Saint Bernard | Information & Dog Breed Facts

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The St. Bernard dog is one of those unmistakable breeds, with its enormous proportions and great height. These dogs are muscular with authoritarian and imposing heads and have the ability to travel rough terrain with calm and smooth movements.

Many people call St. Bernard a holy dog, all because of the heroism shown by representatives of this breed. The lives of more than one thousand people were saved in the Swiss Alps by the St. Bernards.

Saint Bernard
St. Bernard dog

This is a very large and fearless dog, it looks very frightening, its formidable appearance can scare any person. In fact, St. Bernard has a good-natured, gentle character. He can become a devoted friend and companion.

Read and find out in ‘ Pets Feed ‘ everything you need to know about the St. Bernard to give your furry companion a good quality of life.

St. Bernard dog breed history

The birthplace of St. Bernard is Switzerland. The name of the breed in translation sounds like “the dog of St. Bernard.” The origin of the name has its own history. In the eleventh century, a monk named Bernard founded a refuge for travelers on the Great Saint Bernard Pass. The territory on which the shelter was located was at an altitude of about 2472 m.

This site is very dangerous, travelers on the trail were trapped by many dangers: robbers, strong winds, avalanches, steep mountain passages. At Bernard’s refuge, travelers had the opportunity to rest, eat and sleep before continuing on the dangerous journey. Local dogs were called St. Bernards, they were irreplaceable helpers to their owners, and later became consummate rescuers.

The origin of the St. Bernards is not precisely established. According to some information, representatives of this breed originated from fighting mastiffs, who arrived in the Alps with the Romans. There is also another version, according to which the St. Bernards descended from Asian mastiff dogs (Tibetan Mastiffs). In both the first and second cases, mastiffs were crossed with local dogs, the resulting puppies were named St. Bernards.

In the seventeenth century, the monks, appreciating the abilities of the St. Bernards, decided to use them to save people caught in avalanches. The fact is that the representatives of the breed have an exceptional scent, thanks to which the dog could smell a person under a thick layer of snow. These dogs also have a thick skin that protects from snow, ice and frost. Often the St. Bernards were taken with them on the road. They not only protected the owners from predators and robbers, but also warned about the approach of avalanches. A dog of this breed is able to feel an avalanche 20 minutes before it descends. Such a gift helped save many lives.

The ancestors of the St. Bernards were different from their modern descendants. They were not so heavy, their physique could be called more graceful. This made it easier to move on the snow and made the dogs agile and fast. Today’s representatives of the breed are much heavier, more powerful, but at the same time they are less agile.

Close breeding of purebred St. Bernards began at the end of the nineteenth century. Despite the fact that mountain rescuers now have all kinds of equipment at their disposal, dogs are still used in rescue work. But in most cases, St. Bernards are excellent guards, companions, accompanying dogs and just pets.

Saint Bernard
St. Bernard dog

Physical characteristics of the St. Bernard dog

The St. Bernard is a large raw type. They are powerful animals, they are soft-haired and wire-haired. The weight of adults is about 70 kg, the height is 70-90 cm.

A large head rests on a powerful neck with a slight dewlap. The skull is short, the forehead is convex. The ears are small, of medium length, drooping. The eyes are brown, set not deeply, slightly sunken. The eyelids are damp. The muzzle is short, with a blunt nose bridge. The nose is wide, black in color with flat nostrils. The jaws are massive.

The physique of the St. Bernard dog is powerful, the back is wide. The limbs are set wide apart, muscular, straight. Paws are massive, with arched toes. The tail is weighted and long. In a calm state, the dog keeps him lowered down, in an excited state, he twists him up.

According to the type of wool, St. Bernards are of two types: long-haired and short-haired:

1. Long-haired – the coat is long, soft. Light curls are allowed at the bottom. There is a thick undercoat. “Pants” and “skirt” of medium length. A characteristic feature of the breed is a lush collar. On the face and ears, the hair is shortened.

2. Short-haired – the coat is short; the guard hair is hard. There is a dense undercoat.

The color is red with white or white with red spots. Any shade of red is allowed by the standard.

food feeding dog St Bernard
St Bernard Dog

Character and temperament of the St. Bernard dog

The St. Bernard is a dog with a sweet, social and kind character. Despite their large size, these gentle giants are generally calm and less playful than many other breed dogs. However, they require a constant company and can overprotect their loved ones.

