Golden Retriever vs. Bernese Mountain Dog: 7 Key Differences

When choosing between the joyful Golden Retriever and the majestic Bernese Mountain Dog, prospective pet owners often find themselves at a crossroads. Both breeds boast unique characteristics that endear them to families worldwide. 

Yet, delving into the 7 key differences between these two beloved breeds will not only enhance your understanding but also guide you to the perfect companion for your home. Dive in, and let’s explore what sets these canine giants apart.

Key Takeaways

  • While both breeds are known for their friendly nature, their origins and primary purposes are different.
  • Bernese Mountain Dogs are generally larger and have a shorter lifespan compared to Golden Retrievers.
  • Both dogs require regular grooming, but their coat types and maintenance needs differ.

What Is a Golden Retriever?

Golden Retrievers, originally bred in Scotland in the mid-19th century, were designed to retrieve game for hunters. Their intelligence, gentle disposition, and good looks have made them one of the most popular breeds for a family pet. With a dense, water-repellent outer coat, they are well-equipped for outdoor play. Their typical lifespan ranges between 10-12 years, and they are known for being great with kids and other pets.

What is a Bernese Mountain Dog?

Hailing from the Swiss Alps, the Bernese Mountain Dog was initially a working dog used for herding and guarding livestock. They are characterized by their large size and tricolor coat. Friendly and calm, they’re excellent companions, although their lifespan is unfortunately shorter, generally around 7-9 years. Their thick, long coat is adapted to colder environments and requires regular grooming to keep it healthy.

Overview of the Similarities and Differences Between Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Origin and Purpose: Golden Retrievers were developed as game retrievers, whereas Bernese Mountain Dogs were working dogs in the Swiss Alps.
  • Size and Build: Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to be larger, often weighing 70-115 pounds, while Golden Retrievers typically weigh 55-75 pounds.
  • Lifespan: Golden Retrievers have a lifespan of 10-12 years, compared to the 7-9 years typical for Bernese Mountain Dogs.
  • Temperament: Both breeds are friendly and gentle, but Bernese Mountain Dogs can be more reserved with strangers.
  • Grooming Needs: Both need regular grooming, with Golden Retrievers having a dense coat and Bernese Mountain Dogs having a long, thick coat suited for colder climates.
  • Exercise Needs: Both are active breeds, but Bernese, due to their working heritage, might require more intensive activities.
  • Health Concerns: Each breed has specific health concerns, with Golden Retrievers prone to certain cancers and hip dysplasia, and Bernese Mountain Dogs to hereditary cancers and joint issues.

General Appearance of Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs

Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs, though different in many aspects, share an undeniable charm that makes them favorites among dog lovers. Their general appearances are distinct, setting them apart in any crowd.

Golden Retrievers have a well-proportioned and powerful build. Their coat, dense and water-repellent, can range from a rich golden hue to a lighter cream. Expressive eyes, paired with a friendly and intelligent demeanor, give them an approachable and playful look.

Bernese Mountain Dogs, on the other hand, are more imposing in size with a strong, muscular build. Their striking tricolor coat – a combination of black, white, and rust – stands out, especially with their symmetrical markings. Their eyes are dark and show a gentle expression, often looking wise beyond their years.


Golden Retrievers: These dogs shed year-round, with heavier shedding typically observed during the spring and fall. This is a result of them adapting their coat for changing seasons.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Like the Golden Retrievers, Bernese also shed throughout the year. However, they tend to have two major shedding seasons – usually in the spring and fall when they blow their undercoat. Due to the volume and length of their coat, this shedding can be quite noticeable.

Grooming Needs

Golden Retrievers: Their dense and water-resistant coat requires regular brushing, at least two to three times a week, to prevent tangling and matting. Regular ear checks and occasional baths are also necessary to keep them clean and healthy. Trimming the fur between their paw pads can also be beneficial.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Their long, thick coat demands more frequent grooming sessions, ideally three to four times a week. This helps in removing loose hairs, preventing matting, and ensuring the coat remains healthy. Given their size and the thickness of their coat, bathing can be a task, so it’s usually recommended once every couple of months or when they’re particularly dirty. Regular attention should also be given to their ears and paws.

Personality and Demeanor of Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs

Both the Golden Retriever and the Bernese Mountain Dog are renowned for their affectionate nature and unwavering loyalty. However, each breed possesses unique characteristics and behaviors that set them apart.


Golden Retrievers: These dogs are among the easiest to train. Their intelligence, combined with an eagerness to please, means they pick up commands quickly. They are often used as service dogs, therapy dogs, and in search-and-rescue operations because of their trainability.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: While not as quick to train as Golden Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs are still quite trainable. They respond best to positive reinforcement and consistency. Their past as working dogs means they enjoy tasks and can be trained for various roles.

Energy Levels

Golden Retrievers: These dogs are known for their high energy levels. Regular exercise is crucial for them. Whether it’s playing fetch, going for long walks, or engaging in water-based activities, they love staying active.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Though they have bursts of energy, especially during their younger years, Bernese Mountain Dogs tend to be more laid-back than Golden Retrievers. They do require regular exercise to maintain their health and happiness, but they’re also content with moderate play sessions and leisurely walks.


Golden Retrievers: Universally adored for their friendly and tolerant attitude, Golden Retrievers are approachable and rarely aggressive. They are social dogs, often getting along well with other animals and humans alike.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Known for their gentle and calm disposition, Bernese Mountain Dogs are great companions. They can be slightly reserved with strangers initially but warm up quickly. They are fiercely loyal and protective of their families.

