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Saint Bernard

The Saint Bernard breed profile is sponsored by visit PetWear to custom design your Saint's next designer dog collar, leash or more and then let PetWear hand make it and then ship for free!

The Saint Bernard is one of the most recognizable of breeds, no doubt due to the myths about St. Bernards with small casks of whiskey saving travelers in the Swiss Alps.  In reality, the truth is much better.  The St. Bernard Dogs of the St. Bernard Monastery in Switzerland were developed over many hundreds of years.  They were found to have seemingly uncanny senses of direction and safe trails, leading travelers to the monastery through treacherous terrain that was unrecognizably white with snow drifts and other landmarks obscured.  Additionally, the dogs also seemed well aware of weather patterns and predicted when serious weather approached quite reliably.  Thus their great value to the people of the region.  To date, the breed is credited with saving over 2500 people otherwise lost in those mountains.  After leaving the mountains of Switzerland, the breed has enjoyed great popularity as a companion to families.  During Victorian times, the Saint Bernard, Newfoundland and other similar breeds were considered "Nanny Dogs" because of their great rapport with the children.

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General Information
Group(s): Working Height: taller the better with proper balance
Weight: usually over 100+ Longevity: often less than 9 years
Colors: mahoghany to red-orange shades and brindled with symmetrical white on face, neck, chest, tail and legs Coat type: two types: rough and smooth. Rough is dense and flat with fullness around the neck and feathering. Smooth is more houndlike with minimal feathering.
Recognized Registries: FCI, ANKC, UKC, TKC, AKC, CKC, NCA and others
Overall Appearance: Large Mastiff type with good balance and power. Distinctive color and coat markings.
Personaility - Behavior - Training
Energy Level: low
General Nature: Courageous, trustworthy, steadfast, intelligent, devoted.
  with Children: One of the
  with other pets: Generally very good.
  with dogs: Somewhat variable but generally very good.
Socialization requirements: moderate: this dog is too large to have any hint of shyness or aggression so thorough socialization while young is fun and very beneficial.
Ideal home characteristics: One that appreciates the majesty and steadfastness of the Saint plus understands the demands on the home and furniture of such a large dog and can deal with the short lifespan of a giant breed. Everything costs more for giant breeds including vet care.
Temperament Notes: Definitely the source of the expression
Training requirement: minimal: socialization and basic manners
Trainer notes: The Saint Bernard is not immediately mentioned when thinking of dogs brilliant in the venues of dog sport.  Indeed, he is too large to be as agile or fast. His size also means he is inclined to tire and overheat more quickly than others.  His general nature lacks the vim and vigor of some making it a serious challenge for the trainer to develop enthusiasm and motivation in their partner.  Even so, the devotion and steadfast heart beating within that giant frame brings a great desire to please and the Saint Bernard lacks nothing in the area of intelligence.  So the loving trainer who develops that exclusive bond with their Saint can certainly rise above these other minor challenges to great accomplishments.  It should also be noted however, that due to the stress placed on the joints by exuberant activity (jumping, running) combined with the breeds inclination toward hip dysplasia, that special care must be taken in such activities (on softer ground, not asphalt, etc.) and should likely be minimized and even then only with dogs in lean weight.
Background Information
Year range of first recognition: 1600s
Country of Origin: Switzerland
Original Function: salvation of lost travellers in the snows/mountains of Switzerland (Alps)
History: Dogs left at the St. Bernard monastery were originally used as guardians. For four hundred years the monastery was nearly forgotten and the dogs developed into keen guides through the snow and prognosticators of poor weather. Thus their rise in status.
Adoption Information
Deviations from Standard:
Health Notes: Hip/Elbow Dysplasia, eye problems, epilepsy
Health Testing: OFA, CERF
Questions to ask Breeder:  - The Breeder Questions as listed here provided with explanations and answers you will want to be looking for!

  • How long have you had Saint Bernards?
  • Why do you have Saint Bernards (show, performance, pet therapy, etc.)?
  • What do you consider to be the most important single characteristic of a Saint Bernard?
  • What health issues have you seen in the breed?
  • What criteria do you set for your breeding stock?
  • Do you plan to keep a puppy from this litter?
  • How often do you have puppies?
  • Do you have a written contract and puppy guarantee?
  • At what age do you send your pups to their homes?
  • How would you describe the ideal Saint Bernard?
  • How would you describe the ideal Saint Bernard home?
  • Are your puppies whelped in your home?
  • What advice would you offer someone in raising and training a Saint Bernard?
  • How do you assist or help Saint Bernards in need of rescue?
  • Web Sites: - St. Bernard Club of America Rescue - St. Bernard Rescue Foundation - Colorado St. Bernard Rescue Foundation - Greater Southwest St. Bernard Rescue - Adopt a Saint of Southern CA - Smokey Mountain St. Bernard Rescue

    Other Resources
    Breed standard: - FCI Standard of the St. Bernard - The Kennel Club (UK) Standard of the St. Bernard - Standard of the St. Bernard Club of America

    Breeder Ethics: - Guidelines as well as the completed questionnaires of Saint Bernard Club of America Breeders on Referral

    Other: The size/weight and high incidence of Hip Dysplasia in the breed means that every owner/caretaker of a St. Bernard needs to be well versed in joint care.  These dogs must not be allowed to become overweight (it is too much stress on the joints).  Exercise should be kept to softer surfaces (natural grass versus asphalt or concrete for example) whenever possible.  Jumping and other high impact activities are best minimized.  Additionally excellent supplements with glucosamine/chondroitin and other similar ingredients should be the part of every Saint's life from an early age.
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