Saint Bernard dogs gained fame as rescue dogs for the hospice in the Alps between Switzerland and Italy. Although they have been doing that work since the 1600s, this breed was a popular farm dog for hundreds of years prior to their rescue work. Saint Bernards are most likely descendants of Mastiffs accompanying the Roman Legion and native Swiss dogs. In the 1800s, Newfoundlands were crossed with the Saint Bernard.
Saint Bernard is a powerful breed, standing at least 25.5 to 30 inches tall (or taller) and weighing 120 to 180 pounds. The head is large and wide, the muzzle is short, the eyes are medium-sized and dark brown, and the ears are dropped. The Saint Bernard dog breed is strong and wellproportioned with heavy bones. The tail is long and heavy. The undercoat is thick and dense, while the outer coat can be short or long. The coat is white with red or brindle markings. Both the short coat Saint Bernards and long coat Saint Bernards need twice weekly brushing to keep them clean and free of mats. When the dog is shedding heavily, usually twice a year, additional brushing is needed.
Saint Bernard puppies are active, alternating nap times with playtimes. Adult Saint Bernards enjoy a long brisk walk and a chance to play but are usually calm in the house. The national breed club recommends that all exercise be either on leash or in a fenced-in yard. Training is a necessity for this breed.
Saint Bernard puppies grow rapidly and become strong and heavy very quickly. They need to learn household rules and social manners early so that they do not take advantage of their size and overpower family members or guests. The Saint Bernard needs an owner who doesn’t mind grooming the dog, is willing to do the training needed to create a good companion, and doesn’t mind that these dogs drool. Although Saint Bernard puppies can be rowdy, most Saint Bernards are excellent with children. They are usually good with other pets, too. Health concerns include hip dysplasia, allergies, epilepsy, and a sensitivity to heat.
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Known to be loving, gentle and tolerant in spite of its size, Saint Bernards are a good with families with well-behaved children. In addition, they are eager to please, making training easier.
Saint Bernards are very large, powerful, muscular dogs.
A male Saint Bernard’s height can range between 28 and 30 inches, and he can weigh between 140 and 180 pounds (63 to 81 kilograms). A female’s height may range between 26 and 28 inches, and she may weigh between 120 and 140 pounds (54 to 63 kilograms).
The dogs may be longhaired or shorthaired. Coat colors include red and white, brown and white, and brindle and white. Some dogs have dark masks over their eyes. The ears are set high on the head and are floppy. The eyes are dark and a little droopy. The forehead is fairly wrinkled. Saint Bernards also have jowls, which makes them prone to drooling.
Because the dogs are so large, they take longer than many other breeds to mature fully. They generally do not reach their full size until they are 2 or 3 years old.
Saint Bernards are loving, placid dogs. Their instinctive friendliness is likely to offset a stranger’s initial fear of approaching such a large dog. However, Saint Bernards are equally quick to protect family members who they believe are in danger.
Because they are so friendly, gentle and tolerant, Saints can be especially good for families with well-behaved children. Known to be exceptionally understanding and patient, Saints are careful not to injure a child.
These dogs are eager to please, which can make training easier than with other breeds.
The Saint Bernard is a social being. Nothing makes him happier than participating in family activities. Conversely, this dog is likely to sulk if he feels that he is being left out of any fun. Because the adult Saint is so large, training is imperative, the earlier the better. The breed is known to be obstinate on occasion. However, once a Saint understands what is expected of him, his instinctive desire to please will generally offset any stubbornness.
The adult Saint Bernard sheds twice a year, in spring and fall. Regular brushing will help to minimize such shedding.
While the dog needs to eat enough food to maintain a healthy weight, do not overfeed a Saint. Excess weight can strain the joints and worsen any problems in the dog’s hips or elbows. The pound-for-pound food requirement for a Saint may be lower than for other breeds because his temperament is more placid and he needs less exercise than many other breeds.
As is the case with other very large breeds, Saint Bernards live relatively short lives. Life expectancy is generally 8 to 10 years.
Saint Bernards are powerful, giant-sized dogs with deep roots in myth and legend. Although traditionally thought to have originated at a monastery-hospice in the Swiss Alps in the 11th century, the dog’s first verifiable appearance at the monastery, or anywhere else, probably occurred about 600 years later.
Experts believe that these first monastery dogs were intended for use as watchdogs. Not long thereafter, however, their life-saving abilities became apparent. Over the next three centuries, Saints were credited with saving well over 2,000 human lives.
Today’s Saints are known not only for their historic exploits, but also for their love and devotion to their human companions, especially children. Two popular children’s movies of the 1990s, “Beethoven” and “Beethoven 2,” capitalized on this trait to tell stories of a lovable Saint Bernard’s adventures with his suburban American family.