Straight Scoop

One of the goals of this website is to educate those who are exploring the breed. On this page, you will find a discussion that can help you sort through some of the sales pitches and inaccuracies that can be so confusing as you look for that special puppy.
It is hard to find a Bernese Mountain Dog who does NOT have champions in his/her pedigree so this claim means very little. A championship two or three generations back is nothing special at all. Instead, look for a puppy with parents who are champions, and at least some of the grandparents as well.
“OFA evaluated”
It is great that a breeder knows about the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) but what exactly was evaluated – and what were the results? ALWAYS verify clearances – do not ever rely on “OFA evaluated” to mean that the parents have OFA clearances for hips and elbows. Learn how to verify clearances by reviewing “Checking Clearances” on this website.
Healthy European Stock”
All Bernese Mountain Dogs are from European stock – after all, the breed originated in Switzerland! There is no evidence that berners imported from Europe are healthier than those born in the United States or Canada. It can be hard to obtain health information on a dog imported from another country but remember – lack of knowledge is not the same thing as lack of problems! Many puppy millers have imported breeding stock from Eastern European countries out of necessity – no reputable American or Canadian breeder would do business with a puppy mill!
"The incidence of ____________ (insert problem, i.e., elbow dysplasia, cancer, cardiac issues) in our line is very low.”
The response to this statement should always be, “how do you know?” The truth is that the only way to make this kind of a statement is to know two things – the actual incidence of a problem in the breed AND the actual incidence in all dogs produced by a breeder.
The incidence of most problems in the breed is unknown and so without a reference point, it is hard to know what is high and what is low. We can make educated “estimates” on some things. For example, the OFA reports that 71% of the elbows they evaluated on Bernese Mountain Dogs are normal. Can we conclude 29% are dysplasic? Yes – and more because the reality is that many people do not send in films that are expected to fail. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that greater than 29% of berners have elbow dysplasia.
So does this mean that a breeder with a passing rate of 80% can claim a “low incidence” of elbow dysplasia? Not unless s/he has evaluations on EVERY puppy s/he produced – no exceptions!!! And remember – always verify clearances! “My vet says they are fine” is worth nothing at all – good breeders have results that can be verified.
“Our dogs live an average of 10-12 years”
Again, the response should always be, “how do you know?” Unless a breeder has carefully followed EVERY puppy s/he has produced, this statement is probably inaccurate and it is also misleading.
“We don’t show our dogs – dogs shows are so political”
This statement usually translates to, “we always lose” and that should be a big red flag. No dog can win all the time and not all puppies in a litter are future champions but a breeder should be at least somewhat active in the world of dog shows to get ongoing input and assessments about the quality of their dogs.
“We don’t show our dogs (or check eyes or elbows or…) – we are just breeding nice pets for families”
Shouldn’t a nice family pet also have all those qualities that make up a lovely, healthy Bernese Mountain Dog? Good breeders breed their good dogs – not the ones who have significant faults in structure or health. Again, look for documentation that the breeder has assessed for quality and health – are one or preferably both of the parents champions? Can you verify the health clearances?
“The mother has a Grade 1 elbow but it is not a big deal.”
A grade 1 elbow means the dog has elbow dysplasia – plain and simple. Breeding that dog increases both the likelihood that she will produce puppies with elbow dysplasia and that the dysplasia will be more severe than grade 1. Remember – verify your information! Check out OFA for research-based facts about elbow dysplasia.
“The hip (or elbow) dysplasia was caused by jumping.”
This kind of statement reflects a painful lack of knowledge – hip and elbow dysplasia are genetic diseases – they are NOT caused by food, exercise, jumping, or other environmental things. Such things can impact the expression of dysplasia but cannot cause the original issue – hip and elbow dysplasia are genetic conditions!
Remember – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!!!
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