Is a Labernese the right dog for you? Let’s find out in this complete guide to the Labrador retriever Bernese mountain dog mix.
Helping to Inform Your Decision
The Labrador retriever is the most popular purebred dog in recent years, and its crossbreeding with the gentle giant known as the Bernese mountain dog offers an intriguing combination of two esteemed working dogs.
We’ve conducted some helpful research to help you understand the potential advantages and drawbacks of designer dogs in general and the Bernese Labrador mix in particular.
The confidence you’ll gain through your own research is sure to increase the excitement of bringing home your new pet. Let’s get started.
First of all, with regard to “designer dogs,” the proof is in the pudding.
No breeder of a first-generation Labrador and Bernese mountain dog mix or any crossbreed can make guarantees about traits or appearance.
That is the chief difference between breeders of purebreds and crossbreeds.
Producing puppies from an exclusive gene pool offers predictable results, and that is quite appealing to many customers.
But for some potential dog owners, the possibilities offered by a crossbreed are more intriguing.
The security of having a dog’s documented lineage versus the theory of more vigorous health in mixed breeds is an ongoing debate.
To read more about it, follow this link.
And now on to the Bernese mountain dog and Labrador Mix.
The result of breeding a Bernese mountain dog with a Labrador retriever is the Labernese.
If a black Labrador is one of the parents, it can be called a Bernese mountain dog Black Lab mix.
Both breeds are in the working class, but since the breeds have distinct differences dating from their origins, the physical traits and behavioral characteristics of Labernese puppies are variable.
Bernese Mountain Dog Origins
The breed’s name comes from Bern, one of the largest of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
One of four types of Swiss mountain dogs, Berner Sennenhunds were bred, in the 19th century, as helpers on alpine farms in this vast agricultural area, for pulling carts and protecting, but not for the agility and speed needed for herding.
It is said that the Swiss mountain breeds descend from the Molosser, which was brought to the Swiss Alps by soldiers of the Roman Empire.
Labrador Retriever Origins
The Labrador retriever, now an iconic breed, actually originated in Newfoundland. Labs were bred as water retrievers of fowl for hunters and fish from fishermen in cold north Atlantic waters.
These superb swimmers have “otter tails” with which they steer themselves in the water.
The St. John’s dog of 18th century Newfoundland was exported to Britain in the 19th century and dubbed the Labrador by the Earl of Malmesbury in 1887.
Thereafter, the breed became popular in sporting as gun dogs.
Labernese Size, Height and Weight
To make informed guesses about the size of a first generation Bernese Lab mix, we need to look to the parents.
Bernese mountain dog males are usually 25 to 28 inches tall at the withers (the tallest part of the dog, between the shoulders), and females are usually between 23 and 26 inches. They are full-bodied dogs with strong, muscular builds.
Healthy males weigh between 84 and 110 pounds, and females weigh 79-110 pounds. BMDs are large dogs.
Labrador retriever males generally stand between 22 and 24 inches high, and females measure in at 21 to 23 inches high.
Males typically weigh between 65 and 80 pounds while females typically weigh between 55 and 70 pounds.
They are athletically built and quick.
The Bernese Cross Labrador, then, will be on the larger side.
However, heights, weights and builds are impossible to predict with absolute accuracy.
It’s a safe bet that a Bernese Lab mix puppy is not destined to be a lap dog.
Labernese: Coats and Characteristics
Expectations about your Bernese mountain Lab mix’s coat and characteristics depend on which parent it favors the most.
The Bernese mountain dog has a double coat that is moderately long, often wavy and silky—a characteristic that sets it apart from other Swiss mountain dogs.
The coat is dominantly black. Rust markings are found over each eye, on the cheeks, on each leg and on either side of the chest.
White is found on the chest, muzzle and feet. Eyes are dark, noses are black, and ears are triangular and set high on the head.
Labrador retriever coats are yellow, chocolate or black. Bernese Labs are often, but not always, bred with black Labs.
Labradors are double-coated; the undercoat keeps the dog warm, and the top coat is dense, straight and short.
Bodies are muscular and well-balanced.
The “otter tail” and powerful jaws enable Labs to efficiently swim and retrieve waterfowl.
Eyes are dark, and ears are low on the skull and set toward the back.
Bernese Mountain Dog Lab Mix Temperament and Behavior
While it is certainly true that every dog has its own personality, there are behavioral traits common to each breed.
Wondering about how your pup might behave? He or she is likely to be good-natured, and we turn once again to the parents for more clues.
Bernese mountain dogs are confident and good-natured, though they can be standoffish with strangers.
They tend to be placid and loving to their owners.
Labradors are intelligent, highly trainable, extroverted and good-natured, not noted for aggression toward people or other dogs.
The fact that both breeds are used as guide dogs and that the Mira Foundation of Canada specializes in the breeding of Labernese to serve the disabled is profound evidence of the crossbreed’s calm and trainable personality.
Labernese Dog Grooming and General Care
Whether your Labrador Bernese mountain dog looks more like a Lab or a BMD will determine the level of care required to keep your pup looking good.
Though both breeds are double-coated, a Lab coat is a bit easier to care for. For helpful tips on caring for Labs, click here: The long coat of a BMD requires more frequent brushing and is prone to tangling.
However, both breeds shed, and it will be profuse during shedding season.
Regular nail trims and ear and teeth cleaning keep any dog healthy and comfortable. Proper maintenance can also contribute to a longer life.
Toothpaste that your dog enjoys the taste of will make the chore more pleasant for both of you.
Begin hygiene habits early so that your pup accepts them with the equanimity for which both Labs and BMDs are famous.
Labrador Retriever and Bernese Mountain Dog Health
The relatively common ailments of medium and large purebred dogs such as hip and elbow dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy are known to afflict Labs and BMDs alike.
