Other names: Mount Bernard dog, Bernhardiner, Saint Bernardshund, Saint Bernard dog
The Saint Bernard is a large and powerful mountain dog, robust and endowed with significant intelligence. Docile, adorable with children and loyal, it is an unmatched life companion. A source of joy to both grown ups and children alike, the Saint Bernard will take to heart to protection of its own. Neither suspicious nor aggressive, he is nevertheless very cautious with strangers, and knows how to act as a deterrent if needed.
Key facts about the St. Bernard
Origins and history
Of Swiss origin, it is a descendant of the ancient asian Molossian, whose primordial form was embodied by the Tibetan Mastiff. The breed such as we know it today has been selected by the cenobite monks of the Grand Saint-Bernard hospice, its namesake. The monks had been using the breed for a very long time for search and rescue missions in the mountains, as well as for guardianship. Essentially, these dogs served to accompany travellers, and save those lost in the snow. The symbolic little barrel of brandy/ schnapps that they sported around their neck would serve to restore the senses of those lost in action. The most famous of them all was Barry since, in the 14th century, it saved around 40 people from the so-called White Death. The Swiss club was created in 1884, while it was only created in France in 1908.
Physical characteristics of the St. Bernard
Female : Between 26 and 31 in
Male : Between 28 and 35 in
Female : Between 110 and 165 lb
Male : Between 121 and 198 lb
The base-coat is white with more or less large patches of red that constitute a tuxedo. The tuxedo can be “torn” with some white spots. A reddish-brown brindle is also admissible, as well as gold-brown.
Overlays on the head are sought-after while they are tolerated on the torso.
White areas must appear on the chest, the paws, and at the tail’s extremity, around the nose, muzzle and nape.
A white collar and dark facial mask are particularly sought after.
Type of coat
Two varieties exist, the long-haired Saint Bernard and the short-haired Saint Bernard.
In the short-haired type, the coat is dense, smooth, spread over the whole body and of coarse texture. The undercoat is abundant.
In the long-haired type, the coat lies flat, is medium length, ranging from smooth to slightly wavy. The undercoat is abundant.
The eyes are dark brown.
The Saint-Bernard is large-headed dog, vigorous and muscular in all of its parts. The skull is massive and broad, slightly convex; the forehead skin forms rather thick and profuse pleats that converge towards a frontal wrinkle. The stop is clear, the muzzle is short, not pointy; the muzzle is straight. The eyes, typically medium-sized and diamond-shaped for this breed, shows a friendly and intelligent expression. The ears are pendant. The torso is robust, as are the limbs, and very straight. The tail is long and very heavy.
Good to know
The Saint Bernards’ reputation as rescue dogs is well established, but their career is slightly behind them. To wit, breeds of smaller weight are preferred nowadays, in order to facilitate helicopter missions.
The St. Bernard is a gentle dog, very attached to its owners, and will always protect them. He is affectionate but not overly clingy, he knows how to be vigilant if needed, he is extremely loyal, and he would give his life for his close ones.
Naturally playful, especially with children, whom this large dog adores accompanying in all sorts of adventures, even if it is mainly to keep an eye on them.
Rather conscious of their hefty size, this mountain molossian knows how to keep discreet, calm and composed when needed. It is not one to be hyperactive and turn the household topsy turvy.
Of exceptional intelligence, this native mount Saint Bernard knows how to observe and scrupulously assess the various situations he might come across.
Its capacity to observe and adapt are traits that make this a particularly intelligent dog.
Its intelligence is actually what allows him to assess the danger someone might find themselves in, and rescue them without hesitation.
This big dog shows no interest for hunting.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Extremely protective of its own, the Saint Bernard is very cautious towards strangers and those who enter their home turf. It requires time to assess any given situation and to give their trust.
The Bernhardiner, as it has also come to be known, is a well-balanced dog that is neither too clingy nor distant towards its master.
Behaviour of the St. Bernard
This dog is not made for being alone for hours on end. It will suffer the absence of its masters, especially if it is recurring and if it hasn’t been gradually conditioned to handle loneliness well.
Easy to train / obedience
The large constitution of this mountain molossian requires an early-onset, firm education, upon its arrival within the family.
The Saint Bernard puppy must rapidly absord the rules and limitations of life at home. If those basic principles are not integrated as soon as possible, this big dog could quickly become a burden on account of its size.
You can also forget about lagging behind this dog on walks- teaching it to walk on a leash, without pulling, will have to be initiated early on, in a positive and consistent manner.
It is very important to work on the leash walking because, weighing up to 200 pounds, the St. Bernard can quickly overpower its master, which could potentially be dangerous.
At times, this big dog can be stubborn, even boar-headed, but a firm and coherent training, fair and respectful of the principles of positive training, will give way to a beautiful master-dog relationship and easy cooperation.
Socialisation will also have to be a part of the young dog’s training. Over the course of its first months, it will have to be made familiar with various, more or less stimulating environments, and make various positive, congeneric and inter-specific encounters.
Barking is this dog’s effective way of deterring anyone from encroaching on its territory if they are not welcome.