Entlebuchers are amazing dogs, but that doesn’t mean they’re the right match for every person, family, or lifestyle. Please research the breed carefully before you decide to adopt one (we’ve listed a few good initial sources of information on our main Entlebuchers page), and be sure to adopt a puppy only from a careful, responsible breeder, who will ensure the puppy you fall in love with is healthy, genetically sound, has a great temperament, and has been socialized and trained in his/her early life to be off to the best possible start as your new best friend and family member. It’s always a great idea to have met some real live Entlebuchers before you adopt one – and ideally, go and meet the adult dogs of the actual breeder from whom you’re considering getting a puppy. That’s the best and most direct way for you to see if your (understandable) crush on Entles should move to the commitment stage.
To further help you out, we’ve put together our thoughts and experiences with the breed here. This should help you decide whether to make an Entlebucher a permanent part of your family.
Full disclosure! Obviously, we love Entlebuchers! But you know how you can love someone and still see all their faults and foibles? It’s like that. So here’s the straight scoop on Entlebuchers, from our POV.
Enthusiasm and Intensity
Entlebuchers are willful, spirited, high energy, can-do dogs. They were bred to herd livestock in the Swiss Alps. Some herding dogs work by nipping at the heels of livestock. Entles herd by body-slamming livestock with their chests. Think that through. Here’s a 55-pound dog running at full tilt, up a mountain, and body slamming a cow. Are you ready for that kind of determination in your life?
Entlebuchers like to have a job to do, the harder or more interesting the better. If you do not give them jobs, they will make up their own jobs. These may not be jobs you wanted them to do. On the other hand, they will joyfully take on any jobs you do give them, and they’re easily and enthusiastically trainable. Just don’t stop. Ever. Entlebuchers (like many but not all dogs, and with a focused intensity beyond many other breeds) absolutely love rituals, structure, and the chance to work with you and please you, their beloved human.
Sometimes we call our Entlebuchers “obsess-lebuchers” because they are SO FOCUSED, on everything. If we’re playing ball, they are 1000% playing ball. If we’re snuggling, they are on our laps, heavy, snoring, periodically waking up to nudge the hand that’s trying to sneak off to a smartphone or another dog.
Good news: whatever you think is fun to do, your Entlebucher will think is fun to do too. Their enthusiasm and good humor is boundless. There are good reasons why in Switzerland they’re nicknamed “the smiling dogs”. If you channel your Entlebucher’s view of life, and of you, it is impossible to be in a bad mood. Even things you don’t think are THAT much fun to do, your Entlebucher will think are fun to do, with you. (Since I got an Entlebucher, I have never again gone to the bathroom alone.)
Thank goodness, they do have an “off switch”. They’re not nervous, jittery dogs. They can go from 0 to 60 in two seconds, but they can just as easily calm back down from 60 to 0 when it’s time. Meaning, up from a nap to bound off with you on a hike or to play ball, then content to nap (as close to you as possible) for hours.
Entlebuchers bond tightly with their beloved human(s). They are super loyal and protective. That, and good, consistent training, make them amazing go-anywhere do-anything companion dogs. However, they are really not a good choice for anyone who would need to leave them home alone for long hours every day. (Not many dogs like this, but some accept it more readily.) Particularly because they’re so smart, and so active, if you leave them alone too much, they can get destructive. This just means they’re unhappy. An unhappy “smiling dog” is a very sad thing indeed. On the other hand, if you have a lifestyle and the desire to have your dog with you (or with someone) a lot of the time, Entlebuchers are nearly perfect. Their energy level allows them to keep going with you all day long, and their calm demeanor means they can peacefully hang out wherever you are. Sometimes the breed is described as “aloof with strangers”. While that will vary based on the dog (ours are actually quite friendly with everyone), they aren’t prone to go nuts every time a person or dog walks by, which makes them easier in crowds, offices, etc. Because of their tight bond with you (and because of the great job you will have done reinforcing this through training!!), your dog will look to you for cues on how to react in any new situation.
Not Subtle. But Very Sensitive.
