AKC Working Group
The Saint Bernard was developed at and named for the Saint Bernard de Menthon Hospice in the Swiss Alps. The breed is most likely descended from ancient mastiffs Romans brought to the region about 2,000 years ago. The original Roman mastiff was probably interbred with local dogs to create the breed we know today. The Saint Bernard was used as an avalanche and rescue dog in the snowy passes near the hospice. More than 2,000 people have been saved by this amazing servant of mankind. The dogs search out and find the lost or injured traveler, and then lick him and lie next to him to give him warmth. The Saint Bernard’s sense of smell is so excellent that he can find a person even under many feet of snow. This breed is also known for his ability to foretell storms and avalanches, perhaps because he might hear very low frequency sounds that are beyond human ability to hear. There are two varieties: shorthaired and longhaired. The shorthaired variety is more often used for mountain work because he can tolerate very cold temperatures. The longhaired variety’s coat tends to collect icicles.
The Saint Bernard is a grand, imposing, tall dog with a massive, broad head, well-developed high cheekbones, and a short, untapered muzzle. There is a deep furrow running from the muzzle attachment, up between the eyes, and gradually disappearing as it reaches the occiput. The forehead is wrinkled. The medium-sized ears are pendant, and shaped like a rounded, slightly elongated triangle. They have a burr at the base. The nose is large and black with well-developed nostrils. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite, with the scissors bite preferred. The medium-sized, deep-set dark brown eyes are set frontwards. The thick neck has a pronounced dewlap. The legs are very muscular and powerful. The tail is quite long and bushy, and ends with a powerful tip, which may be carried slightly bent upwards at the end. There is a long-haired and a short-haired variety. The double coat is smooth, and very thick on the short-haired variety. Generally comes in white with red, red with white, or brindle with white markings. The chest, feet, noseband, collar or spot on the neck, and tail tip must be white.
- Height: Over 27 1/2 in. (male); over 25 1/2 in. (female)
- Size: Very Large
- Weight: 150 to 170 lbs.
- Availability: Might take some effort to find
- Talents: Watchdog, search and rescue, and carting
Badly bred Saint Bernards can be very unstable, aggressive, and unfit as pets. Avoid puppy-mill puppies. Purchase your dog from a reputable source. Beware of hip dysplasia. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance. Prone to bloat, tumors, and heart disease. Tends to drool, wheeze, and snore. Don’t overfeed. The longhaired variety needs more grooming than the shorthaired variety. A regular daily walk of a mile is recommended. Mature St. Bernards can do well in an apartment if sufficiently exercised.
Calm and dignified. Obedient, very devoted, and loyal. Wants to please. Steady, kindly, and patient with children. Because the dog is so gigantic, be sure to socialize very well with people at an early age.
- Children: Excellent with children
- Friendliness: Loves everyone
- Trainability: Slightly difficult to train
- Independence: Needs people a lot
- Dominance: Moderate (not particularly dominant or submissive)
- Other Pets: Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
- Combativeness: Friendly with other dogs
- Noise: Not a barker
- Indoors: Relatively inactive indoors
- Owner: Not recommended for novice owners
- Grooming: Extensive grooming needed
- Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
- Coat: Medium-long coat
- Shedding: Constant shedder
- Exercise: Needs moderate exercise
- Jogging: A poor jogging companion
- Apartments: Will be okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
- Outdoor Space: A small yard is sufficient
- Climate: Prefers cool climates
- Longevity: Short (under 10 years)