Are you thinking about adding a Labernese dog to your family?
Then settle in, because this guide will be taking a comprehensive look at the Bernese Mountain Dog and Labrador mix.
Helping you to decide whether the Labernese is the right pet for you.
The Labrador retriever is America’s most popular dog, so it’s not surprising that mixes with this breed are becoming increasingly popular.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is also well loved, and is the 27th most popular of the AKC’s 190 recognized breeds.
Both breeds are known for their sweet, friendly dispositions, so one could almost say it was only a matter of time before the Bernese Mountain Dog and Lab mix became popular.
Of course, no breed is without its critics.
We’ve probably all seen or heard purebred dog enthusiasts complain that crossbred dogs are overpriced, unhealthy, and unethically bred. But it’s not a one-sided debate by any means.
Crossbreed advocates, on the other hand, are quick to point out that all those things can also be true of pedigree dogs.
The reality is that due to inbreeding and the resulting health issues that purebred dogs suffer, all of those traits are far more characteristic of dogs with prestigious pedigrees than of mixes between healthy dogs of different breeds.
Crossbreeding dogs also introduces a whole new set of genes which helps correct for unhealthy traits and combat the results of inbreeding.
But we’re here to talk about one particular mix, the Labrador Bernese Mountain Dog mix, so let’s get to it!
Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog Lab Mix
To talk about where the Labrador and Bernese Mountain Dog mix comes from, first we have to talk about the origins of each of the contributing breeds.
Origins of the Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever is one of many dog breeds that was originally bred as a “gun dog,” or hunting dog.
Taken with the intelligence and aquatic skill of the local St. John’s Dog, wealthy English nobles visiting the Canadian island of Newfoundland arranged to have some of the dogs sent back to England.
There, the Collie-like look of the St. John’s dog gave way to the look of the modern Labrador.
Origins of the Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs originate from farms in the Swiss Alps.
There they primarily served as a companion and guard dog, but may have also pulled carts or protected livestock.
Their gentle disposition eventually led them to become favored family dogs, both in the Alps and around the world.
So how did the Labrador and Bernese Mountain Dog mix?
Becoming the Labernese
Though the Labrador and Bernese Mountain Dog started out working in very different ways, during the twentieth century, many dogs from each breed began to work similar jobs.
As service animals, that is!
Of course, just because they were doing the same job didn’t mean they were doing it the same way.
The Labrador makes for a friendly, confident, and agile service dog, while the Bernese Mountain Dog is gentle, faithful, and low key.
But wouldn’t it be great if you could have the best of both in one dog, especially without the health problems of purebred dogs?
This aim is exactly what prompted Éric St-Pierre of the MIRA Foundation to begin breeding his Labradors and Bernese Mountain service dogs in 1991.
Paving the way for the Bernese Mountain Dog and Lab mix.
Of course, knowing where a dog comes from only tells you so much about what you can expect from it, so let’s talk specifics.
Bernese Lab Mix Size
When it comes to mixes, the dog could have characteristics from either breed or a combination of the two.
This makes it impossible to predict the characteristics an individual Bernese Lab mix puppy will have.
Male Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to range between 25 and 28 inches tall, while females are usually between 23 and 26 inches.
Labradors are a bit shorter, with males measuring in at between 22.5 and 24.5 inches and females ranging between 21.5 and 23.5 inches.
Weight, however, is where we see more significant variation.
The Bernese Mountain Dog has a much broader, larger frame than the slimmer Lab, which leads the Bernese to weigh significantly more on average.
Male Labradors range from 65 to 80 pounds, while females range from 55 to 70.
That’s quite hefty, but seems positively petite compared to the Bernese.
A male Bernese Mountain Dog can weigh anywhere from 85 to 110, and the females aren’t exactly small either, with average weights ranging from 79 to 110 pounds.
That’s a possible range of about 50 pounds!
Possible Features of the Labernese Dog
Both the Bernese Mountain Dog and Labrador Retriever have a few distinctive features that may show up in your Labrador Bernese Mountain Dog mix.
