Saint Bernards: Charming Giants

St. Bernards are natives of the Swiss Alps, selfless rescuers of travelers lost in the mountains, known for their phenomenal devotion to man. Serious and collected, these white-red giants are completely devoid of arrogance and the desire to “show off” in front of their relatives. And what’s the point of proving something to someone with such impressive dimensions. St. Bernards feel most comfortable in large friendly families, where they are definitely not threatened with loneliness and lack of communication.

Brief Information

  • Breed name: St. Bernard
  • Country of origin: Switzerland
  • The origin of the breed: the middle of the 17th century
  • Weight: not less than 70 kg
  • Height (height at the withers): males 70-90 cm, females 65-80 cm
  • Life span: 9-11 Years

Key Facts

  • Balanced and good-natured by nature, St. Bernards easily get along with any pets, from cats to feathered pets.
  • Rescue dogs love companionship, but they do well with temporary loneliness unless it spills over into permanent loneliness.
  • A characteristic feature of St. Bernards is intense salivation, so if you are not ready to wipe liquid “marks” on the floor, furniture, and household knees, take a closer look at other breeds.
  • Adult dogs are moderately playful and love long walks. But intense cardio loads only harm the representatives of this breed.
  • Dogs are calm, do not create unnecessary noise, and bark only in exceptional cases.
  • St. Bernards tolerate moderately low temperatures well and suffer greatly from heat. During the summer months, the animal will need a specially equipped shelter or corner in which it can cool slightly.
  • They are perfectly oriented in space and easily find their way home, even if they find themselves in an unfamiliar area.
  • St. Bernards are quite loving and equally affectionate towards each member of the family.

History of the Saint Bernard Breed

St. Bernard is a dog known all over the world. Their incredible kindness, heroism and self-sacrifice, love for humans, and many other useful qualities have long been the subject of common conversations among dog lovers.

Many people learned about this breed in more detail from the old movie “Beethoven”, however, St. Bernard as a breed has existed for at least 500 years, and it was very well known long before the movie was released.

Alpine pass Saint-Bernard is a very dangerous place. It can only be traversed for a short period of time a year – from July to September. During the rest of the year, the pass is hidden by the snow, and now it is not entirely clear how the Romans 2000 years ago could not just walk along with it, but even build a road there. Moreover, it is so high quality that it remains to exist today.

The pass was named after Archbishop Bernard de Menton, who came to these places in 962 and founded a monastery and a hospice. The task of the monks was not only to read prayers but also to carry out the service – to provide assistance to travelers who were crossing the pass. In addition, they searched for and rescued people in trouble in these harsh places.

Now it is impossible to establish exactly when exactly the dogs, which are now called St. Bernard, (and then they were called Talkhund or Bauerhund, differing in the length of the coat), appeared in these places. But, it is known for sure that from about the 17th century they helped the monks to guard the monastery, as well as to save travelers. The monks found that these dogs are excellent trackers, characterized by tremendous self-sacrifice and endurance.

In 1703, the first record of these animals appeared in the monastery. The harsh living conditions had a beneficial effect on the development of the breed – it gained even greater endurance and good health, the undercoat, the layer of subcutaneous fat, and the general size of the dogs increased. Moreover, the wool was exactly as long as needed – this was proved by crossing with the Newfoundland breed in 1830.

The resulting dogs had a longer coat than required, which led to the formation of ice between the villi, sticking them together and complicating the movement of the animal. All puppies and adult dogs from this experiment were given away. For many years of work to save people, paired with monks, St. Bernards dogs pulled many travelers out of the snow. The most famous is the dog named Barry, who saved 40 people between 1800 and 1810.

In 1833, someone named Daniel Wilson proposed to name the Saint Bernard breed, after the hospice and the pass itself, where they became so famous since the dogs still did not have an official name. In 1880, the Swiss Kennel Club recognized this breed under the name St. Bernard. By the way, when in 1887 the International Congress in Zurich developed the first breed standard, it was accepted by all countries except England.


