The Saint Bernard is a larger-than-life breed, both in physique and in heart. These gentle giants have become world-famous for their life-saving abilities in the Swiss Alps. While they’re now kept more as household pets, they retain all the qualities that made them such great rescue dogs.
These kind, easygoing, and remarkably intelligent dogs pack all of these desirable traits into extra-large bodies. This just makes them even more endearing to lovers of the breed, as it just means they’re even more cuddly and adorable. Despite their laid-back attitude, they are a reliable working breed.
TemperamentSaint Bernards famously have a calm, easygoing personality and even temperament. They fit well into most homes, even ones with older children or other animals, as their gentle nature lets them get along with almost everyone. While they’re usually quiet and relaxed, some Saint Bernards do have a playful side – and playing with a dog that weighs over a hundred pounds is not for the faint of heart. They do know how to hold back so as not to hurt their playmates, but an excited Saint Bernard is a sight to behold. They aren’t known to bite or be aggressive, though being nudged by one can be more than enough to topple a full-grown man. Saint Bernards are quick to make friends with everyone they meet, whether it be new people or other dogs. They have a deep affection for their owners as well as other friends and family, and will happily join you on any adventure. They don’t tend to be pushy with their affection, and are often content to lay down beside you as you go about your day.
The Ultimate Guide to Saint Bernard
Saint Bernards can trace their origin back to the Swiss Alps in the early 11th century. One man can be credited for the creation of the Saint Bernard breed – Archdeacon Bernard de Menthon. He arrived at one of the passes traversing the treacherous Swiss Alps and founded a monastery and hospice to help travelers who might lose their way. The monks who lived at this hospice used some of the local dogs to guard the pilgrims who were en route to Rome through these 8000-foot high passes. Some of them would even rescue travelers stuck in avalanches and dangerous snowdrifts. These fearless and intelligent dogs would go on to become the Saint Bernard dog breed. The dogs did not have a formal breed name until the early 19th century, when it was suggested that the breed be named after the Great St Bernard Hospice, which had become famous as a place of refuge in the Swiss Alps. Incredibly, the monastery’s records show that Saint Bernards saved over 2000 lives over the course of three centuries. In the late 19th century, the first Saint Bernard breed club in America was formed, and the breed has been relatively popular ever since. Saint Bernards have become famous ever since pop culture came along, with appearances in movies such as “Beethoven” and depictions as rescue dogs in all forms of media.
Key Characteristics of Saint Bernard
Saint Bernards famously have a calm, easygoing personality and even temperament. They fit well into most homes, even ones with older children or other animals, as their gentle nature lets them get along with almost everyone.
While they’re usually quiet and relaxed, some Saint Bernards do have a playful side – and playing with a dog that weighs over a hundred pounds is not for the faint of heart. They do know how to hold back so as not to hurt their playmates, but an excited Saint Bernard is a sight to behold. They aren’t known to bite or be aggressive, though being nudged by one can be more than enough to topple a full-grown man.
Saint Bernards are quick to make friends with everyone they meet, whether it be new people or other dogs. They have a deep affection for their owners as well as other friends and family, and will happily join you on any adventure. They don’t tend to be pushy with their affection, and are often content to lay down beside you as you go about your day.
Saint Bernards are a working breed, but they have only moderate energy levels. Their immense bodies make them unsuited to high speed, so exercise with a Saint Bernard is unlikely to be very intense. They do enjoy getting to run around a little bit in a fenced yard, but only for a little while.
Most Saint Bernards are unsuited to hot weather – they’re at their best in colder climates, and may tire quickly if they are unable to cool down. Walking your Saint Bernard should be done in the early morning or evening when the temperatures are cooler. Around 30 to 45 minutes of light exercise is enough for a Saint Bernard.
Despite their relatively low energy, this daily exercise is crucial for your Saint Bernard to stay lean and healthy. Under-exercised Saint Bernards tend to become overweight, putting more pressure on their bodies and possibly causing arthritis.
Saint Bernard puppies also need some extra care, and should not be allowed to jump or run excessively until their joints are fully formed. Waiting until they are fully developed will help prevent joint problems in the future.
|Saint Bernard Grooming||
Saint Bernards have a coat that is thick and dense, suited to the brutally cold weather conditions in the Swiss Alps. There are two types of coats for Saint Bernards: a short, smooth coat, or a thicker rough coat. Either type of coat will shed regularly, and will require brushing two to three times a week.
