Saint Bernard

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Saint Bernards are gentle giants. Find out if these oversized teddy bears are right for you in our complete guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
8 to 10 years
Size:

Extra Large

Maintenance Level:

High

Shed Level:

High

Temperament:
Laid BackSocial Teddy BearAttentive Friend
Coat Color:
White With RedRed With WhiteBrindle PatchesWhite Markings

Best For

Saint Bernards are best for larger homes with experienced pet parents. These gentle giants are kid- and pet-friendly but need a lot of focused training, nutrition and exercise in their first year.

Saint Bernard Traits

What makes the Saint Bernard a Saint Bernard? Let's find out how they stack up.

Saint Bernard Temperament

Would you ever expect your personal bodyguard to be mistaken for a floofy teddy bear? Probably not, but you should. (Because: Safety first. And also because: Adorable.) Saint Bernards’ protective personalities and gentle, calm demeanor with a dash of playfulness are a natural fit for homes with older children, other dogs and even friendly felines. They’ll also mesh with younger children, but littler kiddos will need extra supervision to ensure they can respect your pup’s boundaries.

A Saint Bernard dog doesn’t always comprehend just how big they are, which can cause some consternation and tears when playing with tipsy tots or unstable adults (or tipsy adults, for that matter). Training for both humans and the dog is a must to be sure nobody accidentally gets knocked over during backyard romps or in-home zoomies. Saints are friendly dogs (and they swear they didn’t mean to knock you down! They thought you were trying to start a game of tag!) and will stay that way with a loving home and positive reinforcement-based training. In general, Saints are not known to bite, but there have been reports of aggression in their senior years due to neurological conditions. Proper socialization for your Saint Bernard puppy before 20 to 24 weeks of age allows your outgoing pup to learn good manners and blossom as a beloved family pet.

If it looks like you’re going to do something fun, Saints will want to join you, no questions asked. They’re in the car before you can even find your keys, ready for a nature trail adventure or a Sunday drive through the country. Whatever their human is doing, they want to mirror the activity or supervise from a cozy spot next to your feet.

If you have a job you need doing, give it to a Saint, and they will be more than happy to check it off your To Do list. Saint Bernards are a working breed who love to help people. Give them a chore, like helping feed livestock on a farm or serving as a door greeter at your small business, and they’ll be happy campers. Saints are eager to please. You’ll know the Saint Bernard is in their element when they can’t stop the drool from flowing and their tail from wagging.

How to Care for a Saint Bernard

If you favor strolling over Crossfit, you come sit over here next to the Saint Bernard, as these pups prefer daily low-impact walks followed by an evening of hogging the couch (and maybe sharing a little space with you) and binge-watching reruns of your favorite show. That’s prime time for bonding-while-spa-ing (aka sponding. Tell your friends.), as Saints need regular grooming for their thick coats. They’ll also need regular training to best manage their large size (though there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to train them not to hog the couch) and proper nutrition to stay happy and healthy.

Saint Bernard Health

A Saint Bernard’s life expectancy is approximately 8 to 10 years. To help them live a long life with fewer trips to the vet, keep an eye out for these common health problems.

  • Ear Infections: Regular cleaning helps to prevent painful infections in Saint Bernard ears. You can buy ear cleanser over the counter or ask your vet for a cleanser and show you how to properly insert it into the ear. It’s best to start ear cleanings young, so it becomes part of a regular routine and easy for owners to do.
  • Arthritis: This bone-eroding disease affects your pup’s joints, especially the hips. A responsible breeder should be able to tell you if arthritis runs in your Saint Bernard’s family. Your vet can offer preventative measures such as supplements and weight control measures to reduce complications from arthritis.
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: When the bones in these sockets don’t align properly, they can rub against each other, and over time can cause pain and mobility issues. Surgery is needed to ease the situation, but prevention is a far better approach. Keeping Saint Bernards at their ideal weight, offering joint health supplements and feeding them properly, so they don’t grow too fast can help.
  • Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat: This condition causes the dog’s stomach to flip and twist in the abdomen. If your Saint Bernard’s belly becomes distended quickly (within minutes), and they’re unable to vomit or defecate, are pacing, or lie down and moan, it’s best to call a vet ASAP. If left untreated, bloat is fatal. To help prevent this condition, ask your vet about doing a preventative prophylactic gastropexy surgery, wherein the stomach is sutured to the abdominal wall. Additional prevention measures include feeding and watering from elevated bowls and serving smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • Overheating: Between their large size and thick coats, Saint Bernards can quickly become too warm. It’s best to exercise them in cool weather and never leave them outside on hot summer days. To cool down your Saint Bernard, offer relaxation in an air-conditioned room, fresh cold water, a layer of wet towels on their abdomen or a lukewarm bath.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy: This enlarged heart condition reduces the organ’s ability to pump blood from the left ventricle. Over time, the condition can affect the other heart chambers, too. Medications can be given to the pet to help the heart pump more effectively. If left untreated by a vet, this condition can turn into heart failure.
  • Bone Cancer: Saint Bernards are prone to the most common type of cancerous tumors in dogs, bone cancer, or osteosarcoma. Symptoms including leg pain and lameness often show up around 4 to 5 years of age. If caught early, a vet can perform surgery to remove this aggressive tumor.

