Bernese mountain dogs, like any other breed, have very specific grooming needs. Originally from Switzerland, these working dogs do best in cooler climates and are built for an active and playful lifestyle. They’re fantastic family dogs, easily trained and great around children.
Because Bernese mountain dogs have double coats, they will need to be brushed and bathed frequently to prevent matting and keep them comfortable. Like any other dog, they’ll need care for their teeth and nails, and their ears should be checked for infection and cleaned regularly.
While it’s easiest to take your Bernese to a professional groomer to ensure they have the proper care, if you don’t want to go this way or can’t afford regular professional services, you can take care of them at home.
The Tools You’ll Need to Groom Your Bernese
Even though a Bernese sheds regularly, you won’t necessarily need any special tools to groom them. You will, however, need quality tools to avoid hurting your dog. Make sure you choose items that are vet-approved and safe.
Brushing Tools for Both Bernese Coats
To brush your Bernese, you’ll need a slicker brush. This is a brush with short, thin wires placed close together across a flat or lightly curved surface. It’s designed to remove matts in fur and comes in a variety of sizes and shapes. Make sure you get one that’s comfortable for you to hold.
You can use other brushes to get the same effect, including regular pin hairbrushes and full bristle brushes. It’s important, though, if you’re going to buy a full bristle brush, to get a high-quality one, as a cheap bristle brush may shed aggressively or even damage your dog’s fur.
You’ll also need a rake comb. This is also designed to take out any matts and generally detangle your dog’s hair. It’s a wide-toothed comb, generally with a longer handle to make it easier to use and maneuver. You may want to have a couple of combs of different sizes on hand for different sized matts.
In some cases, you may need a pair of quality scissors to trim your dog’s hair or remove any more serious matts. You may also find detangling spray from your local pet store very useful. You shouldn’t need any kind of automatic clipper or shaving tool for your Bernese. Thinning shears can be an excellent investment for removing very large matts.
Bathing and Drying Tools
You’ll need a space large enough to bath your dog. While you can do this inside your home if that’s your only option, you may find it slightly easier and less stressful to bath your dog outside. If you choose to do this, you’ll need a small kiddie pool for your dog to sit in.
You’ll need dog-safe shampoo, preferably one specifically designated as Bernese-safe. If your dog is still a puppy, make sure you get a puppy formula, as some shampoos might still be unsafe on such a young dog.
Finally, you’ll need a large towel or two. Regular bath towels work fine, although a super-absorbent or microfiber cloth might be more efficient. You can use a doggy hair dryer as well, but be warned that your dog probably won’t like the noise of it, and may find it distressing. You might also consider having a catch over the drain for fur.
Other Tools for Teeth, Nails, and Ears
You can brush a dog’s teeth with a regular toothbrush or with a special brush picked up from your vet. You should also get dog-safe toothpaste from your local vet or pet supply store, as human toothpaste isn’t good for dogs.
You’ll also need a nail clipper for your dog. This will have to be a specifically animal clipper, as one designed for human nails may be dangerous to use on a dog. There are several kinds, but the most common are scissors, shears, or guillotines. Scissors and shears are the easiest to use, though guillotine nail clippers are slightly more precise.
For cleaning your dog’s ears, you’ll need cotton balls. Do not use q-tips in your dog’s ears, as this may cause serious and permanent damage to their hearing. You may also use a special cleaning given to you from your vet.
Brushing Your Bernese
You’ll need to do simple brushing on your dog at least a few times a week, and more often when they’re shedding, which they do twice per year. Comb through the fur first very gently, using the detangler first if you have it. Don’t pull hard on larger matts; if they don’t come out with gentle combing, you’ll want to cut them out.
After you’ve combed your dog thoroughly, you’ll want to brush your dog down with the slicker brush. Go with the direction of the dog’s hair growth to help it look sleek, shiny, and healthy. Be careful to pay attention to the places that are more sensitive and difficult to brush around, such as the face, ears, on the legs, and the tail.
