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Australian Shepherd vs. Bernese Mountain Dog: Breed Differences & Similarities

Considering the Bernese Mountain Dog or the Australian Shepherd for your next fluffy friend? These two breeds are very different from one another but do share a few personality traits. Find out what you can expect when you adopt either breed.

Kelly Wilson

Last Updated: April 5, 2021 | 9 min read

Australian Shepherd vs. Bernese Mountain Dog

Are you trying to decide between the Australian Shepherd vs. the Bernese Mountain Dog for your new fluffy canine companion? While there are some striking similarities between these two, there are also some very big differences you’ll want to be aware of.

Both of these dog breeds are friendly, active, and highly trainable. Both dogs can also make a great companion or family dog. But they do have differences when it comes to their size and their temperaments. This can make them a better fit for some families compared to others.

Ready to learn more? Below you’ll learn all about both breeds, and the types of families they are each well suited for. You’ll learn about their histories, why they are often compared to each other, and hopefully, get a little insight into which breed is better suited for your lifestyle. Let’s jump in!

Breed Comparison

Australian Shepherd

  • Height 18-23 Inches
  • Weight 40-65 Pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Social, Energetic
  • Energy High Energy
  • Health Above Average
  • Lifespan 13-15 Years
  • Price $800 and up

Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Height 25-28 Inches
  • Weight 75-115 Pounds
  • Temperament Affectionate, Friendly, Social
  • Energy High Energy
  • Health Slightly Below Average
  • Lifespan 6-8 Years
  • Price $1,000 and up

 

Breed History

To know what to expect from any dog breed, you have to look into their background. Most of the popular breeds we know and love were originally bred for a specific purpose. That history affects how they behave as pets today.

Both breeds are both working dogs, which means humans bred them to help out with specific jobs. Most working dogs share a few common traits, including intelligence, a protective attitude, and a lot of energy. They are best suited for active households where there is plenty of space to run and explore.

Although they are both working dogs, both dog breeds were bred for very different tasks. Here’s a quick overview of their unique breed histories.

Australian Shepherd

Beautiful Dog with Ball in Its Mouth
The Australian Shepherd isn’t actually from Australia; however, it is a mix of breeds that were Australian.

Believe it or not, Australian Shepherds are not from Australia. They were originally bred in the Western United States to help ranchers and farmers herd livestock.

So, why the name? No one knows for sure (because this breed has been around for so long), but most experts believe the Australian Shepherd was bred as a mix of collies and sheepdogs that arrived in the U.S. from Australia back in the early 1840s.

The original goal of this breed was to create an intelligent, hard-working dog that could be trained to herd, not just to chase. Australian Shepherds are experts at following directions and herding sheep or cattle back to their pens, making them one of the most useful working dogs today.

The popularity of Australian Shepherds as housepets boomed in the post-WWII era when Western movies and rodeos fostered a new interest in “cowboy culture.” These days, they are still used as herding dogs, but also make great companions and family pets. Breed variations and mixes like the Aussiedoodle are gaining popularity, too!

Bernese Mountain Dog

Beautiful Black, Brown, and White Dog
Berners are believed to have been around for nearly 2,000 years.

The Bernese Mountain Dog, sometimes called the Berner, was bred as a working farm dog in Switzerland. Similar to the Australian Shepherd, they were once used to herd cattle and sheep.

However, herding wasn’t Berner’s only purpose. They were also bred for strength, loyalty, and friendliness. These traits make them versatile farm dogs, protectors, and companions.

Derived from the ancient Molosser breed, Berners have been around for a long time. Some experts believe the first Berners were working on Swiss farms as long as 2,000 years ago! They caught the attention of American breeders in 1902 when they first showed up in Swiss dog shows.

By the late 1940s, tons of Berners were being imported to the US as pets and working dogs. The AKC adopted its current breed standards in 1990, which led to a boom in popularity. Today, you can find these friendly, fluffy, happy dogs in households all around the country.

Appearance

Dogs with Beautiful Coats Standing Outside
Both breeds have long, thick coats but are different in size.

When comparing these two dogs side-by-side, the first difference you’ll notice is their size. Bernese Mountain Dogs are significantly bigger, at 25-28 inches tall and between 75-115 pounds (males are generally heavier than females). They are generally compared to other large dogs by potential dog owners looking for a larger pup, rather than smaller dogs like the Aussie.