Stomach torsion, or bloat, is a potentially deadly risk for medium and large dogs that can be mitigated through proper feeding practices and management of exercise.
Reading up on the causes of bloat and how to avoid or address it is a must.
Some diseases known to afflict Labradors and Bernese mountain dogs are recessive disorders, meaning that the dog must receive two copies of the mutated gene from its parents. Genetic testing for the following is vital:
- Centronuclear myopathy, a form of muscular dystrophy, occurs in Labradors when two carriers of the CNM gene are bred together. It is avoidable if testing is done prior to mating and detectable in litters if mating of untested parents has occurred.
- Exercise-induced collapse (EIC) is another recessive hereditary disease for Labradors but can be managed. Knowing your dog’s genetic status is important.
- Von Willebrand’s disease can afflict Bernese mountain dogs if they have received a copy of the mutated gene from each parent. The disease causes bleeding disorders that vary in severity, and may not be discovered unless the dog experiences trauma or undergoes surgery.
It’s important to understand common health concerns for the parent breeds to also understand the possible implications of crossbreeding them.
Ask the breeder for the scan results of the parents, especially for the conditions common to their breeds.
The average lifespan for a Bernese mountain dog is seven to ten years, while Labrador retrievers are a bit longer lived at 10 to 12 years.
Your Labernese’s life expectancy will likely fall within this range.
Labernese Exercise and Training
Labradors are by nature very active dogs and will be happiest with lots of exercise, in the park, on the trail, and in the water.
Bernese mountain dogs also enjoy walks and play, but since they were bred for pulling and protection, they aren’t natural athletes like Labs. As you get to know your Labernese, you will intuit what your dog needs.
Both parent breeds are highly trainable, and you should start early to head off behavior concerns such as jumping and separation anxiety.
Studies show that positive reinforcement most often leads to optimum outcomes in your dog’s behavior and is more enjoyable for both of you than aversion training.
Be aware that using food as a training reward can lead to obesity, a health risk for every dog, no matter the size.
Is a Labernese the One?
If both Labs and BMDs appeal to you, a Bernese mountain dog cross Labrador might indeed be the one, but it also depends on your lifestyle.
If your pup behaves more like a Labrador, he or she will require quite a bit of daily exercise and would likely enjoy a swim to change up the routine.
Labs are great for outdoorsy families who enjoy hiking and lengthy games of fetch.
While Bernese mountain dogs naturally enjoy walks and play, they are less athletic than Labs and would likely be content to spend lots of time as your companion at home.
Observing puppies at your breeder or rescue organization can offer insight into the kind of environment that would be optimal for your Bernese mountain Lab mix; to be sure, dogs are social animals that want to be with their pack—and you, the leader.
Pet ownership requires adequate finances, of course. You owe it to your dog to provide nutrition, care, attention, and access to a veterinarian for both routine preventative care and medical attention when necessary.
Other similar crossbreeds to consider include the Bernese mountain dog Labradoodle mix, also known as a Bernese Labradoodle, or a Bernese Labradoodle mix.
The addition of Standard Poodle genes to the mix offers further variation that might be just what you’re looking for.
Finding Labernese Breeders and Picking Your Puppy
Once you’ve “boned up” on the Labernese, it’s time to visit some breeders to meet your potential pup in person. Breed clubs can be a reliable resource for finding reputable breeders.
Once you’ve located a breeder, don’t be shy about asking lots of questions, including a list of references. Size up the conditions where the dogs and puppies are kept, and that the animals seem well-socialized and sound.
Pressure to reserve or buy a puppy should not be part of the transaction. Ask to review the health records of the parents, especially the scans for diseases Labs and BMDs are prone to contracting.
There is significant overlap in diseases and conditions that occur with some frequency in Bernese mountain dogs and Labrador retrievers, and so the following tests for parents should be conducted and the results made available to you: OFA hips and elbows, cardiac and thyroid exams, and the OFA eye exams for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
The Lab parent should be tested for CNM.
The Bernese mountain dog parent should be screened for Von Willebrand disease.
Pay close attention to the behavior and temperament of the dogs, and be sure to return for follow-up visits before your purchase.
A caring, professional breeder will share your concern for making a good match and may require a contract for the dog’s return in the event things don’t work out as you’d hoped.
The relationship between dogs and their people is one of life’s most rewarding.
Finding out all you can about your potential pet is the first step in making a wise decision as to whether the Labernese is the one for you.
Also make sure to take a look at our guide to indestructible dog beds!
Resources and Further Reading:
Abadie, Jerome, et al., 2009, “Epidemiology, Pathology, and Genetics of Histiocytic Sarcoma in the Bernese Mountain Dog Breed,” Journal of Heredity
Bellumori, Thomas P. et al., 2013, “Prevalence of Inherited Disorders Among Mixed-Breed and Purebred Dogs: 27,254 cases (1995–2010),” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Hiby, E.F. et al., 2004, “Dog Training Methods: Their Use, Effectiveness, and Interaction with Behavior and Welfare,” (Universities Federation for) Animal Welfare
Malm, S. et al., 2008, “Genetic Variation and Genetic Trends in Hip and Elbow Dysplasia in Swedish Rottweiler and Bernese Mountain Dog,” Animal Breeding and Genetics
Padgett, G.A. et al., 1995, “Inheritance of Histiocytosis in Bernese Mountain Dogs,” Journal of Small Animal Practice
Taylor, Susan M. et al., 2009, “Evaluations of Labrador Retrievers with Exercise-Induced Collapse, Including Response to a Standardized Strenuous Exercise Protocol,” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association
Taylor, Susan M. et al., 2008, “Exercise-Induced Collapse of Labrador Retrievers: Survey Results and Preliminary Investigation of Heritability,” Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website