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Saint Bernard | Dog Breed Info: Pictures, Personality & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Saint Bernard

Height: 26-30 inches
Weight: 120-200 pounds
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Colors: Brown, white, mahogany, mahogany brindle, red, red brindle, orange, black, brownish-yellow
Suitable for: Active families or individuals, families with children, suburban or rural homes, those willing to train and exercise a large dog
Temperament: Tranquil, Loving, Benevolent, Confident, Willing, Calm, Hardworking, Affectionate, Friendly

Are you a parent looking for a dog breed that is exceptionally good with children? Or perhaps you just want a huge, cuddly companion. If you are not daunted by the idea of training a large, loving dog then consider the St. Bernard.

Currently one of the largest breeds in the world, the St. Bernard is a gentle giant. Calm and patient with children, friendly with everyone they meet, and even easygoing with other animals — St. Bernards are social and sweet dogs that can roll with almost any situation with their signature mellow attitude.

Believed to be descended from Roman Mastiffs, the St. Bernard was originally developed by monks in the monastery founded by Bernard of Menthon in the Swiss Alps. The earliest records of the breed are from 1707, and they were used for drafting, guarding, as well as search and rescue.

Through the years and many mixings of bloodlines, today the St. Bernard is most popular as a companion and working dog. The breed was first brought to the United States in the 19th century and has been beloved by families and children as a devoted companion dog ever since.

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St. Bernard Puppies

st bernard puppy
Image Credit: Grigorita Ko, Shutterstock

Sweet and clumsy, a St. Bernard puppy’s charm is impossible to resist. And though they start small, they certainly grow into those oversized paws! A full-grown St. Bernard easily weighs in over 100 pounds, and often grows closer to 200!

These enormous dogs are rarely aggressive and are famed for their even temperament. If you take good care of this affectionate pup, you will have a devoted and benevolent giant for many years to come.

Sadly, as with many giant breeds, the St. Bernard has a shorter lifespan than most dogs. That being said, they still regularly live to be 10 years old. Getting a St. Bernard is a long-term commitment, and you should be ready to care for them in good and bad times.

If you end up going to a breeder, don’t forget to do your homework and ask lots of questions! Familiarize yourself with the common health concerns and ask about the health of the parents. You are also well within your rights to inquire about any testing that the breeders have done for genetic disorders.

The more you know about how the breeder raises and cares for their dogs, the more prepared you’ll be to give your St. Bernard puppy the care it needs!

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Temperament & Intelligence of the St. Bernard 🧠

Tranquil and benevolent, the St. Bernard is a true gentle giant. This dog is affectionate and doting with family, and rarely aloof with strangers. To a St. Bernard, every stranger is a potential new friend!

Their composed nature makes them exceptionally good with children of any age as well as other animals. They are moderately protective of their family but make poor guard dogs due to their friendly nature.

Bred as a working dog, they are also intelligent — albeit in a slow, thoughtful sort of way. St. Bernards enjoy having a job to do, so an owner willing to provide structure and training is essential to their well-being.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The many fictional depictions of the St. Bernard as a plodding, genial babysitter are not far from the truth. This breed is incredibly patient and loving with children and enjoys a good cuddle.

However, it is still important to socialize and train your puppy early. Even a gentle giant is still a giant, and they can easily knock over small children by accident if they become rowdy or playful in the wrong setting. If you teach both dog and kids to respect one another though, you will have little to worry about.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

It is always advisable to supervise dogs with smaller animals — which is practically every animal in the case of the St. Bernard!  That being said, this breed is just as mellow and friendly with other animals as they are with people.

If you socialize your St. Bernard puppy early with other dogs, cats, and pets, they should get along without a hitch.

st bernard
Image Credit: Fedor Selivanov, shuttestock

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Things to Know When Owning a St. Bernard

Food, games, training, cleaning… there’s a lot to think about when deciding whether to add a new canine companion to your family! Here you’ll find some regular care and keeping considerations to help you decide if the St. Bernard is the right breed for you.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The smart and convenient food choice for most dogs is a well-balanced kibble. Seek out brands with a variety of natural, whole foods and lean proteins. If you see an ingredient list chock full of by-product ingredients, wheat, and corn — run the other way!