Australian Shepherds, on the other hand, are smaller working dogs. Males stand between 20-23 inches and weigh up to 65 pounds, while females are 18-21 inches tall and weigh 40-55 pounds. It’s important to note that smaller breed variants like the Teacup or Miniature Australian Shepherd are not officially recognized as a part of the breed.

Both dogs have a long, thick coat, but the Berner’s coat is slightly thicker and requires more grooming. Australian Shepherds come in multiple color variants, while Bernese Mountain Dogs have a standard black, brown, and white coat.

Temperament

Happy Dogs with Their Tongues Out
Each of these friendly breeds has herding instincts and gets along well with other animals and dogs.

Both of these dog breeds are energetic, friendly, and social — like most working dogs.

That said, Berners tend to have a lower energy level than Aussies, especially as they get older. Because they were bred as companion dogs, they are incredibly affectionate and love to cuddle with their owners, especially kids. An adult Berner will have no problem napping through the afternoon or chilling out on a long car ride.

Australian Shepherds are high-energy and need plenty of activity every day. They love to have a job to do, whether it’s fetching a frisbee, taking a long hike, or working on the farm. Aussies are friendly and loyal to their families but might take some time to warm up to new people.

With the right training and socialization as puppies, both of these dogs will be friendly with other pups at the dog park or in your home. Their herding instincts can lead to them chasing cats and other small animals, but they can be trained out of that habit as puppies. Australian Shepherds, in particular, will need careful training to prevent chasing.

Exercise

Gorgeous Fluffy Dogs Running in the Snow
Both Aussies and Berners need up to an hour of movement every day.

Every working dog needs plenty of exercise to stay healthy. These two breeds are no exception. Neither of these dogs will be happy to sit inside all day (that’s why they aren’t recommended for families in an apartment or small home).

An adult Australian Shepherd needs between 30-60 minutes of exercise every day to stay healthy. They love to play fetch and can be trained to catch a frisbee. Some owners take their Aussies on long runs to get their energy out — however, because of their herding instincts, it’s important to train them as puppies not to chase while they’re running with you.

When it comes to training an Aussie to exercise outdoors, we recommend you harness train your pup. They are a medium-sized breed, and will be easier to train on a harness. Just make sure you pick the right-sized harness for the Aussie breed.

Berners should also get up to an hour of exercise every day. Without enough exercise, they can develop digging or chewing habits, which makes them difficult to keep in an apartment or house without a yard. Berners also love playing fetch, taking long walks, and playing with other dogs at the park.

Training

Gorgeous Fluffy Dogs Laying Down in the Snow on a Sunny Day
Begin training your Aussie or Berner as early as seven weeks old for the best results.

One of the main advantages of working dogs is their trainability. If you adopt a Berner or Australian Shepherd as a puppy, you’ll be able to train them into the perfect dog for your household.

Let’s start with Australian Shepherds. These dogs are incredibly smart and can learn multiple commands. However, because of that high intelligence, it’s important to start training your Aussie early and stay consistent. An untrained Australian Shepherd can become stubborn, independent, and inclined to run away.

You can start training your Australian Shepherd puppy when they are around seven weeks old, starting with puppy socialization and basic commands like to sit. They will need consistent reinforcement to prevent biting and chasing habits early on.

Bernese Mountain Dogs should also be trained as puppies to prevent mouthiness and chewing. They are intelligent, but also highly obedient, which means they can quickly pick up basic commands.

Remember that Berners are about 30-50 pounds heavier than Australian Shepherds, so it’s especially important to train them out of jumping to show affection. Berners are generally great with kids if they have enough training and exercise, but they can jump on children out of excitement while they’re still learning.

With both breeds, verbal commands and positive reinforcement are crucial for successful training. Berners are generally food-motivated, so don’t be afraid to reward them with treats!

Health

Senior Dogs Looking Happy
Berners tend to have a shorter lifespan than Aussies due to their large size.

Both dog breeds are healthy, active dogs. However, due to their size and some common diseases, Bernese Mountain Dogs generally have a shorter lifespan — around eight years on average.