It is a dog patient, obedient and faithful, given to its relatives and especially nice. If left in the garden or left alone for long periods of time, they may develop aggressive behavior or behavioral problems related to separation anxiety.

The temperament of the St. Bernard dog could be summed up by the expression “good giant”. They are friendly, trustworthy and kind dogs, who love family life. They are also very loyal and do not usually bark, although they defend you, as well as your property, if necessary.

Normally, they accept without problem to be with other pets. When they are young, we should teach them not to pull the leash at an early age, because it is a very difficult habit to break with age.

The main purpose of the St. Bernard is a lifeguard. That is why these dogs cannot be alone. They need communication, they should be in the company of people or pets all the time. Left to be bored, St. Bernard can fall into a depressive state, there have been cases when a dog hurt himself from loneliness.

The main character traits of St. Bernard: friendliness, adequacy, calmness, courage, tenderness. It is an ideal family pet for families with children. Such a dog is not capable of offending a child; it will play with children, protect them and take care of the kids.

St. Bernard always strives to please the owner. He is devoted to all family members. At the sight of such a huge dog, people who are not familiar with the nature of this animal are frightened. Of course, in dangerous situations, the St. Bernard can stand up for the family, he is an excellent guard and watchman. But in general, he is calm, adequate and not aggressive.

Representatives of the breed have a strong sense of smell, they are strong and hardy, but due to their large weight and large build, they are rather slow. St. Bernard dogs bark extremely rarely, only in cases of emergency. If such a dog bark, then there is a good reason for it. Also, St. Bernard dogs are perfectly oriented in space and even from a long distance are able to find their way home on their own.

St Bernard Dog
St Bernard Dog

Health

Unfortunately, the average life expectancy of St. Bernard dogs is not very long. With proper care, such a dog can live 8-10 years. The pet owner should know what diseases the representatives of the breed are predisposed to:

  • Dysplasia – leads to lameness, accompanied by intolerable pain
  • Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract – diarrhea, volvulus, bloating.
  • Ligament tears.
  • Dislocations.
  • Epilepsy – accompanied by seizures, involuntary bowel movements.
  • Lymphoma is a type of cancer that is defined by the presence of malignant white blood cells called lymphocytes in organs such as the bone marrow, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and some others.
  • Deafness is most often congenital.
  • Pyoderma is a skin disease in the form of an accumulation of pus.
  • Osteosarcoma.
  • Extended cardiomyopathy.

The weak point of the St. Bernard dog is the eyes. In addition to the fact that they are constantly watering, there are a number of diseases that affect the visual organ of the breed: cherry eye, eyelid volvulus, eyelid inversion, cataract. It is also interesting to note that St. Bernard dogs have a third eyelid, and it is advisable to remove it.

St Bernard Dog
St Bernard Dog
Saint Bernard puppies
St Bernard puppies

Basic care

St. Bernard is suitable for both enclosure and apartment. Although a large dog does not feel very comfortable in cramped rooms. If such a dog lives in the house, he will need daily long walks. It is only necessary to ensure that the pet does not receive heatstroke in hot weather. It should be borne in mind that representatives of the breed are prone to overheating.

While small puppies are happy to run, jump, play active games, adults do not really like to frolic. These heavyweights don’t need excessive exercise, but that doesn’t mean that an adult St. Bernard doesn’t need to move.

For a pet to be beautiful and healthy, the following procedures must be carried out:

  • We comb out the long-haired St. Bernard every day with a stiff brush. This is not difficult to do, since the coat of the breed does not tangle or roll. It is enough to comb out short-haired individuals 1-2 times a week. During the moulting period, which occurs twice a year, St. Bernard dogs with a short coat must be combed out every day.
  • Bathing the St. Bernard often is not recommended. Their wool has a special lubricant that makes it waterproof. If you wash your dog frequently, the natural layer of this lubricant will be disturbed. Bathing is recommended every six months or in cases of heavy pollution. The rest of the time, you only need to wash your dog’s paws after a walk. Use a mild dog hair shampoo as a cleanser.
  • Due to the fact that St. Bernard dogs often and profusely salivate, the mouth must be periodically wiped, for this there should be a towel made of natural fabric in the hold.
  • Wipe eyes daily with napkins dipped in boiled water or in a weak solution of chamomile. St. Bernard dogs often have eye leakage, so this procedure is important.
  • Once every 7-8 days we brush the pet’s teeth and ears.
  • Cut off the claws as they grow. This should be done very carefully so as not to injure the dog.
St Bernard Dog
St Bernard Dog

Feeding

Giant breed dogs, in addition to a huge appetite, require a different proportion of minerals and vitamins that you need for the proper maintenance of different joints and cartilage.

