The Saint Bernard
St. Bernard

descriptive textDog breed infoSaint Bernard
St. Bernard
Weight: 120 — 200 lbs
Height: 25” — 28”
AKC Rank 2008 #43
Lifespan: 8 — 10 yrs
Group Working
Origin Switzerland

Dog Breed Info - Saint Bernard

A young St. Bernard and his owner
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Breed Overview

Origin: Family of Mastiff in Middle Ages. Original function: draft, search and rescue. Today, companion dog. Colors: White with red, red or brindle w/white, (white must be on chest and feet, tail tip and nose band and collar.) The Bernard drools a lot.

The Saint Bernard probably had it’s roots in the Roman Molossian dogs, but it wasn’t until around 1670 that the breed developed into the dog responsible for saving so many lives. Around this time, the first of these large dogs arrived at the Saint Bernard Hospice, a refuge for travelers crossing between Switzerland and Italy. The Bernard's originally came to help pull carts and may have also worked as watchdogs and companions. Monks soon discovered these dogs were invaluable pathfinders and could work in the deep snow. The dogs were adept at locating lost travelers. When a dog once found a person, he would lick the person’s face top revive him and lie on top of him to keep him warm and alive. The breed continued to serve this way for three centuries and saved over 2000 people from sure death. The dogs got the name “Hospice Dogs” because of their extreme actions in lifesaving abilities.

By 1865, the name “Saint Bernard” was in common use and it became the official name around 1880. Around this time the breed caught the eye of Americans and by 1900 the Saint Bernard was very popular.

"Mr. Casual"
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Yes, quite trainable. They want to please and do well with clicker training training and positive reinforcement practice. It's easy to use and effective.

Crate Training

Want to crate train your Saint Bernard puppy? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

The Saint Bernard puppies are generally easy to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


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The calm, easy-going St. Bernard is gentle and patient around children, although it is not especially playful. This dog is devoted to it’s family and is certainly willing to please, though at his own pace. He can be quite stubborn.

If you happen to get a Malamute with a separation anxiety problem, that can be dealt with by investing a few hours of work on your part and some "tough love."

Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Gets along fairly well with other dogs. The Saint Bernard is not known to be aggressive but any dog can have likes and dislikes.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Yes, quite good with household pets. Saint Bernard’s are good family dogs as long as they are in a cold climate.


Friendly Toward Strangers

Friendly, generally. Some bad breeders have turned out puppies that grew up aggressive but as a rule, the breed is friendly.


Moderately playful. This is a happy dog.


Yes, the Saint Bernard is a good family dog, friendly, loyal and affectionate

Good with children?

Yes, but keep small children away or heavily supervised as this is a big, heavy dog that can do serious accidental damage. The Saint Bernard is quiet, calm and laid back and tolerant so older kids are okay.

Good with Seniors over 65?

No. Too big.

Living environment

House with plenty of fenced-in space to run around. Can NOT tolerate warmth. The Saint Bernard must have a cold climate to survive.

Energy level

Low. Give it 3 bars out of 10

Exercise needs, daily

Moderate. Two daily walks and a short run is enough.

Four Bernards at home in the snow
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No. Too friendly.

Guard dog

No. Not aggressive.


No, very little.


Smooth hair. Brush twice weekly, wash only when really dirty.

Long hair. Brush and comb four— five a week (If you don't, you will have a real difficult mess), wash only when really dirty.



Suggested Reading For The Saint Bernard
Click on the cover photos for more book information and reviews.

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners. Vol 2, 2008, includes a DVD.


Saint Bernard Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for St. Bernard puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.
Saint Bernard Breeders with puppies for sale.

Saint Bernard Rescue
St. Bernard Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of a St. Bernard and are looking for a Saint Bernard Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Dog Rescue - (Nationwide) Petfinder is showing only around 500+ St. Bernard's available nationwide at the time of this writing. You may need to surf the web for Saint Bernard Rescue locations, check local newspapers for shelters and look for any dog pound available. If you do adopt, look for dog health papers as they could be useful in the future.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but you still may have to go online and look for Saint Bernard Rescue groups or foster homes, kennels or pounds. The St. Bernard is hard to find.

Dog Health Issues For The Saint Bernard
Below are the dog illness / illnesses or medical problems listed for the Saint Bernard by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness and medical problems this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Patellar luxation—Limping, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position on the Saint Bernard. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs. It’s most common in small and toy dogs. If your dog has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

  • Hip dysplasia - Hind end limping, back leg acts lame. Wear and time causes the femur to fit poorly into the pelvic socket with improper rotation causing great pain, lameness and difficulty walking for the Saint Bernard. You may notice the dog “hopping”” like a rabbit when running plus hesitating to climb stairs, all due to pain in the hind quarters. The problem actually starts as a very young puppy with an abnormal formation of the hip joint and grows progressively. A vet can locate this with a diagnostics test.

