Frequently Asked Questions

 1. It is pronounced “Burn – knees”. BurMese is a cat.
     Many refer to them as BMDs, Berners or simply Bernese. The breed originated in Switzerland, more specifically the Canton of Bern, which is now home to the capital of Switzerland (Bern).
 
 
2. When is your next litter and how do I get on the list? Do you require a deposit?
     We are a small hobby breeder. We keep just a few girls and the occasional boy in our homes, as part of our families. In compliance with the BMDCC Breeders' Code of Ethics, we do not breed our females in back to back heat cycles and never before 2 years of age. Our girls are retired from breeding by age 5 or 6, so you can imagine we only produce 1-2 litters per year.
     Once we send you our questionnaire, take the time to fill it out honestly. It is not a test. We use it to get a read on what you want and what your home is like, so we can best match up the right dog for you. Our goal is to place all our puppies in a forever home, with a family that will love and care for them like they needs.
     After that we will call and talk, to answer any questions you may have, and to clarify any questions we may have. That way if you are still not sure if the Bernese is the right breed for you, we can better help you.
     We try to ensure that we have an adequate list of prospective new homes before we undertake a breeding, and we do not take deposits at that time. Once the litter is born we try to create a “short list” of new homes based on the litter itself and development. Once we contact you to visit the puppies we ask for a deposit, as at that point we may have been telling someone, “Sorry, not this time”, and to go back on that is difficult for everyone.
 

3. What health testing do the parent's have?
     All our breeding dogs have not only the minimum required OFA certified Hips and Elbows, and OFA/ CERF eyes, but also have Cardiac (heart) and the OFA DNA tested DM (Degenerative Myelopathy) and Heart. Those we were not sure of the status of the parents, were tested for Van Willebrands (vWD), all others are bred from clear parents. We also do a full thyroid panel if there were any concerns. Please visit OFA for more information on these tests and their diseases.
     Our health clearances can be found on OFA or the world-wide verified database BernerGarde. Just type in the registered name in either one. BernerGarde has more information and all information is verified by operators before it is entered.
     We also require all the pet dogs we sell to get their Hips and Elbows certified with either OFA or Penn-Hip after the age of two. As well as their eyes certified with CERF or OFA and their heart checked by an OFA certified cardiologist .
     This serves many purposes; 1) to help us and other we work with, as breeders, get a better idea of what is in our lines. 2) to give you, as owners, warning if there may be a problem as they get older. With how the pet health market is changing this knowledge is invaluable. For instance, if you have kept up your pet insurance, any problem is covered by insurance for life! With most companies, this includes any surgeries, vet visits or even medications. Depending on the coverage you choose, it can also include alternative therapies. Alternative therapies offered here in Winnipeg are getting very exciting. We have veterinary chiropractic, infrared and acupuncture (ask us about our experiences with that!), as well as a new Hydrotherapy and physical therapy center.
     So for you, forewarned is fore-armed!
4. How long do Berners live?
In approximately 2000, a global survey showed the Bernese to have a mean life expectancy of 7.1 years. A more recent study of AKC registered dogs showed an average lifespan of 7.9 years. A significant improvement in only a decade. Many factors have likely come into play in this. Notably; the Breeder Code of Ethics with BMDCC and BMDCA, improving technologies with artificial insemination (allowing access to a broader, worldwide genepool), improved technologies and access to information (e.g. BernerGarde). Remember, this average is calculated with some dogs unfortunately dying young at 3 or 4, and some living to 10+ years.
However, it is certainly not unheard of for some Bernese to live well beyond 11 years! Bernese Please (the BMDCC newsletter) celebrates our breed veterans (7+ years) every December.
At AfterBerner, we strive to find pairings to increase the life expectancy of our puppies. We do this by thoroughly researching pedigrees for potential breedings and utilizing databases like Bernergarde, to establish an Average Age of Death (AOD) for prospective litter, and why we list it here on every dog in our website.
 

5. When can I meet the parents? The puppies?
Once you have completed the questionnaire, and we have talked over the phone, we are happy to let you meet our dogs. We try to accommodate as many as possible, but we get so many people wanting to come meet our Berners. A great way to meet them is to come out to one of the shows we are attending, with the added benefit that you can often meet other Berners showing there too, and all the other breeds.  Most shows allow for free entry for spectators.
We usually have the girl for you to meet (though she is sometimes at our second home in Ontario), and, depending on the girl, also one of her siblings or a puppy from a previous litter. However, because we are carefully choosing the male that best matches her temperament, structure, pedigree and health, the sire is often in another province, or even another country!
We only allow the prospective puppy owners to see the very young puppies. We usually invite them over when the puppies are 5-8 weeks old to meet them. We try to give each person the option of one or two puppies that we think will suit their needs. We do not allow anyone to come meet the puppies before then, for puppies' health reasons. We do try to keep everyone updated through email and facebook before then, though.

7. How much do your Berners cost?

We price our puppies in range with what most BMDCC recognized breeders charge, at approximately $2000. We offer a refund towards puppy training classes. And a further reimbursement for each title you put on your dog with a national club (such as CKC, AKC, CARO or AAC).
We do this because the Bernese Mountain Dog is a working breed. And while they are quite happy just being a companion, they truly crave and are more satisfied by having a job. Having a job seems to settle something inside them, like nothing else does, and so we want to encourage you to go out and have fun with your Bernese.
 