Dogs of the St. Bernard breed have a large, muscular physique, long, strong limbs. The coat can be relatively short or long. The head is large, the muzzle is square, the ears hang down on the sides of the head. The tail is long.

Coat and Color

St. Bernards can be both short-haired and long-haired. The former has a dense undercoat, complemented by a coarse and taut guard hair. The areas with the longest and thickest hair are the tail and thighs.

The guard hair of long-haired individuals is straight or slightly wavy, reinforced with a thick and dense undercoat. The muzzle and ears are covered with short hair. Feathering is present on the front legs, and the thighs are hidden by the lush “pants”. The hair in the tail area is fluffy and long, the hair in the croup is slightly wavy.

The traditional color options are white with red spots or with a red “cloak” covering the back and sides of the animal. The standard allowed a torn raincoat color (with spots on the red background of the back), as well as yellow and red with brindle hairs. It is highly desirable that a black edging is present on the dog’s head. Mandatory color elements: white markings on the legs, chest, tip of the tail; a white blaze on the forehead and a white spot on the nape. At exhibitions, preference is given to individuals with a white “collar” around the neck and a black “mask”.


St. Bernards are loyal friends, excellent watchmen, and first-class nannies. In no case do not pay attention to the external detachment of the dog, supported by a melancholic gaze. Representatives of this breed are quite lively and contact creatures, which are not alien to either funny or playful games. With age, mountain rescuers accumulate heaviness and phlegm, and young individuals are literally torn apart by an excess of emotions. Not knowing how to express their affection, young St. Bernards violently attack their owners, trying to “hug” them.

From the outside, such a manifestation of feelings looks comical, since only a strong person can withstand the pressure of such mascara on his feet.

As befits a faithful family man, St. Bernard directs all his energy to serve the home. At the same time, he will not be stubborn and demand close attention to his own person, and will never respond to annoying childish pranks with disgruntled grumbling. Moreover, he will gladly take an active part in all the “conspiracies” of the smallest – remember Beethoven from the Hollywood comedy of the same name? In general, St. Bernards are very calm and calm pets, which is unrealistic to get angry. They meet strangers who have stepped onto the threshold of the house either friendly or indifferently; they are practically not interested in neighboring cats, as, indeed, dogs.

A distinctive character trait of St. Bernards is a deep thoughtfulness into which they fall from time to time. It is unlikely that it will be possible to eradicate this feature, so take for granted the fact that sometimes your pet will think a little longer about the action being taken. These good-natured giants prefer passive rest. Lying down on a rug or sofa, St. Bernard, as a rule, is in a borderline state between sleep and wakefulness, not forgetting to monitor the actions of people along the way.


St. Bernards are smart students, but in the process of teaching, they are sometimes hindered by a phlegmatic temperament. If your pet is following the command slowly, do not rush it: over time, the animal will definitely pick up the necessary speed. Dog training begins from the second or third month of life. By this time, the puppy is already able to learn basic commands. The hardest thing for the representatives of this breed is the delivery, therefore it is necessary to force the pet to bring objects in its teeth as often as possible.

In the process of mastering the basic skills and rules of dog etiquette, the puppy should be praised and “rewarded” with treats. Never shout or force the animal. If a young St. Bernard loses interest in classes, unfortunately, it will not work to teach an adult dog.

By 6 months, the puppy should be muzzled. To accustom the dog to this not the most pleasant accessory for it should be gradual, smoothing out the negative sensations from the muzzled with a small treat.

One-year-old dogs can be involved in full-fledged activities on sports grounds. This is especially true for owners who see in their pet not just a pet dog, but also a future helper.

Important: as they grow older, St. Bernards gradually lose their learning ability and are less trainable. The most inconvenient age for training a dog is 2 years or more.

