Saint Bernard: The Ultimate Guide


The Saint Bernard is a well-known breed of dog that is large in size and absolutely adorable. They were originally bred for rescue work, and they are known to be gentle, loving, and tolerant. They have a relatively placid temperament and are quite laid back at home, but there is much more to them than this.

There are always going to be lots of different things to think about when you get a dog, no matter what breed you get, and the best way to find out more about your chosen breed is by researching them. It is always best to find out as much as possible about the breed before you bring them into your family for good.

Saint Bernard

In this article, we are going to share with you our ultimate guide to Saint Bernard, so you can find out all of the information that you need to know about them without having to search the internet for days. You can find out everything that you need to know, all in one place, to help you to save some time.

Saint Bernard Key Facts

Before we start to tell you everything there is to know about Saint Bernards, there are some important things that you should give some thought to first.

The lifespan, exercise requirements, and minimum monthly cost of a Saint Bernard are all things that you will need to know before we get started, and you can find out more on this below.

Average Lifespan

On average, a Saint Bernard will live for between 8 and 10 years.

Minimum Exercise (Per Day)

In order to ensure that your Saint Bernard is remaining fit and healthy, you will need to ensure that they are getting at least one hour of exercise per day once they are fully grown.

This exercise should include walks, extra play time, and brain games that help to keep them mentally stimulated. You can try to include one longer walk with other shorter walks, and off-lead time in a secure environment can be really beneficial for letting them burn off some steam. 

Coat Length

The Saint Bernard can have either a long or short coat, but both of these types of coats are going to need some regular maintenance. Brushing out their coat on a weekly basis will help to remove dirt and loose hair, and it will help to keep your dog looking their best.

You will be able to get rid of any tangles by using a slicker brush or metal comb. The Saint Bernard can have a smooth or rough coat that is commonly shaded red or mahogany on white with black shades on the face and ears.

Minimum Cost (Per Month)

Owning and caring for a Saint Bernard dog is going to cost a minimum of $80 per month. So, you will need to ensure that you can afford to spend at least $80 a month solely on your dog.

Appearance

Saint Bernards are known for being very large, powerful, and muscular dogs, and some of their coat colors will include red and white, brown and white, and brindle and white.

Some dogs will even have dark masks over their eyes, and their ears are set high on the head and are floppy. Their eyes are often dark in color and a little droopy.

Size

Saint Bernards are considered to be large dogs, which means that they will need plenty of space at home to roam around when they want to.

Average Height

A male Saint Bernard will usually be between 28 and 30 inches in height, but a female’s height will usually range between 26 and 28 inches. 

Average Weight

Male Saint Bernards can weigh between 140 and 180 pounds, and females will typically range somewhere between 120 and 140 pounds.

Temperament

Saint Bernards are true to their heritage as hospice dogs with their friendly and welcoming nature, and they have a steady and benevolent temperament.

These dogs are very kind to almost anyone, and they are very careful around children. These are dogs that love attention, but even though this is the case, they are not as demanding as some other breeds.

Due to their large size, it is really important that their training starts at an early age, as this is usually when they are still manageable. They are intelligent dogs that are willing to please, but they can also be really stubborn at times. Saint Bernards are never usually aggressive unless it is in defence of a family member.

Just like any other dog, Saint Bernards are going to need early socialization, which is when they are exposed to lots of different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they are still young. This will help to ensure that your Saint Bernard puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

Apartment Living

Saint Bernards are very large dogs, which is why they are not suited to apartment living at all. They need much more space than this to freely roam around, and it is also ideal for them to have a spacious yard to run around in. If you live in an apartment, this is not the right breed for you.

Good for Novice Owners

Saint Bernards are not typically recommended for novice owners, as it is going to take someone with a good deal of dog-owning experience to handle this breed.

They are huge dogs that can easily overwhelm you if they are not trained properly, especially due to the fact that they can be really stubborn. So, these dogs are better suited to owners with some experience under their belts.

Sensitivity Level

These dogs can be very sensitive at times, so it is best to avoid scolding them, especially during their training. They are also very sensitive to human emotions, and will pick up on your emotions if you are feeling sad. They may even try to offer you comfort at these times to try and make you feel better.

Tolerates Being Alone

Saint Bernards can be left alone for around 4-6 hours, but they might start to act differently if you are gone for longer than this. They typically do well when they are left alone, but some dogs of this breed will start to get lonely after this length of time.

It might not always be the case, but some Saint Bernards will turn to destructive behavior out of boredom or loneliness if they have been out of your company for a long time. 

As well as this, they have lots of energy that needs to be burned off through different forms of exercise, and if they are not able to do this, their behavior can get a little crazy.

Tolerates Cold Weather

This is a breed of dog that was originally bred to withstand the cold temperatures of the Alps, so they can tolerate the cold weather very well. They have a thick coat that will keep them warm when it is cold outside.

Tolerates Hot Weather

Although they do well in cold weather, the same cannot be said for hot weather. Saint Bernards do not tolerate the hot weather very well at all, and they can easily get too hot. When the weather is warm, it is really important to provide them with shade and water to try and keep them as cool as possible.

Affectionate With Family

Saint Bernards just love the company of others, and they will show affection to almost anyone that they are with. They like to show their affection in lots of different ways, especially with members of their family. 

Kid-Friendly

The Saint Bernard is an easygoing and gentle dog that is very patient with children. They are not the most playful of dogs when it comes to children, but they are more than happy to snuggle up with them while watching TV.

However, they can be a bit much for younger children, as they could accidentally knock them over without realizing their own strength.