While the Bernese Mountain Dog has a long, soft, thick coat, the Labrador Retriever’s coat is short, oily, and water resistant.
The potential Labernese coat could be single colored, bicolored, or tricolored.
If you’d like a Bernese Mountain Dog Labrador mix of a certain color, you’ll have greater luck looking for one with a Lab parent of that color.
For example, a Bernese Mountain Dog Black Lab mix is more likely to have more black in its coloring, while a Chocolate Lab mix may show more brown.
The Labrador has a thick, strong tail, typically carried slightly erect, but the Bernese Mountain Dog has a fluffy bottlebrush tale that it keeps relaxed.
While the Bernese Mountain Dog has surprisingly petite feet for its large size, the Labrador has proportionally larger feet with webbed toes, which make it a strong swimmer.
Your Labrador Retriever Bernese Mountain Dog mix could favor the traits of either breed, be a mix of the two, or fall somewhere in between.
Caring for Your Bernese Mountain Dog Lab Mix
The grooming requirements of a Bernese Mountain Dog Lab mix will depend on which features the dog inherits from each breed.
For a longer haired Bernese Mountain Dog and Lab mix, it will be necessary to carefully brush the fur once or twice a week. To comb out any tangles or knots and remove any shedding fur from the undercoat.
Only occasional bathing is necessary.
Owners who aren’t used to oilier haired dogs may be tempted to over-bathe a Labrador Bernese Mountain Dog mix that has inherited the Labrador’s oily coat, but these oils protect the dog from wet conditions, and stripping the oils can dry out the dog’s skin and coat.
Be careful of overfeeding too.
Your Bernese Lab mix could easily inherit the Labrador’s excessive appetite and eat more than it needs.
Talk to your vet about how much food to give your pup, and split it between two meals a day.
At least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day is essential, especially if your Bernese Mountain Lab mix inherits the Lab’s tendency towards destructive behavior when bored.
Potential Health Issues of the Labernese Dog
Just like any other trait, your Bernese Lab mix could potentially inherit health issues from either parent breed.
Both parent breeds are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as other joint problems.
Preventing your dog from playing on hard surfaces like concrete, especially as a puppy, can help mitigate these issues.
The most important way to avoid it however is to make sure both parents have excellent hip and elbow scores. Do not buy a Labernese puppy from parents that don’t have great joints.
Your Bernese Labrador mix could also encounter vision problems including improper eyelid and eyelash development, cataracts, and retinal dysplasia, as well as endocrine issues like diabetes or hypothyroidism.
Both parents must have recent eye tests, and the Lab parent needs a clear PRA DNA test.
Exercise induced collapse is another concern for Labrador owners which could potentially be passed on to a mix puppy.
While cancer is the leading cause of death for all dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs are particularly prone to it, and your Bernese Mountain Dog mix may be as well.
A particular cancer is histocytic sarcoma, which could impact as many as 25% of Bernese Mountain Dogs.
Make sure there is no family history of cancer in the Bernese Mountain Dog’s side of the family. Ideally also choose a mating where the father is the Bernese, and he is over 7.5 years of age.
If he has avoided cancer to that point, his chances are vastly improved.
Be prepared for a lifespan ranging from as little as six years all the way up to twelve or more.
Bernese Lab Temperament & Behavior
As one might guess from their backgrounds as service dogs, both Labs and Bernese Mountain Dogs are friendly and relatively intelligent.
Neither are prone to excessive barking.
Both breeds are very social and do not react well to being left alone for extended periods.
On the other hand, while Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to be relaxed and docile, Labs are more energetic.
If the dog is not well-trained and properly physically and mentally stimulated, he or she may choose to expend it in destructive ways.
Labs also have a long puppyhood, not maturing until they’re about three, during which time they’re especially rambunctious and are often uncoordinated.
Additionally, Bernese Mountain Dogs are indifferent to water, but Labs love it.
