Welcome to the wonderful world of the Saint Bernard! The Saint Bernard is loyal and self-assured. It is a beautiful breed but, the Saint Bernard is not for everyone. Owning a Saint Bernard is a great pleasure as well as a responsibility.
We’ve tried to address the most commonly asked FAQ’s towards the breed curious and the first-time giant breed dog owner. Here we’ve tried to explain both the positive and not-so positive traits. First, and foremost, consult with your veterinarian.
This FAQ is provided as is without any express or implied warranties or guarantees as to the content’s accuracy, completeness or applicability to a specific animal.
While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the SBCA, the contributors and the maintainer assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.
WHAT IS A SAINT BERNARD?
How Much Do They Eat?
A Saint Bernard will not “eat you out of house and home.” The fact is, a Saint Bernard can be raised and maintained on no more food than required for other large breeds. Since Saints are basically placid dogs, they generally require less food per pound of body weight than most smaller, more active breeds. Feed your Saint Bernard in a stainless steel bowl as plastic bowls have been know to give off fumes that can cause allergies in dogs.
How Much Do They Weigh?
Saint puppies weigh about one and one-half pounds at birth and grow rapidly during the first year, although it may take as long as three years before they reach full maturity. Adult males may reach a height of 28-30 inches at the shoulder and will normally weigh between 140 and 180 pounds. Females are somewhat smaller at about 26-28 inches at the shoulder and typically range from 120 to 140 pounds.
Are They Good With Children?
Definitely. They have an understanding of a child’s way and are amazingly careful not to injure a child. They are excellent babysitters and companions. Naturally, a child must never be allowed to torment any dog, regardless of breed. A good rule of thumb is to treat a dog with people manners and they will return the favor.
The Saint’s size and bark will discourage most intruders, yet he will learn to recognize your friends and receive them cordially. If an intruder gets by the size and barks, your Saint may decide to lead him straight to the family silver since he would much prefer to be a friend to all. The one exception to this is when a member of the family is being threatened. The Saint’s instinct to protect those he loves becomes very apparent at this time.
Are They Easy To Train?
Because of the size of the animal, the Saint Bernard MUST be trained and this must be done early in his life. Fortunately, Saints are eager to please and will begin responding to commands as soon as they understand what you want of them. Training a Saint Bernard takes consistency and creating a daily routine for your puppy which will continue through adulthood. Feeding your puppy at the same time every day, taking him to potty through the same door every day, and going to the same potty spot every time are all good examples. No matter what your day-to-day schedule is, try to keep the days similar. Don't have two totally different schedules on weekdays and weekends.
Do They Shed?
Yes. Twice a year, usually in Spring and Fall, they lose much of their coats to help them adjust to the changing seasons. For the remainder of the year, there is seldom any annoyance from shedding. Grooming your dog is a necessity. Grooming will help decrease the amount of shedding and keep the Saint Bernards coat in good condition.
Do They Drool?
Yes. Depending on the weather, the level of excitement, and the shape of the dog’s jowls, most Saints will drool on occasion. Hot weather and stress can bring on panting which brings on drool Technically, there is no such thing as a “dry mouthed Saint”, but most Saints do not drool to an offensive degree.
RAISING A SAINT BERNARD
Why Do Some Saint Bernards Have Short Hair?
The original Saint Bernards were all short-haired dogs. Over 150 years ago, the Monks in Switzerland found it necessary to bring some new blood into their breeding and bred the long coated Newfoundland with their Saints. The thought was a longer coat would protect the dogs from the weather conditions only to find that the ice and snow collected on their coats. Today, the influence of that breeding is still with us and we have both long and short-haired Saint Bernards.
How Much Room Do They Need?
The Saint by nature does not require acres and acres to roam. They are not as active or nervous as some breeds and are content to remain close to home for the most part. Consequently, a moderate fenced yard or kennel run is enough just so long as there is some place for regular exercise which is essential to the physical health of the dog. The apartment dweller must be walked frequently to make up for the exercise he would normally take at his leisure.
Should I Get A Male Or A Female?
This is strictly a matter of personal preference. Both are equal in pet qualities. The male, being larger, is more impressive when first viewed. The female, however, must be considered his equal in all other respects. Modern veterinary practice recommends neutering of non-breeding animals of both sexes as a means to a healthier, better pet.
The dog will do well as long as there is a cool dry place to nap and plenty of fresh cool water. He will cut down both his food intake and his amount of activity. It must be remembered that going from an air conditioned place into the boiling heat can be disastrous. Abrupt changes in temperature are extremely hard on a Saint. There is more information about Saints in various climates elsewhere on this site.
RAISING A SAINT BERNARD
Even a small Saint Bernard is destined to be a large dog. This is something that must be taken into consideration when raising it. As a puppy, your Saint Bernard should not be allowed to do anything that you would not wish your full-grown Saint Bernard to do, like jumping on you or anyone else for that matter. Because your puppy is going to be a large dog, it is a very good idea that it receives, at minimum, basic obedience training. You DO NOT want a 200-pound dog that won’t listen to you; this can lead to obvious problems.
Saints grow at an astonishing rate that it is best not to force their growth with artificial vitamins and calcium supplements. A good quality dog food is all that they require. Allowing them to grow at their own pace will give them a more stable foundation once they are full grown. A newborn puppy weighing approximately 1-2 lbs. will be approximately 20-25 lbs. when it is ready to go home with you. A Saint will take 3-5 years to grow to its full height and maturity (females tend to mature sooner than males). Don’t be tempted to overfeed! An overweight Saint is an unhealthy Saint. Overfeeding can affect their heart and joints.
Many breeders recommend NOT feeding a ‘puppy chow’ beyond the first few months due to the high protein content. During growth periods your Mastiff puppy is subject to joint injury. You will need to be especially careful during these times to control excessive exercise. A puppy may play at its own rate but should not be encouraged to take long walks, jump obstacles, or any other exercise that will stress the joints.
This is not to say the puppy must be confined. Just use caution and do not allow it to overexert itself. After about 18 months the growth rate will decrease. The puppy will continue to grow but much more slowly.
You will be surprised at how much a Mastiff puppy will drink. Fresh water should be kept available at all times. Drool will accumulate in the bottom of the water dish. Since the pup will not drink its own drool, the dish should be rinsed and refilled throughout the day.
All puppies love to chew. Saint Bernards have very powerful jaws, even as a puppy. Some chew toys that are fine for other breeds may not be suitable for your Saint. Caution should be used when choosing toys or chew bones because the pup could bite off pieces and swallow them, resulting in intestinal blockage. Bloat can occur. This is a condition where the stomach can twist, causing ischemia of the stomach and if not treated immediately (professionally) they can die. Because of this, puppies may be fed three times per day and adults twice per day.
Saint puppies have a tendency to chew, or swallow, rocks and sticks. They should be watched closely and discouraged from doing so.
SAINT BERNARD CHARITABLE FOUNDATION
The purpose of The Saint Bernard Club of America Charitable Foundation is to strive for perpetual continuation of the Saint Bernard breed