Conditions of Detention

The best home for a St. Bernard is a spacious urban or country cottage with a courtyard and land. Taking a dog to a small apartment is a bad idea. Due to the lack of free space, the animal will feel constrained and uncomfortable, not to mention the fact that moving in a limited space, the dog will inadvertently sweep small objects from any horizontal surfaces. Long-haired individuals can be settled right in the yard, having previously equipped them with a warm and spacious booth and an aviary. For short-haired St. Bernards, the winter can be too harsh a test, so it is better to move them to heated rooms during the cold season.


Adult dogs are allowed to walk in any weather. Ideally, the dog should be outdoors for 3 to 4 hours a day (applies to pets). Daily walks are also arranged for the puppies, but shorter and only on fine days. It is better to start your acquaintance with the street with short five-minute exits, further increasing their duration. In addition, in the first months of life, babies living in apartment buildings should not be taken out for a walk, but carried out, since due to constant descents and ascents of stairs, the animal can earn curvature of the limbs.

An important point: excessive physical activity during walking is contraindicated for St. Bernard puppies. Long runs and repeated jumps performed by an animal can provoke deformation of the joints, as well as cause the formation of an incorrect set of legs.

It is not recommended to walk your pet immediately after eating: the dog should have time for an afternoon rest and normal digestion of food. If the baby is reluctant to go outside, most likely, he simply did not have time to properly rest after the previous walk. In this case, it is better to leave the puppy at home, and postpone the “excursion” for another time. In the summer, St. Bernards suffer from heat, so it is better to walk them before 12 noon or in the evening (after 17:00). It is more expedient to walk kids on a harness with a leather leash. Adults are taken out in a collar using a strong one and a half or three-meter leash.


St. Bernards shed intensively twice a year. This process is especially rapid in long-haired dogs living in the yard. In pets, hair does not fall out so abundantly, but nevertheless, during the molting period, they also need to be combed out daily with a comb with large teeth. The rest of the time, representatives of this species are combed every 2 days. Short-haired individuals are less problematic: during the molting period, they only need a couple of combings per week.

Bath days are arranged for St. Bernards 2-3 times a year. Groomers recommend that this procedure be timed to the molting season of the animal, in order to wash the shed hair and undercoat in this way. At the same time, it is not necessary to close the ears, since they are hanging in St. Bernards. Be sure to stock up on a neutral shampoo, balm, and conditioner to help defat your coat and make it easier to comb. Wet St. Bernards are dried in two steps: first with a towel, then with a hairdryer. If your pet likes to swim in open bodies of water, do not forget to rinse its coat with clean tap water after bathing in order to wash out particles of algae from it, as well as various unicellular organisms that live in rivers and lakes.

After eating, food particles remain on St. Bernard’s face, which can cause the white color in this area to darken. To prevent this from happening, wash your dog with warm water after each meal and wipe with a clean cloth. If you don’t want the friendly St. Bernard to spit on your clothes and on your guests’ knees, make sure you have enough diapers and napkins.

The dog’s eyes require constant monitoring. Too heavy and saggy eyelids of St. Bernard do not protect the eyeball from dust and small debris poorly, as a result of which it can become inflamed. You can avoid such troubles by daily wiping your eyes with a napkin or gauze swab dipped in cold tea or boiled water. By the way, it is not recommended to use cotton wool and discs from it, since cotton microfibers can remain on the mucous membrane of the eye and provoke irritation.

For the prevention of dental plaque, St. Bernards are given marrow bones and cartilage. If plaque has already appeared, it can be removed with a brush and cleaning agent from your veterinarian. The dog’s ears are examined once a week. If dirt appears inside the funnel, it is removed with a cotton swab dipped in disinfectant lotion or boric alcohol.

Wounds and pustules found in the ear must be lubricated with streptococcal or zinc ointments. In addition, some veterinarians recommend plucking or trimming the hair in the ear canal to allow better air circulation inside the ear funnel.

