You could earn SmartPoints on this page!SmartPoint Coin

April 19, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Saint Bernard

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Purebred Star Blog Series

The Saint Bernard is affectionate, friendly, laid-back, and easy to train. Do these qualities intrigue you? Don't mind messy spills of water and food, including regular drooling throughout the day? Like the size of the Saint Bernard? This devoted companion could be the breed you are looking for.

This giant breed is known around the world for saving countless lives in the snowy mountains of the Swiss Alps. One dog, named Barry, saved the lives of over 40 people in the Swiss Alps during the 1800's. After this, the Saint Bernard was often referred to as the Barry Dog.

The Saint Bernard is famously known for the barrel that is attached to their collar. What is the story behind the wooden barrel, and is it true or a myth? The story, as told in a painting from the 1800's, showcases two Saint Bernard's with wooden barrels attached to their collar, rescuing a distressed traveler. Although the monks disclaim this as a myth, saying the Saint Bernard's never carried barrels, some disagree. They claim these wooden barrels contained brandy, whiskey, or wine, and when drunk it provided warmth to the victims until the rescue team arrived.

The Saint Bernard carries out a variety of duties including drafting, watchdog, and search and rescue.

Saint Bernard Country of Origin

Switzerland is the country that developed the Saint Bernard by crossing the Tibetan Mastiff, Great Dane, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, and the Great Pyrenees. The breed was developed by Swiss monks at the Hospice of Saint Bernard, which was a refuge for travelers crossing the Alps between Switzerland and Italy.

They are very sensitive to vibrations and low-frequencies, thus giving them the capability to detect avalanches and storms. When a person is lost in the snow, the Saint Bernard is sent out in packs to work as a team. Once the person is located, many will lay with the person while others run back to notify the search and rescue team.

Affectionate, Friendly, and Easy To Train

The Saint Bernard is a breed that offers superb qualities for any family. They are very loving and affectionate towards everyone. Although the Saint Bernard does well in cold climates, they are not an outdoor only dog. They have a strong desire to be with their humans.

They are friendly, and have a high tolerance level with young children. The Saint Bernard loves to join in on the fun with children playing. Happily they will romp around with them. Special care should be taken around small children, as the Saint Bernard doesn't understand their own size, and can easily knock over a small toddler.

The Saint Bernard is very easy to train. They are extremely smart, and can learn good manners at a young age.; Due to their large size, it is recommended that training gets started as young as 8 weeks old.; Working with a manageable size is much easier then trying to teach a full grown, 200 pound Saint Bernard.

They do best with regular exercise generally consisting of one walk a day for 45 minutes. Consider using the Gentle Leader Headcollar or Easy Walk Harness to help prevent pulling during the walks with this giant breed. Typically they are mellow indoors.

Watchdog Yes, Guarddog No!

Saint Bernard's make a very good watchdog, alerting you of visitors with their deep and loud bark, but don't expect anything more then that. Their bark and size is typically enough to thwart intruders. However their friendly demeanor will immediately kick in, and they will be happy to greet with slobbery kisses.

Overall they have a temperament quality of being friendly, however, like any dog, early socialization with people and other animals should be handled to ensure this friendly disposition. Sadly, over-breeding by unscrupulous breeders has brought on temperament issues with the Saint Bernard.

Clean House Important? Reconsider the Saint Bernard

Shedding, slobbery, and their size is a neat-freaks nightmare! A Saint Bernard's coat comes in two types; smooth or rough (rough coats have longer fur). Their coat will need to be will require a daily brushing. Be careful to not overbathe, as the coat helps protect their skin from severe weather, including heat. Overbathing can strip the skin of its essential oils, breaking the coat barrier down. They shed heavily twice a year during the season change.

Keep a hand-towel within reach at all times around the Bernard. They drool frequently especially after feeding and drinking. Slobber will fly from their mouth onto the walls of your home after a quick shake of their body after being outside in rain or snow, requiring a quick wipe down.

Size matters with the Saint Bernard! This is a giant breed; some may reach up to 250 lbs in weight and 35 inches in height!; At one point in the 1900's, the breed was being bred to be over 300 lbs, but they were having difficulty walking, and were becoming largely gross in size according to the American Kennel Club. The typical size now is 120 to 200 lbs, and up to 30 inches in height.

Some Health Concerns to Consider

Their average lifespan is only 8 to 10 years.

Some health concerns of the Saint Bernard are bloat, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, skin allergies, laryngeal paralysis, albinism, and temperament problems.

Adopt First

As you begin looking for a Saint Bernard, please check with rescue organizations first. Every year there are millions of dogs being euthanized - not because they are bad dogs, but because there is no home for them and insufficient resources to care for them at rescue agencies. By adopting a dog, you are truly saving a life!

At the very least, NEVER purchase any dog from a pet store. Unfortunately, those puppies almost always come from puppy mills. Instead, look for a reputable breeder to work with.

On a final note, it is important to spay and neuter your puppy by 6 months old to have a healthy and happy pet for many years to come!


Dog Breed Info

Original Dog Bible, 2nd Edition by Kristin Mehus-Roe

Photo Credit:

More from Health Coach Victoria Swanson Others Are Reading


  • I'm not sure I'd REALLY want the responsibility of caring for a dog right now, but I do sometimes fantasize about having a great big St. Bernard to go hiking through the woods with me. :)

  • I totally hear ya, dogs are so much more work than a cat is. But, having a giant St. Bernard trumping behind (or maybe out in front) you in the woods would be fun, and he/she could carry your stuff via a doggy backpack (like water, snacks, or anything else), a cat just can't.

Comment on the Smart Living Network

Site Feedback