These dogs are really well mannered around children. They are gentle giants that will carefully step around children, and their patience allows them to put up with a lot from them.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are great for living with young children. You should always supervise any interactions between your dog and young children to make sure that they are not pulling their fur, biting, or climbing on the dog. 

You should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs and never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. It doesn’t matter how trustworthy or trained your dog is, they should never be left unsupervised with a child, just to be on the safe side.

Generally, it is not recommended to have a Saint Bernard in your home if you have young children, as it is very possible for accidents to happen. These dogs are not always aware of their size and strength, and they could knock your child over accidentally.

Dog Friendly

These dogs can also get along well with other dogs and pets, especially if they are first introduced to them when they are still a puppy. However, you will need to supervise them around smaller dogs and cats just to make sure they don’t accidentally step or lie on them.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Saint Bernards are pretty much friendly and loving towards anybody that they encounter, including strangers. While they might not show them as much love and affection as they do with their families, they will still be friendly and polite towards them.

Health And Grooming

Now that you are aware of everything that there is to know about the appearance, personality, and temperament of the Saint Bernard, it is also really important to learn about their health and grooming requirements. We will tell you everything that you need to know about this below.

Shedding

Saint Bernards are known for shedding quite a bit anyway, but they will shed particularly heavily in the spring and autumn seasons. You can expect long haired Bernards to shed more than those with short hair, but both coat types are going to be leaving hair around your house all-year round.

Drooling

If you are not a fan of drooling, then the Saint Bernard probably isn’t the right breed of dog for you. They have jowls, which make them highly prone to drooling. You can expect them to drool quite a lot. 

Grooming

You will need to ensure that you brush your Saint Bernard around 3 times a week. For long haired coats, you can use a pin brush, or for short haired coats, you can use a hound glove. 

During shedding season, you could also use a shedding blade to remove loose hair.

While these dogs do not require frequent bathing, when you do bathe them, it is usually best to do it outdoors, unless you have a walk-in shower. However, winter baths should always be given indoors unless it is warm out all-year round.

You should use a shampoo that is specifically designed for dogs to ensure that the coat doesn’t become dry.

Saint Bernards often develop stains around their eyes, and you can avoid this by wiping around the eyes every day with a damp cloth. Some of their other grooming needs that you will need to attend to are dental hygiene, nail care, and ear care.

You will need to brush your dog’s teeth at least 2 or 3 times a week to remove a buildup of tartar and bacteria. Daily brushing is even better for preventing gum disease and bad breath.

It is also really important to check their ears on a weekly basis. If they look dirty, you will need to wipe them clean using a cotton ball and an ear cleaner that has been recommended by your vet. You should never insert a cotton swab, or anything else, into the ear canal.

General Health

Generally, Saint Bernards are healthy dogs. However, just like all breeds, they are prone to certain health conditions. They are not guaranteed to develop any of them, but it is important to have knowledge of them if you are considering the breed.

Common Health Problems

Some of the most common health problems for Saint Bernards to develop are:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Entropion
  • Epilepsy
  • Cataracts
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy
  • Allergies
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus

Potential For Weight Gain

This breed is more likely than many others to gain too much weight, which is why it is really important to ensure that you are feeding them a healthy and balanced diet with the correct food portions.

You should try to avoid giving them scraps, as this could contribute to their weight gain. These are already large dogs, and gaining too much weight could lead to other health conditions.

Trainability

Saint Bernard

An untrained Saint Bernard can be a nightmare to handle, and they can wreak havoc in your home. Their big size means that they can drag you down the sidewalk with their eagerness to greet people. All of this is why early training is essential. You can train your Saint Bernard using a happy and relaxed approach, and be sure to lay down the ground rules with them.

Easy To Train

Saint Bernards are not the easiest of dogs to train, which is why they are best paired with trainers that already have a good amount of experience with dogs. They have a stubborn side that sometimes likes to come out while training, and they won’t do anything that they don’t want to do.

Intelligence

These are highly intelligent dogs, which can be a great bonus when you are trying to train them. However, their intelligence is sometimes overshadowed by their stubbornness when you are trying to teach them new things.

Potential to Bite

Due to the fact that these dogs are so friendly and loving, they are not very likely to bite.

Tendency To Bark Or Howl

Thankfully, Saint Bernards are dogs that don’t usually bark very often, and never without a cause. Although, they will sometimes howl if they are bored or trying to get your attention. 

Saint Bernard History

The Saint Bernard originated in Switzerland along with many other dog breeds, and they were likely created when dogs native to the Alps were crossed with Mastiff-type dogs that came with the Roman army during the time of the emperor Augustus. 

Later down the line, they were used by the Hospice, but it is unclear when this first happened. However, a painting that depicts dogs that greatly resemble the Saint Bernard as they are today was painted in 1695. The first written mention of the breed in the monastery’s records was in 1703.

During the 3 centuries for which the Hospice has records, Saint Bernards were credited with saving more than 2,000 travelers. Today,  Saint Bernards can be seen in homes, on the big screen, and at dog shows. There are even still Saint Bernards at the Saint Bernard Hospice in Switzerland.

Costs

The average cost of a Saint Bernard puppy is around $1000 to $1500 in the US, but they can cost anywhere from $550 to $2000.

Saint Bernard Fun Facts

  • These dogs have deep roots in myth and legend
  • It is likely that their ancestors were molossers
  • Monks put them to work in the Swiss Alps
  • These dogs are great with children 
  • Monks also tried to improve the breed by cross breeding them
  • These dogs are known as gentle giants

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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