Subtlety, thy name is not Entlebucher. More like, laser stare indicating it is dinner time. Or, laser stare at human, laser stare at where human put the ball away, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat. But, this is also a dog who will hike with you off leash, run ahead, then run back to make eye contact with you: “All OK?” This is a dog who will come to know what you mean when you snap your fingers, or lightly say “eh”, or make any other small gesture of communication. You will get to the point where you and your Entlebucher are pretty much in psychic conversation. Because this (super smart, super sensitive) dog is watching you at all times, fundamentally looking to see what you want and how he/she can make you happy. Also looking to see when and how you show any sign of weakness that can be exploited to make you step away from the computer and go get the ball from that place where you put it away (cue non-subtle laser stare).
Hope you like to exercise, because your Entlebucher does. Remember the part about being bred to run up mountains? Get that energy out by hiking, playing ball, swimming, running in snow, something, every day. In their youth (like up to age 6?), Entles really can use at least 30 minutes twice a day of flat out running, off leash. An hour twice a day is even better. They’ll do more. Example: when our Ike was about two, we lived in San Francisco, and we’d walk off leash from our house through the Presidio park to the ocean (a 2-hour walk), run and play at the beach for an hour (he liked to chase the foam that the wind blew off the waves), and then walk back. When he was about six, we lived in New York City, and we’d leave the apartment Saturday mornings at 8 AM (in a taxi), run off leash in Central Park until 9, then walk on-leash all the way back downtown, traipsing through Barney’s and boutiques, window-sniffing, getting home in the afternoon. When he was ten, he’d play fetch at our lake in Wisconsin for over an hour, until I got tired. Then he’d take the ball, walk to the end of the dock, drop it in, run back to shore, and jump in and go fetch it for himself. For however long I let him. He slowed down by the time he was fifteen, but it’s all relative. They need the exercise, and they need the interaction with you, and the mental stimulation. If you want a calm, content, easygoing Entlebucher, you need to exercise, run, and play. No getting around it.
All dogs benefit from training, but in our opinion and experience, a well-trained Entlebucher is the Best Dog on Earth, and an untrained one would be a Nightmare. They are super smart, strong, willful dogs. You need to put in the time to train them, and using positive reinforcement methods is especially important, since this breed is all about the tight bond between dog and human. We are glad to provide (i.e. whether or not you ask for it, we will provide!) training tips and guidance to anyone who adopts a puppy from us. Note that Entlebuchers actually LOVE training, since it’s special time and attention from their beloved person. If you love this too, Entlebuchers are for you. If not, not.
It bears saying that any training with an Entlebucher, in addition to being positive, needs to be absolutely disciplined and consistent. You do not want your Entlebucher being in charge of you – and your Entlebucher doesn’t want that either, actually. If you’re not someone who can set structure, lovingly yet without question, this breed may not be a good match for you. Example: Ike loved to play fetch. His show off maneuver at the dog run, while other people were chasing their dogs begging them to drop the ball, was to return the ball exactly to my toe. “How do you get him to do that?” Easy – if not, I don’t throw it again. And, when the game was over, I’d say, “Last one!” I’d throw the ball, he’d bring it back, drop it, and go get a drink of water. Why? Because never once in his life did I say “Last one” and then throw it more than that one last throw. Ike, like every Entlebucher, LOVED having ritual and structure and knowing how it all was supposed to work, and that he and I were a synchronized machine. (They’re Swiss, right? Aren’t the Swiss known for precision?) This kind of consistency and structure builds your trust relationship, which in turn enables you and your dog to enter any situation, even the ones that are unpredictable, with confidence, control, and communication. Otherwise, you have a pretty powerful dog who seems bigger than his/her size, with a huge and scary bark, with whom you can’t dependably navigate the world. This means you’ll leave your dog home more. This means your dog will be more likely to be bored. A bored Entlebucher is a smart, strong dog making up new ways to entertain him/herself. Not good. There are other breeds who are better bets in that case.
You’ll read in online breed comparisons that when it comes to interacting with other animals or with children, Entlebuchers are good “with supervision”. Our Entlebuchers are napping with the cat right now as I write this. They would never dream of harming one of our chickens. They’re super gentle with kids and puppies. In our experience, it all comes down to the training and structure you establish with your dog. You, the adult human, are in charge and set the rules, from the very beginning. Then there are no issues in your household, in friends’ households, in parks with strangers, on the street, ever. We have found Entles to be naturally gentle and loving despite their muscularity and verve. Just like with human kids, this is reinforced via rewarding impulse control and by setting clear, consistent expectations.
