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Bernese Mountain Dogs & Hiking: 5 Things You Must Know

Hiking is an excellent way to keep your Bernese Mountain Dog fit, but there are a few crucial things to consider first.

This article answers frequently asked questions about hiking with your Berner, as well as some important safety tips to be aware of.


Can Bernese Mountain Dogs Hike

Bernese mountain dogs can make excellent hiking partners, as long as the outside conditions are appropriate, the trail isn’t too difficult or too long, and your Berner is in full health and already has the required level of stamina to do the hike.

Under the right conditions, your Berner can go hiking with you, and it will be a great way to keep him fit and mentally stimulated.

Bernese mountain dogs are not strangers to extensive physical activity either, much of their past they would have spent herding cattle, pulling carts, and following their owners out on trails serving as watchdogs and even protection.

Hiking is an activity that most Berners enjoy straight away.

It will heighten their senses, stimulate their desire for physical work, and it will leave them feeling very satisfied.

5 Things To Consider Before Hiking With Your Berner

Although Berners are great hikers, there are still some very important things to consider first. Let’s run through them.

1. Your Berner’s age
2. Current fitness levels
3. Weather conditions
4. The terrain and difficulty of the hike
5. Underlying health conditions

1. Your Bernese Mountain Dog’s Age

Age is important, and hiking is not something that young puppies or senior Berners should partake in.

What’s the most appropriate age? 2-5 years is the ideal time to be hiking with your Berner.

Up until 2 years old, their joints, bones, and muscles will still be developing and it’s easy to overload them.

This can cause short-term and long-term damage so it’s super important to be careful with how much physical stress their body handles at this young age.

Of course, it depends on the hike, how far, and how difficult it is, so it’s up to you to use your judgment.

  • After around 5 years old, once again, you have to start taking a lot more consideration for their bones, muscles, and joints.

Due to the Berner’s incredible size and weight, their bodies are prone to developing joint issues much sooner than most other breeds.

Exercise is of course still very important, but after 5 years old, the health of their joints must be preserved as much as possible.

2. Current Fitness Level

Before attempting a 5-mile hike it’s important to consider your Berner’s existing fitness levels and hiking experience. If your Berner has never hiked before, you must start off with small distances like 1 or 2 miles and work your way up slowly.

Once trained and adjusted, *some Berners may be comfortable hiking 7-10 miles on an easy trail in cool weather.

True story: My friend took her Berner (named Bruce) hiking but made the mistake of venturing a little too far before he was ready…

Bruce decided he had enough and so he simply laid down and refused to move his 100lb + body.

So they stayed in the same spot for over an hour before he decided he was ready to continue. lol. Don’t let your Berner be a Bruce!

3. Weather Conditions

For us, hiking is an activity most popular in the summer… Unfortunately, depending on where you live, it may just be too hot for hiking with your Berner.

Berners don’t cope very well in hot weather, especially in direct sunshine and midday temperatures. When the temperature rises above 20C (70F) it’s already going to be uncomfortable for most Bernese mountain dogs.

Reserve hikes for early morning while the sun is still low, or save your hiking adventures for spring and autumn when the temperatures are much lower than in summer.

Always remember that we tolerate heat much better than our dogs. So even if it doesn’t feel too hot for us, it may already be too hot for them.

4. Consider The Terrain & Difficulty of The Hike

Hikes can dramatically vary in their difficulty. Some have rivers you need to cross, others may be rocky with steep hills, and others may be easy and flat.

It’s best to only stick to easy hikes with your Berner to avoid putting too much stress on his body. Reserve your ironman training for different occasions.

The type of surface is also important and some hikes can be harsh on the paws if they contain exceptionally dry areas or pavement. Pavement and concrete are also a concern in summer as they can get hot enough to the point they will burn paw pads.

5. Underlying Health Issues

If your Bernese mountain dog has underlying health conditions, it’s best to first speak to your veterinarian about whether hiking is an appropriate form of exercise.

In most cases, unless your Berner has a serious condition, a gentle hike will usually be given the all-clear by your veterinarian.

Popular: My Bernese Mountain Dog Won’t Eat: Why & What To Do!

Hiking With Your Berner In National Parks

National parks are a top choice for hikers and if you’re lucky enough to live near one, it’s certainly something to take advantage of!

When it comes to hiking with dogs in national parks, there are many rules to be aware of. Some national parks may not allow dogs at all, and others will have specific trails and areas that dogs can go.

Always confirm the rules of the national park before you hike there with your Berner.

If you enter into a zone where dog’s are not allowed, there can be hefty fines to pay if caught.

Plan Your Route & Be Prepared

Always plan your route to start with so you know the distance, the terrain, and what potential hazards may lie ahead. You may even want to consider going on the hike before you take your Berner with you.

Hazards can be things such as difficult crossings, rocky paths, rivers, or lakes, and consider what other wildlife is in the area.

Be sure to take plenty of extra water… My favorite piece of gear I’ve been using for the last year is a water bottle that doubles up as a bowl. This makes it so much easier for your dog to drink from. Plus it’s good to keep their water separated from yours. Link below.

Can Your Berner Go Off-Leash On Hikes?

To begin with, it’s best to keep your Berner on the leash until you know the trail well, and you can be confident there are no hazards along the way.

This also depends on your Berner’s obedience and his level of recall. If your Berner has a mind of his own and doesn’t come back when you need him to, that should be worked on first before going off-leash.

This is particularly important if you hike in regions where other wildlife is present. If you spot another animal before your Berner smells it you want to be able to have control over the situation.

Eventually, you can go off-leash as long as the area allows for it, and you’re confident that your Berner will be sensible.

If you hike in a national park, they may have a strict on-leash rule. So be sure to check beforehand.

Recommended Read: Why Do Berners Live So Short? Lifespan Explained

Recommended Hiking Gear

To help you have a great hike, here’s some of the most essential gear you may want to consider investing in.

Water bottle and bowl combination. (recommended option)
Pet first aid kit. (recommended option)
Collar TAG I.D. (recommended option)
Pet Insect Repellent. (recommended option)

These are my personal favorites, and I encourage you to check out the reviews over on Amazon.

Thank you for reading! I hope this has better prepared you for hiking with your Bernese mountain dog.

If you still have any questions please let me know! I am always happy to hear feedback and help where I can.

Back to more Bernese Mountain Dog articles >>


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.