Saint Bernards are brave dogs that have a noble history of being search and rescue dogs at the Hospice of Saint Bernard located along the Italian-Swiss border. As search and rescue dogs, Saint Bernards are strong, intelligent, and have thick double coats that keep them warm during harsh winter months. They can also swim and fetch items from the water, but most will prefer splashing or wading in shallow areas. However, the likelihood of your dog loving water activities may vary due to their personality.
Taking Saint Bernards out for a swim can be a great form of exercise and can also help them cool down, especially on a hot summer day. Just keep in mind that there are some safety measures to take to ensure your Saint Bernard is able to keep having fun playing in the water.
Do Saint Bernards Like Water and Swimming?
Saint Bernards are known for their affectionate and easygoing natures. So, it’s likely that they’d love to accompany you to a dog beach or dog-friendly swimming pool. They’ll love any excuse to spend time with their families, but the likelihood that they’ll swim will depend on each dog’s unique preferences.
Some dog breeds, such as Newfoundlands, English Setters, and Barbets, were all bred to be water dogs and retrievers. While Saint Bernards were originally bred to be search and rescue dogs, they’re not water dogs. So, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to how much they’ll enjoy swimming. Most Saint Bernards will enjoy splashing or wading in the water, but not all will enjoy swimming. Some extra-playful Saint Bernards will love swimming around and playing water fetch, but they probably won’t engage in this activity for too long.
Swimming Safety Tips for Saint Bernards
Saint Bernards can be pretty independent and fend for themselves, but they still need their owners’ help to enjoy swimming safely. Here are some key things to keep in mind if you plan to take your Saint Bernard swimming.
Expose Your Saint Bernard to Water Incrementally
Swimming is a dog’s personal preference, and not all dogs will enjoy playing in the water. You can try to encourage your Saint Bernard to swim by using toys or treats. Some Saint Bernards may need extra coaxing and help getting used to the water, especially if they’re younger and haven’t been to a pool before.
It’s often best to start small by spraying water around with a garden hose on a hot day. You can then get your Saint Bernard used to playing in a kiddie pool. Then, try taking your dog to a dog-friendly pool or the dog beach. If you’re going to a dog beach, start your Saint Bernard off in a shallow area with smaller waves.
It’s great if your Saint Bernard takes to the water and starts swimming around. However, if they don’t enjoy the experience very much, there’s really no need to keep trying or pushing them. Swimming is a personal preference, and your Saint Bernard will be perfectly happy enjoying walks and other activities with you instead.
Use Dog Sunscreen
Dogs have sensitive skin, so it’s helpful to apply vet-approved and dog-safe sunscreen on them if you plan to be outside for a few hours on a hot and sunny day. Keep an eye on the ingredients in the sunscreen and always avoid zinc oxide and aim for the lowest possible amount of salicylates. These ingredients can cause skin irritation, damage to red blood cells or signs of an upset stomach, allergic reaction, liver damage, or seizures, depending on the ingested amount.
Supervise your dog and make sure not to apply sunscreen on areas from which they can easily lick it off. Some dogs may try and swallow the packaging as well so it needs to be stored safely.
Make sure your pooch always has access to shade and fresh water. Saint Bernards don’t really have very many exposed areas of skin, but they can still get sunburn on more delicate or exposed areas, like their noses, ears, muzzles, and undersides. A general rule of thumb is to apply dog sunscreen on any areas on the coat where you see pink skin.
Thoroughly Dry Off Your Saint Bernard
Caring for your dog after a swim is also essential. Saint Bernards have thick coats, so it’s important to thoroughly dry them off with a towel after they finish swimming. Make sure to check their coats for any parasites, like fleas and ticks, and remove visible dirt and debris.
After your Saint Bernard’s coat has completely dried off, brush them thoroughly to prevent any mats and tangles and to search for any skin wounds or external parasites one last time. Some Saint Bernards need brushing daily, especially during shedding, otherwise at least three to four times per week.
Clean and Check the Ears
Saint Bernards have floppy long and covered ears, so they’re more prone to getting an ear infection, especially after swimming, because their ear shapes trap moisture easily and allow bacteria and yeast to grow. So, make sure to wipe your Saint Bernard’s outer ear canals and ear flaps and pat them dry to reduce moisture. Then, use a vet-approved dog ear cleanser to rinse out the ears and prevent infections.
Make sure to check your Saint Bernard’s ears regularly on a weekly basis for any signs of an ear infection. Ear infections often cause ears to become inflamed and swollen, red, painful, itchy, or malodorous, and you may see discharge, crusting, bleeding, or scabs in the ear. Your Saint Bernard may also shake his head more frequently and scratch at the affected ear.
If you see any signs of an ear infection, visit your veterinarian right away to prevent the infection from spreading to the middle and inner ear. After your veterinarian examines and cleans your Saint Bernard’s ears, they’ll probably receive topical medication or an ear cleanser. In some cases, your veterinarian may take a sample from the ear and send it off for culture testing and prescribe the most appropriate topical and/or systemic antibiotics.
Most Saint Bernards will enjoy splashing around in the water, but they may not like swimming as much. If your Saint Bernard does love to swim, make sure to prepare them properly for a swim and take the time to provide care afterward. If your Saint Bernard is adamant about not swimming, there’s no need to worry. Swimming is a preferential activity, and not all Saint Bernards have to love swimming. There are plenty of other fun outdoor activities that you can enjoy together all summer long.