 
8. Why do Bernese cost so much?
We do not breed Bernese to make money. The saying goes; “the only way to make a small fortune at breeding, is to start out with a large fortune”. We are in this because we love the breed. We enjoy showing, working and competing with our dogs. We want to ensure the future of this breed is long and healthy.
Since we often keep a pup from each litter with an eye to the future, we always try to choose the best male for the chosen female. Often this is an outside male, bringing in new lines. This means a stud fee of $2000 or more. And he is usually in another province or even country. So we are looking at either flying out with our girl for a live breeding ($2000+), or AI by chilled semen (collection minimum $100, surgical implantation $1200, plus shipping up to $600). Before breeding there is $400-600 in progesterone tests, followed by ultrasound to be sure she is pregnant and x-rays before birth to know how many (to be safe). Once puppies are born (hopefully not by $1000 c-section), there are vet checks, registration of the litter and each pup, DNA tests, shots, and various other nutritional supplies to ensure all the puppies receive a good start.
Add to that, the $700 spent on the dam's health clearances, plus her showing expenses (we prefer not to add these up) and training. As well as the nutritional supplements to the mother to ensure her health and the development of the puppies, pre and post birth. And unexpected mad dashes to the emergency vet.
And this is assuming she even gets pregnant. Not all attempts at breeding are successful, especially in giant breeds such as the Bernese.
Some breeders can make money by owning both the male and the female, not doing all the health testing, or not exhibiting their dogs to gain an objective opinion on the quality and type of their dogs. For us, it is not worth the risk. This is our passion, and it is worth the time and expense to us.
 
 
9. Do they shed?
YES! Yes, Bernese do shed. They are a long, double coated breed. This means they have a longer outer waterproofing coat, and a finer, dense, short undercoat. This type coat allows them to be warm in winter and cooler and yet protected in summer, after they shed out. When shedding, hairs tend to come out as individual strands, and collect into giant balls that hide under furniture, in corners and on the carpet if you do not sweep or vacuum regularly.
Proper grooming is essential for their comfort. If you are not prepared or able to do it yourself, we recommend you find a licensed groomer that is familiar with the breed. We can help with this.
Below is a diagram that shows the importance of proper grooming and why it is NEVER appropriate to shave a double coated breed such as the Berner.
10. Are they good with children?
A well bred, properly socialized Bernese is very good with children. However, they are a very large dog, weighing from 90-120 lbs, with a very active tail! They are also a dog that does not require a large personal space and assumes the same of others. When excited they may unintentionally knock over a child, or smack them across the face with their tail.
Supervision, for both the sake of the child and the dog, is necessary. Children must also be taught to treat them respectfully. Since Berners are so very tolerant, they will put up with a lot of abuse from a child without walking away, especially if the child has them trapped in a corner and it may mean knocking them down or over.
We have found our Berners to be very protective of our young grandson. They guide him away from strangers, water and horses. Even alerting us when he is getting into something they know he should not!
 

 11. Are they good with other pets?
Most Berners are excellent with other animals. We can share many pictures and stories of our AfterBerner dogs with cats (even rambunctious kittens), other dog breeds and horses. Many of them are very maternal and protective, and seem to relish the role.
 

 12. How do I get a puppy from you?
Keep in touch! You CAN NOT talk to us too much! We will not give a puppy to someone who will not keep in contact with us. We want someone who will take the time to keep us updated throughout the dog's lifetime. About the only reason we have dropped someone off our waiting list was because they did NOT keep in contact with us at a critical time.
Because we breed infrequently and many of our potential puppy owners have been on the list for up to a year (or more if they think their home is not quite ready), we have the luxury of really getting to know them. Since we are not selling puppies on a “first come, first serve” basis, this allows us to ensure the right puppy goes to the right home (to the best of our ability).
Even if you decide we are not the right breeder for you, or another opportunity comes up, we are committed to the breed, and are happy to answer questions and provide help or guidance to other Berner owners.
 
 
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13. Why should I get a puppy from you?
Don't look at us simply because we are the closest breeder you found. We want to have a relationship with you for the duration of your AfterBerner dog's life, so be sure you agree with our ethics, morals and views with regards to dogs.
You should be able to develop a relationship with your breeder, and know you can call on them anytime with a problem or question. You need to be able to trust them and know they are trying their best to breed the best dogs possible with what we have available to us as breeders. And to trust us to work with you through any difficulties, and should the worst occur, the breeder will take the puppy back. Every breeder has a different philosophy on breeding, raising and training a puppy, so find one you can agree with.
We will not claim to be the only, or best, choice for you; but we are doing what we consider is best for the breed. So we strongly encourage you to find a breeder you can agree with, as it should be a long-term relationship. This is why we have such an exhaustive questionnaire and a "getting to know you" process. We consider ourselves to be committed to every pup we breed, for the entirety of their lives. Our responsibility does not end with the handing over of a cheque, or even at the end of terms of the health guarantee.
If you find all this just too intrusive into your life, we are probably not the right breeders for you. If you do decide to look elsewhere, please read our list of suggested questions to ask of breeders. Click here.

 

 
If you still have questions for us, feel free to contact us at jssimons@mymts.net

 
6. Are Berners hard to train?
We have found all our Berners very easy to train.
They are a very smart breed, and so eager to please. And because they want to be with you every second of the day, it provides LOTS of training opportunities. Remember, everything you do with them is training them to be the future canine good citizen they will be.
Berners are a sensitive breed, and do NOT respond well to harsh training methods. Positive reinforcement and TREATS are key. If you have good timing, clicker training is a wonderful thing. We are happy to give advice; either to problems, or help finding a good trainer.
What they end up, is what you shaped them to be. So put a lot of thought into their training, socializing and daily handling. Every minute counts, throughout their entire life.