You may have seen this dog several times in movies, musicals, and even children’s cartoons. It’s usually pictured with a tiny flask around its neck, which is used to provide warmth and refreshment to stranded travelers. Its warm coat, huge size, and gentle demeanor have made it a favorite household pet for any family. Read on to find out what exactly this dog looks like and what you should know before adopting one.
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Saint Bernard Dog Appearance
Saint Bernards are a large breed. They usually run to huge sizes and are muscular to boot. They can reach around 30 inches in height and can weigh up to 180 pounds. They can be longhaired or shorthaired, but the latter used to be the more preferred variety.
A shorthaired coat on a Saint Bernard is usually smooth and dense. They would have bushy hair on their thighs, and the tail would be covered with long hair that is also dense. The tail hair becomes shorter as it approaches the tip. Longhaired varieties may have a wavy consistency but aren’t shaggy or curly. The forelegs may be somewhat feathered, but there’s bushy hair on the thighs and tail.
The color of Saint Bernards ranges in all kinds of red shades along with a combination of white. There could be white markings, brownish yellow shades, and brindle patches. The white is in the chest area and in a kind of collar around the neck. It would also sometimes encircle the nose, feet, and tail’s tip.
Saint Bernard Dog Grooming
These dogs usually need a lot of grooming in order to keep their shedding in check. The longhaired varieties are highly prone to this, causing issues for housekeepers.
Owners of Saint Bernards should be brushing them thrice a week. A hound glove or rubber curry brush is preferable for shorthaired dogs, while a pin brush is best for the longhaired varieties. When shedding is at its peak, a shedding blade can remove any loose hair. The hair on the thighs or behind the ears could get matted. In such cases, a detangling solution may be sprayed and the tangles can be worked out with your fingers.
These large dogs don’t need frequent baths. When the time comes, it’s preferable to wash them outside or in a large indoor area. A whitening shampoo that’s formulated for dogs is the most preferable option. A Saint Bernard might also develop some stains around its eyes, which could be cleaned with a damp cloth every day or by using a special product for this task.
Saint Bernard Dog Temperament
The Saint Bernard dog is usually highly obedient and is suitable for several types of competitions. It’s able to stay in a family home or apartment and is open to learning several tricks. It’s good-natured as well as intelligent, kind, and gentle.
Even small spaces like apartments can be suitable for a large Saint Bernard, but it’s essential that it gets some outdoor time to walk around every day. It’s preferable if it has a yard or a daily walk in the park so that it doesn’t take out all its energy at home. If left to their own devices, Saint Bernards tend to make quite a mess. They’re prone to tracking in mud, dirt, or other outdoor elements without realizing it.
Saint Bernards aren’t used to living outdoors in kennels. They need human companionship, preferably at home with a family. While they’re not the aggressive sort, they will bark when necessary. They have immensely protective instincts when their human family is threatened.
While not very playful, Saint Bernards are good for snuggling up to and being patient with children. However, they’re usually quite powerful and can be an issue when there’s a small child around. Even a little inadvertent push from their tails could knock a child down.
Saint Bernard Dog Training
Saint Bernards are usually trained for competitions focused on obedience, drafting, and weight pulling. If left untrained, a Saint Bernard could potentially wreck a home and drag its owner off the sidewalk. There should, hence, be training sessions for a Saint Bernard puppy as soon as possible. It’s also essential to stay consistent with the training rules in order to ensure the dog stays happy and balanced. Crate training is the most recommended for Saint Bernards, but it’s essential that the crate is seen as a refuge and not a punishment.
Saint Bernard Dog History
Saint Bernards were originally used for guarding the Hospice Saint Bernard in Switzerland. In addition to guarding, they were trained to find any lost or injured travel and help save them. The breed itself was probably created when native dogs in the Alps were bred with dogs with Mastiff-like characteristics.
It’s not clear just when these large dogs started being used for saving lives and guarding the Hospice, but there is a painting from 1695 which shows similar shorthaired dogs. Records about these dogs being used for the monastery date back to 1703. Over the years, some of the refinement and characteristics of the dogs were developed due to the monastery's isolation and breeding with dogs from other valleys. Trying to get the dogs a thicker coat resulted in a longer-haired species, which was not suitable for the cold environment and were given away.
This adorable breed is also known as Alpine Mastiff, Bernhardiner and St. Bernhardshund. Most owners also give it the nickname of Saint.