BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOG VS LABRADOR
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HISTORY Now, both of these breeds are vastly different in looks and their jobs so let's start with a look at the origins of each breed. The Bernese Mountain Dog was originally bred and used as both a drover and a drafting dog. Meaning that they helped herd dairy cows to markets and pulled small carts around the Swiss countryside. With the Industrial Revolution and the convenience of trains, the Berner found itself out of a job and the breed came extremely close to extinction. Thankfully, the dying breed was resurrected in the early 1900s and has made quite the comeback as a beautiful family companion. The Labrador Retriever is a breed that was thoughtfully developed in the late 1800s, though they had been hunter's companions long before that. The Lab was bred and built to retrieve waterfowl shot down by hunters in what we know today as the Labrador region of Canada. The breed came to Britain where it was further refined to become a breed distinct from other similar dogs from the region. APPEARANCE These two breeds are both strikingly beautiful but in very different ways. The Berner, ranging from 70 to 115 pounds is generally tri-colored, meaning they have a predominately black coat with tan and white markings. Their double coat is thick and the outer fur is long and silky with some feathering around the chest and haunches. They were bred to work in the mountains of Switzerland so they do well in cooler to cold climates over hot ones. The Lab, on the other hand, has a short but still thick double coat and water repellant outer coat and weighs around 55 to 80 pounds. They come in solid colors of yellow, chocolate, fox red, and black. They have a much more lean body than the Berner but shed just as much. They have a slight webbing between their toes to aid in swimming and are known for having very soft mouths that don't damage the body of the game they retrieve. TEMPERAMENT The temperaments of these breeds as quite different although they are both a joy to have in the home. The Berner is a steadfast and quiet companion that is very loving and affectionate with their whole family. They tend to be watchful or aloof with strangers at first and can be imposing due to their size and deep bark. The Lab is a much higher energy companion but equally loving and loyal with their family, particularly with the person who works with them most. They are devoted companions who are always looking to please their leader and get a cuddle. The Lab is extremely friendly, even with strangers, and sports a happy-go-lucky attitude. TRAINABILITY/INTELLIGENCE You'll find both breeds are very easy to train and willing to please their leaders. The Berner has a soft personality and only moderate energy so don't expect them to willing to achieve high levels of athletic prowess. Because of their size and general health, they might not be best for first time owners, but the Berner is a mellow large breed ideal for those who are looking to have a large breed for the first time. The Lab is quite different here and is extremely intelligent with the energy and drive to learn complex exercises and take on critical roles like scent detection for police and military organizations. Lab's are frequently used in search and rescue, drug and bomb detection, and service roles for people with disabilities. ENERGY Now we know that the Bernese Mountain Dog isn't likely to excel in competition or high-level work because they just don't have the natural drive for it. They do have the energy to move around all day and are considered to be a medium energy breed while the Lab is high energy. If you want to go for long hikes, walks, or runs then the Lab has the energy to keep up and then some. They need plenty of physical and mental exercise each day to prevent destructive behaviors. OVERALL HEALTH Since the Berner is a large breed they have a shorter life span of around 10 years or so. But because the breed was so close to extinction only a little over 100 years ago, the genetic pool is still pretty small. This means they are prone to a wide variety of health issues like cancers, blood disorders, heart problems, and these are all made worse by their potential for obesity. The Lab is generally healthy and lives a bit longer of about 12-14 years old. They are similarly prone to obesity once they reach maturity and can have issues with hip and elbow dysplasia and well as a few types of cancers and blood disorders. SOCIAL NEEDS You'll find the years the Berner is in your home to be full of love and cuddles. They bond evenly with the whole family and are very watchful of strangers. Because of their size, it's best to socialize them early on so they are accepting of strangers. The Lab again differs here and they are inherently friendly to almost everyone. They should of course still be socialized because they will bond very closely with one person though they love the whole family. CHILD FRIENDLY Despite their size, Berner's are amazing with children and are very gentle with them. They are a clam and watchful presence and aren't overly protective of their kids but they may try to herd them when playing. The Lab does equally well with children and all their friends and love to be part of the game. They are gentle when not over-excited and have some age on them and this is part of what makes them such a fantastic family dog. SMALL ANIMALS Both breeds do well with small animals, especially when raised and socialized with them. Neither has a high prey drive but you'll still need to supervise both breeds because of their size. They are of course more prone to chasing small animals when they are young and it's why socialization from an early age is so important. OTHER DOGS The Bernese Mountain Dog is more likely to be wary or aggressive towards other strange dogs that come into their territory since they were bred to help protect cattle from predators. They aren't inherently aggressive but their size can make other dogs defensive so it's best to get them used to other dogs in the home and outside it. The Lab is typically friendly with other dogs and is rarely aggressive towards anyone or anything that isn't an outright threat to their family. They may be slightly protective of the family member they bond closest too and this is again why I make such a big deal about socializing every breed and for their entire life. There you have it. All the differences, and more than a few similarities between these two very different looking breeds.