When it comes to selecting a dog breed for your home, one of the factors to consider is their suitability as a guard dog. Bernese Mountain Dogs, often affectionately called “Berners,” are well-known for their gentle nature and striking appearance. However, when it comes to guard duty, are Bernese Mountain Dogs up to the task? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll 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’s essential to understand the Bernese Mountain Dog’s background. Originating in the Swiss Alps, these dogs were originally bred for farm work, including herding and pulling carts. They are part of the working dog group, known for their strength and utility in various tasks.

Physical Characteristics

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


One of the most defining features of Bernese Mountain Dogs is their gentle and friendly temperament. They are known for their affectionate nature and are often described as “gentle giants.” Berners are typically good with children and tend to get along well with other pets. Their calm and laid-back demeanor makes them wonderful family dogs.

Guarding Instincts

While Bernese Mountain Dogs may not have the aggressive disposition typically associated with guard dogs, they do possess 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 scents.
  2. Loyalty: Berners are known for their loyalty to their families. They develop strong bonds with their owners and will often exhibit protective behaviors if they sense any danger or discomfort.
  3. Deterrent Presence: Their large size and imposing appearance alone can serve as a deterrent to potential intruders. The mere sight of a Bernese Mountain Dog can make individuals think twice before approaching your property.
  4. Vocalization: Berners are not typically aggressive barkers, but they will vocalize when they sense something amiss. Their deep, booming bark can be enough to alert you to any unusual activity.

Limitations as Guard Dogs

While Bernese Mountain Dogs have some guarding instincts, it’s important to acknowledge their limitations as guard dogs:

  1. Friendliness: Their gentle and friendly nature means that they may not be naturally inclined to be aggressive towards strangers. Instead, they may approach unfamiliar individuals with curiosity rather than suspicion.
  2. Non-confrontational: Berners are generally non-confrontational and are more likely to avoid conflict than engage in it. They may not be quick to attack, even in situations where guarding actions are required.
  3. Lack of Aggression: Unlike some breeds specifically bred for guarding or protection work, Bernese Mountain Dogs lack the inherent aggression often associated with such roles. They are not predisposed to aggressive behavior.
  4. Size and Strength: While their size can be intimidating, it’s important to note that Berners are not particularly agile or fast. In a real threat situation, they may not be as effective as smaller, more agile breeds in physically deterring intruders.

Training and Socialization

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

Additionally, it’s crucial to teach them when to be protective and when not to be. This balance is vital to ensure that they do not become overly aggressive or anxious in everyday situations.


In conclusion, Bernese Mountain Dogs are not typically considered traditional guard dogs due to their friendly and gentle disposition. While they have natural guarding instincts and can serve as excellent watchdogs, they may not be suitable for roles that require aggressive protection. However, their size, loyalty, and alertness 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 is a good guard dog depends on your specific needs and expectations. If you’re looking for a breed that combines guarding instincts with a loving and affectionate temperament, a Berner may be a great choice. However, if you require a highly protective and aggressive guard dog, you may want to consider other breeds better suited to that role. As with any dog, proper training and socialization are key to bringing out their best qualities, whether as a guard dog or a beloved family companion.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bernese Mountain Dogs As Guard Dogs

Frequently Asked Questions about Bernese Mountain Dogs As Guard Dogs

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs naturally good guard dogs?

While Bernese Mountain Dogs have natural guarding instincts, they are not typically considered aggressive guard dogs. They are more known for their gentle and friendly temperament.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs bark a lot to alert owners to potential threats?

Berners are not excessive barkers, but they will vocalize if they sense something unusual. Their deep, booming bark can be an effective alert.

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

Yes, with proper training and socialization, Bernese Mountain Dogs can be trained to recognize potential threats and respond appropriately, making them better watchdogs.

Do Berners get along with other pets in the household while guarding?

Yes, Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally good with other pets and can coexist peacefully while still being attentive to guarding duties.

Do Bernese Mountain Dogs show aggression towards strangers?

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

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs protective of their families?

Yes, Bernese Mountain Dogs are loyal and protective of their families. They can exhibit protective behaviors if they sense danger or discomfort.

Do Berners have the physical strength to deter 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 for deterring potential threats without physical aggression?

Yes, their size, loyalty, and alertness can make them valuable in deterring potential threats through their mere presence and alerting owners to unusual activity.

Are Bernese Mountain Dogs recommended for families looking for both a guard dog and a family pet?

Bernese Mountain Dogs can be an excellent 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 getting a Bernese Mountain Dog as a guard dog?

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

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