Saint Bernard Breed Characteristics & Traits

St. Bernards – those are the imposing avalanche dogs with the trusty look and the medicine keg around their necks, right? The association of St. Bernard as the rescue dog par excellence can be called up reflexively by every non-dog owner. Why it is like that? Let’s clarify here.

History & Origin

The St. Bernhardshund, as Saint Bernard is also called, got its name from its geographical origin. As with the Appenzeller and Swiss Mountain Dog, the Leonberger or breeds such as the Tosa, the name already provides information about the origin of the breed. St. Bernards were first bred by monks in the hospice farm on the great St. Bernhard (a pass in the Swiss Alps), so tradition has it. As with almost all dog breeds, a precise determination is not possible, especially since the breeding conditions in the 17th century were anything but ideal.

Like so many large dog breeds, they appear to have descended from the Molosser of ancient Assyrian origin. Depending on the source examined, there is also talk of the descent of the Tibetan mastiff, the scholars still argue excellently at this point. “Great Dane-like” is the common consensus of the historical camps.

What can be counted among the facts, however, the St. Bernard of yesteryear has little in common with its descendants, apart from the name. In terms of size, coloring, and general appearance, mountain dogs were brought in to maintain the line because of the adverse conditions. In addition to the St. Bernhardshund, attempts were made to establish the Alpenhund in Germany and the various breeders also had their own ideas of the ideal dog. In 1887, the breeders finally agreed on a Swiss standard and from then on began to align their breeding accordingly.

Anyone who would like to delve particularly deeply into history will find an entertaining and instructive place to go to deepen their knowledge here.

Numbers, Data, Facts

  • Country of origin: Switzerland
  • Life expectancy: 10-12 years
  • Weight males: 70-90 kg
  • Bitch weight: 65 – 80 kg
  • Males: 70-90 cm
  • Bitches: 65 – 80 cm cm
  • FCI standard: 61


St. Bernard was used as an avalanche dog for a long time. He is too heavy for that today and has either been replaced by electronic achievements or the more physically fit shepherd dogs. He also earned his bread and butter as a shepherd and farm dog and today mainly finds a place in the middle of society, more precisely in families his home. In Switzerland, dogs are also used as therapy dogs in care and rehabilitation. The Bernardine has remained in the working world to date and adapts to its tasks accordingly.

Classification, breed standard & breed standard

  • Group 2: Pinschers and Schnauzers – Molossoids – Swiss Mountain Dogs
  • Section 2: Molossoids
  • 2.2 Mountain Dogs
  • Without work test

Character & Nature of the St. Bernard

Like many large dogs, the character of St. Bernard is characterized by composure, calmness, and strength of character. A lot has to happen before the kind-hearted giant staggers. He comes with a certain territorial demeanor that makes him a good watchdog and protector. However, the nature of St. Bernard is gentle and good-natured – as long as you have thought about an upbringing that gives him a permanent place in the pack and in the hierarchy. He also brings a certain amount of stubbornness and stubbornness to the scales and has a pronounced stubbornness.

In addition, Saint Bernard is a very good and reliable guard and protection dog thanks to its “fine antennae, body size, and bravery. In order to bring out all the positive character traits, however, a certain amount of training and familiarization phases are also necessary. Simply buying a St. Bernard and relying on the breed description being 1:1 would be negligent.

Dealing with family & children

Today St. Bernard is a real family dog. Even during breeding, value is placed on St. Bernards finding their way in families. With him, families gain a friendly, child-loving character who is sometimes very affectionate and constantly seeks direct family contact. It should not be underestimated that he has a strong protective instinct. You will not be able to approach a stroller with a St. Bernard nearby. He is absolutely not suitable for the kennel.

In dealing with the environment

St. Bernard is very open and friendly towards strangers. As long as he does not feel any danger to his family, his disposition always remains gentle and loving. That changes as soon as the sensitive door senses danger. Then the dog, which can weigh up to 90 kilograms, can become very uncomfortable and will not shy away from confrontation with its family. The breed also gets along very well with other animals and dogs – nevertheless, the course should be laid in the dog training and the imprinting phase.

Urge to move

He is persistent and can cover long distances if he has to. However, he is also not angry with his owners if they limit themselves to two or three normal walks and the animal does not have to push itself to its limits. Especially in summer temperatures, he loves to take it easy, while in winter he can blossom into a high-performance athlete in the snow and be in his element.

The hunting instinct

The hunting instinct is less pronounced in the Swiss national dog. Nevertheless, when visiting the dog school, it should be carefully observed whether the animal resists the temptation of a hunt or whether corrective action is required. The probability that he is an avid hunter should be lower than the opposite case. Here, too, exceptions confirm the rule.

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