The Ultimate Guide to Saint Bernard Care

Saint Bernards

What is the history behind Saint Bernards and how did they get their name?

Saint Bernards have a rich history as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps. They were bred by monks at the Saint Bernard Hospice, where they would help locate and save lost travelers. The breed is named after the hospice and the patron saint of mountain travelers, Saint Bernard of Menthon.

Saint Bernards are one of the most beloved dog breeds, known for their massive size, gentle temperament, and loyalty. If you’re considering adding a Saint Bernard dog to your family, this ultimate guide will provide you with all the information you need to care for this magnificent breed. From their history and characteristics to their health and grooming needs, we’ll cover everything you need to know to ensure your Saint Bernard dog is happy, healthy, and well-cared for.

Understanding Saint Bernards

Saint Bernards dogSaint Bernards build

Saint Bernards, also known as St. Bernards, are massive dogs with a strong, muscular build. They have a massive head, expressive, kind eyes, and a brindle or brindle and white coat. These dogs were originally bred by monks in the alps of Switzerland, specifically in the Saint Bernard Pass. The breed is recognized as a breed by kennel clubs, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC). The long-haired variety of Saint Bernard was produced by crosses with the Newfoundland dog in the early 19th century. The Saint Bernard breed has been ever refined, using many different large molosser-type breeds, such as the Great Dane, English Mastiff, and Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The Bernese Mountain Dog is another breed similar in appearance to the Saint Bernards. The Saint Bernards have a strong resemblance to the Scotch Collie, a breed known for its intelligence and herding abilities.

St Bernard Overview

Saint Bernards are truly impressive dogs, both in size and temperament. They are one of the largest dog breeds, weighing between 140-180 pounds. Despite their massive size, they have a friendly and gentle temperament, especially towards children. Their patience, tolerance, and love of human companionship make them great family dogs.

Quick Facts about Saint Bernards

Here are some quick facts about Saint Bernards:

  • Saint Bernards are one of the largest dog breeds.
  • They have a friendly, gentle temperament, especially towards children.
  • Daily walks and exercise are crucial to prevent health problems.
  • They are prone to health conditions such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia.
  • The average lifespan of a Saint Bernard is 8-10 years.

History of Saint Bernards

The history of Saint Bernards is fascinating, dating back to their origins in the alps of Switzerland, where they were bred by monks. Let’s explore their origin and how they became the breed we know today.

Saint Bernard Origin

Saint Bernards were originally bred by monks in the alps of Switzerland, particularly in the Saint Bernard Pass. These dogs were used for rescue work, accompanying the monks on their rescue missions in the treacherous alpine conditions. They were bred with large breeds, such as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, to enhance their size, strength, and rescue capabilities. Over time, the breed was refined, and the St Bernard we know today emerged. The St Bernard is a breed of very large working dog from the Western Alps in Italy and Switzerland, originally bred for rescue work by the hospice of the Great St Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border.

Recognition by Kennel Clubs

In the 1800s, Saint Bernards were recognized as a breed by kennel clubs, including the AKC. The breed standard, which sets specific size, appearance, and temperament requirements, was established by kennel clubs such as the Saint Bernard Club of America (SBCA). Today, breeders of Saint Bernards must adhere to these breed standards, and show dogs of this breed compete in dog sports, obedience trials, and agility competitions. The breed is also recognized by The Kennel Club (UK), the Canadian Kennel Club, and the American Kennel Club in the Working Dog group. Additionally, the United Kennel Club in the United States places the breed in the Guardian Dog Group.

Characteristics of a Saint Bernard-AKC

To truly understand this breed, it’s important to delve into their size, appearance, and temperament.

Saint Bernard Size and Appearance

Saint Bernards are one of the largest and most muscular dog breeds, known for their massive size and powerful build. On average, they weigh between 140-180 pounds, with males being larger than females. They have a massive head, expressive eyes, and a brindle or brindle and white coat that is thick and dense. Despite their strong and imposing appearance, Saint Bernards are gentle giants.

Saint Bernard Temperament

One of the defining characteristics of Saint Bernards is their friendly and gentle temperament, especially towards children. They are known for their patience, tolerance, and love of human companionship. While generally calm and easygoing, they can be protective of their family. Proper training, socialization, and obedience classes are important for this breed, as they thrive on human interaction and need to be part of a loving family.

Caring for Your Saint Bernard

Now that we’ve explored the characteristics of this breed, let’s move on to the practical aspects of caring for your Saint Bernard.

Health and Grooming Needs

Proper health and grooming care are essential for keeping your Saint Bernard happy and healthy. Regular grooming, including daily brushing of their thick coat, is necessary to prevent matting and maintain skin health. Additionally, exercise is crucial to prevent obesity, hip dysplasia, and joint problems, which are common health conditions in this breed. A balanced diet, appropriate for large breeds, promotes good health, strong bones, and overall wellness. Regular veterinary care, such as vaccinations, check-ups, and preventive treatments, is also important for your Saint Bernard’s well-being. Owners should have an emergency stretcher or another means in place for moving an incapacitated dog of this size. Saint Bernard Health – Entropion, a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing irritation or injury to the eyeball, can be a concern for this breed. It is usually noticeable by six months of age and can affect one or both eyes. If your Saint has entropion, you may notice him rubbing at his eyes. In such cases, surgical correction may be necessary.

