You've decided that you would like to bring a Berner into your life. The next step is to choose a breeder and then a puppy. This can be tricky for the prospective owner. There are many avenues, and it can be overwhelming at first. Here are some easy first steps.
If you're reading this, then you've found that the web holds a vast amount of information about Berners, breeders and picking the right puppy for you. Most of these sites are like mine, put here by owners who love the breed and want to share what they know for the good of the breed. My site is UK orientated, and you'll find addresses and phone numbers to help you. If you're reading this and you're from another country, you'll find the Berner Ring has member sites from around the world. The help is here, a click away.
For prospective owners in the UK. Contact the Puppy Line, run by PetPlan on 0181 580 8000. They will send a list of registered breeders who have puppies available at that moment, plus a pack of information. Very useful. When I was looking for my first, I contacted one of the breeders that the Puppy Line had sent to me. Unfortunately all the puppies had been sold, but the lady was delighted to talk to me, answer questions and even suggest other breeders that she knew of.
Do you know someone who owns a Berner? It's not unusual for owners to be very happy to talk to you about their dog with anyone who expresses a genuine interest in owning one of these beautiful dogs.
Contact a Bernese Mountain Dog club, in your area. This is another wonderful resource.
Now you may have a list of breeders who have puppies, or will have puppies available at the time of your preference. What now? Make an appointment and go to visit them. Its very important to talk to the breeder, see the bitch and if at all possible the dog as well. I would strongly recommend patience at this point. See the breeder long before the puppies will be born, so that you will not be influenced by the site of the little bundles of fluff running around at your feet. A Good breeder will be delighted to talk to you, answer any question however trivial, show you the dogs and share some stories. The breeder will also want to ask you questions, about your experience of owning dogs, where you live, if someone will be around all day to care for the pup. Be honest, they will respect someone more who wants to learn.
Don't forget that the breeder may have criteria of his or her own for who they would like their puppies to be homed to, just as you have in choosing the breeder.
Some Questions to ask
What is your experience as a breeder
Can I contact other owners who have got puppies from you
Do you provide a contract of ownership
Are you available for help after I have picked up the puppy
Can I see the parents, or photographs of them
Have the parents won any titles
What are the hip and elbow scores of the parents
Are there any other health issues in the parents I should know about
What kind of food do you recommend
Why did you decide to mate these two
In all likelihood the breeder will provide all the pertinent information without being asked.
Some Questions you may be asked
Have you ever owned a Berner
If not, do you have experience as a dog owner
Do you have a garden or have access to a garden
Will someone be with the puppy at all times
Have you been reading up on the breed
Choosing a puppy
First decide if you want a male or a female. Males are larger and more impressive looking, moult once a year, are more expensive to feed and grow faster which may lead to a risk of bone problems. Females are smaller, moult twice a year, season twice a year and have a risk of hormone imbalance. At about 5 or 6 weeks old the personality of the puppy is apparent, making this the ideal time to choose. Will your puppy be a pet or a prospective show dog? If the puppy is to be shown or bred from, then adhering to the breed standard is important. If the puppy is to be a pet, then marking is of less importance. The most important characteristic no matter what the puppy is destined to be, is a sound temperament. Once you have seen all the puppies together to judge overall quality, then the breeder should remove the sex you do not want, so you can study from those left. Remember that Berner puppies are generally lazy, this does not mean they are of ill health. Watch each one carefully as they move around, and take your time. Also remember that the largest puppy will not necessarily make for the largest adult. My best advice is to ask the breeder. They will be of enormous help in choosing.