Golden Retriever vs. Bernese Mountain Dog: 10 Differences To Help You Choose

Trying to decide between a Golden Retriever or a Bernese Mountain Dog?

These two breeds are quite similar in some ways, making them both excellent canine companions, but there are also important differences to be aware of.

Understanding each breed’s unique qualities will help you choose the one that is best suited for your lifestyle and personality.

We’ll start by looking at an overview of Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs, and then compare the two breeds on a variety of categories, including:

  • Energy levels
  • Life expectancy
  • Temperament
  • Size
  • Lifestyle
  • How good they are with kids
  • And more!
golden retriever vs bernese mountain dog

Golden Retriever Overview

Golden Retrievers are smart, very social dogs who love being with their people.

They enjoy meeting new people and are known for their affectionate, happy-go-lucky personalities.

Historically, Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve shot birds to a hunter, so they are genetically predisposed to work well alongside humans.

While some are still used as hunting companions, most Goldens today are beloved family pets, service dogs, therapy dogs, and dog sport partners.

They are medium to large-sized dogs, with a feathered coat, ranging from a light cream to a rich red in color.

Goldens need consistent exercise as they are an active breed, otherwise they can develop unwanted habits.

They are also highly intelligent and intuitive and thrive with positive reinforcement-based training to help shape them into the best Golden Retriever they can be. 

Bernese Mountain Dog Overview

Bernese Mountain Dogs are good-natured, strong dogs who bond closely with their families.

They have an easygoing, calm demeanor, but are affectionate and playful too.

Berners were historically used as all-around farm dogs, serving as companions and watchdogs to farming families.

They also pulled carts and herded cattle, so they are a very versatile breed.

Most Bernese Mountain Dogs these days are wonderful pets, as well as therapy dogs and dog sport partners.

Berners have a very striking appearance, with a mostly black coat with white and rust-colored markings on the face and chest.

They are very large, sturdy dogs who are self-assured and generally chill.

While they should never be aggressive, they can be a bit protective and reserved around strangers.

These are loving, loyal dogs who love spending time with their people and are known as “gentle giants.”

Energy Levels

Golden Retriever

Most Golden Retrievers need 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a day in order to feel content and settle around the house.

They love to be outdoors, so walks, hikes, swimming and playing games in a yard are all good exercise outlets for a Golden.

Goldens have good endurance and can make good running and hiking buddies.

Generally, the larger, heavier-boned Golden Retrievers have less endurance than the smaller, more lean field Goldens.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs require about 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day.

Due to their very large size, they don’t have much endurance, and aren’t as energetic as a Golden Retriever.

This is a breed known for their pleasant, docile behavior, and are not high-energy dogs.

Keep in mind that puppies and adolescent dogs of any breed will be more energetic than adults, so young Berners will still need plenty of walks and playtime.

These were originally farm dogs, so they enjoy spending time outdoors.


Golden Retrievers require more exercise than Bernese Mountain Dogs and are a more energetic breed.

Both breeds will need consistent outlets for physical and mental enrichment, it’s just that Berners don’t need quite as much as Goldens.

With their heavier structure, Bernese Mountain Dogs don’t have as much endurance as a Golden Retriever.

So if you’re an avid runner or hiker and are looking for a partner, the Golden Retriever is probably the better fit, as Berners tire out easily.

golden retriever vs bernese mountain


Golden Retriever

Goldens are very highly trainable and love to learn.

They are eager to please and enjoy engaging with their owners, which is one reason they are so well-suited for service dog work.

Golden Retrievers are smart and naturally intuitive to human emotions, making them easy to train.

Many Golden Retriever owners find that the biggest challenge is getting their dog to listen in the face of other people and dogs because they are so friendly, but overall they are quick learners.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are intelligent and enjoy training, but can be a bit on the independent side as well.

Generally, they love engaging with their humans, and are delightful to train.

Because they’re so big, it can take them time to move their body (for example, into a down position) so they may need some extra patience at times.

Similar to Goldens, this breed tends to be very in-tune with their family’s emotions and this intuitive nature helps make training easy and fun.


Both breeds are highly trainable, but the Golden Retriever takes the cake on this one.