Exercise Needs for Saint Bernards

Saint Bernards require daily walks and exercise to prevent obesity, promote muscle tone, and stimulate their minds. Engaging in dog sports, such as agility or obedience classes, can provide them with mental stimulation and physical exercise. However, it’s essential to be mindful of exercise in hot weather, as Saint Bernards are prone to heat exhaustion. Even in cold weather, regular exercise is important to keep them active, happy, and healthy. Young Saint Bernards need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. Adult Saint Bernards need more exercise to keep them in shape, but not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating.

Feeding Your Saint Bernard

Feeding your Saint Bernard the right dog food, including the right food for their nutritional needs, in appropriate amounts, is crucial for their health and well-being. It’s important to provide a balanced diet formulated specifically for large dog breeds to meet their nutritional needs. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl. Avoid overfeeding, as this breed is prone to obesity, which can lead to health problems. Offering multiple small meals throughout the day, rather than one large meal, can help prevent bloat, a condition that large dogs are susceptible to. It’s best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the best feeding schedule and portion size for your Saint Bernard. Saint Bernard Health is more common among older dogs, but can occur at any age. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid itself of the excess air in its stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded.

Training Your Saint Bernard

Training your Saint Bernard is essential to ensure they become well-behaved adult dogs. Let’s explore their trainability and how to address any behavioral concerns.

Trainability of Saint Bernards

Saint Bernards are intelligent dogs, making them highly trainable, especially with consistent, positive reinforcement techniques. Early socialization and obedience training are crucial to help your Saint Bernard develop good behavior and become a well-mannered adult dog. Reward-based training methods, such as treats and praise, work best to motivate and reinforce desired behaviors. It’s important to be patient and persistent, as this breed can be stubborn at times. Enrolling your Saint Bernard in obedience classes or working with a professional dog trainer can also yield great results.

Addressing Behavioral Concerns

Saint Bernards, like any other breed, may exhibit certain behaviors, such as digging, chewing, or excessive barking. These behaviors can be addressed through positive reinforcement training methods. Providing mental stimulation, such as puzzle toys and training games, can help prevent boredom-related behaviors. Proper exercise, socialization, and consistent, positive reinforcement training can go a long way in addressing any behavioral concerns you may have. If you’re experiencing ongoing behavioral issues, it’s best to seek guidance from a professional dog trainer or behaviorist who specializes in large breeds. Punishment-based training methods should be avoided, as Saint Bernards respond best to positive, reward-based techniques.

Saint Bernards and Family Life-American

Saint Bernards are well-known for their loving and loyal temperament, making them great companions for families of all sizes. Let’s explore how this breed fits into family life, including their interactions with children and other pets.

Saint Bernards with Children and Other Pets

Saint Bernards have a gentle temperament, which makes them great playmates for children of all ages. However, it’s important to ensure early socialization and training to ensure they get along well with other dogs and pets in the family. Supervision is crucial, especially when young children interact with large dogs, to prevent accidents or injuries. Teaching children how to properly interact with dogs, including respecting their space, is essential. With proper introductions, Saint Bernards can become great playmates and loving members of multi-pet households.

Are Saint Bernards the Right Breed for You?

Before bringing a Saint Bernard puppy into your home, it’s important to consider whether this breed is the right fit for your lifestyle, living situation, and ability to meet their exercise, grooming, and health needs. While they are known for their gentle temperament, their size can make them unsuitable for households with young or small children. If you’re looking for a loyal, affectionate, and protective dog, a Saint Bernard puppy could be the right breed for you. Make sure to research breeders, rescue organizations, and breed-specific clubs to find a healthy, well-bred Saint Bernard puppy that fits your needs and lifestyle. Reputable breeders will socialize their puppies from a young age, ensuring they grow up to be well-behaved and well-adjusted companions. If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right Saint Bernard puppy. By selecting the right puppy from a reputable breeder, you can increase the chances of getting a puppy without any inherited temperament or health problems. Unfortunately, you usually can’t tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.


In conclusion, Saint Bernards are majestic and gentle giants that make wonderful family pets. With their loyal and loving nature, they are great companions for children and other pets. However, it is important to understand the responsibilities that come with owning a Saint Bernard. They require regular grooming, exercise, and a balanced diet to ensure their health and well-being. Training is also key to managing their size and energy levels. If you’re ready for the commitment and have the space to accommodate their large size, a Saint Bernard can bring immense joy and love into your life. Consider all aspects of care and make an informed decision before welcoming this beautiful breed into your home.

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