The Saint Bernard is one of the largest dog breeds in the world. Originating in the Swiss Alps, this dog, when fully grown, can weigh up to 200 pounds. The largest St. Bernard was actually over 300 pounds! These strong dogs were originally bred for rescue work as they had the innate ability to rescue people from avalanches. Let us study the details about this gorgeous, loving and angelic dog breed.
Quick facts about the St. Bernard
- St. Bernard size- Male dogs measure about 70-90 cm whereas St Bernard female can stand between 65 and 80 cm. Also, male St. Bernard dogs can weigh anywhere between 120-200 lbs.
- This heavyweight dog has large droopy ears and their mouth and eyes are also droopy.
- St. Bernard colors- You can find them in various colors like white with patches of brown or reddish brown, as well as brindle which includes many shades of brown.
- This popular breed was first developed in Switzerland as a farm dog; they also pulled carts and sleds. Today, the United States records 6500 new St. Bernard dogs annually but most only function as household companions!
- The name Saint Bernard comes from the pass of the same name in the Swiss Mountains. A Roman Catholic Monk named Saint Bernard of Menthon built a monastery in this pass nearly 1000 years ago. Later, the monks developed an inn to provide accommodation and food to weary travelers in the region. The best allies for these monks were local farm dogs who assisted them in their search and rescue operations of missing travelers. These dogs were very skilled at finding their way through thick fog and blizzards. In fact; they could actually smell an avalanche minutes before it occurred. After much cross breeding, the breed came to be known as the Saint Bernard dogs.
- St Bernard Barrels- This is a legend which is actually a myth. It is said that these guardian dogs were sent out in the snow with barrels attached around their necks. These barrels contained water or brandy that helped revive lost and cold people. However, this is not known for a fact and might just be an urban legend. Today, many proud dog owners of this breed still make hand-crafted wooden barrels to proudly place around their pet’s neck.
Where to find a Saint Bernard
If you have decided that among all dog breeds, this is the right breed for you, then you must first find the best breeders of Saint Bernard nearby. Locating a litter of cute St. Bernard puppies should not present a problem in most cases. Visit the official website of St. Bernard Club of America established in 1888; here you will find ethical and reputed breeders near you. Meet several breeders if possible and ask them several questions about their litters. Ask to see the pups in their litter. Choose a puppy that appears bold, playful and curious. A good breeder will, in turn, ask you several questions about your household and about your experience with dogs. Breeders who are concerned about the welfare of their puppies will only release the puppies after they are between 7 and 10 weeks of age.
A well trained, socialized and disciplined St Bernard puppy will grow up to be a lovable, loyal household companion. These dogs are known for their pleasant, outgoing nature. The large, loving giant dogs usually get along well with children and other household pets. Note that the temperament of a St. Bernard can vary from line to line so early socialization is very important. If a puppy’s parents or grandparents are known to be snappy and aggressive, chances are that the pup can also become a biter. That is why you should always ask to meet the pup’s parents and select a good breeder in the first place.
Training your St. Bernard
There is a great difference in between training an adult and a puppy. A young puppy between 8 to 10 weeks of age is like a sponge-he will absorb anything you teach him. It is up to you to reinforce good manners and basic obedience in your pet during the first 18 months of his age. Raising a puppy is also a family affair. Bring all family members on board so that everyone uses the same rules and commands while training the puppy. Here are some important training tips:
- Start training early.
- Timing is critical- praise or reward your pet at the exact time he/she obeys you.
- Be patient. You must be willing to set aside time for training. Avoid distractions while training your pet.
- Use the same word/s; puppies tend to get confused.
- Praise your puppy a lot with treats, rewards and petting.
- House training and leash training go hand in hand. Taking your pet for daily walks is the best way to stimulate his bowels. He will also learn to associate walks with a time to relieve himself.
We all know the importance of exercise for humans so why should our canine friends be any different? Regardless of your own level and love of fitness, be prepared to walk your pet twice a day. Simple planning and setting a routine can help ensure that your pet gets all the exercise he needs. Stick to the schedule and think of these exercise sessions as an appointment to bond with your pet. Walking is the best form of exercise for most dog breeds and St. Bernard is no different. Swimming is also great as it puts zero stress on your pet’s frame. Plan a couple of 15-minute activity sessions or walks with your pet. Remember: your puppy will have some constraints about exercise in the first year of his age. So follow the advice given by your vet or the breeder. St Bernard dogs tend to put on weight rather easily. If your dog is obese, follow a diet apart from an exercise regime to keep him in good shape.
For young puppies of this large breed, the best food is adult formula feed that does not contain high levels of protein. A breeder is your best source of information about food for puppies. Once your pet gets to 3 to 4 weeks of age, s/he should get a combination of the dam’s milk and good quality puppy food. St. Bernard adult dogs can be fed wet or dry dog food. Speak to your vet about the right food based on your pet’s age and overall health. Remember to always provide clean, fresh drinking water to your buddy. Clean the food and water bowls every day to prevent diseases. Never feed your pet human food as it can make your pet very sick.
This is a dog breed that sheds tremendously. So you will want to invest in the right grooming tools. Daily brushing, especially during the shedding season, can help prevent hair all over your furniture and clothing. Long haired St. Bernard also needs once a year trimming. Luckily this breed does not need too much washing; bathe your pet once a month to keep his coat smelling fresh and clean.
The life span of St. Bernard dogs is between 8-10 years. Common diseases affecting the breed are: cardiomyopathy, Addison’s disease, hypoparathyroidism, and elbow and hip dysplasia.