What do you get when you cross two of the most popular dog breeds in the world? If you answered a Labernese, give yourself a pat on the back. This sweet-natured crossbreed is one half Bernese Mountain Dog, one-half Labrador, and two halves adorable. They’re big (actually, make that huge), shaggy, and cuter than any 100lb pooch has a right to be. If you’re in the mood to learn more about the latest designer doggy on the block, prepare to be educated as we take you through 20 things you didn’t know about the Labernese.
1. They’re a mix of Labrador Retriever…
As their name suggests, the Labernese has a whole lot of Labrador in their DNA. Originally bred as a “gun dog,” the Labrador Retriever has since gone on to become one of the most popular companion dogs in the world – it’s even managed the rare distinction of holding the number one position on the American Kennel Club’s popularity list for the past 26 years. Known for its happy going, sociable disposition and its endless energy, the Lab’s high intelligence and easy-trainability has earned it a huge amount of respect as a service dog for the blind and disabled.
2. … And Bernese Mountain Dog
The Labrador Retriever may be responsible for a lot of the Labernese’s great qualities, but the other side of its family tree is just as easy to spot in its sweet nature and shaggy good looks. Like the Labrador, the Bernese Mountain Dog was initially bred as a working dog, although unlike the Labrador (which was developed in the UK), the Bernese Mountain Dog can trace its roots to Switzerland. Although Bernese’s aren’t quite as popular as Labs, their gentle, sweet natures guarantee a good showing on the AKC’s most popular dog list, where they currently rank at a very respectable 27th.
3. They were bred as a guide dog
As wagwalking.com writes, the Labernese was originally bred with the intention of creating a ‘superdog’ that combined the best characteristics of the Labrador and Bernese Mountain dog to make the ideal service dog for the blind and disabled. The breed was first developed by The Mira Foundation in the 1990s and an official breeding program began around a decade later. To ensure they met their aim of creating the perfect guide dog, the foundation applied strict breeding standards and bred only the top bloodlines. Since then, other breeders have cottoned onto the potential of the Labernese and begin their own breeding programs – although in these cases, the pups are usually intended to serve as family dogs rather than specifically as service dogs.
4. They hate being alone
Laberneses are intelligent, eager to please, and incredibly devoted family pets. So devoted, in fact, it can sometimes be a bit of a problem. Like the Bernese Mountain Dog, Labernese dogs hate being away from their owner. Left alone for too long, they can become distressed, miserable, and even destructive. As labradortraininghq.com writes, if you spend long stretches of the day away from home, they may not be the ideal breed for you.
5. They’re very family-oriented
Labernese dogs are incredibly family-oriented and will quickly form firm attachments to the members of their ‘pack’, whether those members are 9 or 90. Just be aware that these are big dogs with a tendency towards boisterousness – although they’d never intentionally do anything to harm a child, they might get a little carried away when they’re playing. As dogtime.com recommends, always supervise any interactions between your kids and Labernese to avoid any issues.
6. They’ve achieved official recognition
As a crossbreed, the Labernese is unlikely to be recognized by the Americal Kennel Club anytime soon. Fortunately, plenty of other clubs have proved more welcoming. So far, the Labernese has been recognized by the ACHC (the American Canine Hybrid Club), the DRA (Dog Registry of America, Inc.), and the IDCR (International Designer Canine Registry®).
7. They need lots of exercise
The Labernese is a big breed that like the Labrador, has bundles of energy. If you were hoping for a dog who’d be satisfied by a quick walk around the block once a day, you’re going to be disappointed. Labernese dogs need plenty of strenuous exercise. Long walks, jogs around the park, and plenty of fun and games in the yard are going to be needed to help them burn off all that excess energy. They also benefit hugely from obedience and agility classes. While we’re on the subject of exercise, don’t forget those little grey cells need working out too. Keep your dog mentally stimulated with lots of interactive toys, puzzle games, and training sessions.
8. They’re high maintenance
Labernese are heavy shedders who need regular grooming sessions to remove loose hairs and keep their shaggy coats tangle-free and healthy. Because of their thick, double coats, expect to invest in a few more grooming tools than you might be used to – a Pin Brush, a de-shedder, and a wide-toothed comb are all going to prove indispensable. The occasional bath won’t go amiss, either. Their fast-growing nails need regular trimming to avoid them cracking or splitting during activity. As they’re prone to ear infections, their ears should be cleaned regularly to prevent wax and dirt from building up. And don’t forget their teeth – brush them twice a week to keep dental problems at bay.
9. They’re easy to train
You wouldn’t expect the offspring of an intelligent breed like the Labrador to be short on smarts, and you’d be right. Labernese dogs are incredibly intelligent dogs, with an aptitude for training. Like all dogs, they benefit most from short, frequent training sessions and lots of positive reinforcement. Be sure to socialize pups as early as possible to make the most of their outgoing natures. Due to their size, leash training is a must. As they can suffer loneliness and separation anxiety when they’re left alone, you might also want to factor crate training into your routine.