Check-in with your vet regularly about your dog’s weight as they grow, because adult St. Bernards are prone to obesity. Obesity in a big dog leads to a significantly shorter life and painful joint issues. As these are already concerns for St. Bernards, any extra weight will only exacerbate these problems.

Exercise 🐕

Though they are of moderate activity level, simply by virtue of their massive size, the St. Bernard needs more exercise than smaller dogs. Give your furry friend at least two hours of walks and outdoor time each day, but more if possible.

These dogs do best in a suburban or rural environment where they can get plenty of exercise. However, if you have the space and a fenced-in yard, their genial nature is easily adaptable to city life as well.

When exercising your St. Bernard, it is important to remember that their coats have been developed specifically for cold climates. That means that they can easily overheat in hot weather.

During warm months, be sure they have plenty of water and access to shady places to beat the heat. Never take your St. Bernard out during the heat of the day in summer!

St. Bernard in winter
Image Credit: Scandphoto, Shutterstock

Training 🦮

St. Bernards are docile, eager-to-please dogs that take direction well. However, small behavior issues as a puppy can cause big trouble later when your dog grows well over 100 pounds. Beginning the training of your St. Bernard early, when they are still small, is highly encouraged.

Learning to communicate with and direct this breed as they grow is essential, as once they are full-sized you will not be able to rely on physical corrections. Basic obedience commands, as well as a strong, reliable recall are a good basis of training for your St. Bernard.

Grooming ✂️

The St. Bernard has either a short coat or a longer, silky one. Both types of coat are moderate to heavy shedders, but the longer coat needs a bit more maintenance. For a short coat, a few brushings a week will suffice, but the longer coat may need daily attention to keep it mat free.

General grooming tips for any dog revolve around three things: teeth, ears, and toenails. Your St. Bernard will need their ears cleaned of any dirt or wax regularly to prevent parasites or infections, as well as have their teeth brushed and nails trimmed.

Health and Conditions ❤️

When well-bred, the St. Bernard is an incredibly strong and hardy breed. However, there are many predispositions that these dogs may inherit. Here are some of the main concerns to be aware of and ask your breeder, vet, or shelter about:

Minor Conditions
  • Albinism
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Skin allergies
  • Laryngeal paralysis
  • Temperament problems
Serious Conditions
  • Epilepsy
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) or bloat

Male vs Female

Females are often more reserved and only grow to about 140 pounds. The male Saint Bernard is often considerably larger and heavier and may also be more prone to behaviors like marking territory with urine or humping.


3 Little-Known Facts About the St. Bernard

1. St. Bernards Have Rescued Thousands

This breed was created by monks in the Swiss Alps to rescue lost travelers in the treacherous snows. Records indicate that St. Bernards saved over 2,000 people in the years that they were used for this purpose.

2. The St. Bernard Is Beloved by the Swiss

The St. Bernard is an iconic breed in Switzerland. They are the first breed to be entered into the Swiss Stud Book in the late 1800s, and soon after were named the National Dog of Switzerland.

3. St. Bernards Almost Went Extinct

The winters from 1816-1818 were severe, which lead to increased avalanches that killed many of the breeding stock of St. Bernards. By 1850 the dogs were nearly extinct, and the monks were forced to bring Newfoundlands in to bolster the bloodlines.

The new St. Bernards had significantly longer fur, which accumulates ice and snow faster. This change in breeding is one of the big reasons St. Bernards stopped being used for search and rescue in the mountains, as the additional weight of frozen fur made it extremely dangerous work.

st bernard
Image Credit: Grigorita Ko, Shutterstock



So, is the Saint Bernard right for you?

If you prize a neat and orderly home above all else, then this massive and somewhat clumsy creature probably isn’t for you.

However, if the idea of a huge, utterly sweet canine companion that is great with kids appeals to you then you may have found your dog!

See Also:

Featured Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock

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