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Are Saint Bernards Good Family Dogs? Pros & Cons

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By Nicole Cosgrove

female saint bernard outside

Saint Bernards are one of the giants of the dog world. Saint Bernards that are well-bred can make wonderful family pets. Their most notable traits include their loyalty, calm demeanor, and sensibility.

In this article, we dig into the Saint Bernard’s temperament and how many of their characteristics are shaped by their breeding history. If you are considering this dog for your family, consider the pros and cons before making your final decision.

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Saint Bernard History & Characteristics

Saint Bernards are primarily known for the series of movies in which they showed up during the early 2000s. The films showed them as loyal, drooling, lovable dogs that functioned well as family members. The primary consideration if you adopt a Saint Bernard is their large size. They need plenty of space both in and outside the home to feel comfortable in their house. They enjoy a spacious fenced-in yard that’s typically available in the suburbs or the country.

The Saint Bernard dog was initially bred in Switzerland to guard the grounds of the Switzerland Hospice campuses. Their loud, echoing bark and gigantic size made them quite imposing guard dogs, even though they are not particularly aggressive.

The other primary use that the Swiss bred Saint Bernards for was helping rescue teams find travelers who ended up getting lost or injured in the Alps. The dogs are capable of this because they developed a sense of smell that enabled them to pick up scents even in freezing temperatures or snowstorms.

Nowadays, Saint Bernards are still used up in the mountains on such teams and pull around sleds and carts. They are often associated as loyal parts of a family as well.

Saint Bernard sitting in meadow
Image Credit: rokopix, Shutterstock

Are St Bernards Good Family Dogs?

Saint Bernards can make good family dogs for those who enjoy getting plenty of exercise and spending time outdoors. They tend to be quiet indoor dogs and remain in control of their actions and emotions. That doesn’t mean that these pups don’t need plenty of outdoor time, however. They can be good dogs for living in a smaller indoor space as long as they get out for walks once or twice a day.

Their need for a larger space is also dependent on your tolerance for a mess. Saint Bernards are droolers, and if they don’t have their own space in the house, they will make yours quite messy.

Another facet of Saint Bernard’s personality is their patience, especially for children. They are not extremely playful as they get older, but they will always love a good snuggle. The only thing that you have to watch out for if they live with small children is the dog’s size. As full-grown adults, they can wreak havoc accidentally. Although they would rarely do anything purposefully to hurt a human, they can knock kids over, especially during exuberant play.

Pros and Cons of a Saint Bernards for Families

A Saint Bernard is an excellent choice for some families and might not be as well-suited for others. If you are interested in one of these dogs, then you should look into these characteristics. Consider how each might play out in your space since you might not have an issue with some of the traits that make them unsuitable for other households.

Saint Bernard
Image By: Seaq68, Pixabay

Pros of a Saint Bernard

The pros of the Saint Bernard include their positive mentalities because they have such a laidback personality. They also include:

  • Saint Bernards have plenty of energy, but it’s more laidback than bouncy, particularly as they age.
  • They are responsive to training, albeit in a slow, happy way.
  • They are patient with children.
  • They can adapt to a smaller space if they get plenty of time outdoors.

Cons of a Saint Bernard

Many of the Saint Bernard’s negative traits are due to their size and tendency to create a mess. Consider the following if you want to adopt this dog:

  • Saint Bernards need plenty of space or outdoor time.
  • They can be stubborn and have dominance issues, primarily males.
  • They have a thick coat that sheds heavily, along with slobbering and drooling.
  • Their size and breeding mean they generally have a short lifespan.



If you decide to adopt a Saint Bernard, you should be prepared to spend plenty of time outdoors or have a large yard. As long as your kids know how to interact with the dog appropriately, you are unlikely to ever have an issue with them around children.

Overall, the Saint Bernard is a lovely family dog that won’t display many negative traits, especially when they are well-bred and well-trained.

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Featured Image Credit: Artush, Shutterstock

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