Every Kid Should Have a Bear

Berners and kids… I mean, is there anything cuter? I submit as evidence to the court: Article A.

We really wanted a dog we could trust with our grandchildren. Sherman and Blaine have been good buds from day one.

One of our greatest heartaches with both Scotti and Hero was that we could not trust them to be with our grandson Blaine or the myriad of other children who regularly parade through our home. I don’t know that either dog would have ever hurt a child, but it was evident that neither was comfortable around the squeals, sudden and unpredictable movements, or general chaos that defines the life of a child. The next Berner had to be different… he had to be breed standard.

Sherman more than met that standard. The official standard for the Bernese Mountain Dog says, “The temperament is self-confident, alert and good-natured, never sharp or shy. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attentions of strangers.” Self confident? Yep. Alert? Oh yeah. Good-natured? Uh, think Steve Harvey but with a perfect Miss Universe record. I guess if you want to throw Sherman under the bus regarding breed standard you could say he’s never met a stranger… but that would include children and we actually consider that a good thing.

One of our first popular Instagram posts was this photo of Sherman and a friend’s two year old son playing in our back yard. There may have been a butt nip or two, but the little fella didn’t seem to mind. Sherman has always been an officer and a gentleman.

One week later and this ball would be toast!

Spoiler alert! Sherman has been a therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International for two years now. He has met hundreds of children and has been in a number of nursing homes and memory care units as well. He isn’t perfect. He’s a dog. He has been known to lunge after crumbs on the floor of an elementary school, and small stuffed animals tucked into the walkers of elderly nursing home residents have proven somewhat irresistible to our playful bear. But not once has Sherman nipped at a small (or deeply veined) hand. He seems to know when he is in the presence of the frail, and he defers his own great strength in favor of those who benefit most from hugging that giant neck of his.

My take on Berners and kids is as follows. Bernese Mountain Dogs are beasts. They are bred to pull carts and as such they wield their weight like WWE wrestlers with zero steroid restrictions. These are STRONG dogs. Zuzu (at 87 pounds) pulled my husband (at 200+ pounds) down and drug him through several feet of mud yesterday. What can I say? She saw a neighbor’s baby she wanted to meet. It was as simple as that. So while these gentle giants do love their kiddos, they are a force to be reckoned with.

I’d bring a Berner puppy home pre-children in a heartbeat. Berners are fierce protectors of their infant family members and the two can adjust quite well to one another if the Berner was the first child. If I had children under the age of four, I might wait until the kids were in school to introduce a Berner puppy. Puppies are WORK, people. And so are kids. A Berner puppy and a child under the age of five is a PILE of work. Will the puppy be gentle with the baby? Yes… but the puppy will play bite. The puppy will chase anything that squeaks, and toddlers squeak. The puppy will be able in no time to knock over a full-grown adult. The puppy will arrive day one with the ability to bowl over a toddler. And will the child be ready to care for the needs of a young puppy? Heck no. Besides, teaching a toddler not to grab skin or fur, pull on legs or tails, and not to stare at or scream in a puppy’s face can be tough. It’s a lot of work… and it may not be for you.

At the end of the day, Berners and kids can be a match made in Heaven. Your Berner (and Sherman, the ultimate extrovert, is no exception) is going to want kids to be well behaved and respectful of their needs… the need for a quiet home, a gentle touch, and respect for his personal space. And your child? Well, your child can be counted among the luckiest of all little people if he/she grows up knowing what it is to love a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Zuzu giving high fives (bear style) to a young girl at a Penn State tailgate party.
Blaine, Reese, and Sherman at Blaine’s 6th birthday party.
Sherman and Zuzu both have been great therapy dogs at home for my mom, who is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Published by: When Life Goes to the Dogs

It was my youngest daughter who introduced me to the Bernese Mountain Dog. That first boy, Hero, set in motion all kinds of crazy love. And now, at the end of the day, I often find myself asking... what do these dogs have that is so special? I'm raising three Berners now, navigating the world of social media for dogs, holistic health and raw feeding. Sherman has become a therapy dog; Zuzu may soon follow in his footsteps. Madi, as I like to say, is still cooking. I guess we all need something to put our hands to that makes us feel like we've made a difference in this world. Believe it or not, these dogs help me do just that.

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