Photo by Gerald Ferreira

Saint Bernard - Breed Profile:

Origin: Italy / Switzerland
Colors: Red with white, brindle with white
Size: Extra large
Type of Owner: Experienced
Exercise: Regular
Grooming: Frequent
Trainability: Slightly difficult to train
Combativeness: Friendly with other dogs
Noise: Not a barker

Physical characteristics

The Saint Bernard is a massive large dog with a truly imposing appearance. The body is tall and powerful, the legs are very muscular. The head is broad with well-developed high cheek bones. The short muzzle is slightly wider than long. A deep furrow runs up between the eyes to the occiput, disappearing gradually. The forehead is wrinkled. The broad nose is black, with developed nostrils. The loose lips are black too. The medium size eyes are dark brown, with an intelligent and friendly expression. The pendent ears resemble a slightly elongated triangle with rounded lines. The teeth meet in a scissor or level bite. The tail is long and bushy.
The average weight of Saint Bernards is 150 to 170 pounds. This is one of the largest dog breeds in the world.

Temperament

In spite of their imposing look, well-raised Saint Bernards are extremely gentle, friendly, tolerant, obedient and eager to please. Some individuals are more outgoing, others are more introspective. Adult dogs are calm, dignified, and quiet. Puppies are boisterous.
It is necessary to socialize Saint Bernards at an early age. Growing up, they will learn to trust and respect people. Training should also be started as early as possible, while the dog's size is still manageable. Make sure to remain the dog's pack leader: an unruly adult Saint Bernard can be dangerous. Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood. Companionship is very important for this breed. If left alone for too long a time, the dog may become dispirited and destructive. With children, Saint Bernards are patient and steady. Remember that these large dogs need much space and deserve a roomy home with a spacious fenced yard.
Photo by Jose Arnoldo

Coat and grooming

Saint Bernards come in two varieties: shorthair (smooth) and longhair (rough). Both the varieties have a dense double coat that comes in red or brindle colors mixed with white. White color can prevail. Black spots are typically found on the face and ears. The chest, feet, noseband, collar or spot on the neck, and tail tip must be white. Longhair Saint Bernards have feathering on the legs and thighs. Frequent grooming is necessary, especially for the rough variety. Occasional bathing should be fine.

Health

If the dog does not get proper food and exercise, it can develop very serious deterioration of the bones. This happens because of the dog's weight and its fast growth rate. Also, like many other large breeds, Saint Bernards are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Unfortunately, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is another health problem in these dogs, and it is known to be hereditary. Beware of epilepsy, seizures, cardiomyopathy, and eczema. Drooling, wheezing and snoring are common. As these dogs are prone to bloat, it is recommended to feed them two or three small meals a day instead of one large meal.
The lifespan of Saint Bernards is around 8 years. Few individuals can live more than 10 years.

Other interesting facts

The original task of Saint Bernards was to locate freezing and helpless travellers during snowstorms.