10. They’re prone to health problems
While most crossbreeds manage to escape the worst of their parent’s health problems, the Labernese hasn’t been quite so lucky. Both the Labrador and Bernese Mountain Dog are prone to joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia. Unfortunately, their offspring has inherited the same tendency. To mitigate the risk, avoid letting your pup play on hard surfaces or climb stairs while they’re still growing. Other potential problems include improper eyelid and eyelash development, cataracts, and retinal dysplasia, along with endocrine issues like diabetes or hypothyroidism.
11. They’re not free from controversy
They may be just as sweet-natured and friendly as a dog can get, but some people are always going to have a problem with the Labernese for one simple reason: they’re a designer crossbreed. As squeaksandnibbles.com writes, purebred dog fans levy all kinds of accusations at crossbreeds, claiming they’re overpriced, unhealthy, and unethically bred. But as always, there are two sides to the story. Ask a crossbreed enthusiast what they think, and they’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that pedigree dogs can be just as overpriced, unhealthy, and unethically bred as crossbreeds. Considering the problems of genetic health complaints and inbreeding in the pedigree community, they might well have a point.
11. They’re huge
If you want a dog that’s going to fit in your handbag, look in another direction. The Labernese is many things, but small isn’t one of them – but then again, what else do you expect of the child of two sizeable breeds like the Labrador and Bernese Mountain Dog? Although size can vary depending on which side of the family tree they most take after, most male Labernese will measure between 22.5 inches and 28 inches at the shoulder, and weigh in at anything between 65 -110lbs. Females are usually a little smaller, standing between 21.5 inches – 26 inches tall and tipping the scales at 55- 70lbs.
12. Their appearance can vary widely
There’s no such thing as a standard Labernese. Even pups from the same litter can look hugely different, depending on whether they take after the Lab side of the family or the Berner. But if you had to describe a ‘typical’ Labernese it would be a large, statuesque dog with a strong, deep-chested body, a straight muzzle, almond eyes, and a soft, shaggy coat. The most common colors are cream, chocolate, golden, black, and white. You might even find some with tri-color coats.
13. They prefer colder climates
As their thick, double coats suggest, the Labernese is built for the cold. The Bernese was bred in the snowy Swiss Alps, and they’ve passed their tolerance for icy conditions onto their offspring. Although they can tolerate a bit of sun on their backs, they’re far happier rolling around in the snow than sunbathing. If you do live in a hotter climate, be sure to provide them with somewhere they can shelter in the cool.
14. They have short lifespans
If there’s one complaint you can throw the way of the Labernese, it’s that they don’t stick around long enough. As thelabradorsite.com notes, like many huge breeds, the Labernese has a relatively short life span. Although it varies by dog, most Labernese will live between 7 to 12 years.
15. They’re a lapdog at heart
The Labernese is one confused cookie. They might be one of the biggest breeds around, but in their heads, they’re little more than lapdogs. Your 110lb pooch will think nothing of trying to work their way onto your lap, and will act mighty confused if you don’t make space for them beside you in bed or on the sofa. But despite what they think, these are a giant breed – when it comes to choosing a crate or kennel for your little ‘lapdog,’ make sure to buy the biggest size going.
16. They’re super expensive
Labernese dogs might not be a pedigree breed, but that doesn’t stop them from commanding a huge price tag. Thank to how popular their parents are, people pay a premium for these crossbreed pups – if you buy one from a respectable breeder (as we very much encourage you to do – buying from a puppy farm might be cheaper in the short term, but you’ll pay a lot more down the line in vet bills, to say nothing of the ethical issues involved), don’t expect to get much change from $1200. Before you buy, always ask to see the health certificate of both parents. Although a healthy parent doesn’t guarantee a healthy pup, it goes a long way to reducing the chances of inherited diseases.
17. They need a special diet
Labernese are big dogs with big appetites. Although actual calorie needs will vary according to age, activity levels, and health, you can expect to be refilling their food bowl multiple times over in an effort to keep up with their demands. However, as large breeds can be prone to obesity and weight gain, it’s vital to keep a careful check on their diet. Stick to a healthy eating plan and a recipe specially formulated for large breeds. Due to the variation in needs between individual dogs, always check in with your vet if you have any concerns over how much you should be feeding your pooch.
18. They’re one of the least aggressive crossbreeds
Labradors and Bernese Mountain Dogs are widely considered two of the least aggressive breeds around. It’s a large part of what makes them such popular family pets. Fortunately, the Labernese hasn’t decided to buck the trend and ruin the family reputation. If you’re in the market for a family-friendly dog who’s far more likely to lick you than growl at you, you couldn’t pick a better breed.
19. They shed a lot
If you have allergies, you might want to think twice before welcoming a Labernese into the family. These are big dogs with big coats and the rare skill of shedding three times as much hair as they grow. Prepare for everything in your home to be covered in a never-ending supply of hair, and for plenty of sneezes if you have allergies. Regular grooming will help keep the problem under control to some extent, but you’ll never be able to conquer it completely.
20. They’re not huge fans of strangers
Although Labernese’s are hugely friendly dogs, they prefer to reserve their affections for their family. Around strangers, they’re not exactly aloof, but neither are they in any danger of laying down the welcome mat. A slight wag of the tail and a friendly woof is about as much as unfamiliar faces can expect.