Good for Novice Owners:
- Average Size: Giant
- Average Lifespan: 8-10 years
- Registered?: aca, akc
Saint Bernard Dog Breed Information
Did You Know?
The Saint Bernard originated in the Swiss Alps several centuries ago. As the story goes, the journey across the Alps was a treacherous one, so monks established a hospice to aid pilgrims from Rome who were braving the journey. The establishment founding of 1050 is credited to Bernard of Menthon and the area came to be known as St. Bernard Pass or the Great St. Bernard Pass.
These monks developed a working dog that was able to handle the harsh conditions and serve as a search and rescue dog for travelers lost or buried in the snowy landscape. Hence, the dog breed we know as the Saint Bernard. In addition to search and rescue up in the mountains, they were also used for guarding and herding livestock as well as hauling goods in the farms and dairies located in the valleys. The American Kennel Club recognized the Saint Bernard in 1885 and they are a member of the Working Group.
Saint Bernards are friendly, playful, and gentle giants. These dogs may be huge and imposing, but they are loving and loyal sweethearts. They get along well with children, other dogs, and other pets. So much so, that they are famously referred to as “nanny dogs” when it comes to children. They are patient and often take on the roles of watchful guardian and gentle playmate.
The Saint Bernard is a moderately adaptable dog breed. Although they can adapt to apartment living, their large size is often a challenge in smaller spaces. Because of this, they tend to be better suited to larger homes with space to roam.
Although they are a cold-weather dog breed, they tend to well in a variety of climates. However, they are sensitive to heat, so may not be the best fit for hot or tropical climates. They love their families, so they do not like to spend long periods of time alone.
As a giant dog breed, it’s important for a Saint Bernard to get enough nutrition and exercise as they are growing. It’s also important to keep their exercise relatively low-impact until they are approximately 2 years old as their bones and joints are still developing until this point. You can work with your vet to plan out when to expand activities as your Saint Bernard grows to avoid potential damage to their growing bones.
Eye disease, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia can be found in the breed. Asking the breeder about the genetic history of the parents can help allay some of these potential health concerns. As a large, deep-chested dog, Saint Bernards are also more prone to bloat. Because bloat can become life-threatening, it’s important for owners to know the signs and symptoms of bloat in dogs in order to get to the vet as quickly as possible should it occur.
The Saint Bernard is a highly trainable dog breed. They are intelligent and eager to please, which means they pick up on things quickly. Early training and socialization are important for any dog breed.
Due to the size of the Saint Bernard, it’s essential to start training your dog not to jump or knock over people and to teach them boundaries and expectations. They tend to respond quickly to commands once they know what is expected of them. Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or have more experience, puppy training classes can be a benefit for both you and your dog.
Although the Saint Bernard coat comes in two versions, long-haired and short-haired, they both require about the same amount of care. This dog breed will shed moderately year-round and more heavily twice a year as the seasons change. For most of the year, weekly brushing is sufficient to keep your Saint Bernard’s coat healthy. During their heavier shedding sessions, you’ll want to increase to daily brushing. The occasional bath as needed is plenty for this dog’s coat.
In addition to coat care, you will also need to take care of your Saint Bernard’s nails, ears, and teeth. Cutting your dog’s nails on a monthly basis is usually sufficient to keep them from getting too long. If they’re not wearing down as much naturally, you may need to trim their nails more often. Checking your dog’s ears weekly and carefully cleaning as needed can help prevent ear infections. When you’re looking at their ears, check to make sure they are clean, dry, free of debris, and that there is no excess buildup of wax.
You will also want to make sure you are taking care of your dog’s teeth and gums. Dental disease is one of the most common health issues in dogs. It’s also one of the most preventable and good dental care for dogs should not be overlooked. Brushing their teeth or using an enzyme toothpaste at least once a day is ideal. You can also supplement your efforts with dental hygiene chews approved by your vet and a specially-formulated “dental care diet”.
It’s important to get your Saint Bernard used to having their paws, ears, and mouth handled as a puppy and to keep it a rewarding and positive experience. This effort up-front will make basic grooming and maintenance so much easier as your dog grows. Plus, it can become a bonding experience for you both!
Although they are a large working dog, the Saint Bernard only requires a moderate amount of exercise. Their daily walks plus some playtime are plenty to keep them happy and healthy. Since they are sturdy dogs, they are also up for more activity if you are. Because Saint Bernards love being with their families, they will be happy just to be spending time with you doing something together.
Who knows? You may find that your Saint Bernard likes hiking with you, going camping with you, or going for a swim. Try out some activities and see what they like; you might even discover a new activity you both love. Saint Bernards can even be found competing in drafting or carting competitions!
A fully-grown Saint Bernard usually stands 26-30 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 120-180 pounds. Females tend to be 26-28 inches tall and weigh 120-140 pounds while males tend to be 28-30 inches tall and weigh 140-180 pounds. Although this is the average general size range, the Saint Bernard is a giant dog breed, so some dogs may run larger. Some have even weighed in at over 200 pounds!
The Saint Bernard generally lives 8-10 years.
Before 1830, Saint Bernards were short-haired dogs. Due to a few years of severe weather and the breed dwindling, the monks began to cross them with longer-haired dogs, which gave us the addition of the fluffier long-haired Saint Bernards we know and love today.