Because the Saint Bernard has a double coat, they will shed more than normal once or twice a year in a phenomenon called “blowing coat”. This will happen during spring or summer, as well as during the fall. Deshedding your Saint Bernard may help alleviate some of this shedding, whether you do it yourself at home or have it done professionally.
Most Saint Bernards will need bathing around once a month or every other month. Their skin can be sensitive, so take care when choosing a dog shampoo, and try to use one that is gentle to avoid removing all the natural skin oils. Be mindful of getting water into their ear canal, and dry around the area carefully, as their floppy ears may become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Painful tooth and gum conditions can be avoided with regular tooth brushing. Daily brushing is recommended. Nail trimming should be done every month or so if your Saint Bernard does not wear down their nails on their own.
|Saint Bernard Training||
Training is crucial for any Saint Bernard, as their sheer size and weight make them able to knock over furniture and people with very little effort. Teaching a Saint Bernard proper behavior around the house and outdoors is one of the biggest tasks an owner will have.
Luckily, Saint Bernards are happy when their owners are happy, and are generally eager to learn and perform tasks. Positive reinforcement will be the best method to teach a Saint Bernard, as scolding and punishment tend to make them frustrated or uncooperative. They require patient and consistent training for best results.
The reward for this effort is a Saint Bernard that is well-behaved, gentle, and calm in almost any situation. They also excel at cart-pulling and obedience trials, if the owner is interested in competition dog sports.
|Saint Bernard Lifespan And Health Issues||
Saint Bernards are sadly not as long-lived as other breeds, with a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years. Saint Bernards may be prone to:
|Saint Bernard Size And Space Requirements||
Saint Bernards are an extra-large dog breed, with immense bodies and the weight to match. Most male Saint Bernards may weigh between 140 and 180 pounds, while females weigh between 120 and 140 pounds. They’re tall but heavyset dogs, standing between 28 to 30 inches at the shoulder for males, and 26 to 28 inches for females.
It goes without saying that Saint Bernards need space to stretch out. However, due to their relatively low energy and moderate exercise requirements, they don’t need as big of a space as one would think.
While they may not be well suited to apartment living, owners of moderately-sized homes will be able to accommodate a Saint Bernard so long as they have some outdoor space in which the dog can exercise. Saint Bernards can be trained to be careful around the household.
While the Saint Bernard’s coat protects them from the elements, they are not suited to being alone and will want to stick to their owners like Velcro. They need to be part of the family and participate in most activities.
- The Saint Bernard may retain a puppy mentality for multiple years, as the breed is slow to mature.
- Saint Bernards are gentle with children, but still require supervision with young children due to their immense size and heavy weight.
- Saint Bernards drool quite a bit due to the structure of their mouths.
How can I take good care of my Saint Bernard or Puppy?
Saint Bernard puppies should be socialized early on, while they are still small enough to be handled easily. Because the breed tends to mature slowly and may retain their puppy nature well into the adult years, they need to learn proper behaviors before they fully develop. While Saint Bernards tend to be calm and gentle dogs, they still require socialization to prevent unwanted behaviors from appearing. This socialization should start at 8 weeks old, when the dog is most receptive to new stimuli.
High-quality, premium dog food should be fed to Saint Bernard puppies to ensure that they develop properly. Measure out your dog’s food to prevent them from overeating. This will also help prevent GDV or bloat, a major health concern with many large, deep-chested dog breeds. A working Bernese will generally need more food than one kept as a house pet.
Upon bringing home your Saint Bernard puppy, it’s a good idea to contact a trusted veterinarian so they can advise you regarding the proper vaccination schedule for your puppy. Following this schedule is crucial in protecting your puppy from common transmissible diseases and bacteria.
Most Asked Saint Bernard Questions
+How Much do Saint Bernard Puppies Cost
Well-bred Saint Bernard puppies for sale from a reputable breeder will cost between $750 and $2000. Ethical breeders must have both parent dogs and the puppies undergo a number of health checks and genetic tests. Getting your Saint Bernard from breeders that go through all the proper vet visits and tests will mean that your puppy will have the best chance of growing up to be a healthy, happy, and well-behaved dog.