Claw trimming is carried out as needed and mainly for elderly or very passive individuals. In dogs that have a regular and long walk, the claw plate grinds off by itself. The wool between the fingers of St. Bernard has a tendency to get tangled, so it is also cut off. During the summer months and winter, you should carefully examine your dog’s paw pads. If the skin on them has become too dry and rough, it is useful to lubricate it with a nourishing cream or linseed oil, which will prevent the subsequent appearance of cracks.


In the first days after moving to a new home, the puppy should receive the same food as in the kennel. New products for the baby are introduced gradually, starting from the third day of stay. Half of St. Bernard’s diet is protein, that is, lean meat. The daily norm of animal protein for a two-month-old puppy is 150-200 g, for an adult – 450-500 g.

In order to save money, meat can sometimes be replaced with boiled offal. Once a week, St. Bernard can have a fish day. By the way, about fish: sea fish is considered the safest, although some breeders allow dogs to be given thermally processed river fish.


  • Vegetables (carrots, cabbage, beets).
  • Egg yolk.
  • Butter (in small amounts).
  • Garlic (1 clove per week, starting at 3 months of age).
  • Milk porridge (rice, oatmeal, buckwheat).
  • Seafood and seaweed.
  • Brain bones.
  • Dairy products.
  • Black bread (in the form of a butter sandwich, but not more often than once a week).


  • Legumes and potatoes.
  • Sweets.
  • Spicy and spicy food.
  • Pickles and smoked meats.

The food in the dog’s bowl should not be too warm or cold: the optimal food temperature for St. Bernard is 38-40 ° C. If your pet has left some food at the bottom of the bowl, this is a sign that you have gone too far with its amount, respectively, the next time you need to reduce the portion. For puppies who are greedy and have an increased appetite during meals, it is advisable to increase the number of feedings, while maintaining the same amount of food.

As a source of calcium, St. Bernards are useful to give meat bones, which the dogs gnaw, at the same time brush their teeth from plaque. You need to give the animal a bone after eating, so as not to provoke constipation. In small puppies, bones are replaced by cartilage.

The overwhelming majority of St. Bernards are prone to obesity, so it is very important to build the right diet for the dog and not give in to the momentary desire to once again treat the pet with a treat. Underfeeding is also fraught with health problems, so if your baby licks the bowl for too long and actively after lunch, it is better to give him supplements.

Animals eating natural products need to “prescribe” vitamin-mineral complexes from time to time. As for dry food, it should be selected taking into account the size and age of the pet. For example, St. Bernard varieties are suitable for especially large breeds, such as the Rottweiler and Labrador. An adult animal should consume about a kilogram of “drying” per day.


The main problem of the breed is diseases of the musculoskeletal system, for this reason, St. Bernards often suffer from dysplasia of the hip and elbow joints, dislocation of the patella, and osteosarcoma. Of the vision diseases, representatives of this breed are usually diagnosed with twist/eversion of the eyelid, cataract, and the so-called cherry eye. Congenital deafness is not considered the most common ailment, although poorly hearing or completely deaf puppies in a litter are not that uncommon. In some individuals, epilepsy, pyoderma, and rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament may occur.

How to Choose a Puppy

The main difficulty when choosing a St. Bernard puppy is that the breed is not too popular. Accordingly, in search of a reliable breeding nursery, you will have to travel a lot around the country. A good safety net in such cases is provided by exhibitions, where you can communicate live with breeders, and at the same time evaluate the canine gene pool presented at them.

Otherwise, you should choose a St. Bernard puppy following the same principles as when buying other purebred dogs. Get to know the living conditions of the future pet, as well as its parents. Ask the breeder to test for joint dysplasia on the puppy’s mother and father, which will to some extent reduce the risk of buying a St. Bernard with a hidden defect. Meticulously evaluate the appearance of the dog: how clean and fluffy its fur is, whether the eyes are watery, whether there are traces of diarrhea under the tail. A healthy baby’s paws and back should be flat, and the belly should be soft and not bloated. The puppy’s breath should be neutral.

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