  • Gastric Torsion—Sometimes called Dog Bloat or “Twisted stomach.” Mainly in larger, deep-cheated dogs. Here's a brief description of the problem:
    Symptoms include excessive drooling, nervous pacing, agitation, weakness, attempt to vomit, bulging stomach area, heavy breathing, retching and gagging, shock or total collapse.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy— DCM A serious heart disease. The muscle of the heart loses it’s ability to pump blood properly causing a backup of blood, an enlarged heart, and an improperly functioning heart. Prognosis is generally 4 weeks to 2 years, depending on the dog and how advanced the problem is. The vet may try medications to alter the heart function, but this one is a killer

  • Cutaneous asthenia—Hereditary, rare disease. Abnormally stretchy, fragile skin that tears, easily. Tearing comes easily such as the dog stretching. Little bleeding results and the torn areas heals with irregular scars resulting. Infrequently, lens luxation and loose joints may be found along with the white scaring. A skin biopsy is used for diagnosis on the Saint Bernard. Your vet will advise what can be done, if anything, depending on the individual case.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Ectropion—A hereditary medical problem. The lower eyelid grows outward leaving a gap between the eye and the eyelid. Excessive tearing and conjunctivitis are common signs of the disease but some dogs will have no symptoms. Blunt trauma and/or nerve damage can also cause the problem. If the cornea becomes damaged or if the conjunctivitis becomes chronic, surgery will be necessary.

  • Elbow Dysplasia—This, as with hip dysplasia, is something the dog is born with. Wear and time in the front legs (elbow joints) cause lameness by the time the dog is roughly a year old. If you have a dog prone to this disease, have an early x-ray to see if surgery to the joints will stave off further damage to the joints. Typically, there has been no cure, but recently doctors have come up with some ideas. 1) Keep the weight of your dog down. 2) Use anti-inflammatory medication. 3) Look into injections of stem-cells to help regenerate bone-covering cartilage to cause the bones to line up properly again. (This is new research and some vets may not know about it so ask around.)

  • Osteosarcoma—A leg bone cancer in large breed dogs of any age but usually in large, older dogs. Osteosarcoma in the limbs is “appendicular osteosarcoma.” The dog will be in great pain as the disease destroys the bone from the inside out. The dog’s inability to walk will progress over only about 3 months time as the bone is destroyed by the tumor. Unfortunately, surgery to remove the leg is the only way to give your dog the only total relief needed.

  • Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament - The tearing of the Cruciate ligament in the knee and NO weight can be applied to the affected leg with the torn ligament. Even sitting can be a painful problem This will cause lameness that may be severe. Knee surgery with total restriction of activity is the only answer.

  • Osteochondritis dissecans—A common type of elbow dysplasia except it can occur in any joint. Flaps of cartilage run against tissue causing irritation, pain, lameness and in time, joint degeneration disease. Pieces can break loose and float around limiting movement, or getting lodged or wedged inside the joint itself. Look for lameness, pain and swelling in joints. Treatments include Non-steroid anti-inflammatory meds, weight loss, confinement to rest the joints, and dietary supplements for joint health. Surgery is the last option for very severe cases

  • Diabetes.

  • Epilepsy - Seizures. Develops between 2 to 4 or 5 years old.

  • Lymphosarcoma—Cancer of the lymph glands which amounts to “cancer everywhere in the body” of the Saint Bernard. Middle age and older dogs are the likely candidates. No appetite, weight loss, no energy and increased thirst and urination are signs of the disease. When a lymph node become cancerous, you can begin to feel the hardness of the node at the angle of the jaws and in front of the shoulder blades, for example because the nodes become enlarged. There are many other nodes you can’t feel. With chemotherapy, the Saint Bernard may have a year to live. Without chemotherapy, she has up to 6 weeks to live. About 45% of all dogs in the USA will die of cancer by age 10 and only a third will die of old age. (Current statistics) Common to the Flat-Coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Saint Bernard and Rottweiler.

  • Cardiomyopathy—Disease of the heart muscle causing the heart to enlarge and not function properly. Cause is unknown. Older, bigger dogs , 4 to 10 years are usually affected. The prognosis is generally about 6 months to 2 years for a dog with this form of heart failure and only a matter of weeks for some severe cases.

  • Distichiasis—An eye condition involving the cornea. Eyelashes, growing improperly on the inner surface of the eyelid cause corneal ulcers due to the constant rubbing and irritation. The problem is fixed by having the vet remove the lashes if the ulcers don’t heal.

  • Cherry eye—One of a dog’s tear glands is in the third eyelid. The gland contributes a significant amount of fluid to lubricate the eye so it can not be removed. A congenital defect, breed related, allows the gland to bulge out because it is not held strongly in place. Thus, the gland prolepses out to a visible position as a reddish mass. Out of position, the gland does not move blood properly and so may swell. Since the gland is needed for lubrication in the eye, vets now do a “tuck and stitch” procedure that pouts the gland back in place and preserves the original function of tear production.

  • Laryngeal paresis— A paralysis of the larynx. Found in middle aged and older, larger dogs like Labs and Saint Bernard's, and Retrievers. It’s a malfunction or weakness of the muscles of the larynx or the controlling nerves. The larynx does not function properly causing difficulty breathing. This can also be caused by an injury to the larynx, illness and other factors. If you notice a change in voice, trouble breathing, coughing, gagging, fainting or any other odd symptom, get to the vet right away.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision and if not treated will lead to total blindness.

Other health problems could occur with your Saint Bernard. If you notice any problems with your dog, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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