When deciding on your Bernese Mountain Dog’s lifestyle, it’s important to do your research and know the conditions and factors on how they fare in the outdoors. Keeping a large hardy dog like the Bernese Mountain Dog outside should generally be easy for this breed but there are a few considerations and risks you should know.
Bernese Mountain Dogs love the outside, especially during colder months. Their thick double coat works well to insulate them from the cold, but you should still have some sort of warm shelter nearby. They can struggle more in hotter seasons and climates, so it is more important to monitor them and know when it’s time to bring them in to cool off.
A lot of the question of whether Bernese Mountain Dogs can live outside depends upon where you live and the temperature and conditions outside. If the weather is bad, such as a storm then you should always bring your dog in. They could get soaked and get sick as a result and most dogs are deathly afraid of thunder and lightning.
Bernese Mountain Dogs will do a lot better outside in cold weather over hot weather. Having originally been bred in the mountains as livestock guardians they can be quite hardy when it comes to the cold. Even so, you do need to make sure they have some kind of shelter. This shelter should be insulated to help keep them warm. This could be anything from a barn to an old fashioned dog house, as long as it does the job.
Warm weather is a bit more tricky and will depend on just how hot it is. If you live in a hotter climate like Texas or Florida than I would strongly discourage you from leaving your Bernese Mountain Dog outside during the summer and hotter months. When the heat starts getting into the upper 90s to 100s then this will be just way too hot for these kinds of dogs. They can tolerate shorter periods of no more than an hour or two, with access to ample amounts of water and shade, but definitely not longer than that.
In temperatures like the 70s though then they should be okay for longer periods of time. Make sure they have some sort of patio covering or other shady spots to cool off in case they start to get too hot. They will also need a water source that they cant knock over. Without access to water than any dog even in colder climates could be in serious danger soon.
To better understand a Bernese Mountain Dogs’ ability to live outside there are some other things that we need to examine in depth. You will need to know how to best keep them in hot weather versus cold weather, what kind of coat they have and what it means, as well as how to look out for the signs of hypothermia and heatstroke. These are important things for any responsible dog owner to be aware of.
What Kind of Coat do Bernese Mountain Dogs Have?
Understanding the nature of a dog’s coat goes a long way in understanding how well they will do outside in different environments. Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick double coat. Dogs with double coats are common amongst those canines that were developed in cold or mountainous areas. The reasons for this are pretty clear if you’re in the know.
The inner coat is a softer warm underlayer, kind of like a person wearing a nice wool sweater. The outer coat is usually rougher and is often water-resistant. Think of wearing a parka over your soft wool sweater. This is the kind of coat that Bernese Mountain Dogs have. They have a soft undercoat followed by a water-resistant outer coat. This helps them a lot in snowy environments as it helps keep them from getting cold and wet.
The protection that this kind of coat gives in cold weather is very obvious. But what’s not as obvious is that there are actually certain advantages to having this coat in warmer weather. This double-layered coat provides a lot of insulation which doesn’t just help keep in body warmth but in hot weather can even help to keep the dog cool. This has certain limits so don’t expect a Bernese Mountain Dog to thrive in hot weather. But a Bernese with their coat will actually be able to handle the heat better than they would if their coat was shaved.
Can Bernese Mountain Dogs Live Outside in Warm Weather?
It is in hot weather where the Bernese Mountain Dog will struggle. While it should be okay if they’re left outside for an hour or two with water and shade, any longer could be dangerous and so should, therefore, be avoided if at all possible. The temperature also plays a strong part in this. There’s a big difference between temperatures in the 90s and hotter versus the 70s or 80s.
Here are some important things that you make sure to provide your Bernese Mountain Dog so that they can handle hot weather. Remember though you shouldn’t leave them outside in very hot conditions for very long though even with proper preparations.
- Make sure that you give them shade: Heat can be bad enough for a Bernese but it’s even worse under the constant pounding of the sun. Anyone who has had to stay outside under the sun in the summer can probably attest to the harshness of no shade. Provide them with some form of shade whether this is a patio awning, some kind of tarp or even failing that an umbrella. Anything that might give them a nice shaded cooler area to retreat to if the sun starts getting to them.
