The Saint Bernard breed of dogs gained fame as rescue dogs for the hospice in the Alps between Switzerland and Italy, and have been doing that work since the 1600s. This breed was a popular farm dog for hundreds of years prior to their rescue work. Saint Bernards are most likely descendants of Mastiffs accompanying the Roman Legion and native Swiss dogs. In the 1800s, Newfoundlands were crossed with the Saint Bernard.
Saint Bernards are great with children.
This is a powerful breed. The head is large and wide, the muzzle is short, the eyes are medium-sized and dark brown, and the ears are dropped. The breed is strong and well-proportioned with heavy bones. The tail is long and heavy. The undercoat is thick and dense, while the outer coat can be short or long. The coat is white with red or brindle markings. Both the short and long coats need twice weekly brushing to keep them clean and free of mats. When the dog is shedding heavily, usually twice a year, additional brushing is needed.
Saint Bernard Puppies are active, alternating nap times with playtimes. Adults enjoy a long brisk walk and a chance to play but are usually calm in the house. Training is a necessity for this breed. Puppies grow rapidly and become strong and heavy very quickly. They need to learn household rules and social manners early so that they do not take advantage of their size and overpower family members or guests.
Saint Bernards shed heavily.
The Saint Bernard needs an owner who doesn’t mind grooming the dog, is willing to do the training needed to create a good companion, and doesn’t mind that these dogs drool. Although puppies can be rowdy, most Saints are excellent with children. They are usually good with other pets, too. Health concerns include hip dysplasia, allergies, epilepsy, and a sensitivity to heat.
Saint Bernards, like all very large dogs, must be well socialized with people and other dogs in order to prevent fearfulness and any possible aggression or territoriality. The biggest threat to small children is being knocked over by this breed’s larger size. Overall they are a loyal and affectionate breed, and if socialized are very friendly and are occasionally avoided because of their slobber. Due to its large adult size, it is essential that proper training and socialization begin while the St. Bernard is still a puppy, so as to avoid the difficulties that normally accompany training large animals. An unruly Saint Bernard may present problems for even a strong adult, so control needs to be asserted from the beginning of the dog’s training. While generally not as aggressive as dogs bred for protection, a Saint Bernard may bark at strangers, and their size makes them good deterrents against possible intruders.
More information and pictures of the Saint Bernard dog breed.