It is recommended to feed the St. Bernard with natural foods, although ready-made dry foods for large breed dogs are also suitable. The main thing is that the food is balanced. With natural feeding, the diet must necessarily contain meat, offal, cereals, vegetables. It is important to monitor the quality of food and the number of calories. If the dog has gained excess weight, the calorie content of the food must be reduced.

St. Bernard puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good-quality diet to develop and grow as they should. As a guide, a St. Bernard puppy should be fed 3 or 4 times a day.

Once a puppy is 15 months old, it can be fed with food for adult dogs.

Exercise

The puppies of St. Bernard should be exercised very gradually to avoid overexertion in their bones and tissues during growth and, even in the case of adults, care should be taken to perform the exercise gradually.

That said, it is a dog that, considering its size, does not need large amounts of exercise. One hour per day will suffice in the case of adults.

St Bernard Dog
St Bernard Dog

Training and education

The St. Bernard dog needs early socialization and serious training. Such a big dog must be well-mannered and obedient, otherwise it will become uncontrollable and even dangerous. It is necessary to educate and engage in training from puppyhood. The puppy must master the basic, simple commands until the age of five months.

One of the main rules is that the St. Bernard should not jump either on the owner or on other family members. A dog weighing about 80-90 kg. can easily lay an adult on the shoulder blades. Inoculate good manners and rules of conduct in public places.

More complex training courses are recommended to take place at special sites. If you are not confident in your abilities, use the services of a dog handler. After completing the basic course, choose a course with a specific direction, depending on what you want to prepare the dog for.

St. Bernard Dog Fun Facts

  • The first name of the breed was “Barry”, which means “bears”.
  • When the St. Bernard was sent in search of a man in the snowy mountains, a barrel filled with brandy was attached to his collar. When the rescue dog found a person under a snow block, the frozen sufferer could refresh himself with a warming drink. It is believed that this story is just a legend, but there is some truth in every myth.
  • Between 1800 and 1812, a St. Bernard named Barry saved 40 people. Once this dog carried a small child through the deep snow. The dog had to walk 5 kilometers to bring the kid to the saving monastery.
  • Before becoming lifeguards, St. Bernard dogs were used as pack animals. On their broad backs, food was transported along the mountain route that connected Italy and Switzerland.
  • More than two thousand people have been rescued by the St. Bernard dogs over the past two hundred years.
  • The St. Bernard dogs are great movie actors. Filmed many films with the participation of representatives of the breed: “Beethoven”, “Kujo”, “Back”, “Bagheera”, “Felix”.
St Bernard Dog
St Bernard Dog

St. Bernard Dog Breed Highlights

The St. Bernard can make a wonderful companion dog. This dog is able to stand up for himself and for his family. But to grow and properly educate a St. Bernard you need patience and hard work. Before buying a puppy of the specified breed, check out the main pros and cons of St. Bernard dogs.

Positive points

  • The St. Bernard dog is intelligent and learns new things quickly.
  • Beautiful appearance
  • It is very kind and patient, which makes it a great companion.
  • This dog breed is known to be very gentle with children of all ages.
  • Because of its size, the St. Bernard dog is an excellent watchdog.
  • This dog requires little maintenance on the grooming front.
  • The St. Bernard dog forms strong links with its owners.
  • Rarely barks, only when needed
  • Excellent security and sentry qualities

Negative points

  • The St. Bernard is a large dog that needs enough space to express itself properly.
  • This breed of dog loses abundant amounts of hair throughout the year, especially in the spring and fall.
  • It may suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.
  • Being so smart, it quickly adopts bad habits.
  • It can be too protective of property and owners.
  • The St. Bernard dog can be a little aggressive if it is not socialized from an early age.
  • This dog is immensely strong whether it is a puppy or an adult dog.
  • St. Bernard dogs are subject to specific health problems related to its size.
  • It is an independent dog by nature, which is a trait deeply rooted in its genes.
  • The St. Bernard dog overheats very easily and you have to be careful in the summer.
  • Short lifespan.
  • Tendency to obesity.

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