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Saint Bernards: Everything You Should Know About This Fantastic Breed

Here is everything that you should know about Saint Bernard - from history to grooming. Read on to learn how to socialize this giant breed.

No long introduction is needed for this popular breed. Saint Bernard gained global popularity for two reasons.

The first reason is that everyone knows that if you are out there skiing or hiking and trouble occurs, this is the breed that will bring you home alive and well.

The second reason for the breed’s popularity is the popular movie franchise, Beethoven.

The movie was such a success that some of the most surprising facts to breed were discovered. Moreover, people started, even more, showing their respect and admiration for charming Saint Bernard.

Here is what you should know about this breed if you are thinking about welcoming this playful giant into your home.

Quick Facts

Real name: St. Bernard
Other names: St. Bernhardshund, Bernhardiner, Alpine Mastiff (archaic)
Nickname: Saint
Origin: Italy, Switzerland
Breed type: Working Dogs
Weight: Male 140 to 180 lb (64 to 82 kg), Female 120 to 140 lb (54 to 64 kg)
Height: Male 28 to 30 in (71 to 76 cm), Female 26 to 28 in (66 to 71 cm)
Lifespan: 8–10 years
Color: Red shade with white, mahogany brindle with white, always included black shading around the face and ears
Coat: Shorthaired

Saint Bernard History

Originally the Saint Bernard dog breed was bred to guard the boundaries of Switzerland’s Hospice Saint Bernard.

At the same time, they were used as working dogs, to save lost travelers, and help those who are harmed.

Today, they enjoy being a family pet, while some of them are still busy helping people. Their history is well-documented and dates back to 1050.

In far 1050, within the Alps, a monk named Bernard of Menthon established a hospice to help pilgrims who traveled to Rome.

His hospice was located 8,000 feet above the sea level, making it hard to reach out and to carry things.

So, over time the entire hospice was surrounded by powerful and friendly working dogs who were able to help them pull things and even help track people.

Moreover, these powerful dogs were able to locate and rescue travelers who were buried by avalanches and various drifts.

Many believe that their purpose was to carry casks of brandy around their necks, but that’s just false information.

Their original purpose was to help people in food manners, and that’s why they are so great with people even today and why they can easily connect with anyone day one.

If you adopt a Saint Bernard, you will see how fast he will connect with everyone within your household, in minutes.

So, they originated in Switzerland together with other dogs, including:

  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Entlebuch Cattle Dog
  • Appenzell Cattle Dog
  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

According to dog experts, they were probably crossed with Mastiff-type dogs that came with the Roman army.

By the first millennium CE, dogs in Switzerland and the Alps were grouped and known as “Talhund” (Valley Dog) or “Bauernhund” (Farm Dog).

Since hospice was so isolated, many believe that the location contributed to their robust built and capability to endure cold.

Still, monks wanted to improve dogs’ coats and cross them with the thick-coated Newfoundland. However, the result was far from what they expected so, and the long-haired offspring suffered because of ice buildup in their long coats.

As the popularity of the breed grows, their physical traits started changing. They were exposed to various crossbreeding, and it resulted in specific physical characteristics.

So, in 18887, the International Congress of Zurich drew up the first breed standard that was accepted worldwide.

The famous Saint Bernard became extremely popular in the Stated in 1883, when a Bernard named Plinlimmon became the top-winning Saint Bernard show dog of his time.

In 1888, the first Saint Bernard Club of America (SBCA) was founded, and as expected, the club accepted the Swiss breed standard.

Nowadays, this breed is one of the most popular ones in the States.

Although the breed is still active as a savior in the Alps, in other places, Saint Bernard usually enjoys spending time with his family members, playing with children, and visiting dog shows when they are not busy on the big screen.

Saint Bernard Physical Appearance

Just one look at Saint Bernard is enough to realize that this is a dominant dog. This breed is proportionately built with a calm and intelligent expression.

The nose is broad and always black, just like lips. Ears are medium-sized, with a strongly developed burr, while the neck is set high and muscular. Shoulders are broad and sloping, next to being powerful and muscular.

The coat is short-haired, dense, and rough to the touch. Further, the tail seems bushy, although it has longer and thicker hair at the root. Legs are also very muscular.

