Saint Bernard Dog Breed: History, Temperament, Care, Training & more

Saint Bernard Dog Breed Information

St Bernard Dog
Level of Energy     
Exercise Needs    
Level of Affection  
Climate Tolerance     
Good With Children  
Tolerance of Animals    
Suitable as Watch Dog    

Saint Bernard Dog – Just The Facts

  • AKC Popularity:  47
  • AKC Breed Group: Working
  • Size of Male:  120-200 lbs., 27.5 in.
  • Size of Female:  120-200 lbs., 25 in.
  • Color:  Red and White
  • Average Lifespan:  8-9 years
  • Breed Origin:  Switzerland
  • Purpose:  Rescue Dog, Companion

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General Description

Contemporary Peter Pan films use the Saint Bernard dog to portray “Nana.” As you may well know, the St. Bernard is a gigantic dog with a gentle disposition. Given their usefulness in cart hauling, owner protection, and search and rescue missions, it’s not surprising to see why “saint” is such a fitting label for the pooch.

Origin and History

The breed is said to be of Roman Mollosian roots that date back to 980 A.D. In the early 17th century, Saint Bernards caught the world’s attention.

Some monks discovered the breed’s ability not only to protect humans and sense impending avalanches, but also to rescue travelers and clear snow paths. Whenever the dogs would meet a stranded traveler, they would snuggle close to keep the person from succumbing to hypothermia.

The dogs were then stationed at a hospice where travelers from Switzerland to Italy and back could seek help. From 1660 until the 20th century, the god-sent Saint Bernard held a track record of more than 2,000 lives saved. A cross-breeding with the Newfoundland dog resulted in the longer-haired dogs.

St. Bernard Temperament

Docile, calm and faithful are three words that describe this dog breed. These dogs have a huge heart and great patience with children. It can get very clingy and protective of you but can be friendly to strangers. Male dogs tend to exhibit dominant behavior. Adequate space, training, affection and time are crucial to ensuring the breed’s happiness.

Care, Grooming, Diet & Exercise

Living Environment – The ideal home for the Saint Bernard is one situated in cooler regions of the planet. The breed doesn’t respond well to heat. It is best to provide this large dog breed access to a yard. They can tolerate apartment living, but because of their bulk and weight, they are always better off in a spacious country home.

Grooming – Raising a St. Bernard entails a lot of commitment in the grooming department. Not only do the dogs dribble saliva, they really shed a lot. In fact, they shed all year round! Bi-weekly combing is a must, and on heavy shedding seasons like spring and fall, you need to step up to daily brushing.

Diet & Exercise – Consultation with the breeder is definitely important for you to structure and plan your St. Bernard’s diet. Generally, meals that have mutton or poultry, wheat and vegetables are good. However, serving size is also a critical aspect that can affect the breed’s wellness.

While the energy level of Saint Bernards is quite low, you should take the initiative to give them exercise. This ensures optimal bone health. Daily walks that last for 60 to 80 minutes are the norm. Alternative activities include off-leash loping in a secure area.

Health – St. Bernards don’t live very long. Their sheer size makes them vulnerable to skeletal problems such as elbow and hip dysplasia. Cases of epilepsy, hemophilia, chronic heart disorders, gastric torsion and dog eye problems have been linked to the breed.

Apart from taking your pet to the vet for regular checkups, remember to have your Saint Bernard undergo cardiac and eye examinations, as well as hip and elbow tests.

St. Bernard Trainability

The Saint Bernard dog breed benefits much from early dog training and socialization. The breed is generally not a fast learner, but its desire to please you will make the dog quite receptive to basic dog obedience commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “heel.”

If you begin late, this large dog breed will be harder to control. It can even be obstinate. Remember to invest plenty of time and patience, and you may well see your Saint Bernard draw cheers in the show ring.