If you’re thinking about bringing a dog into your home, you probably have an idea of some characteristics that you’d like, if not precisely, the breed (or mix) you desire. It’s critical to study everything about the breed you’re considering. Ultimately, the dog should be comfortable and happy, and you shouldn’t feel in over your head. If you’re considering a big dog, a Saint Bernard is an exceptional choice.
It’s important to know that they are:
Famous for their noble history
Bred to be working dogs, Saints are big, intelligent, and strong with good dispositions.
The breed is named after Bernard of Menthon, a monk who founded a Swiss Alps hospice circa 1050. The hospice assisted pilgrims traveling through the snowy mountains, who would often get buried in snowdrifts and avalanches.
Saint Bernards were skilled at finding and rescuing these travelers; monastery documents show that the dogs saved more than 2,000 people. Saints also guarded the grounds of Hospice Saint Bernard.
The Saint Bernard is one of the world’s most beloved breeds.
As long as space isn’t an issue, they can be nearly ideal companions. Males can grow as big as 30 inches tall and 180 pounds. Females are typically smaller than males (around 140 pounds max).
Unfortunately, bigger dogs like Saint Bernards tend to have a shorter lifespan (typically eight to 10 years) than smaller breeds.
Their size also contributes to health issues such as hip dysplasia and a severe condition called bloat (distending and twisting of the stomach). To reduce the chance of bloat, the dog should eat a few small meals each day and avoid exercise around mealtimes.
Saints are intelligent, gentle giants. Their patience and protectiveness make them great with children.
They’re good-natured and need lots of human interaction. They love attention, whether it’s playing ball outside or snuggling in front of the television.
They also tend to keep their playful puppy personality longer than most dogs.
A little messy
These pups are big-time shedders. The first step to learning about Saint Bernard grooming needs is having the right tools from the start (e.g., a dog de-shedder).
Brush and de-shed at least a couple of times a week. Saints have a propensity for making a mess.
In addition to excessive shedding, they also drool and are good at tracking in mud and dirt if given half a chance. Sofa covers, towels, and dirt-and debris-trapping floor mats will save you time and money.
Training should start immediately, including exposure to many different situations, sights and sounds, and a variety of people and animals. Their size makes socialization especially important around small children. They’re generally careful around kids but can hurt them accidentally by knocking them down.
Saints can also be a little stubborn, so unless you want to lug a squirmy 180-pound dog to the car for a vet visit, it’s best to start rewarding good behavior early on!
Crate training is essential for housetraining, and the crate will probably become your pup’s place of relaxation and refuge. So, never use a crate as a punishment. Make sure the crate is big enough (tall enough to stand up in and long enough to turn around comfortably, lay down and stretch out).
Moderate exercise needs
Saints don’t need much exercise, but one good walk each day is ideal.
They don’t do well in the heat, so you must be mindful of signs of overheating and make sure to provide lots of cool water. Saints, however, love to frolic in the snow!
No matter what breed you decide to adopt, make sure to choose a reputable breeder. They can show bloodline health documentation and fill you in on the parents’ characteristics (e.g., appearance and disposition). To find an American Kennel Club-Registered breeder, visit the AKC Marketplace.
Various rescue options are also available. To adopt a Saint Bernard, check Petfinder.com.
Take the time to find your perfect puppy companion!
Emily Burton has loved dogs since she was young. She now enjoys adventuring in the Colorado Rockies with her Australian Shepherd and her two kids.
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