The St Bernard is a beautiful, loyal and affectionate dog, but it is important to consider all that its size brings along with it.
St Bernards are one of the biggest breeds of dog. Therefore, a primary consideration when contemplating this breed is space. They also eat a vast amount and subsequently they are not cheap dogs to keep. They are also very expensive puppies to purchase. However, the rewards of keeping one of these beautiful dogs are also huge.
Saint Bernard Dogs At a Glance
- Love all the exercise you can give them and more!
- Wonderful with children and could almost babysit for you!
- Need a good daily brush.
Origins of the Breed
The St Bernard was originally bred in Italy and Switzerland and was used primarily in the Alps as a search and rescue dog. For this reason the breed is extremely loyal, and is generally gentler than dogs which were bred for guarding and hunting.
The most successful St Bernard rescue dog was named Barry. When he died in 1814, Barry had saved no fewer than forty people.
The Typical Appearance
St Bernards are instantly recognisable, and are notable for their size. A mature male can weigh between 73-110kg (160-240lbs) and will reach a height of 70-90cms (27-36”) A bitch, on the other hand, will weigh around 68-91kg (150-230lbs) and reach a height of 65-90cms (24-36”) It is very important, therefore, that the dog is disciplined at an early age. Although St Bernards have excellent temperaments, nevertheless an unruly adult dog will be completely unmanageable, because of its size.
There are two different types of coat: smooth or rough coat. The fur is usually red, or mahogany and white, with black shading around the head. They are heavy shedders; this is largely due to the sheer volume of coat. Therefore, grooming can be a big job and is something which should be done daily. Another consideration is that, although they are very clean dogs, the St Bernard has a tendency to slobber.
About Saint Bernard Dogs and Saint Bernard Puppies
Saint Bernard dogs and even Saint Bernard puppies are large and strong, and were originally bred as mountain rescue dogs. The smallest of the breed stands at 27 inches and weighing 165 lbs. Good Saint Bernard information is vital before contemplating welcoming one of these gentle giants into your life. All of these dogs shed large amounts of hair, although the rough coated Saint Bernard, the result of out-breeding with the Newfoundland, requires more grooming than the smooth coated original Saint Bernard variety.
Saint Bernard puppies can become shy or even nervous if not socialised with and accustomed to people and other pets from an early age. They will also need training… from an early age they are already capable of pulling people out of snow drifts! Despite their size they are very gentle, seem to understand children and their needs very well, and have a good attitude to other dog breeds and even cats if properly acclimatised, so they make an excellent family dog in every way.
Common Health Problems
Unfortunately, the size of the St Bernard makes it susceptible to skeletal health problems. Hip displacement is one serious condition and all adults should have their hips checked before they are bred, to reduce the risk of future problems. Like most large dogs the lifespan is considerably shorter than smaller breeds, and the St Bernard will typically live for around nine years.
So St Bernard dogs have a tendency to suffer from:
- Bone and Joint problems including hip and elbow dysphasia.
- Eye Problems
- Heart Problems
- Heat Stroke
Ideal Family Dog? Yes…and No!
A Saint Bernard pup would make the ideal dog for someone who worked from home. Although they require lots of exercise, loving to run and gallop through open countryside, when in the home they are perfectly content to laze around at the feet of their owner. However, if left alone for long periods Saint Bernard dogs can become destructive and shouldn’t be exercised too vigorously until they are two years old to allow their bones to strengthen, helping to prevent the bone and joint problems that the breed is susceptible to.
Saint Bernard dogs have lots of fur that will shed all over your home. Regular grooming can reduce this, for remember that this is very much not a hypoallergenic dog. They need grooming at least once a week for the smooth coated, (or short haired) variety and the rough coated, (or long haired) variety. It can be useful to have their undercoat removed when approaching the hotter part of the year as the breed is susceptible to heat stroke. Many owners find it helpful to carry a ‘slobber cloth’ with them as excessive drool is a fact of life with a Saint Bernard.
A Saint Bernard makes an ideal dog for a family with young children as they have an innate understanding of children, and they are incredibly gentle and protective over their family members. If a family member is talking to an individual the dog does not like, the Saint Bernard will quietly place his body between the two people and gradually shepherd the loved one away from danger. However, because of their sheer size, these dogs could accidentally knock over a small child.
For those who have the time and outside space a Saint Bernard can be an amazingly loving, gentle and protective member of the family. You could think of them like some human teenagers… they take up large amounts of space within the home and leave evidence of their presence in the form of slobber and hair where ever they go! But seriously, the gentle personality of this breed will win you over every time.
After all who wouldn’t want a truly heroic dog breed in their lives?
So, if you have the space, and the time, and the money for all that food, then Saint Bernard dogs, and Saint Bernard puppies too, will make a family friend you will never forget!