Get a Good One.
Sorry, but this has to be said. There are some Entlebuchers out there who have been bred without prioritizing good temperament. Everyone says they breed for temperament, but…. There are Entlebuchers out there who are aggressive, or fear-aggressive. (We met one once who won show titles, but whose owner couldn’t take out of the car, on a leash, in a crowd, for fear he’d attack someone.) There aren’t many of these, but this is why you ideally should meet the adult dogs of any breeder, meet their prior puppies and owners if possible, and interview the breeder just as thoroughly as they’re interviewing you. It’s also why we went to such great lengths to source our own dogs. In any rare breed population, too small a breeding pool can cause all kinds of issues. For us, health and beauty (breed standard) are a given – but then it’s a matter of love and honor to do right by this breed, by ensuring our puppies have all the Entlebucher’s wonderful personality traits. Then it’s just up to you to decide if this specific breed is a match for you and your lifestyle.
Entlebuchers are your spirit animal if…
You appreciate enthusiasm and intensity. You’re good natured, calm, and confident yourself, up to sharing life with a dog who might be smarter than you but still expects you to be in charge of things. You like to exercise, in any and all weather. You think life is fun. You don’t mind being stared at. You think most things are better when your dog can come too. You’re playful. You share your snacks. You can handle being loved, possibly worshipped, as the center of the universe. Running your fingers through the fur of a tired, snoring dog sounds like your ideal evening.
Don’t get an Entlebucher…
If you’re looking for a “small Bernese”. (Bernese are much more docile and need less exercise.) You want a dog who will spend most of the day alone, or can entertain itself independently. (Entlebuchers want to be right with you, as much as they can be. If you need to be gone during the day, “doggy daycare” works great too – with the added benefit of tiring them out from playing.) You can give a dog some exercise, sometimes. (Daily, at least an hour, ideally some playtime a couple times a day, both for exercise and stimulation sake. Can you ever skip a day, or three? Sure, life happens. But as a rule, keep the dog well exercised.) You haven’t ever trained a dog before and aren’t sure you’re up to being all that consistent and structured. (Try a less willful breed!) You think they’re pretty, but you’ve never met one, and you’re not sure…. (It’s a lifelong commitment, so take the time to make the right match!)
Real Questions from Real People:
Q: Can I have an Entlebucher in the city? A: Yes, that’s what dog parks were made for! All our dogs have lived in Manhattan and have done just fine. (You’d think they’d prefer the country life, but the smells in Manhattan are THE BEST, plus there are tons of other dogs to meet, and anyway they just like to do whatever we like to do.) They’re “apartment-sized” dogs, and if they’re getting decent, regular exercise, they’re perfectly content to lie around your feet when you’re home. They’re easy to train, so they can learn city life well. They highly approve of take-out and pizza delivery. They love to come along on errands.
Q: Um, I work full time. Can I still have an Entlebucher? A: Yes, provided you make arrangements for your dog during the day. A well-run “doggy daycare” where the dog will have stimulation, company, and exercise during the day is a better idea than having someone pop in for 10-minute “relief” dog walks. And make sure you get quality time with your dog yourself, in the evenings (can be a snuggle, or gentle playtime in the house) and on the weekends.
Q: Can I have an Entlebucher in a hot climate? A: Yes, just do your main exercising during the cooler times of day, or in water (pool, lake, river, ocean). We lived with an Entlebucher in Missouri, where it is in the 100s in the summer, so we played a lot of fetch in the pool. We take our dogs to Florida, and we play with them at the beach. We just make sure we have umbrellas to keep them out of the sun, and lots of fresh, cold water to drink.
Keep the questions coming! We don’t judge, we’re glad to answer, and we’re never tired of talking about Entlebuchers.
Thanks for reading. If you’ve made it this far, perhaps you do have “Entlebucher-level” enthusiasm and intensity…as do we, in case you can’t tell!
We hope if you get an Entlebucher puppy you’ll be as happy about it as Bhairo was when we got Guinness. See photo below.