Brushing takes lots of time, but don’t try to rush it. Especially when brushing the more sensitive areas, be sure to take your time and be calm and methodical. Your dog may not particularly enjoy being brushed in certain places, but they should never be in pain. Frequently reassure your dog with gentle pats and praise, and stop if they show signs of distress.
Trimming Your Bernese’s Fur
You shouldn’t need to do very much trimming on your dog’s coat; it’s long and full by nature, and cutting too short may cause issues with regrowth later on. This is also why you should never have your Bernese shaved, as this can ruin their top coat and make it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature.
If you are going to trim at all, focus your efforts on areas that may cause issues, such as too-long fur between the foot pads and low on the foot or long fur around the ears. Trim this down gently to neaten the shape without going too low.
Bathing Your Bernese
Bernese fur is designed to shed off dirt and other contaminants fairly easily due to its double layer, and because they shed regularly, you don’t need to fully bathe your dog very often. This means you’ll really only need to bathe the dog when they start to smell or have gotten into something messy.
- Before you even turn the water on, make sure that your dog’s bed and any blankets are clean, and that you’ve got everything you need set up and organized. If your dog doesn’t like baths, you’ll want to make the experience as quick and painless as possible for them, and even if they don’t, not having to reach across the room for tools makes the possibility of you or the dog slipping and getting hurt less likely.
- Brush your dog down before bathing them to remove any excess fur. If you’re bathing them inside fill the tub with lukewarm water; make sure it’s not too hot as that might make your Bernese overheat. If you’re bathing them outside, run the hose so that there is some water in the bottom of the pool.
- Place a cotton ball just into the dog’s ear to prevent water from getting into the ear canal and causing an infection. Be careful when you’re washing around their eyes as well. Wet your dog’s fur making sure to get all the way down to the skin. Move frequently between the water and your dog to keep the temperature consistent.
- Once your dog is completely soaked, gently work in the shampoo with your fingers. Use clawing motions to gently rake through the fur and get all the way down to the skin again, loosening any dirt, grease, or general grime as you go. Start at the neck and work down the back, then across the tummy, legs, and tail, and finally your dog’s head, being very careful not to get soap in their eyes.
After you’ve completely washed them, rinse your dog thoroughly. You’ve completely rinsed them once you no longer see any suds even when running your fingers through their fur. Make sure you’re not overbathing your dog, as this can cause problems in the same way that not cleaning them often enough can, including skin sensitivity or rashes.
Drying Your Bernese and Keeping Your House Dry
Dry your Bernese completely with a large towel or dryer. You’ll want to have these on hand immediately; like many other dogs, a Bernese’s first instinct will be to shake and rub themselves on anything they can to get dry as quickly as possible. Make sure that you’ve got them on a nonslip surface that will let you hang on to them as you dry them to prevent them from hurting themselves or you.
You’ll also want to make sure they can’t easily get to any furniture or carpeting that might be damaged by getting wet or being rubbed up against until they are fully dry. If you’re outdoors, make sure they can’t immediately access mud or dirt, unless you’re prepared to bath them all over again.
Nail Clipping and Teeth Maintenance
Taking care of a dog’s teeth is extremely important for their overall health. Just like in a human being, if a dog develops issues with their teeth, it can lead to larger problems with their jaw and overall bone health. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure your dog’s teeth receive the cleaning they need.
Dogs may not necessarily be comfortable with brushing initially. You can get them used to the movements by rubbing your finger along their teeth prior to brushing. This lets them know that the process won’t hurt, and will help them to trust you to do it. You can also gently touch the dry toothbrush to each tooth and let them taste the toothpaste.
Once they’re comfortable, you can start brushing. Go from the outside in and from the front to the back, being gentle with interior cleaning as this might be uncomfortable. If your Bernese simply refuses to sit for interior tooth brushing, you can skip it until you can get them to a professional. Make sure to consistently praise your dog during the whole process.