Are They Good with Kids?

Golden Retrievers: Absolutely. Their patient and gentle nature makes them fantastic companions for children of all ages. They can tolerate the unpredictable nature of young kids and often form strong bonds with the younger members of the family.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Similarly, Bernese Mountain Dogs are also excellent with children. Their protective nature means they often watch over kids lovingly. However, given their size, it’s always a good idea to supervise interactions with very young children to ensure safety for both the child and the dog.

Remember, while breed tendencies do exist, individual dogs may vary. It’s always important to spend time with a dog before making any decisions to ensure a good match.

Health and Wellbeing of Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs

The health and wellbeing of our furry companions are paramount. Like all breeds, Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs have specific health considerations and needs to be aware of to ensure a happy and long life.

Life Expectancy

Golden Retrievers: Typically, Golden Retrievers have a lifespan ranging between 10 to 12 years. Proper care, regular check-ups, and a balanced diet can help them live a full and active life.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Unfortunately, the Bernese Mountain Dog tends to have a shorter lifespan compared to many other breeds. On average, they live between 7 to 9 years. With comprehensive care and regular veterinary visits, some Bernese can live beyond this range.

Health Problems

Golden Retrievers: These dogs are prone to certain health issues, including:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Certain heart conditions

Specific types of cancers, such as hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma

  • Regular health check-ups, a balanced diet, and early detection can help manage and sometimes prevent these problems.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Bernese also have breed-specific health concerns:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Inherited cancers
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (an eye condition)

Von Willebrand’s disease (a blood clotting disorder)

  • Being aware and proactive can help in early diagnosis and treatment, leading to a better quality of life for these gentle giants.

Exercise Needs

Golden Retrievers: As a high-energy breed, Golden Retrievers need regular and vigorous exercise. Daily activities like fetch, swimming, and long walks or hikes will keep them mentally and physically stimulated.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Originating as working dogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs do enjoy tasks and activities. While they don’t need as much exercise as Golden Retrievers, they still benefit from daily moderate walks and play sessions. Engaging them in tasks or training exercises can also be a good way to channel their energy and intelligence.

Caring for any dog requires commitment and understanding. Being informed about their specific needs and potential health issues ensures that our canine companions live the healthiest and happiest lives possible.

Is a Golden Retriever or Bernese Mountain Dog Better For Your Family?

Choosing between a Golden Retriever and a Bernese Mountain Dog for your family involves various considerations. It’s crucial to evaluate both breeds against your family’s needs, lifestyle, and financial situation.


Golden Retrievers: Generally, Golden Retrievers can be less expensive in terms of initial purchase or adoption fees. However, their popularity means that prices can be high depending on the lineage. 

In terms of care, they may require regular grooming, and potential health issues might arise, leading to vet expenses. It’s also worth noting that their active nature might necessitate investment in toys, training, and possibly pet insurance.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: Bernese Mountain Dogs, given their size and specific care requirements, can often be more expensive both initially and in the long run. Their large size means more food consumption, and their thick coats require frequent grooming. Additionally, their potential health concerns can lead to higher veterinary bills. Investing in pet insurance could be a prudent decision for Bernese owners.


Golden Retrievers: If your family is active, outdoorsy, and looking for an energetic companion, a Golden Retriever might be an excellent fit. They thrive in environments where they can play, run, and interact regularly with their families. They’re also incredibly sociable, making them great companions for families with kids or other pets.

Bernese Mountain Dogs: For families that have a more laid-back lifestyle but still enjoy occasional outdoor activities, a Bernese Mountain Dog could be the right choice. They’re generally calm, enjoy leisurely walks, and are content with moderate play. 

Their protective nature means they can be excellent watchdogs, and their loyalty ensures a strong bond with family members.


Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs, both cherished for their amiable dispositions, have distinctive attributes and needs. While the Golden Retriever is an energetic, family-friendly dog originating from Scotland for game retrieval, the Bernese Mountain Dog, originating from the Swiss Alps, is a calm, slightly reserved working breed. 

Whether opting for the playful nature of a Golden Retriever or the loyal protection of a Bernese Mountain Dog, both breeds promise unmatched companionship and love.

Frequently Asked Questions About Golden Retriever vs. Bernese Mountain Dog

Are Golden Retrievers and Bernese mountain dogs good together?

Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs generally have friendly temperaments and can get along well together. However, as with all breeds, proper introduction and training are essential.

What is the safest dog for a family?

The safety of a dog for a family often depends on its training, socialization, and the specific family situation. Popular family-friendly breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Beagles.

What is the cheapest big dog?

The cost of owning a dog varies depending on factors like breed, health, and location. Generally, mixed-breed dogs adopted from shelters tend to be more affordable than purchasing purebred dogs.

What dog is bigger than a Bernese Mountain Dog?

Several breeds can be larger than Bernese Mountain Dogs, including Saint Bernards, Great Danes, and English Mastiffs.

 Are Golden Retrievers the nicest dog breed?

Golden Retrievers are often praised for their friendly and gentle temperament, making them popular as family pets. However, the “nicest” breed is subjective and can vary based on individual experiences.

Galen has been connecting quality Golden Retriever breeders with loving families since 2012 and is the founder of My Golden Retriever Puppies. He and his wife have four children and love spending time together, traveling (lived oversees for 4 years), enjoying the outdoors and connecting Golden families.