The St. Bernard -Living with Giants
Living with Giants- The St. Bernard
by Robert Hudson
The St Bernard has a long history and fanciful folklore. In this article you will learn the history, training needs, health and rescue efforts. You will hear from a Saint owner and her personal experience and you will hear from someone who has been rescuing the breed for years.
Native to the Swiss and Italian alps, stories abound of the dogs braving the harsh mountain winters to rescue travelers stranded on the pass.
The name “St. Bernard” originates from the Great St Bernard Hospice, a traveler’s hospice on the often treacherous Great St Bernard Pass in the Western Alps, between Switzerland and Italy. The pass, the lodge, and the dogs are named for Bernard of Menthon, the 11th century Italian monk who established the station.
The St. Bernard breed vitals
Both long and short hair require the same grooming
Long-hair, rough coat
Weekly brushing to remove dirt, tangles, and shed. Coat is shed twice a year during which daily brushing is required.
Short-hair, smooth coat
A bath will keep the coat clean and healthy. Nails need to be trimmed regularly.
Life span: 8 – 10 years
Mass: 140 – 180 lbs, 120 – 140 lbs
Temperament: Gentle, Friendly, Lively, Watchful, Calm
Colors: Red & White, Reddish-brown Brindle, Reddish-brown Splash, Reddish-brown Mantle, Brownish-yellow
Height: Male: 28–35 inches (70–90 cm), Female: 26–31 inches (65–80 cm)
The St. Bernard is characterized as being stubborn and somewhat difficult to train. You need patience and consistency. Despite this, every dog is an individual and may learn at its’ own pace.
St. Bernards are usually described as being clownish, easy going and affectionate with people and other dogs, but only if socialized at a young age. If not socialized, any dog may be fearful and aggressive. They love children, however small children may be knocked over and manhandled during play or interaction.
Most giant dog breeds face the same health issues due to their size and weight: hip and joint issues, bloat and more. Saint Bernards like to eat and are prone to obesity. Keep your Saint in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time.
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV)
Saint Bernards should have moderate exercise avoiding the heat of the day. Provide plenty of shade and water. During winter and rainy weather their thick coat when wet weighs them down. Carrying too much weight is hard on their joints and can cause arthritis or orthopedic problems. Heatstroke and heat exhaustion present a real danger. Rapid weight gain in a young dog causes problems. Consult with your vet for the right diet and feeding schedule and limit exercise until the dog reaches full size. Be aware of the signs of fatigue and heat exhaustion, which include heavy panting, dark-red gums, and weakness or collapse.
This is Scribbles the St. Bernard. He is three years old and weighs 200 pounds. This mega cuddle bug belongs to Katie.
“Scribbler is very curious about and always barks at our cat. Kitty Kitty Mew Mew is NOT a fan.
He is my second saint I have a female who lives with my x. Her name is Harley and she is 7. I chose the Saint breed as my pet because of their gentle and empathic nature. I needed a healing animal and they are it! They are smart and gentle, also a good guard dog if needed. They have been wonderful around my son. “
“Biggest challenge is the slobber without a doubt!! Hair comes in a close second. I’m a groomer so it’s not terrible. Training was a challenge as he was 9 months old and completely untrained when I got him as a rehome. Poor guy was locked in a laundry room. Obviously an untrained large breed leaves large messes. It took about 2 months to train him on the potty training.,” Katie told me.
Rescues for Saints
Candi Bright has been rescuing giant breed dogs for years and now has 9 beautiful, private acres in Wantage ,NJ for giant breed dogs, farm livestock and any other farm animal. Magical Acres Rescue and Sanctuary take giant breed dogs from across the country and has seen their share of Saints.
Candi told me, “Regular vet check ups, high quality food, regular grooming. Research St Bernards and if you aren’t going to rescue and you are going to buy from a breeder, do your homework on the breeder. Go and visit the parents. Don’t just pick a puppy and have it flown in from somewhere.. Never buy from a pet store.. No matter what the store tells you, these dogs are from puppy mills”.
She went on to say, “Saint Bernards are surrendered for many reasons. The top reasons are shedding, drooling, got so big, jumping on people or aggression. “
So how do you deal with the drooling? “I keep cloth diapers in drawers throughout my home. After they eat and drink, I wipe their mouths. They also make doggie drool bibs that the dog can wear. When they shake their heads it flies everywhere. At times I have gotten it slung right across my face!!! This cannot bother you, because if it does, a Saint Bernard is not the dog for you.”