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was about 1990 when I first became aware of this magnificent Swiss Bernese
farm dog. Living in Australia, the difficulty obtaining such a dog quickly
became apparent with precious few Bernese residing or being bred here.
Needless to say, I had a long and protracted wait
My first Bernese girl was an absolute gem. Whelping only the one litter of
puppies, she certainly never realized her full breeding contribution because
I did not understand the importance of her potential. At that time, there
was considerable uncertainty with Bernese breeding stock – the lack of them,
finding the right mate (actually finding one at all was difficult! ), the
limited gene pool dilemma, and what would broadly speaking now be seen as
very poor track results for the breed. It was a fearful road I tread
embarking on breeding Bernese then!!
felt quite compelled by this situation. And so with some considerable
determination, and the desire to move forward with a personal philosophy to
see ongoing improvement, my Dharmansk Bernese made a foundation. I wanted to
keep the original lineage of Bernese I had, however I also wanted to make
some changes, and so began what has become, a long but rewarding journey
trying to breed all the ingredients I wanted to see into The Dharmansk
Bernese. It has taken time and patience and has been a path juggling and
measuring degrees of success and important basic priorities toward this goal.
time as the breeding program has worked through the various goals, and been
able to move to the next priority, my
current focus of longevity (longer life expectancy) is my number one
priority. Selection of my breeding stock therefore is sourced from lines
that demonstrate a good history of longer life expectancy.
the years have come and gone and I evaluate all of the Dharmansk progeny,
there are significant individuals in the breeding program that have made an
amazing contribution to longevity. The luxury of time, history and the
keeping of data has exposed these trends in longevity – in
obtaining longer life expectancy. The trend is quite marked with certain
significant individuals always represented. So, my plan for breeding
puppies these days acknowledges these individuals and each litter includes
in the parentage combination at least one partner with this or other known
longevity lineage (family history).
Concentrating my breeding efforts around individuals who come directly from
these lines has meant that the breeding program has dropped some lines I was
previously working with. These kind of decisions are, for the breeder,
really difficult to make but in the absence of any medical test or screening
tool for longevity, time moves on and I am making changes based on
consistent data results.
personal passion for breeding the Bernese Mountain Dog - a most beautiful
breed of dog – continues to growJ
is really quite important to gain some insight and relativity in relation to
breeding Bernese in Australia compared to, for example, some of the European
countries. Historically, due to the limited gene pool in Australia,
importing dogs as one of the initial steps to secure European lines was
essential to my philosophy on breeding. Unlike Bernese breeding in
Australia, which really was in its infancy, the European breeders not only
had comparatively an enormous number of dogs at their disposal, but most
advantageously had 20+ years of more uniform quality controls in screening
assessments on hips, elbow and temperament status in place, with only
suitable subjects passed for breeding. The correlation of these years of
screening practices would be quickly evidenced in the genetic expression of
improved progeny outcomes. This was a most desirable improvement.
is fair to say that regrettably in Australia, we still do not have any
uniform standards. No National Club, no uniform single voice for the Bernese
Breed in Australia. There is uncertainty over which Breed Standard Australia
should adopt – Country of Origin (Swiss) or the English standard and or in
partnership with the Extended Breed Standard. We have different Clubs in the
different States across the country, all with variations on the Code of
Ethics and the Breeding standards that might apply. Latitude other
countries Breeding Standards and Regulatory bodies would not allow.
Compounding the differences, has been the manner of our assessment. The OFA
system for review of hip and elbow status overseas provides for Preliminary
scoring of hips and elbows at 12 months of age with the final OFA
Certification upon meeting the relative criteria at 2 years of age.
Australia, however, allows for one final assessment at 12 months of age -
qualitatively a substantially softer measure.
Canine Association in this State (Dogs Victoria) requires breeding animals
to have AVA hip and elbow assessments read by an AVA accredited
radiographer. However there is currently no requirement to submit scores to
Dogs Victoria or any other controlling or influential body.
State Legislation to implement regulatory controls and a Codes of Practice
on the breeding of animals with known genetic defects became effective in
Australian Veterinary Association pushed some years ago for wider acceptance
of the PennHip method of hip scoring/assessment. It is however a different
type of hip assessment and is limited to hips (does not evaluate elbows).
The heritability factor for the PennHip type of hip assessment statistically
appears to have a higher representation and shares a world wide data base.
Currently, the standard recognized requirement for assessment of hips and
elbows, is AVA (Australian Veterinary Association) assessment. Radiographs
read by AVA approved readers.