- Remember that concrete can get very hot: A dog’s paws can actually be quite sensitive and in hot summer months concrete, asphalt, and sand can become scorchingly hot. The pain that this can cause your dog’s poor paws can not be underestimated. So try to provide them with some grass or some other kind of cool surface that they can hang out on. Failing that at least lay down some towels or blankets to cover up the scorchingly hot surfaces. An easy test is to place your bare foot or palm on the pavement for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog!
- Make sure that they cant knock over their water: Water is vital to any dog and this is all the more true in the heat. A dog without water could easily develop heatstroke under the heat. So make sure that you give your Bernese some water that they can knock over. Dogs like to move around and sometimes they can inadvertently knock over their water which could have disastrous results. Give them a very large bucket that won’t fall over or secure their water bowl with wooden boards or in some other way.
How to Tell If Your Bernese Mountain Dog Has Heat Stroke
A dog’s normal body temperature usually ranges around 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When their body heat starts to get much higher than that heatstroke can result. Heatstroke happens when the body is under prolonged heat, where the body’s ability to keep cool becomes compromised leading to a dangerous increase in their body temperature. If you live with a Bernese Mountain Dog in a hotter climate like Texas or Florida then you really need to understand what are the warning signs of this condition s that you can treat it as rapidly as possible.
Some signs that your Bernese Mountain Dog might have heatstroke:
- Running a fever over 105 degrees Fahrenheit means their suffering from heatstroke: Knowing your dog’s temperature is the most scientifically certain way of knowing whether they have heatstroke or not. But it can be quite difficult to take a dog’s temperature. There are generally two different methods, one way is rectally which I wouldn’t recommend unless you have some training. The other way is through their ears which is a lot easier. In fact there are some ear thermometers that have been made specifically to take a dog’s temperature. Make sure that you put the thermometer very gently when using as you don’t want to hurt the dog’s eardrums.
- Unnaturally hard panting and drooling: All dogs pant and drool. Dogs don’t sweat so this is actually how their body cools them off. You could say that they sweat out of their tongue. But if this is at an excessive level that it could mean that their bodies cooling mechanisms are being overwhelmed and that your Bernese is suffering from heatstroke.
- Major warning! If your Bernese is acting very disoriented almost as if their drunk: If you see your dog stumbling around, not responding to your voice or even collapsing in more serious circumstances. This is a sure-fire sign that they have heat stroke and you need to act quickly in order to save their life.
- Urgent! If your dog has pale gums: Another way you can check if your dog has heatstroke is to gently pull back their upper lips and look at the color of their gums. In a healthy dog, the gums should be a nice pink color and quite moist. If this is not the case and you see them lacking in color or dry then this is a major warning sign and you need to be very concerned.
Some Things You Can Do If Your Bernese Mountain Has Heatstroke
If the heatstroke is very severe then you should seek medical attention for your beloved canine as quickly as possible. Of course, sometimes your dog might just be overheated and not be in full-blown heatstroke left. In these cases and in those times where professional help can not come in time here are some things that you can do.
You need to lower the dog’s body temperature. But this lowering needs to be done gradually. You will of course, want it down fairly quick, but if you try to do it rapidly with icy water or something this can actually backfire. It can constrict their blood vessels which will impair their body’s ability to cool them off even more. So we want to try to make the temperature change gradually.
Take some towels soaked in lukewarm water and place them over parts of your dog’s body. Make sure the towels are not icy cold just lukewarm should do fine. Put some nice cool water near their mouth so that they can drink if they want to but don’t force it. Another good practice is to also place some ice cubes that are accessible to eat if they want it but once again don’t force them. It’s important to respond to heatstroke as quickly as possible and if their conditions seems to severe call the vet and do these things as you are taking them in for professional treatment.
Can Bernese Mountain Dogs Live Outside in Cold Weather?
