Introducing the Ultimate Nanny Dog: The Saint Bernard!

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st bernard dog and st. bernard puppy laying on top on one anotherWhen you think of a Saint Bernard, you picture a huge fluffy dog with a small brandy keg around its neck ready to rescue strangers from the snow. These gentle giants were bred to rescue lost strangers at the St. Bernard Hospice in the Swiss Alps.

Today, these dogs are known for being great watchdogs for children, naturally protective, patient, and calm. St. Bernards are giant lovable dogs that love to be part of a family.

A Brief History of the Saint Bernard Dog Breed 

In around 1050, a monk named St. Bernard of Menthon founded a hospice and monastery in a dangerous passage, prone to avalanches, located in the Swiss Alps, between Italy and Switzerland. The St. Bernard was originally bred by monks as rescue dogs in the Great St. Bernard pass, named after the monk. These large, strong, and snow-ready dogs were used for rescue work to help lost travelers.

The dogs would set out in packs to find lost travelers as they had an instinctive reaction to find people in the snow. They would find the lost people dig them out fo the snow, and then lay on them while the hospice dogs went back to alert the monks of the stranded traveler.

Many people think these dogs are wrongly named after St Bernard of Clairvaux, who was responsible for the expansion of the Cistercian Order of the Catholic Church and studied under William of Champeaux.

St. Bernard (the man) went to the Clairvaux monastery as per the request of Pope Callixtus II, where he wrote about the Virgin Mary. While this Saint Bernard didn’t breed huge fluffballs, he was famous in his own right.

When Pope Honorius II died, St Bernard had the honor of choosing the next Pope, which was Pope Innocent III. St Bernard is celebrated during the Feast of the Sacred Heart.

The Appearance of a St Bernard Dog

St. Bernards are huge, fluffy dogs with sweet faces. They are muscular and have large, wide heads with high cheekbones. St. Bernards have trademark droopy eyes, which gives them a perpetually tired look.

They can be white with red markings, red with white markings, various shades of red, or have brindle patches white markings.

saint bernard puppies and saint bernard dog posing for fall picture

Roll Over Beethoven! These are Big Boys!

St. Bernards are one of the largest dog breeds. If you love big dogs and don’t mind some drool and shedding, St. Bernards are the breed for you. They are in a whole other “big dog” size category.

If you’re looking for a large pup but want a short-haired dog, Great Danes are equally large, if not larger. Another medium-length hair large doggo is the Bernese Mountain dog, which many people confuse with Saint Bernards or Great Pyrenees.

Despite their large size, Saint Bernards are loving dogs that are gentle and known for being great with kids. Big dogs can be intimidating, but when trained and socialized from a young age, they make great family pets and can adapt to different lifestyles.

Average St. Bernard Size and Weight!

According to the American Kennel Club, male St. Bernards should be at least 27 1/2 inches tall and weigh between 140 to 180 pounds while females should be at least 25 1/2 inches tall and weigh between 120 and 140 pounds.

Temperament and Personality These Loyal Doggos

As puppies, St. Bernards are notoriously clumsy and highly energetic, as depicted in the Beethoven movies during the 1990’s.

Adults are much calmer and are often described as lazy. They have endless patience with children, often doubling up as a jungle gym. They love snow and enjoy pulling sleds and doing any other winter activities.

Training and Early Socialization are a Must!

All dogs need to be socialized with children, strangers, and animals, to avoid any psychological triggers. Saint Bernards are large dogs that can get out of control and knock people over when they’re untrained. Certainly, the last thing you want is for your big boy to knock over grandma!

Many St. Bernards weigh more than their owners!  These dogs are inherently smart and respond well to obedience training with positive reinforcement.

Busy St Bernards are Happy St Bernards!

It may take some convincing to get your lazy Saint Bernard out of the house, but these dogs need exercize. More than that, they need mental stimulation to keep those brain cells active!

You should know that when they get bored, these dogs can become anxious and self-destructive, particularly when left alone. They are pack dogs and can get separation anxiety.

How Long do They Live?

Large and extra-large dog breeds tend to not live as long as medium and smaller dog breeds. A Saint Bernard can live between 8 to 10 years.

Large Dog Breed List of Potential Health Issues

It seems as though every breed comes with its own set of potential health issues. The Saint Bernard is, unfortunately, no exception to that rule. The breed is predisposed to a list of health issues, but luckily, many of them can be prevented, treated or managed!

Potential health issues are:

4 Tips to Caring for Saint Bernard Puppies!

  1. Start leash training early on!
  2. Feed them high-quality dog food designed for large breed puppies.
  3. Socialize your puppy- introduce them to all sorts of new animals and people to make sure they know how to gently play with other dogs and get used to being around strangers.
  4. Exercise- A tired puppy is a good puppy, make sure your puppy has plenty of exercise and toys.

st bernard puppies playing in leaves

St Bernard Puppies for Sale!

You can find St. Bernard puppies through your local St. Bernard Club or the American Kennel Club. Make sure to get your puppy through a responsible breeder to avoid inhumane practices and unhealthy puppies.

Breeders can register with local breed clubs and the American Kennel Club.

St Bernard Puppy Price!

You can find purebred Saint Bernard puppies for $1500 to $3000.

Saint Bernard mixes are less expensive than pure-bred puppies but luckily there are “designer” mixes like Saint Bernard/Poodle or a Saint Bernard/Husky, that are cute and unique.

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Ask an Animal Shelter About Rescuing Bernards!

You can find St Bernards at your local shelter or through a St. Bernard rescue group. There are St. Bernard puppies, mixes, adults, and seniors looking for a new home.

People surrender big dogs for a number of reasons. The problem is probably, that they simply don’t think about how big Saint Bernards get and what responsibilities come with owning a large dog. These dogs need more dog food, more space to exercise, and their vet visits can be more expensive.

Common Questions on St. Bernards

How big do St. Bernards get?

Where did St. Bernards come from?

Are St. Bernards good with children?  

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