Trim your dog’s nails carefully, one at a time, by positioning the clipper at a slight angle matching the natural curve of the nail. Be very careful not to cut into the quick, or the nerve in the center of the dog’s nail. This is fairly easy to see on light-colored nails as a pink streak, but on dark nails, you’ll want to go very slowly, stopping when the middle of the nail grows darker.
Once you’ve clipped the nails, file them down with an emery board just like you would your own nails. This prevents rough spots that can snag on furniture and clothing.
Other Things to Consider in Grooming Burnese Dogs
Make sure you’re checking your Bernese’s ears when you’re grooming them. Dogs are often prone to ear infections, so if you notice any unusual redness, wetness, or odor, you’ll want to contact your vet for treatment. You may consider using a special cleaner recommended by your vet, dabbed on a cotton ball and gently swept around the outer ear, if your dog is especially prone to infections.
- You’ll want to clean around your dog’s eyes very gently, to remove any crust or buildup. This can be done with a damp cloth or cotton pad. It’s also a good time to check for any dullness or irritation that might be signs of a larger health problem.
- Check your dog carefully for any kinds of parasite, including fleas, lice, and ticks. Finding them early can help prevent a larger infection, make the treatment process shorter and easier, and give you a clue on how to prevent it from happening again. Make sure that your dog is up to date on their heartworm medication, and consider putting them on a regular flea and tick treatment.
- It’s a good idea to get your dog professionally groomed every so often to make sure they’re getting the best possible care. A well-reputed, professional groomer will be able to clean, trim, and shape their coat for maximum hygiene and style, and will more easily be able to identify and treat problems that you might not be able to pick up on.
Your dog’s diet can also play into the health of their coat. A well-balanced diet will promote a sleek, shiny, soft coat that sheds regularly, and may help lower the chances of rashes and infections or irritation. Check with your vet to see what kind of food works best, and remember that each dog is different, so it may take some trial and error to get it right.
Cleaning Up After Grooming
Once your dog is fully bathed and brushed, and you’ve finished all the regular maintenance on them, don’t forget to clean your workspace thoroughly.
If you bathed them inside, rinse out your bathtub, getting rid of any dirt or suds leftover, wash and clean any towels used, and make sure the floor is dry and free of hair. If any has gotten on the walls, let it dry, then use your vacuum with the brush attachment to clean it off.
If you’ve bathed your dog outside, rinse out the pool with a hose, hose any fur off the ground, and collect any larger clumps of fur when they’ve dried and throw it away.
Make sure that all of your tools are cleaned between grooming sessions. This means removing any hair from your brushes and combs and wiping them down to get rid of any dirt or grease that may have gotten on them from your dog’s fur. You don’t want to groom a dog with dirty tools!
Adding Accessories to Your Grooming Routine
Most dogs regularly wear a collar, as it holds their identification tags and makes it easy to attach a leash. These come in a variety of materials, thought the most common are leather or thick fabric. While these are removed for grooming, they should be kept clean and well maintained as well.
- Make sure you’re regularly cleaning your leather collar with proper cleaning solutions, drying them thoroughly to avoid rot, and gently oiling them to treat and soften the material. Let the treatment soak in completely before putting the collar back on your dog. A brittle leather collar can snap, which might be dangerous for the dog and you.
- For fabric collars, you can generally clean them by hand with simple soap or detergent. Be sure to dry them completely, though, to prevent stitching rot or mildew, and address any fraying issues immediately.
Any metal or plastic on your dog’s collar should be wiped down. Metal tags should be regularly polished to keep them legible.
A Beautiful Working Dog
Bernese mountain dogs are a beautiful breed. They’re working dogs, built for lots of activity and excitement. Your Bernese will be happiest when they’re active, even if this means they’re a messier breed.
Making sure your dog is well-groomed is an important part of keeping them healthy. It helps you spot any problems early and treat them quickly. On top of that, the experience can be fun! It’s a great way to bond with your furry friend. If done well, you and your dog will be happy together for a long time to come.