A water loving Bernese Labrador with a Bernese coat can quickly chill if it takes a dip during cold weather, and at the very least takes hours to fully dry.
There’s no way to know what mix of these characteristics your Bernese Mountain Dog and Lab mix will have.
Socializing and Training a Bernese Lab Mix
Both breeds are good with children and other animals, but small children and animals may be intimidated by a Labrador Bernese Mountain Dog mix with Lab-like energy, especially if it has the Bernese’s size.
An energetic Bernese Labrador mix can also accidentally hurt small children and animals, especially while it’s still young and uncoordinated.
On the other hand, if your Bernese Mountain Dog Lab mix takes after the Bernese more, it can be remarkably tolerant of even the roughest children.
Teaching your Bernese Mountain Labrador mix how to appropriately interact with people, dogs, and other pets while it’s still young can help you avoid problems later on.
We’ve already mentioned the necessity of training to help reign in a boisterous Lab personality, but training is essential for all Labernese dogs to ensure an obedient and well mannered dog.
Fortunately, both breeds are intelligent people-pleasers, so training shouldn’t be too difficult.
The Bernese Mountain Dog Lab Mix as a Family Pet
A good home for a Labernese needs to be prepared to accept any of the possible outcomes of a Labrador and Bernese Mountain Dog mix.
Bernese Mountain Dog Lab mixes do best with families that can provide them with lots of attention and exercise.
Because of the potential for problems with smaller children, families with older children are better for a Bernese Labrador mix.
The size and activity level of a Bernese Lab makes it incompatible with apartment living.
They need access to a yard for running and playing – with supervision, of course.
Your Labrador Retriever Bernese Mountain Dog mix could also inherit the Bernese’s susceptibility to heat exhaustion, so limit outdoor play to mornings and evenings during the warmer months.
Labernese Puppies & Labernese Breeders
Are you ready for a Bernese Mountain Dog Lab mix of your own?
The most important thing is to find a responsible Labernese breeder.
Read reviews online, talk to the breeder in person and over the phone, and ask for references from previous buyers before even looking at a Labernese breeder’s puppies.
Once you do, make sure they’re showing you all of the Labernese puppies that they have left in the litter and make sure they all seem healthy and well cared for.
Responsible Labernese breeders will be willing and able to provide health histories for each parent.
They will also ask you lots of questions, and expect plenty in return.
Choosing the Labernese
Selecting the right type of dog for your home and lifestyle is essential, but there’s a breed or mix out there for everyone.
If you’re looking for a large but affectionate, friendly, and playful addition to your family, the Labrador Retriever Bernese Mountain Dog mix just may be the breed for you!
References and Further Reading
- Adams, V.J. & Evans, K. & Sampson, J. & Wood, J. Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. The Journal of small animal practice, 2010.
- Baertschi, M. History and Standard of the Bernese Mountain Dog. Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, 2011.
- Crook A et al. Bernese mountain dog. Canine Inherited Disorders Database (CIDD), 2011.
- Crook A et al. Labrador retriever. Canine Inherited Disorders Database (CIDD), 2011.
- St-Pierre, E. A New Breed Serving Humans. MIRA Foundation.
- Svartberg, K. Breed-typical behaviour in dogs—Historical remnants or recent constructs? Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2006.
- Svartberg, K. & Forkman, B. Personality traits in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2002.
- Turcsán, B. et al. Trainability and boldness traits differ between dog breed clusters based on conventional breed categories and genetic relatedness. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2011.
- 2000 BMDCA Health Survey. Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America, 2000.
- 2014 Purebred Dog Health Survey. Kennel Club/British Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2014.
- The American Kennel Club
- Patterson et al. 2008. A canine DNM1 mutation is highly associated with the syndrome of exercise-induced collapse. Nature Genetics.
- Abadie, J et al. 2009. Epidemiology, pathology and genetics of histiocytic sarcoma in the Bernese Mountain Dog breed. Journal of Heredity.