This is a giant breed. This comes as no surprise considering the act that Saint Bernard is actually a member of the Mastiff family. Although the famous Saint Bernard has a sturdy body and seems massive, the truth is that this breed is a real gentle giant.

Still, his size is enough to keep any would-be intruders away. Even as a puppy, this breed is massive, and in no time, this breed will go from 25pounds to 180 pounds.

The size, gentle nature, and high intelligence is what attract people to this gentle giant. The only heartbreaking thing here is that Saint Bernard has a short life span of around 7 to 10 years.

Saint Bernard Personality

Bernards’ are true to their heritage as they are both welcoming and friendly. Their temperament is really steady, and they are incredibly kind and careful with children.

Although they love attention and petting seasons, they are not as demanding as some breeds are. Because Saint Bernard is a large dog breed, it’s essential to begin early training while they are puppies, and they can be manageable.

They are true people-pleasers, but they tend to be stubborn sometimes. They would never be aggressive, but they might try to do things their way.

After all, when they are in the rescue action, they must make decisions on their own. Just like any other dog, Saint Bernards need early socialization, exposure to different people, sounds, experiences, and sights, especially when they are young. Early socialization is what they need to be well-behaved.

Saint Bernard Health

Interestingly, but in the breed that doesn’t have a long life span, health problems are far more common than in breeds who live longer. Since Saint Bernard has a short life span, he may suffer from major health problems, that include:

Like any dog, Saint Bernard may develop every of the listed condition, or even none, because each dog is different. Also, since Siant Bernard is a large breed dog, he may develop bloat, which as you may know a life-threatening stomach condition.

This is also a health condition that leads to a considerable number of deaths in canines. To avoid this condition, serve your dog great food and provide regular exercise, next to regular veterinarian check-ups.

Interestingly, for a dog who can shuffle through snow and live on cold temperature, he can handle hot weather easily. Still, this is a massive dog with a tremendous amount of coat, so don’t leave hin exposed to the sun for too long.

Also, avoid long summer walks, to prevent heatstroke.

Bernards’ will handle heat as long as they are in a cool place to rest, next to lots of water. Of course, make sure that the temperature is not too high.

Avoid air conditioning to cool off your Saint Bernard, because it can cause severe distress. If you have tiles, clean the room around them because that will be the favorite place during the summer for your Saint Bernard.

Here are the most recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Degenerative Myelopathy DNA Test

Saint Bernard Training

Large breed dogs, just like any other breed, must be exposed to different sounds, places, and people, from an early age.

Early and well-planned socialization next to puppy training classes should be a win-win combination for a well-behaved dog.

Obedience training next to positive reinforcement training will result in a good dog.

This way, you will teach your giant dog not to jump on other people, not to steal the food off the counter, and otherwise take advantage of their size. Since they are so massive, you should never leave your Saint Bernard with your children.

They are fantastic with children, and they are eager to please, but accidents can happen, especially if you live in a small place. Large dogs need a large space.

Overall, they are great with their family members, and chances are meager that you will have any behavioral problem, with this breed if you start training Bernards’ early.

Saint Bernard Grooming

Saint Bernards come in long-haired and short-haired varieties, but both types demand serious grooming and time investment.

Weekly brushing is mandatory if you want to avoid tangled hair. Weekly brushing is also a great way to track your dog’s skin changes and remove any extra dirt. You can also notice fleas when you work more often around dogs’ skin and hair.

Grooming in general, will also enhance dog’s connection with you. Your goal with this breed should be daily grooming because you can expect shedding on a daily level.

You can bath your Saint Bernard when needed, and clean teeth and ears on a regular basis.

Make sure that the nails are trimmed regularly, and the teeth are white. If you notice white gums, you should react immediately.

The Bottom Line On Saint Bernard

The famous Saint Bernard is still actively saving lost and injured people in the mountains or they are busy being family members.

So, they may not wear a brandy keg or aid-kit around their neck, but you can train them to bring you a ball.

Their heart is as big as its size. These lovable giants are great with children, amazing when it comes to keeping everyone safe and happy, but they tend to be stubborn if they are not trained well. Overall, Saint Bernard is shy, sweet, and very affectionate.