About The Berner-Garde Foundation

The Berner-Garde Foundation was established in 1995 to assist in efforts to improve the health of Bernese Mountain Dogs. Their work carries forward the pioneering efforts of Martin and Barbara Packard who initially began capturing health information on Bernese Mountain Dogs in the 1980's. They deeply cared for the health of our dogs and worked internationally to foster collaboration. They also created the first health database for BMD's which has evolved into the Berner-Garde Database you can visit here on this site.

Berner-Garde is a not for profit 501(c)(3) organization that depends on donations to keep our programs vibrant and active. Donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. For more info on donating to Berner-Garde, please see the donations page. The Foundation is managed by a board of volunteer trustees who are listed on the right. To contact the board or our trustees, email us at trustees@bernergarde.org.

Our efforts are focused on enabling scientific research, breeding decisions, and treatment options that will help increase the lifespan of our beloved Berners. The current life expectancy of a Bernese Mountain Dog is approximately 8 years. This short life span is primarily due to cancers and other diseases that affect the breed. Our goal is to see that life expectancy improve to 12-14 years.

More information regarding our programs is presented below.

Our Computerized Database

The Berner-Garde Database is a rich collection of health and pedigree information on Bernese Mountain Dogs that has been compiled for over 30 years. The information is designed to be of use to owners, breeders and researchers to identify and reduce the incidence of disease in Berners. Most of the data is provided through voluntary submission of information by owners wishing to do their part to improve the future health of the breed. To insure the information is as accurate as possible, we have a worldwide team of data operators who check and verify much of the information before it is allowed to be visible in the database. Only by having extremely accurate information can science effectively utilize the data.

In addition to owner submitted information, Berner-Garde imports health data from The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) on a quarterly basis and utilizes the AKC web site to verify information when possible. We occasionally get data feeds from other external databases that we may import if our analysis shows the information to be accurate. Our goal is to have the most comprehensive and accurate collection of information on Bernese Mountain Dogs available anywhere.

The database was initially developed in PC style only available on specific computers. Although the PC database was upgraded significantly in the 1990's, PCs were still relatively rare. Submitting, reviewing and utilizing the information was still difficult and cumbersome. In 2003, The Berner-Garde Foundation began a significant effort to upgrade the database and make it available via the Internet. In February of 2004, the new online version of the database was launched and was debuted to the fancy at the 2004 BMDCA National Specialty.

In 2015, the Berner-Garde database gets its third significant upgrade in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Foundation. Since the online launch in 2004, the database has been upgraded with many innovations such as the relatives display, pedigree navigator, printable pedigrees in four formats and coefficient of inbreeding calculations. It now features up to four photos per dog and many additional enhancements. By the end of 2015 it is anticipated the database will have information on close to 200,000 dogs.

The Bernese Montain Dog DNA Repository

To facilitate health research on genetic diseases affecting Bernese Mountain Dogs, the Berner-Garde Foundation had a goal of creating a repository of DNA and tumor tissue that would augment the pedigree and medical information stored in the Berner-Garde Database. It was envisioned this could give researchers a reliable source of ready information and DNA, eliminating the costly labor and time intensive steps of creating individual infrastructures to gather this information. BGF President, Lori Jodar and Trustee, Mary Maliarik, worked diligently on this project for a number of years and were the driving force behind the vision. The goal became a reality in the fall of 2006 when the Berner-Garde Foundation (BGF) and Michigan State University (MSU), with support from the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) signed a contract to establish The Bernese Mountain Dog DNA and Tumor Tissue Repository to be housed at Michigan State University.

When the project started, we knew it would be a number of years before we could accumulate enough DNA to be useful. The Bernese Mountain Dog community again exceeded all expectations in supporting this effort. We have hosted organized DNA blood draws clinics at most BMDCA National Specialties and numerous regional BMD clubs have also conducted local collections of blood samples. These, along with individual submissions by owners have resulted in the Repository now having DNA or tumor tissue from over 2,700 Bernese Mountain Dogs.

One of the things that make the BMD Repository unique is that in addition to the typical cheek swab collection of DNA, we also store blood DNA in freezers maintained at -80 degrees. Also stored in those freezers are tumor tissue samples that can be used for research. Click the Repository button above for more information.

We are currently working with French researchers to use DNA from US born BMD's to validate their Histiocytic Sarcoma pre-test.

Working With Researchers

We welcome the opportunity to assist scientific researchers in their efforts to improve the health of Bernese Mountain Dogs. With our Database and Repository of DNA and tumor tissue, we are structured to facilitate scientific study. We can help whether a researcher is requesting DNA or tumor samples or requesting access to the health and pedigree data contained in the database. We can provide custom reports specifically for their needs.

The Berner-Garde Foundation will consider direct grants for scientific research. Research proposals for DNA samples, custom database reports, or direct grants are approved on a case-by-case basis by the Board of Trustees. Please click on the Research button at the top of the page for more information.

How Can I Help?

Make sure your dog is in the Berner-Garde Database
  • If you or your dog is not in the database, make sure you submit the information. We include owner information in the event we need additional confirmation of information. Your contact information may be specified as private so it does not appear to the general public. The database takes precautions to prevent your name from being discovered by Internet search engines.
  • Do health certifications on your dogs like hip and elbow x-rays. Even if your dog is not going to be used for breeding, doing these certifications provides everyone with a more complete picture of the litter the dog was from as well as the breed in general.
  • Submit as much general health information as you can to the database. This includes behavioral issues as well as illnesses or diseases you dog contracts or is treated for. Copies of veterinary reports or pathology reports really help document things for scientists and are most appreciated.
  • When your dog dies, please provide as much information to Berner-Garde as possible. We understand that this will likely be a very emotional time for you and there is no need to rush getting this data in. However, don't let it go so long that you end up forgetting to submit the information.
Contribute your dog's DNA to the BMD Repository
  • We are looking for DNA submissions from as many dogs as possible, whether they are affected with a disease or not. If you have an older Berner that has not contributed DNA to the Repository, please consider doing so while they are still alive. Click here for more information on submitting to the Repository.
  • If your dog has a tumor, please try your hardest to contribute a tumor tissue sample to the BMD Repository and any other appropriate studies currently being done on Bernese Mountain Dogs. It is a difficult job at an emotional time but only by participating in these studies will we ever be able to eliminate the diseases that are killing our dogs at such an early age. Inform your veterinarian if a tumor is found, how to participate in these studies and submit tissue to the Repository. Click here for more information on submitting to the Repository.
Support the Berner-Garde Foundation
  • Breeders, please submit all the litters you breed to the database and encourage all your puppy owners to keep the information on their puppy updated.
  • Owners, please keep all information on the dogs you own updated. Consider saving your preferences (on welcome page when accessing the database) to make your submissions easier and quicker.
  • Regional Clubs, please consider hosting a BMD Repository blood draw at a local club event. Click here for more information.
  • Everyone, please consider donating to the Berner-Garde foundation. Contributions are our only source of funding. Money is used to benefit our programs and the technology necessary to support those programs. We now accept credit cards via PayPal so you can do this easily, right online. Your donations are tax deductible! Click here to go to the Donations page.