Australia still has no regulatory body or organization with whom
Bernese breeders can submit any health data to monitor/appraise/regulate
breeding stock and neither is there any temperament testing requisite. There
is an enormous amount of collaborative work to be done organizationally in
this country for this breed. It is important to always focus on the benefits
to the breed and the management of this countries endeavors breeding the
Bernese Mountain Dog.
Berner Guarde Foundation in America offers a world wide data base for all
breeders and pet owners of Bernese Mountain Dogs to submit information about
their dogs and I strongly support and recommend their work. It is becoming
world wide resource for data information keeping/sharing for the
Bernese Mountain Dog.
initial involvement with the breed, there have been many favourable changes
and improvements including better screening techniques and access to more
relevant information. This information facilitates my breeding program and
my breeding philosophy. All Dharmansk breeding stock have been carefully
suitable breeding stock requires a great deal of investigation and a
thorough understanding of the history of the family lines and by setting
screening standards that are continually modified for ongoing improvement.
Breeding the perfect Bernese is an illusive goal. Dharmansk has had some
nice show wins and as a breeder I never underestimate the value of the show
ring as a comparative measure. Good character / temperament, physical
soundness, longevity and all of the many attributes required for selective
breeding cannot be guaranteed with the achievement of a Champion
conformation title. Breeding suitability is determined by screening a much
broader range of criteria.
Dharmansk, a steady, intelligent temperament in the dog/puppies bred is a
priority. Temperament and character are defined by a combination of the
mental and emotional responses and perceptions by the dog about their
When choosing a Bernese companion many attributes need to be taken into
consideration. Physical soundness and health, well-being and temperament are
inseparable and all equally important, but it will be the temperament of the
dog that largely dictates the lifestyle choice a
new owner has made.
the ideal Bernese temperament is indeed an adorable animal – self-
confident, alert, good natured and devoted to his own people, consistent,
steady and dependable with a strong desire to please. Ideally he should be
self assured and friendly towards people. Bernese are also quite renown for
their compatibility with children and other pets.
sum my Bernese up by saying that they are not a particularly high energy
dog. They are steady, friendly to other animals, children and people. They
thrive in a loving family environment.
investigate the matter of breeding temperament a little more closely,
opinion seems to be somewhat open to interpretation. What is acceptable to
one person or one breeder is not to another. Some reserved temperaments can
be encouraged with a great deal more socializing but this falls short of the
steady, self-confident individual that is innately comfortable with his
surrounds. The 'Breed Standard' that sets out for us the guidelines on
breeding Bernese in fact clearly states that some Bernese may be wary of,
and be aloof initially to the attention of strangers but they must never be
sharp, aggressive or shy. Personally, I find it difficult to draw the line
between ‘aloof’ and ‘shy’ and really, in my view, both fall short of the
“self confidence” that the Bernese is so noted for. I have experience with
different Bernese temperaments and certainly feel that I have an ‘aloof ’
one. She has been spayed and will be kept as a pet. Interestingly she is the
most fabulous house pet – smart, quick and she really can outsmart the rest
of the gang - no problems. She can create diversions to ensure she gets what
she wants, and in the next breath be the sweetest most huggable Bernese
bear ever. When strangers come, she is very restless and rarely mixes. From
a breeding perspective, any tendency in this direction is most
undesirable. To me, the minimum breeding requirement is that they must
be confident, happy and forward around strangers.
Exactly how forward they are will always vary in degrees from one
character or personality to another. Temperament for breeders is a much more
challenging issue than hip or elbow status in the breed because it can be so
subjective and there is no standard measurement or temperament testing to
review the overall picture of temperament for breeding in this country.
Forgotten or unknown influential individuals from previous generations in
the pedigrees can still have a say in progeny temperament outcomes. It is my
view that it is absolutely essential to continue to select the best
temperaments or the breed will suffer. Many generations of consistency are
required in both the sire and the dams pedigree to consistently produce
correct type in temperament throughout a litter. It is of great importance
to me to continually consolidate through the generations choosing the right
temperaments for breeding stock.
temperament, physical soundness and health issues are all important.
to other considerations with this breed, the physical soundness of the dog
is relatively easy to measure because there are standardised hip and elbow
x-ray evaluations that can be performed at the appropriate age to determine
whether the dog has or is likely to have any concerns with regard to OCD and
arthritic implications for their joints. These evaluations allow me to
choose the best stock for my breeding program.