Sometimes Berners can be more independent, while most Goldens are incredibly eager to please.


Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are very versatile and can do well in a variety of environments.

So long as you are meeting their exercise and mental stimulation needs, a Golden can thrive in an apartment in the city, suburbia, a ranch, or anything in between.

Their easy-going, cheery personalities help them feel comfortable in a range of settings alongside their family.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Berners are also an adaptable breed and can suit a variety of lifestyles, so long as their needs are met.

They tend to be pretty laid back and while they do need consistent exercise, they aren’t a high-energy breed, making them well suited for anything from apartment living to a farm.

With their thick coats, they are not cut out for hot weather, and will need a climate-controlled environment.

Most Berners adore the snow and will happily choose to stay outside in the cold.

Additionally, they are very large dogs, and take up quite a bit of space, so keep that in mind if you have a small living arrangement.


Both of these breeds are adaptable, so long as their needs are being met.

The key differences are size and climate.

If you live in a particularly warm climate, a Golden Retriever is probably better suited for your lifestyle.

If you’re tight on living space, the Berner does take up more room than a Golden Retriever, but it just depends on if that matters to you or not.

How Are They With Other People?

Golden Retrievers

Most Goldens are extremely social and have never met a stranger.

They love making new friends and getting attention.

Generally, they are gentle, sweet dogs, but in their eagerness to say hello, they can jump up, so it’s important to train them how to greet people politely.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Berners can have a range of sociability with people outside their family.

Some are nearly Golden Retriever-like in their desire to meet new folks, but others are more reserved.

A well-bred Berner should not be aggressive or shy, but some are content to just hang out without always interacting with new people.


Depending on what you like in a dog, either breed could be better suited for you in this category.

Goldens tend to think anyone and everyone is their next best friend, while Berners tend to have a more laidback approach to meeting new people.

Are They Good with Kids?

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers often make great family dogs, as they enjoy the company of children.

Most love the attention and playtime that kids provide.

Even though Goldens are sweet dogs, it’s crucial for kids to be taught how to treat dogs with respect, to ensure that everyone is safe and happy.

No dog should be expected to tolerate rude behavior from a child.

Golden Retrievers are also big dogs and in their enthusiasm, they could accidentally knock a small kid over, so supervision is important.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are also great family companions, with their calm, easy-doing disposition.

Berners aren’t easily fazed, which is helpful when you have young kids that are noisy and active.

This is a large, but gentle breed and most are excellent with children.

And because it can never be repeated enough, kids should always be taught how to be polite towards dogs, no matter the breed.

You should always supervise interactions to ensure both the dog and child are safe and happy.


Both Goldens and Berners can make wonderful family dogs.

It can help to find a breeder who has children themselves, or at least ensures puppies get early socialization to young kids, to help your puppy get the best start in their dynamic with small humans.


Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are best known for their cheerful, friendly personalities.

A well-bred Golden should be confident and trustworthy.

They can be a little sensitive, but should not be anxious.

This sensitivity lends itself to their high intuition when it comes to their human’s feelings and behavior.

Goldens are loving, loyal, smart, social and playful.

Their favorite thing in the world is their family and they need to spend lots of quality time together.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain dogs are confident, even-keel dogs.

Known for their gentle, easygoing disposition, they adore their family and do best when they can have lots of time and interaction with their people.

They are pretty quiet and calm around the house, and will need a moderate amount of exercise.

Some Berners can be protective, but should never be aggressive, and may be aloof with people they don’t know.

They bond closely with their family and can at times be a little sensitive or clingy, but are generally self-assured.


Goldens and Berners have some similarities when it comes to temperament.

They’re both good-natured dogs who are adaptable and confident.

They both adore their humans and need to be a part of the family.

The Berner has more of a calm, stable presence though, and can be more dignified than a Golden Retriever.

Bernese Mountain Dogs can also have some guardian instincts, which Goldens lack.

