Saint Bernard is among the largest dog breeds in the world. It is also one of the most adorable and lovable dogs anyone can have. Dating back over 1,000 years in the Swiss Alps, Saint Bernard, with it’s muscular and powerful physique, remains a loyal and gentle breed.
Saint Bernard has been breed to become great companions, and their natural protective instinct makes them perfect assistance dogs and family pets.
The breed quickly gets along with kids, but care should be taken as Saint Bernard might not always be aware of its size.
Table of Contents
- Breed Overview
- Common Health Problems
- Diet and Nutrition
- Adopting or buying a Saint Bernard
- Group: Working
- Height: 25.5 – 27.5 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 130 – 180 pounds
- Coat and color: The coat may be long and silky or short and smooth. Colors may include brown or brindle markings, white with red. A black patch is commonly seen.
- Life expectancy: 8 to 10 years
- Affection Level: High
- Friendliness: High
- Kid-Friendly: High
- Pet-Friendly: High
- Exercise Needs: Medium
- Playfulness: High
- Energy Level: Medium
- Trainability: Low
- Intelligence: High
- Tendency to Bark: Low
- Amount of Shedding: High
Saint Bernard is regarded as a hero of the Swiss Alps. The breed dates back over a thousand years; however, we are still uncertain where the breed came from.
There are suggestions that Saints were developed from large Asian breeds that were brought to Switzerland (maybe dogs like the Tibetan mastiff) by Roman soldiers. The Molossers, (ancient giant dog), were bred with native Swiss breed.
The breed was named after Archdeacon Bernard de Menthon. He was the person who founded a hospice in the Swiss Alps that served as a refuge for travelers.
For many centuries, The dog was developed by monks as watchdogs, companions, and workers that saved countless human lives by locating and assisting injured or lost travelers in the Alps.
Their perfectly developed sense of smell allows them to track lost people trapped in the snow easily. Saint Bernards adopted at the monastery had short coats until 1830.
During that period, there was extreme weather for two years, and this convinced the monks to cross Saint Bernards with long-haired Newfoundland dogs. Nonetheless, the long hair had ice-matted, and the monks were forced to give away longer-haired puppies.
Worker Saint Bernards back then were of smaller size compared to today’s giants. They were used for rescue until 1955, but more than a dozen of them were kept at the great St. Bernard Hospice until 2005. The breed got official recognition by the American Kennel Club in 1888.
The general rendition of a Saint with a cask of brandy around its neck is rumored to come from a fictitious scene in a painting known as “Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveler” by Edwin Landseer.
In this painting, a pair of Saint Bernards came to help a man lying in a snowbank. One of the dogs is seen barking while the other is assumably trying to give the brandy around its neck to the man.
Saint Bernard will either have a long, silky coat or a short, smooth coat. Whatever the case, both coats would require regular grooming.
However, more attention should be invested in the long-haired variety. Saint Bernards are generally heavy shedders, which can be managed with routine brushing.
Saints also require regular ear cleaning to help control possible ear infections. Although an active Saint Bernard’s nail may wear themselves down, it’s best to check the nails monthly to be sure they don’t need trimming.
Also, Saints are heavy drooler, so it may be helpful to have a “drool rag” nearby.
Saint Bernard can seem easygoing, but regular exercise is necessary to keep your pet physically fit and mentally stimulated. Daily walks are required since Saints May develop health complications if they become obese.
Like all dogs, Saint Bernards need proper training and socialization, and this should start when they are puppies. Because of the dog’s massive size, it is essential that owners can control their Saints. Careful attention should be given to prevent leaning, jumping, and leash-pulling.
Saint Bernards prefer cold weather and do not do so well in hot climates. Hot weather may make them suffer heatstroke. This means taking them out for walks when it’s hot is a no-no. Also, provide a cool spot for them on hot days.
Common Health Problems
Responsible breeders endeavor to meet up with breeding standards that were established by kennel clubs such as AKC. Dogs that are raised by these standards are at a lower risk of inheriting health complications.
Nevertheless, there are health issues that owners should be aware of, and they include:
- Hip dysplasia: This is a condition that makes the hip sockets form irregularly.
- Ectropion: This is a condition that makes the eyelids fold outward.
- Entropion: This is a genetic disease that makes the eyelids fold inward.
- Gastric dilation-volvulus: This is commonly referred to as bloat or gastric torsion. This causes the stomach to twist around its short axis.
Diet and Nutrition
A Saint Bernard will require 5-6 cups of quality dry dog food every day. This meal should be divided into two to minimize the risk of bloat.
They should also be prevented from gulping their meal too fast or overeat to reduce the risk of gas. It could lead to a medical emergency if their stomach twists, causing the blood supply to be cut off.
Saint Bernard pups need to be monitored and their weight under check, so they don’t put on unnecessary weight too quickly.
Adult Saints should also be observed as they can quickly become obese. This can cause significant problems in their joint and shorten their lifespan.
Consult with your veterinarian to get proper recommendations on dog food types, food plans, amounts, and exercise to curb obesity. Owners should also make sure that their dog has access to fresh, clean water, particularly on hot days.
- Loyal and gentle
- Ready to please
- Affectionate and lovable
- Heavy drooler
- Short lifespan
- Requires strict monitoring to prevent leash pulling and to jump
Adopting or buying a Saint Bernard
The Saint Bernard Club of America is the perfect place to begin your search for a Saint Bernard pup. They should be able to provide breeder referral network as well as catalogs for local Saint Bernard clubs nearby.
If your interest is in a rescue dog, you can check up on organizations within your area or try to locate local representatives through the Saint Bernard Rescue Foundation.
No matter the breed, it’s imperative that prospective owners do their research before acquiring one. Be sure to do some homework if you feel Saint Bernard is right for you. Meet with other Saint Bernard owners, your veterinarian, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.
If your interest is in similar breeds, look into the following breeds to weigh your options:
Do you own a Saint Bernard? Would you like to share your experience as an owner with us? Do you have suggestions or feedback you’d like to share with us? Kindly use the comments box below.