The Saint Bernard is a very large and very strong breed of dog. It originates from the mountains of the Italian Alps and its original purpose was to be a guard dog and a rescue dog. This breed was developed by the monks of the Hospices located in the Alps. Thus its original purpose was to guard the Great St Bernard Pass on the Italian – Swiss border and the Little St Bernard Pass on the Italian – French border. But it proved itself as really worth in rescue missions. Due to its fearlessness and size the dog was used to dig out snowed-in people and pull them out. Today it is mostly used as a family dog and its lovable nature helps him to be one.
History & Origins
The history of the Saint Bernard dogs starts with the Sennenhunds, with whom it is believed these dogs are related. These dogs came to the Alps by the Romans, which brought Molossoid breeds which were in turn used as working dogs. They helped in hunting, herding, working on a farm, rescuing people, and various other types of jobs needed back then.
The earliest record of the Saint Bernard mentioned was in 1707 the hospice at the Great St. Bernard Pass. The monks brought these dogs to watch their hospices and started using them for similar purposes as they were used before. But after developing the breed, the monks never introduced any specific kind of training for the dogs. Instead, older dogs would teach younger ones how to perform feats that they needed to do. The first record of any official recognition of the St Bernard dogs was in 1884 when the breed was recognized by Swiss St. Bernard Club in Basel.
Saint Bernard Characteristics & Temperament
The Saint Bernard has the characteristics of any other big dog breed. First and foremost they are very gentle and affectionate. They are very sweet and loyal and can be very good guard dogs. This is also because of their size and their hereditary nature. Since they were bred to be guard and rescue dogs, but also working dogs, they implement that use today.
When it comes to training, they need early socialization with humans and other dogs. This will lead them to become fearful and well rounded. If you fail to do that you face a chance of getting a territorial and aggressive dog. In those cases, they may start attacking strangers as they are connected to their masters. Generally speaking, they are very good and affectionate with small children and will additionally protect them as well. But, due to their size, they are prone to knocking really small children around. So you should not keep small children around a large St Bernard if it’s not necessary.
Appearance, Colors, Size
The Saint Bernard dogs are known for their enormous size. Their massive strong bodies were developed in the high altitude of the Alps, which made them durable and strong enough for any situation set for them. They can grow to weight between 65 and 120 kg and reach a height of 70 to 90 cm,
There are two kinds of coats that a Saint Bernard has. It can either have a smooth or rough coat, with the former being flat and the latter a little bit denser. The rough coat also adds more density around the neck and kegs of the dog. As for the color of the coat, it is usually a certain shade of red combined with white or mahogany brindle combined with white. They also have black shades, which are usually on the face and the ears of the dog.
Besides its long hair and massive appearance they also have a heavy tail. The tail is long and hangs low. Eyes are usually brown but in some cases, they can be blue combined with tight lids.
Saint Bernard Health
Like any other big dog, the Saint Bernard also does not have a long life span. These dogs can live up to a period between 8 or 10 years, the most. The issues that can affect this breed actually have to deal with their size. They grow up quite fast and it can lead to various problems with their bones. If they do not get proper nourishment and exercise, their bones can become brittle and it could cause the dog to become very frail.
But the conditions that you have to watch out are mostly related to the physical side of the dog. Hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia and among the most common health occurrence when it comes to this dog. You also need to watch out for Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, which is a hereditary disease. Other problems to watch out for include epilepsy and seizures, dilated cardiomyopathy, and eczema.
Grooming & Shedding
A Saint Bernard sheds heavily two times a year during transition periods. This means that you will have to introduce an additional type of grooming then. You will need to brush the dog’s hair more frequently and give it a lot of care. But essentially, you still have to brush their hair two or three times a week. Bathing is not needed so often and you can do it twice a month. Better use a quality shampoo if you have decided to bathe your dog frequently. But frequent baths are not recommended and you can only additionally do that when they get dirty.
Dental hygiene is also important and should be done two or three times a week. You can remove the bacteria and tarter which lodges inside. Clipping the nails is also necessary. This is only needed two or three times a month.
Price and Breeders
A Saint Bernard is an enormous dog, but luckily its price is quite acceptable. Breeders located all over the world have helped to spread this breed and managed to allow its population to grow. That is why a single pup will cost between 900 USD and up to 2,200 USD. If you want a dog from premium descends, you have to pay 10,000 USD.
Saint Bernard Rescue
But if the price is still too high for you, you can always rescue a Saint Bernard. Various groups and organizations have made it their mission to aid these types of dogs. They are doing so by giving them shelter and finding suitable families for them. If you want to be one to adopt a St Bernard, try finding it on Colorado St Bernard Rescue, Saint Bernard Club of America or Saint Bernard Rescue Foundation, Inc.