Saint Bernard History

What’s the origin of a Saint Bernard? Let’s dig into a bit of history. The Saint Bernard is lovingly named after monk Bernard of Menthon, a kind-hearted soul who lived around 1020. Bernard of Menthon established the Great Saint Bernard Hospice for pilgrims traversing the snowy Swiss Alps via the Great Saint Bernard Pass on their way to Rome. In later years, the monks enlisted the dogs to help guard passersby, and the fearless pups are also credited with saving lost travelers in treacherous mountain avalanches and snowdrifts. Saint Bernards have a keen sense of smell and path-finding abilities. The dogs’ mild temperament, attentiveness and kindness earned them the nickname “hospice dogs.”

In later years, the Saint Bernard worked on Alpine dairy farms to herd and guard livestock, going by the names Valley Dogs or Farm Dogs.

The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1885. Three years later, The Saint Bernard Club of America was formed, making it one of the oldest specialty clubs still thriving.

Fun fact about Saints: It’s an often-repeated myth that Saint Bernards used to carry small wooden barrels filled with liquor attached to their collars for avalanche victims to drink and stay warm while waiting to be rescued. Sadly, that never actually happened, and though images of this inaccurate depiction are still alive and well today in movies and cartoons, don’t expect your Saint Bernard to play bartender at your next party.

Are you eager to have a Saint Bernard puppy join your family as a pet? Consider searching the American Kennel Club’s website for reputable breeders. The price for Saint Bernard puppies ranges from $1,000 up to $2,200, with a common mid-range cost of $1,500. These fees generally include the dog’s AKC registration, initial vetting and testing for common health conditions. You can also reach out to Saint Bernard rescue organizations to adopt a Saint or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.

FAQs

Are Saint Bernards hypoallergenic?

No, Saint Bernards are not hypoallergenic. Saints with either the long or short coat shed regularly. Weekly brushings and monthly baths can help minimize shedding.

How long do Saint Bernards live?

Saint Bernards have a life expectancy of 8 to 10 years when fed a quality diet, are cared for properly and vetted as needed to manage health issues.

Are Saint Bernards aggressive or dangerous?

Saint Bernards are not generally aggressive or dangerous. And despite how big they are, their bite force (i.e., how hard they bite) isn’t considered terribly strong for their size. They do require training to help manage their large size, so they don’t accidentally knock over small children. However, any dog who is mistreated or suffering from a painful medical condition can exhibit aggressive or dangerous behavior.

Are Saint Bernards smart?

Yes, Saint Bernards are one of the smarter breeds of dogs. They exude intelligence and awareness of their surroundings, making them excellent at finding lost people. They, however, are a working breed, not a herding breed, so they don’t possess the same smarts as, say, a Border Collie or Australian Cattle Dog. Each breed has its own skillset.

What are the most popular Saint Bernard names?

The most popular Saint Bernard names are Beethoven, Neil, Bernie, George, Barry, Clifford, Nana, Mo, Chubby, Gumbo, Dakota, Saber, Ripley, Cheyenne, Echo and Saint. Get more dog names here.

What are the most common Saint Bernard mixes?

The most common Saint Bernard mixes are:

  • Saint Bernard-Standard Poodle (Saint Berdoodle)
  • Saint Bernard-Labrador Retriever (Labernard)
  • Saint Bernard-Great Dane (Saint Dane, Bernadane, or Great Bernard)
  • Saint Bernard-German Shepherd (Saint Shepherd)
  • Saint Bernard-Great Pyrenees (Saint Pyrenees)
  • Saint Bernard-Mastiff (Saint Bermastiff)
  • Saint Bernard-Pitbull (Saint Bullnard)
  • Saint Bernard-Siberian Husky (Saint Berhusky)
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Top Takeaways

Saint Bernards are people-sized dogs who require ample room to play and lay. They’re easy-going and ready to chase a ball with the kids in the backyard or cuddle up on the bed for a nap with you. This smart pup thinks you’re the tops and will stay by your side furever.

Expert input provided by veterinarian Jenifer Chatfield, DVM, DACZM, DACVPM aka Dr. Jen the Vet from the Chats with the Chatfields veterinary and pet tips podcast as well as Lead Trainer & Behavior Specialist, Alexandra Bassett CPDT-KA from Dog Savvy Los Angeles.

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