St. Bernard’s are proportionately tall, powerful dogs with a massive head and wide skull. Their distinct furrowing, wrinkled forehead and high cheekbones give the dog a sad, rather stern look. They have black lips, a very broad black nose and dark brown, deep set, medium sized eyes that give them a smart, friendly look. They have broad, powerful shoulders and back, a moderately deep chest, muscular strong legs, and broad feet. Large dogs, they stand from twenty-four to thirty inches high at the shoulder and weigh from one hundred and ten pounds to over two hundred and twenty pounds.
Their coats are smooth, short, dense, and lie close to the dog’s body. The two coat varieties are the rough coat and smooth coat. Some of the many coat colors include white, red brindle, mahogany brindle, or orange with patches of black or any of the other colors mentioned on the dog’s body. Most have white on the end of their tail, feet, forelegs, chest, collar, muzzle, and a white blaze on the St. Bernard’s face.
Around for hundreds of years and developed by Monks, St. Bernard’s were named after a pass in the Swiss Alps where these dogs located lost travelers. They have an excellent sense of smell, surefootedness in the snow and ice, great strength, and an uncanny sixth sense about injured humans and winter storms. Most are family pets today because of their gentle, intelligent nature.
The Saint Bernard are extremely tolerant, friendly, gentle, slow moving dogs that get along well with children, other dogs and pets, especially when socialized at a young age. Calm, quiet indoor pets despite their large size, they are extremely family orientated and not suited for living outdoors, as they need to be with their master and family. Left alone for extended periods or too often, they actually suffer from loneliness and become depressed and sometimes destructive, so it is important for them to have regular interaction with people. Very protective and fiercely loyal to their owner, they make excellent watchdogs even though they are sweet and even-tempered. Because of their strength and huge size, this alone often scares off strangers.
St. Bernard’s have a fantastic sense of smell and an unbelievable sense of direction, which is one of the reasons they are such wonderful rescue animals. They are not wanderers and stay close to home but chances are the dog could show you the way home if lost while out walking him.
They are very adaptable and can live in the country, city, and suburbs, in an apartment or large home as long as they receive adequate exercise. They are very inactive dogs indoors and are happiest being with their owner. St. Bernard’s cannot tolerate hot weather so should never be left outside in the heat. Instead of a regular daily long walk, they are better with short walks, regardless of the weather.
St. Bernard’s have good health but some are prone to hip dysplasia in which the hip joint and thighbone do not fit together snugly. Other health problems include:
[-]Cervical Vertebral Syndrome – Known as Wobbler Syndrome, this problem is common in fast growing, large breeds of dog. Dogs with this problem take choppy, short steps using their front legs and have a wobble in their back end area when they walk. Dogs with this are often prescribed rest, anti-inflammatory medication, and pain medication by their veterinarian.[/-]
[-]Bone Cancer – This is a hereditary disease in Saint Bernard dogs.[/-]
[-]Bloat or Twisted Stomach – Prone to bloat, it is far better to feed St. Bernard’s several small meals each day instead of feeding the dog one large meal daily.[/-]
Other problems to watch for are skin allergies, epilepsy, and laryngeal paralysis.
St. Bernard’s are not difficult to groom because their long or short coats are not prone to tangling or matting. Brush the dog two or three times a week using a firm bristle brush and comb. During their twice a year shedding period, St. Bernard’s will require more frequent weekly brushing to remove dead and lose hair. Bathe your pet only when necessary using a very mild dog shampoo. Frequent bathing may remove the water resistant oils in the dog’s fur that protects it from cold, wet, or snowy weather.
St. Bernard’s eyes run and all of this breed of dog drool so it is important to wipe your dog’s eyes daily to keep them free of irritants and clean. They drool excessively, especially after meals, so use a damp cloth to wipe the St. Bernard’s face, keeping it clean.
Do not exercise St. Bernard puppies until their bones are strong and well formed. Dogs under the age of too require only brief play periods and short walks. Adult dog’s need frequent short daily walks to keep them in good physical and mental condition. It is important that they receive an average amount of exercise to keep from becoming overweight. Dog’s that become obese often end up with orthopedic problems or arthritis due to the extra weight on their joints.
Easy to train, they are always ready and happy to please their owners. Their huge size makes it is very important to be able to manage the dog when it is full-grown so training and socialization are extremely important. A dog this size needs to be well-mannered and trained, making it a joy to be around, showing its gentle, sweet nature.