Saint Bernard: All You Need to Know

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Saint BernardSaint Bernard puppies are among the most popular dog breeds today; they currently sit at #56 on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) list for 2022. But they didn’t climb so far up by just being cute; these large canines are known for their gentle and friendly nature, but they’re also beloved for their beautifully thick coats. However, before you take one of these noble steeds home, you must understand how to care for them and how to find one from a responsible breeder.    

What is the Saint Bernard? 

The St. Bernard dog comes in a larger size compared to many others but is more known for its good nature and friendly disposition despite its massive and powerful body. These muscular dogs come with broad heads, deep-set eyes, and a friendly disposition. They also come with a dense double coat that gives them protection in places with cold climates and are available in both long and short-haired varieties. 

These canines are affectionate with everyone they meet, and as long as you don’t mind some drooling, they can be wonderful companion dogs. Moreover, they’re very versatile and can excel in a wide range of activities, which include drafting activities, obedience trials, weight-pulling competitions, and even inside the show ring. When given proper training and early socialization, these dogs can be great family pets for all kinds of lifestyles and living situations.     

Saint Bernard History

Hailing from the Swiss Alps, Saint Bernards were originally bred by monks residing in the hospice of Saint Bernard which was founded by Bernard of Menthon. It is located on the Great St. Bernard Pass, where the dogs assisted with search and rescue missions around the perilous mountains. It’s unclear how they were created, but some experts agree that they were likely developed by mixing native canines with Mastiff-type dogs brought over during the reign of emperor Augustus. 

For most of history, Saint Bernards didn’t have a formal name but were well known for their rescue work, and the English revered them as sacred dogs. Many were imported to England to reinvent their Mastiffs, and by 1833, Daniel Wilson suggested the name Saint Bernard Dog, which eventually became their name. As the breed spread to other countries, it began to change, becoming taller and thinner as a result of crossbreeding. 

By the late 1800s, the International Congress of Zurich created the first breed standards for this dog and in 1885, the St. Bernard was recognized purebred dog by the AKC.    

Saint Bernard Appearance

When it comes to their appearance, males will be slightly bigger than females; male St. Bernards will often stand between 28 to 30 inches at the shoulders, and weigh around 140 to 180 pounds. Females will usually grow between 26 to 28 inches and weigh around 120 to 140 pounds but will come with the same features as their male counterparts. As mentioned, today’s Saint dogs are the result of crossbreeding the old Saint Bernard with other dogs such as the Newfoundland, so they look different from their ancestors. 

The beautiful Saint Bernard is easily recognizable thanks to its large, round head that’s mounted on a deep chest, along with a big, square muzzle, which comes with an excellent sense of smell. It has hanging jowls and loose ears, with floppy cheeks that are framed by a mask — they come with deep-set eyes that have a soft brown color. Unfortunately, many now have long hair that prevents them from working in rescue operations since it can become frozen and weigh them down. 

Their fur will either be coarse or smooth and will typically have a reddish coat color mixed with a white undercoat as well as black shading around their ears and faces. These dogs can come with blue or brown eyes and will sport white markings around their forepaws, bellies, chests, and tails; it may also extend to their muzzles. Because they’re so big, the St. Bernard breed will take longer to fully mature compared to many other dogs and won’t reach their full size until 2 to 3 years of age.   

Saint Bernard Temperament 

These pups are known to be loving with an instinctive friendliness that can offset anyone’s fear of approaching such a large dog. They’re quick to protect their family in times of danger — they’re also very tolerant and gentle which can be great for families with small children. Because they’re exceptionally patient and understanding, they move carefully so they don’t injure kids and small animals around them.  

Saint Bernards are also eager to please, which can make them easier to train compared to other breeds, and because of their background as hospice dogs, they’re also very welcoming. They come with a benevolent and steady temperament and will love getting attention from their humans. Because of their large size, it’s essential to give them training at an early age while you can still manage them. 

While they can be stubborn at times, they’re intelligent and are always looking to please and they will never be aggressive unless it’s for defensive purposes. Much like any dog, they will require early socialization, which means exposure to different people, dogs, experiences, and situations. Helping them socialize will help your pooch grow into a well-balanced adult.     

Taking Care of a Saint Bernard

When caring for your Saint Bernard, it’s best if all family members are involved and know how to care for these magnificent animals. 

Saint Bernard Nutrition

The recommended amount to feed your Saint Bernard each day is 5 to 6 cups of high-quality dry food per day which should be divided into 2 meals. Exactly how much you should feed your dog will depend on its age, size, metabolism, build, and activity levels. Keep in mind that dogs are much like people and will need individualized attention when it comes to feeding. 

For instance, an active dog will need more food compared to couch and lap dogs. Moreover, the quality of the food you purchase can also make a difference; the better it is, the more it can nourish your pooch and the less it will need to eat. A healthy diet is important because Saint Bernards are prone to weight gain and obesity; to keep your pup in shape, make sure to measure its food and provide it with the correct portions rather than leaving food in its bowl all day. 