are 3 types of defects of the elbow joint. Elbow disease is highly
heritable. At the present time the screening mechanism available to
breeders in Australia is AVA X-Ray evaluation of stock usually performed
at 1 year of age as the standard practice and trend in the breed. My
position on this is that the best possible results are O:O or clear, at 2
years of age. (The overseas OFA evaluation is at 2 years). The reported
elbow score range on x-ray evaluation is expressed as 0,1,2 or 3. As I see
it, a score of 1,2 or 3 on the elbow says the individual "is affected" with
elbow changes. The degree of severity can be compounded by the environment,
diet or growth irregularities. Breeders will either select clear elbows O:O,
or elbow 'affected' stock with scores of 1,2 or 3 for their breeding
program. Where possible a dam and sire combination would optimally both
score 0:0 for elbows. The expression of clear elbow scores in progeny
has compounded by selecting breeding stock with clear elbow scores.
are complex, dynamic constructions and are not as simple for a breeder.
Poor hip construction types develop Hip Dysplasia at an early age and
it is a degenerative condition of the hips causing pain and suffering with
restricted movement in the dog and can result in major orthopaedic surgery.
Good hip constructions present no mobility issues or problems for the dog
throughout its life, however many aged Bernese will suffer from varying
degrees of arthritis not unlike us
As they age there are a number of treatments now available to assist in
alleviating their discomfort.
Historically, in Australia the AVA hip assessment (Australian Veterinary
Association) method remains the standard screening tool used by breeders to
determine soundness for breeding stock as assessed at 1 year of age. In this
type of evaluation each hip is scored from one x-ray plate through a series
of measurements up to 54 (total of 108 for both hips) and the breed average
total for Bernese fluctuates between a score of approximately 10-13.
Subjects deemed as suitable breeding subjects should have scores close to
the breed average
more information see section
Understanding HD Seminar)
evaluation is a useful additional tool for breeders.
breeding perspective, selection of breeding stock from lines that score well
and historically demonstrate no problems, is a formidable tool.
Screening for some health conditions and faults in Bernese is easier than
others. Entropia, Elongated Soft Pallet, Umbilical Hernia (cosmetic),
Progressive Retinol Atrophy, may be obvious in offspring or eye testing can
be done for the heritable form of PRA. These are measurable in litters and
can be screened out of the breeding program.
there are changes underway through legislation to raise awareness in testing
for breeding animals for some conditions eg Von Willebrand's disease (blood
coagulant affect) and PRA. There is however, little or no screening done in
Australia at present for Subaortic Stenosis (heart problem) or Aseptic
Meningitis where the "affected' population appears to be small.
Bloat - is a serious condition
that generally speaking affects all 'deep chested breeds'. Its onset is
quick, extremely painful for the dog and is life threatening if not dealt
with immediately. Full gastric torsion - twist of the stomach- can
occur. Veterinarians can surgically reposition the stomach and stitch to
prevent another event of torsion. This is only successful where patients can
be attended to before circulation is cut to various critical pathways. This
does not prevent another event of bloat. If your dog appears uncomfortable
(they have a hunched appearance dealing with the stomach pain), you must
take your dog to a Vet immediately for examination and treatment options.
From my only experience with bloat, my girl was restless, clearly in pain
and discomfort, had a hunched look about her and on running my hands down
both sides of her body, one side was markedly more swollen and uncomfortable
for me to examine. Dealt with quickly and given timely Veterinary care and
options there can be a full uncompromised recovery. The exact cause of bloat
is unknown. There seems to be a correlation between
overexcitement/stress/food intake. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms
and know your emergency contact numbers for Veterinary assistance around the
clock. It may never happen but you need to ready if it does.
conditions, such as cancer, seem undetectable until onset, such as
Hystiocytosis, which is a form of early onset cancer usually affecting
animals at 4-8 years of age. Statistics in affectedness in the breed do vary
as conclusive diagnosis is not always obtained. Conditions such as this
require breeders research to find trends in lines. There are some excellent
research programs overseas working to identify DNA markers for this disease.
The suggestion was that by a 2013 time frame a test may be available to DNA
screen prospective breeding stock for Histiocytosis Cancer and thereby help
reduce the proliferation of the condition.
From a breeding management perspective utilizing such a test seems most
advantageous. However, in the current climate of an
absence of any test to screen out early
onset cancer, my tool of choice for screening out this disease is selection
of stock that have historically and continue to demonstrate results of good
longevity and no major health issues.
