As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.

Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.

The Bernese Mountain Dog can also be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. For more information on exercising a dog with dysplasia see here.

Summary – Bernese Mountain Dog Exercise Needs

The Bernese Mountain Dog originated as a farm working dog in Switzerland. They are reasonably high energy, have a good level of stamina and are very intelligent.

A minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day is recommended. This should include a daily walk, additional purposeful activity, and free play and mental stimulation. Failure to provide to these needs can result in a bored and frustrated dog. This can lead to behavior issues such as barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.

Let us know in the comments how much and ways you exercise your Bernese Mountain Dog.

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