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How to Judge the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed - Bernese Mountain Dogs lying on grass


How to Judge the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed
Submitted by the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America
Written by the late Fran Brown


How to Judge the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed – First Impression

“The essence of the breed is balance, outline, character, coat, head, and correct carriage.”

Striking, large, tri-colored dog of strong character and beauty. Appearing square, but slightly longer than tall, sturdy (well) boned. Before taking the center of the ring, one must have the ideal Bernese Mountain Dog in mind. The essence of the breed is balance, outline, character, coat, head, and correct carriage. Keep in mind, any dog can gait soundly or correctly, but if he lacks the essence of the breed he is not an ideal Bernese Mountain Dog. No single feature should overpower the impression of the whole dog. Note that a dog measuring 25 inches, as compared to a dog measuring 27-1/2 inches, can be quite different in size; however, both can be correct as they are within the Standard. The quality of the dog takes precedence in your evaluation. The same with bitches.

How to Judge Bernese Mountain Dog


How to Judge the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed – Approaching the Bernese Mountain Dog for Examination

When approaching the dog or bitch, you should feel a sense of strong character. Shy or aggressive behavior is not tolerated. Puppies will greet you with enthusiasm, and some with a look of concern. Work with the handler to make it a good experience for the puppy even though it will interrupt a routine examination. Examining the head will reveal important breed details. Markings are sometimes deceiving. Darker faces, less white, and more brown will imply a stern expression. Expression is influenced by markings; however, the stop, ear size and placement, eye shape, and eye color contribute to expression. A profile will allow you to compare the length and depth of muzzle, the skull, and backskull. Dark pigment (lips and mouth) is also considered good breed detail. Take note of bite and dentition.

Continuing the examination will require a judge to determine depth and breadth of chest and formation of shoulders, upper arm, elbow, length of neck, and transition into the withers and back. Pasterns have a slight slope. Confirm that the front legs are well under the body and well behind the post sternum—an important element of a correct outline. A hands-on evaluation of the topline includes slope of croup to set-on of tail, then continuing down the tail checking for kinks and length.

The tail bone must reach to the hocks. Check body for depth, rib cage, and strong loin. Be aware of slab sides and too narrow between the front legs. The Bernese Mountain Dog is not a narrow-made dog nor does he have an extreme tuck-up as a hound or setter. Underline is important and should be felt with the hands. Hindquarter evaluation is accomplished by examination of the well-developed thigh and upper thigh, stifle, and hock. Hindquarters are strong and powerful, and your judgement should not be fooled by artistry of grooming in hocks or stifles. Conditioning is apparent in well-developed thighs.

The hands-on evaluation includes the coat. The coat is thick and moderately long or slightly wavy. The Bernese Mountain Dog is to be shown in a natural coat. Excessive grooming should be discouraged. We put much emphasis on handling and condition in the show ring in America. Even though we like to see dogs presented well and in good condition, grooming and handling skills do not change a mediocre dog. lt is your responsibility to observe the virtues of the dog. Absence of white on the feet or tail does not take away from the quality of the Bernese Mountain Dog. Do not place undue emphasis on markings other than what is mentioned in the Standard as a fault.


How to Judge the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed – Judging Movement

In judging the gait, the structure of the dog is the primary influence of gait. Carriage is an element that draws the eye when viewing the side gait, and thus, relates to structure and balance.

One element of good carriage is a firm topline and lack of roll. A slow trot is preferred in a draft dog; however, when viewing at a faster trot, the dog converges to a center line of gravity and one can better assess reach and drive. Absence of good reach and drive is non-conforming to the breed and its purpose as a good working dog. A dog that moves rapidly around the ring is not necessarily the correct Bernese Mountain Dog. Do not hesitate to ask a handler to slow down. Take note of the tail carriage.

“The proper balance and breed details are essential, and the dog must be considered as a whole rather than separate parts in the final evaluation.”

In judging the Bernese Mountain Dog, as with any other breed, remember that no dog is perfect. The proper balance and breed details are essential, and the dog must be considered as a whole rather than separate parts in the final evaluation. Lastly, the temperament is self-confident, alert, and good-natured, never sharp or shy. A tail flattened against the belly area is a telltale sign of a dog lacking confidence. Dogs that stand steady, but aloof, are not to be faulted.


How to Judge the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed – Rules of the Ring

Bernese Mountain Dogs are usually very uncomfortable in direct sun. Judges are urged to avoid undue exposure whenever possible. Be kind to our dogs. Be kind to the exhibitors. The novice exhibitors must be encouraged. Become familiar with the BMDCA Standard. If you are uneasy with the breed, pursue opportunities to observe and discuss the breed for a better understanding. Most Bernese Mountain Dog mentors will gladly devote their time and share their knowledge.