At Dharmansk my
approach to breeding embraces individuals (lines) demonstrating good
As the years have come
and gone and I evaluate all of the Dharmansk progeny, there are significant
individuals in the breeding program that have made an amazing contribution
My plan for breeding
acknowledges these individuals and each litter includes in the parentage
combination, partners with known longevity lineage.
The results so far are very rewarding.
speaking, providing a happy, stress free healthy environment with correct
exercise and good nutrition particularly in the first year of life are
recommendations for wellbeing all round.
the most important factors in screening for soundness in potential breeding
stock is the amount of exercise given, coupled with a consistent balanced
premium quality diet that is suitably tailored for large breed dogs.
Incorrect, overly restrictive exercise practice during the first year is
counter productive to obtaining a clear picture of the genetic expression of
the individual and more importantly of any resultant progeny.
Overweight, over exercised individuals are equally at risk.
Dharmansk, the selection process includes a premium quality balanced large
breed formula diet to optimise consistent growth for a large breed puppy
plus a sensible exercise regime that is consistent throughout the raising
process to give me the most accurate picture on potential breeding stock
when they present for assessment.
my point of view, I need to carefully monitor breeding outcomes and collect
data on all the puppies for the clearest picture for the future outcomes for
the breeding program. Good temperament, clear elbows and low hip scores and
good health/longevity in breeding stock are my first preferred ingredients.
Measurement of outcomes will then indicate the way forward for the selection
of future breeding stock.
What other measures inform us?
Breeds "Code of Ethics"
in relation to hip and elbow status in Victoria did state the following (see
Facts, Standards and Ethics)
(a) Ensure that
appropriate health checks/measures have been taken prior to a mating
Ensure that all breeding stock be x-rayed for evidence of hip dysplasia
........... and the x-ray plates be submitted for scoring under an approved
Australian Canine Hip Dysplasia scoring scheme.
Give priority to those animals assessed for breeding that have obtained hip
evaluation that does not exceed the breed average and preferably is lower
Ensure that all breeding stock be elbow x-rayed for evidence of
osteochondrosis of the elbow (min of 12 months of age) and the x-ray plates
be submitted for scoring under an approved Australian Canine Elbow Scoring
Give priority to those animals assessed for breeding that have obtained an
elbow grade of 0:0. Understand that a grade of 1:1 represents a greater
risk. It is recommended to give priority to 0:0 grade elbows for breeding as
any other score represents a greater risk of producing a problem with the
risk increasing generally as the score increases"
(i) Breeders should
aim to preserve the breed temperamentally and as a working dog, breeding for
soundness, durability and ease of movement.
(k) Breeders should
ensure that nervous or aggressive Bernese shall not be bred from Refer to
Breed Standard requirements
Understanding progeny outcomes in each litter is essential feedback for me.
I do request a 'one off assessment' from my puppy buyers to obtain some
feedback on the pups I breed. Usually, I like to do this where time permits
me, at about one year of age (and I am always grateful for further feedback
about Bernese family members)
assessment at around one year of age allows me to evaluate the physical
soundness, health and the temperament conditioning that has occurred over
the puppies first year. The information gathered is used to fashion
decisions that promote ongoing improvement and I am most grateful to
everyone for their support in this regard. To date I have had 100%
co-operation with this feedback. I will continue to consolidate on good
results and continue to build on good temperament and good longevity.
Researching your new family addition thoroughly is welcomed at Dharmansk.
That is the only way to be sure you are making the right choice for you. A
hands on approach to visit and meet the ‘Bernese family’ from which your
potential pup comes is so important to gain insight and information on the
pup being offered for your choosing. Information about my puppies can be
found on the Home Page Menu select "Puppy Availability", “Puppies” and
“Choosing Your Puppy”. The ‘Profiles” page is a resume on the breeding
animals (the puppies parents) and you might like to visit the “Gallery” to
meet more of my Bernese.
greatest attribute of the Bernese, is their willingness to please you.
Whether you choose to explore this through obedience, showing, carting or
just sharing time on the couch at home, you will be touched by the beauty of
these magnificent dogs.
Bernese are such magnificent and stunning dogs that naturally attract
attention and so it is imperative to me to achieve their most notable
charismatic traits in their breeding.
.... singing practise
Kiss Happy 10th Birthday Zhali
Dogwood Tree in full bloom with the
Who me?? So cute
'Prince' charming - 12 mths
Katie and Prince 7mths
Prince 8 months
" Whats that you say Mum? "
Panda 7.5 yrs
Katie 6 yrs
Lassie 18 months
THE HOME of DHARMANSK BERNESE MOUNTAIN DOGS
Aerial Waterfall Valley