Saint Bernard Grooming

Because the Saint Bernard can be found in two types of coats, they will have different grooming needs. The shorthaired variant will come with dense but smooth coats, so be sure to brush it 3 times a week using a hound glove or a rubber curry brush. When it comes to longhaired coats, you’ll need to use a pin brush or metal comb — during shedding season, make sure to use a shedding blade to eliminate loose hair. 

There may be times when your St. Bernard puppy develops matting around their thighs or behind the ears, so be sure to use detangling spray around the area and gently work on the mat using a comb or your fingers. These dogs will only need an occasional bath, but it will be easier to give them a shower outdoors; only use pet-friendly shampoos to prevent their coat from getting dry. Sometimes, they can get stains around their eyes, so you’ll need to clean this up using a damp cloth or with a solution that’s been formulated to remove them which you can find at pet stores. 

You’ll also need to consider their other grooming needs; brush your pup’s teeth at least 2 to 3 times each week to prevent bacteria, tartar buildup, and dental disease. It’s also important to trim their nails once or twice every month; if their nails are clicking on the floor, then it’s time to cut them. Be sure to check their ears every week clean them using a cotton ball, and never insert cotton swabs into their ear canal — if you’re unsure about home to groom them, be sure to consult a professional groomer.   

Saint Bernard Exercise

While the Saint Bernard is usually easy-going, it will still need mental stimulation and physical activity to maintain its well-being and health. It won’t need much exercise; giving it an hour of physical activity in the form of hiking, walks, and vigorous playing should be enough to keep it healthy. Because of its background as a rescue dog, it will do well in assistance dog classes as well as dog sports, and they can even serve as therapy dogs.     

Keep in mind that these pups won’t do well in places with hot climates, so keep your outdoor exercises short and give them plenty of water. 

Saint Bernard Training

Make sure that your Saint Bernard gets early training and socialization to ensure they grow into well-rounded adults. They must learn manners before they reach their full size, so they remember not to jump on people, steal items around the home, or pull on leashes. Luckily, these dogs are eager to please and will readily absorb what you teach them during training but you must use positive reinforcement since they can be sensitive to harsh punishment. 

It’s also vital that you’re consistent with your commands — giving them plenty of socialization time will help boost their confidence and comfort with other people, dogs, and places. Because these dogs can suffer from separation anxiety, it’s best not to leave them alone for long periods of time. When left alone frequently, they can develop destructive behaviors like unwanted chewing; if you can’t spend time with them often, they may not be the best breed for you.  

Saint Bernard Health Problems

Fortunately, these dogs are generally healthy but like any breed, they’re also prone to a few health conditions, which include the following. 

  • Hip Dysplasia: This condition can be inherited from parents and occurs when the thigh bone doesn’t snuggly fit into the hip joint. Dogs will often show lameness and pain in one or both hind legs, but dogs sometimes won’t show any signs of discomfort. 
  • Osteosarcoma: Saint Bernards will also be predisposed to this aggressive type of bone cancer, which can quickly develop in the humerus around the arms or the femur around the thighs. 
  • Heart Problems: Problems such as Dilated Cardiomyopathy occur when the muscles of the heart are too thin to contract normally. As a result, the heart will need to work harder and can become enlarged; symptoms of this condition include loss of appetite, weakness, difficulty breathing, collapse, and more, which may lead to heart failure. 
  • Degenerative Myelopathy: While this condition isn’t typically painful for dogs, gradual muscle Atrophy will typically start at the hind limbs as a result of nerve degeneration. It will progress until the pup can no longer walk. 

Saint Bernard Costs 

There’s no doubt that taking this giant breed home can be rewarding, but they come with both one-time costs and monthly costs. Be sure that you consider the initial cost of these dogs as well as their potential medical costs. The average cost of a Saint Bernard puppy will depend on a few factors such as the breeder’s reputation, the dog’s lineage, and your location. 

The price of a Saint Bernard puppy will range from $1,500 to $3,500 but you can also find them at cheaper prices, but beware of puppy farms that will sell them for less. They will usually fail to adhere to the standard practices and may not provide humane environments for their puppies. As such, you must look for a reputable breeder when sourcing your St. Bernard puppies.  

They should be able to give you health certificates for your puppy’s parents, answer any questions you might have about the breed and their health, and they should have already started your dog’s training and socialization. Another option you can do is St. Bernard adoption; not only does this come with a lower adoption fee, but you will also be giving a loving dog a new home. Both adoption and rescue organizations can help to connect you with one of these dogs; adoption costs can be around $200 to $500, which is much cheaper than buying one. 

Conclusion 

Saint puppies won’t take long before they grow to a massive size because they belong to the giant dog breed category but they also have big hearts and will always display good behavior. While they can suffer from a few health issues, it’s up to us to ensure that they have good overall health. It’s a good idea to get pet insurance to keep them happy and healthy as they spend their life with their favorite human.

 

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