Golden Retrievers tend to be more enthusiastic and energetic, and are more likely to make fast friends with everyone.

bernese mountain dog or golden retriever


Golden Retriever

The American Kennel Club provides the following ranges for female and male Goldens:

Females: 55 to 65 lbs, 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall

Males: 65 to 75 lbs, 23 to 24 inches tall

Bernese Mountain Dog

For Bernese Mountain Dogs, the American Kennel Club gives the following size ranges:

Females: 70 to 95 lbs, 23 to 26 inches tall

Males: 80 to 115 lbs, 25 to 27.5 inches tall


Bernese Mountain Dogs are definitely larger than Golden Retrievers.

Neither is better, it simply depends on your preference.

Berners are powerful dogs and could potentially overpower a person if they pull on the leash, so training is very important to make sure you can safely walk them.

Honestly, even a very excited Golden Retriever could pull you right over if you’re caught off guard, so no matter what, training is critical for any large breed dog.

Life Expectancy

Golden Retriever

According to the American Kennel Club, a Golden Retriever’s life expectancy is 10 to 12 years.

Bernese Mountain Dog

The American Kennel Club states that Bernese Mountain Dog’s life expectancy is 7 to 8 years.


Unfortunately, larger breeds tend to have lower life expectancies, which holds true for Berners.

They have one of the lowest life expectancies across all breeds, though there are some groups, like the Bernese Mountain Dog Vitality Project that are working to increase the life span of these amazing dogs.

Losing a dog is always heartbreaking, but if longevity is important to you, a Golden Retriever might be the way to go.

Health Problems

Golden Retriever

PetMD lists the following as common health issues for Golden Retrievers:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sub-aortic Stenosis (SAS)
  • Lymphoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Mast cell tumors
  • Eye disorders
  • Seizures
  • Skin issues

Bernese Mountain Dog

PetMD lists the following as common health issues for Bernese Mountain Dogs

  • Mast Cell Tumor
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Gastric torsion
  • Heat stroke
  • Gastric torsion
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Allergies
  • Von Willebrand’s disease


As you can see, both breeds can have health issues, so make sure to purchase a puppy from a breeder who health tests every dog they breed.

Both breeds have very high rates of cancer.

The Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) recommends a list of tests that breeders conduct before breeding a dog, and you can ask breeders to see the results of those tests.

The GRCA also has lots of helpful information about Golden Retriever health on their website.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals has recommendations for Bernese Mountain Dog breeders to follow, which you can also ask to see.

The Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America also includes important health information on their site.

Some health issues are genetic, so it’s very important for any dog who is bred to be tested for common issues.


Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever puppies range from $1,000 to $3,500 depending on the individual breeder and their location.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Berner puppies range from $2,000 to $3500, also depending on the breeder and location.


Berners are a bit more expensive on average compared to Golden Retrievers.

A cheap puppy is a red flag, and may be an indication that the parents were not health tested, and that the breeder is not responsible. 

Always buy a puppy from a breeder who prioritizes the health and temperament of the puppies they produce.

Final Conclusion

golden retriever vs bernese mountain dog puppy

Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs are both delightful, loyal dogs who absolutely love their families.

They’re both easy to train and can make wonderful companions for families with kids.

Golden Retrievers have more energy and will require more exercise than Berners, who have a more docile energy.

If you are very active and envision your dog accompanying you on lots of adventures, a Golden Retriever is probably the better choice as they are more athletic than a Bernese Mountain Dog.

Likewise, if a leisurely stroll and some playtime are more your speed, then a Berner is likely the better match.

Berners are considerably larger than Goldens, which comes along with a shorter life expectancy.

While both breeds are generally good-natured, Berners can be more reserved around strangers and some have a protective nature, while Golden Retrievers are more indiscriminately friendly.

You’ll want to think about what temperament, energy level, and size best suit your own lifestyle and personality.

If you’re able to meet some dogs of each breed and talk to their owners about what life is like with their dog, that can also help you get a sense for which is a good match for you.

Consider which breed would be happiest with the life you are able to provide, as a happy dog makes for a happy human.

What are the most important qualities in a dog for you?

Let us know what you think down in the comments!

See other breed comparisons here:

To learn more about whether or not a Golden Retriever is right for you, take the Golden Retriever Quiz!

And if you’ve decided on getting a Golden Retriever, check out this article on how to raise a Golden Retriever puppy.

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About the author:

Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.

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