Saint Bernard: Training and Attitude

Despite their impressive size, St. Bernards are sensitive dogs and are characterized by great reliability. They are gentle and are very patient and loving, especially with children.


  • FCI Group 2, Section 2.2, Standard No. 61
  • Origin: Switzerland
  • Height at the withers: males: 70-90 cm | Female: 65-80cm
  • sensitive giant, the good family dog
  • good watchdog
  • drools
  • heat sensitive
  • requires a lot of space, no dog for an apartment
  • Life expectancy: 8 years +

Saint Bernard Character & Temperament

They are also friendly towards strangers. Their balance and well-developed protective instinct make them ideal family dogs. St. Bernard is completely unsuitable for being kept exclusively in a kennel and, due to its size, of course, needs the appropriate amount of space.

So the attitude in a small apartment on the 5th floor would probably not be the right one. Even climbing the stairs will cause problems. You may still be able to carry the puppy, but it will be difficult with an adult St. Bernard weighing 80 kg. If you live in a rented home, you should get the landlord’s permission to own a dog before purchasing the puppy.


The breed is considered easy to train. St. Bernard definitely needs a family connection. Going to a dog school is always a good idea! Well socialized and brought up consistently, the chances of living together with a large four-legged friend without any problems are very good. Film fans know St. Bernard from films like “A Dog Named Beethoven”. “Barry St. Bernard” or “A St. Bernard named Möpschen”.

The most famous St. Bernard is undoubtedly Barry, whose story was also filmed and shown in Germany in 1950 under the title “Barry – Der Held von St. Bernhard”. It can be assumed that Saint Bernard is one of the ancestors of mountain dogs; its origin is in Switzerland.

During their conquest of Europe, the Romans built a temple dedicated to Jupiter while crossing the Swiss Alps at the pass of the Great St. Bernard near the Italian border. On the old ruins, one of the highest and oldest human settlements in Europe, the monk Bernhard von Menthon, later canonized as St. Bernhard, founded a hospice in the 10th century to help the pilgrims on their way to Rome.

At the end of the 17th century, the monks of the hospice on the great St. Bernard took in dogs. They tried to breed without much success but had to keep bringing in new dogs from the area so that there was no real tribe for a long time. After the first attempts were made with large, mastiff-like dogs, a separate breeding program was set up in their own kennel by the beginning of the 19th century.

Before the name “St. Bernard” appeared for the first time around 1865, these dogs were referred to as “holy dogs”, monastery dogs, or Alpine mastiffs. The dogs did not grow very old in the harsh climate. Since new dogs were constantly being crossed, the animals that were then found on St. Bernhard did not bear much resemblance to today’s St. Bernard.

The monks only created a consistent type in the 19th century. In 1887 the Swiss standard was recognized.


The breed gained notoriety through its use as an avalanche dog. At that time there were dogs that saved the lives of many people who had been buried by an avalanche, the best-known avalanche detection dog was called Barry and is said to have saved the lives of 40 people.

Many reports are about sensational rescues, whereby the famous symbol of St. Bernard, the brandy keg tied around the neck, never actually existed, but is the invention of Erwin Landseer, who used it in his film “Alpine Mastiffs reanimating a distressed traveler”. showed.

A total of 2,500 people are said to have been rescued by Saint Bernards, with one dog each laying by the victim’s side to warm him, another licking his face to revive him, and a fourth running back to the monastery for more help. Inexperienced young dogs accompanied the old ones on their inspection rounds in order to learn from them.

Due to breeding selection, however, St. Bernard is no longer suitable for this activity; its task as an avalanche rescue dog is now being performed by the German or Belgian shepherd dog. Although the dogs were initially mostly short-haired and of moderate size, as a result of the crossbreeding of large breeds, increased growth and long-haired coats occurred.

However, these crossings had become necessary after 1830, since the original stock had been so severely depleted by inbreeding, diseases, and bad winters that the monks wanted to regain performance over the next few decades by crossing in Newfoundlands, for example. This is how St. Bernhard we know today was bred.

St. Bernards were specifically bred by Heinrich Schumacher in Bern from about 1850, and the breed was introduced to England around 1870 by the clergyman J.C. Macdona made known. Because of their reputation, they quickly made their way to America, and as early as 1877, over 1,000 dollars were being asked for a single animal.

In the “Guinnness Book of World Records” there are 3 entries of these dogs, which are record-breaking in many respects: “Benedictine” was the heaviest dog in the world at 138 kg, “Ayotte’s Brandy Bear” pulled 2.9 t of steel on a cart over 5 m in just 90 seconds and “Careless Ann” had the largest litter of dogs with 23 puppies.

The Swiss St. Bernhards Club was founded in 1884, and its German counterpart was established in Munich in 1891. Due to their size and nature, it is necessary to train the dogs to be disciplined right from the start. In addition, offspring should only be acquired from strong parents with a friendly nature.

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