A Saint Bernard's sense of smell can only be described as miraculous. These dogs are said to be able to detect a person buried under 20 feet of snow! No wonder this breed was so valued by the monks of the St. Bernard Hospice, a refuge for travelers crossing the Alps between Switzerland and Italy.
That bit about the brandy cask around their necks is a rural legend, but Saint Bernards did wear packs full of food and water for stranded travelers. These dogs are built for adventure and rescued people from avalanches. They're even supposed to be able to sense avalanches approaching. Saint Bernards are unparalleled in their ability to find folks buried under snowdrifts. In fact, more than 2,000 people have been rescued by Saint Bernards.
The other two things to know about Saint Bernards are that they grow and drool like crazy. (Remember that scene from the movie Beethoven where he shakes off and drool goes flying? Yeah, it happens.) Their droopy lips mean lots of drooling, so be sure to carry a puppy-safe dog wipe or towel with you pretty much everywhere.
Saint Bernard puppies grow incredibly fast. In fact, 100 Saint Bernard puppies starred as the one canine child of Beethoven in the film Beethoven's 2nd, because the pups grew much quicker than the film schedule progressed.
Originally from Switzerland, this large-sized and medium-energy breed can grow to between 120-200 pounds and lives an average of 8-10 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Working group.
|Breed's original pastime||Companion|
|Average lifespan||8-10 years|
|Date of origin||Middle ages|
|Original function||Estate guardian|
|Average size of male||Height: >27.5 Weight: 120-200|
|Average size of female||Height: >27.5 Weight: 120-200|
|Energy level||Low energy|
|Playfullness||Not very playful|
|Affection level||Moderately affectionate|
|Friendliness toward other dogs||Shy|
|Friendliness toward other pets||Friendly|
|Friendliness toward strangers||Shy|
|Ease of training||Moderately easy to train|
|Protection ability||Very protective|
|Grooming needs||Moderate maintenance|
|Cold tolerance||High tolerance|
|Heat tolerance||Low tolerance|
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS A SAINT BERNARD'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
Friendly and patient, a Saint Bernard is a whole lotta furry love. They're protective and loyal, and make gentle playmates for children. These dogs can be somewhat overly protective of “their” kids around strangers, however. Given their size, they'll do best when supervised during play with children and other dogs.
WHAT IS SAINT BERNARD BEHAVIOR LIKE?
Saint Bernards are a quiet breed: they're not prone to barking, nor are they especially active. They make for polite and laid-back housemates. Plan for daily walks, brief jogs, or games in the backyard.
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN A SAINT BERNARD?
Saint Bernards are intelligent and respond well to training. They're quick learners, though some can be a bit stubborn. Reward good behaviors, and be patient and consistent with this pup. She'll appreciate training both for the physical activity and the mental stimulation it provides.
No matter what they're training, though, these dogs have never forgotten their wandering lineage. They're not great candidates for off-leash play outside a well-fenced area.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO SAINT BERNARDS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
Saint Bernards are moderate seasonal shedders who'll need weekly brushing. However, given this pup's size, be prepared for furry tumbleweeds around the house.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO SAINT BERNARDS HAVE?
As a breed, Saint Bernards are generally healthy. Some are susceptible to eye disease, hip and knee dysplasia, bone cancer, minor heart conditions (cardiomyopathy), eyelid and eyelash problems, bloat, diabetes, and seizures.
Feeding your baby Saint Bernard a growth food for large-breed puppies will slow their rate of growth but not diminish their adult stature, and may help prevent or reduce the impact of adult-onset hip dysplasia. Some adult Saint Bernards tend toward pudginess, so be conscientious about meals and snacks.