(aka: St. Bernhardshund, Bernhardiner, Alpenmastiff [Nickname: Saint])
Saint Bernard Description
The Saint Bernard is a huge animal with a muscular build, yet he has a very docile, almost sad look about him. These dogs come in both long haired and short haired varieties. The former has a coat of medium length, which is rough in texture. The latter has a short, close fitting coat, which is also rough to the touch. The coloring of the coat is red and white or white and red, depending on the markings. The weight of this huge dog is around 125-180 pounds, and in height females can reach around 25-30 inches, and males 27-33 inches.
Faithful, affectionate, intelligent, and just a little lazy, the Saint Bernard is a huge dog with a huge heart. When from well-bred lines, these dogs are calm, quiet, and sensible. The patient and docile Saint Bernard does need plenty of space because of his size, and is therefore not suited to those in apartments. He also needs a fair amount of exercise, and daily walks along with an opportunity to have a play around in a safe area will help to keep him fit and healthy. These working dogs are eager to please and happy to serve their family and master. Some of the areas the Saint Bernard may excel in include hauling, and search and rescue. These dogs do need to companionship of their owners, and are not suited to those with little time for a pet. They also need owners that are confident and assertive, and are best suited to those with some experience of dog ownership.
Although the Saint Bernard gets along well with children, early socialization is recommended, and owners should also be mindful of the giant size of the dog. A properly socialized Saint Bernard tends to get along well with other animals too, although some may display aggression towards other dogs. Most will also accept strangers. A well bred Saint Bernard is too docile to make it as a guard dog, but can make an effective watchdog, as his bark and size are enough to put off any burglar. He is a protective and loyal pet, and makes a good family dog for those with the space, time, and experience to provide him with a suitable living environment, lots of attention and interaction, and proper training. You may want to think twice about getting a Saint Bernard if you are very house proud, as they can be slobbery and drool a lot.
Whilst the grooming requirements for the Saint Bernard are not excessively high, this dog is a high shedder. He sheds all year round, and more heavily during the spring and autumn months. Grooming requires brushing him twice weekly, and stepping this up to a daily basis when he is shedding more heavily.
The St. Bernard breed has been around for centuries. In the Western Alps, there is a pass known as St. Bernard. The dogs were named for the pass, which was named for St. Bernard de Menthon, a monk who founded a hospice to rescue stranded travelers in this dangerous Alpine pass between Switzerland and Italy. The breed descends from the Tibetan Mastiff and has been carefully bred for an excellent sense of smell, great strength, surefootedness in the ice and snow and a near sixth sense about winter storms and injured humans.
Tibetan mastiffs were brought to the Alps by the Romans, and it is believed that these mastiffs were crossed with Great Pyrenees and Great Danes owned by the monks in the area to create the breed. They began as companion dogs to the monks that lived in the area. Often, after bad storms, the monks would walk onto the pass to look for lost travelers and the dogs would accompany them. The monks soon discovered that the dogs had an uncanny ability to find lost travelers, even if they were under several feet of snow. After a while, the monks began to have the dogs work in pairs to located humans stranded in the storms. Once a human was found, one dog in the team would stay with the human to provide them warmth while the other dog went back to bring help to the injured. More than 2000 people have been rescued by these dogs in the Alpine areas. Saint Bernards are sometimes referred to as "Barry dogs" because of one very famous St. Bernard named Barry, who is said to have rescued nearly 100 people during his tenure on the Alpine pass.
It is believed that St. Bernards from many years ago looked quite different than the St. Bernard of today. An avalanche is said to have killed off many of the original St. Bernard breeding dogs, causing the breeding program to have to begin all over again.
In addition to being great rescue dogs, these dogs have also been used for carting, due to their great size and strength. Today, they are mostly used as family pets because of their intelligence and gentle nature. But even today, many St. Bernard owners report that their dogs have a very unusual awareness of approaching bad weather. It is believed that the dogs can hear sound waves that indicate the presence of a storm.
Today, there are three different standards for the breed. There is the old Swiss standard, which is still used in the United States, the English standard, which was created in Britain once they began their own St. Bernard breeding programs and there is the revised Swiss standard, which is used in much of Europe. The original Swiss standard that is still used in the US is the closest to the original Alpine rescue dogs from many years ago.
Saint Bernard's are intelligent dogs that are eager to please their masters, so training them is usually quite easy. However, it's still very important to begin training your St. Bernard while he is quite young. Because he will grow to be so large, he can be impossible to manage when he is fully grown if he is not properly trained.
In addition, because of his size, it is important that your St. Bernard be socialized at an early age. Learning simple dog manners like not jumping on the houseguests is particularly important when your dog weighs 200 pounds! If these dogs are not socialized early and often, they will be quite intimidating to people, and can be quite clumsy. But, a well trained and well mannered St. Bernard will be enjoyed by all of your friends because of his sweet and gentle nature.
Training a St. Bernard requires gentleness and patience. Because they are so loyal and eager to please, they can get discouraged if they believe that you are becoming frustrated with their behavior. It is important to be calm, gentle and consistent when you're teaching them. If they perceive training to be an enjoyable activity where they're sure to win your praise, they'll be quite happy to learn any skill you'd like them to have.
As a giant dog, the Saint Bernard has a fairly low life expectancy of around 8-9 years. There are also a number of health problems to look out for with this breed, and this includes ectropion, entropion, heart defects, cancer, bloat, epilepsy, HD, and OCD. The parents of the Saint Bernard puppy should have OFA certificates.