Dogs

5 Things to Know About Saint Bernards


Saint Bernards are known for search and rescue of humans stranded in extreme weather conditions. Photo: Grigorita Ko

1. Key Characteristics of Saint Bernards

  • AKC Group: Working
  • Height: 26–30 inches
  • Weight: 120–180 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 8–10 years

Saint Bernards are large, muscular and powerful dogs whose coats vary in colors and patterns. They may have short or long hair, depending on the breeding.

These outsize dogs have a large head and a long tail, and they’re prone to drooling.

2. Where Saint Bernards Came From

Saint Bernards may have originated from a heavy Asian dog brought by the Romans to Switzerland, although other theories about their origins abound. The dogs were used for herding, guarding, and drafting on farms and dairies.

Between 1660 and 1670, the dogs were  selected to join the Hospice in the Swiss Alps as companion animals and guard dogs. Their excellent sense of smell made them ideal for search and rescue, and they are said to be able to detect a person buried under 20 feet of snow.

Saint Bernards have historically been depicted wearing a barrel attached to their collars. The dogs are estimated to have saved more than 2,000 people throughout their service at the Hospice.

The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1885, and the Saint Bernard Club of America was formed in 1888.

Saint Bernards
Saint Bernards are loyal and friendly. Photo: Grigorita Ko

3. How Friendly Are Saint Bernards?

This breed is loyal, gentle and friendly. Saint Bernards are patient and dignified dogs who get along great with children.

They are also intelligent and easy to train, and they love being around their families.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

MEDIUM: You’ll need to exercise your Saint Bernard daily with a long walk, especially if you live in an apartment.

These dogs have a low tolerance for heat, so be careful when it comes to hot weather.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: Although twice a week is probably sufficient, consider brushing your Saint Bernard daily to avoid mats and excessive shedding. The undercoat sheds heavily twice a year.

Bathe your Saint Bernard as necessary but not excessively.

Clip the dog’s nails, brush the teeth and clean the ears. In addition, clean the eyes regularly to keep irritants at bay.

Health Problems

HIGH: Know that Saint Bernards are prone to some of these health problems:

5. How to Adopt a Saint Bernard

If you are considering getting a Saint Bernard, please check rescues and adoption resources first. Purebred animals are in shelters too. Try Petful’s free adopt a pet search.

That said, finding a Saint Bernard through adoption resources may prove difficult.

If you choose to go to a breeder, make sure the breeder is reputable and doesn’t exhibit any puppy mill red flags.

Additional Resources

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