If you choose to adopt a Berner, it’s important to get them from a qualified breeder. Irresponsible breeding can lead to serious health issues like hip dysplasia and Von Willebrand’s disease. Your Berner should visit the vet regularly to check for early signs of cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, and hyperthyroidism.

Like other large dogs, Berners are prone to gastric torsion as they get older. Slow-feed dog bowls can help prevent this condition if your Berner eats too fast.

Australian Shepherds generally can live between 13-15 years when they are well cared for. Watch out for hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as epilepsy and cataracts as your pup gets older. Additionally, Australian Shepherds are prone to deafness and hearing loss. Deafness cannot be cured, but a deaf dog can still be trained and live a happy, fulfilling life.

Nutrition

Puppy Dogs Gnawing on Sticks
Both breeds are good eaters and should be fed an age-appropriate high-quality dry kibble.

No matter which breed of dog you choose, a nutritious, well-rounded diet is important. High-quality dog food and kibble will keep both breeds healthy as they get older.

An Australian Shepherd should eat 1.5-2.5 cups of dry dog food every day, preferably in two meals. For a Bernese Mountain Dog, you will have to buy food specially formulated for large dogs (they have different nutritional needs than smaller breeds). A Berner eats 2.5-3 cups of dry food a day.

With both breeds, you should talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s individual dietary needs to make sure they’re getting the right nutrition.

Grooming

Handsome Dogs Show Off Their Fine Fur
Both of these breeds have gorgeous coats, but Berners need more attention to prevent their fur from getting matted and tangled.

When comparing the two dog breeds, there is a clear difference in grooming needs: the Berner needs much more grooming attention than the Aussie.

Berners have long, thick coats to keep them warm in snowy winters. Their wooly undercoat gives them the fluffy, huggable look people love so much, but it can become tangled and dreaded without regular brushing. Berners shed year-round, so be prepared for the extra fur around your home. Brushing can help to reduce shedding and keep your furniture clean.

Australian Shepherds require less maintenance, but still need routine grooming required by all dog breeds. They do shed quite a bit, but because they are smaller than the Berner, it may appear like they shed less. Brushing your Aussie’s teeth and coating, bathing, and checking their ears regularly will keep them healthy and beautiful.

Puppy Prices

Cute Puppy Dogs Sitting Down
It is ideal to get these adorable pooches from a fully licensed, trustworthy breeder.

Ready to bring a new best friend into your home? No matter which breed you eventually settle on, make sure that you get them from a licensed, reputable breeder. Puppy mills and unlicensed breeders often mistreat their dogs and sell unhealthy puppies.

Australian Shepherds are a slightly less expensive option. Depending on the breeder, a puppy will cost between $600-$1000. Pedigreed Aussies can cost as much as $1800.

Because they are so popular, it’s not uncommon to find a purebred Australian Shepherd in a shelter. Check with your local shelter before you shop. A rescue Aussie will be just as trainable and smart as a puppy from a breeder.

Bernese Mountain Dogs are less common in the U.S., which means they are generally pricier. A pup from a reputable breeder costs $1,000-$2,500, depending on the pedigree. Make sure your breeder is fully licensed before you buy a Berner puppy. Irresponsible breeding leads to serious health concerns in adult dogs.

Final Thoughts

Both of these amazing breeds are both hard-working, social, energetic breeds. They are perfect for active families and need plenty of space to run around.

Neither of these dogs is better or worse — it all depends on your preferences. If you’re looking for a loving, loyal dog that will guard your home and snuggle up for an afternoon nap, you’ll love a Bernese Mountain Dog. Just make sure you have enough space and time to get them plenty of exercise!

On the other hand, if you want to adopt a pup that will play fetch all day long and accompany you on long hikes and runs, you might want to choose an Australian Shepherd. They require slightly less maintenance than Berners and come with fewer health concerns.

No matter which breed you choose, be sure to buy them from a responsible breeder (or rescue if you can). With the right training and a lot of love, either of these dogs will make a wonderful pet.

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2 Comments

Juanita Wilbar

April 25, 2021 at 1:15 am

Thanks, Great information everything I read applies to my puppy Australian Shepherd Chika she’s 4 1/2 months brought her home when she was seven weeks and she is very much loved to our family.

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Kelly Wilson

April 25, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Thank you, Juanita! I'm glad you found the information useful!

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