While Bernese Mountain Dogs will have a hard time handling warm weather, cold weather though is a completely different matter. It is here that Berners’ double coat starts to really shine. Bernese Mountain Dogs can handle cold weather very well. With their coarser rain resistant outer coat and their soft wooly undercoat give these dogs as much warmth as nature can provide. But the term cold can refer to a very large range of temperatures. Sub-zero temperatures are a very different thing from simply freezing temperatures for example. So it’s important depending upon how cold it is to take certain precautions.
- When the snow starts piling up bring the dog inside: While Berners are dogs literally built for the snow they still only reach a certain level of height. When the snow line starts getting high this could cause them to get lost or buried under the snow. So if the weather forecast is predicting more than just a few inches of snow go ahead and bring your dog in.
- Don’t leave them outside in a blizzard: Any kind of exceptionally bad weather should be a call to bring your Bernese mountain dog inside. Extreme temperature can be dangerous for any kind of creature even a snow dog with a thick double coat.
- Be on the lookout for any de-icing substances like rock salt: Popular agents that are placed on walking spaces in snowy areas to melt ice can actually be dangerous for your dog. The paws and mucous membranes of a dog are very sensitive and easy to be irritated by industrial substances. Also even worse if your puppy consumes these items than they can be poisonous or even fatal.
How to Tell If Your Bernese Mountain Dog Has Hypothermia
While unless you live in very cold conditions it is unlikely that your Bernese Dog will get hypothermia, but it is still possible so its something that you do need to be aware of. When a dog’s body temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit then this is called hypothermia. It is caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures or icy water. if left untreated it can be fatal and will be very dangerous for any canine including Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Here are a few signs of hypothermia that you need to be on the watch for:
- Pale skin: This can be difficult to spot due to the dog’s fur but if their skin has a very pale look then this could be a sign of hypothermia
- Heavy shivering: If your dog starts shivering seemly uncontrollably then you need to consider that your dog might have hypothermia
- Lethargy: Excessive calmness and unresponsiveness to your voice is a major sign of hypothermia or that there is some sort of illness.
- Disorientation: Seeing your dog stumble around can be very concerning and could be a sign of something more serious such as hypothermia
While major cases of hypothermia are best treated by a medical profession you are not helpless and there are some quick things you can try to do to warm your Bernese Mountain Dog up.
You’re going to want to warm your Bernese Mountain Dogs body gradually. the first thing is to make sure that your dog is brought out of the elements and is located in a warm place. Somewhere with a heater or maybe even a nice warm fire. Quickly wrap your dog up in warm blankets. Another thing to do is to heat up a water bottle and then place it while being covered in a towel next to its stomach.
You want to make sure that the water bottle is covered by a towel so that you don’t accidentally burn your beloved dog. Alternatively, a heating pad can also be used but you shouldn’t use it longer than ten minutes as a time as using it much longer than that could also burn your dog.
During this time don’t leave your dog alone and be constantly present at this time. Keeping checking the dog’s temperature to see if its slowly rising. Maintain these checks until your dog is up and walking around acting normal for at least 15-30 minutes.
Some Other Things to Consider When Leaving Your Bernese Mountain Dog Outside
- You should have a fenced-in space that is at least 6 feet tall: While Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to like to stick pretty close to their owner still left to their own outside they could easily start wandering off. Tying them up outside is another possibility but this could be dangerous if someone who they don’t know approaches them while you’re not around. Even the nicest dog could turn aggressive in such a situation and it should be avoided if at all possible.
- Spay or neuter your dog: Even keeping your dog outside in a fenced area accidents can still happen. There are few forces in nature more powerful than that of mating. Unless you specifically intend to breed your dog then you should go ahead and have them fixed.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick double coat that allows them to handle cold weather remarkably well. But this can cause them problems in hot weather where their owners need to be particularly careful. Make sure your dog has a comfortable shelter when keeping them outside whether that be in cold or hot weather.
These dogs make great family dogs so while they may be fond of the outdoors they will probably love their family even more. So consider having them mainly be indoor house dogs and just have them outside when they want to be and it makes them happy.