Breed Group: Working
Height: 25.5 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 130 to 180 pounds
Life Span: 7 to 10 years
The Saint Bernard doesn’t want to wear a brandy keg around his neck, but you might be able to train him to bring you a beer. With a heart that’s as kind as his body is big, this lovable giant makes a great family friend and protector. He is sweet, sometimes shy, and often stubborn.
Did You Know the Saint Bernard is a Member of the Mastiff Family?
It’s true that the Saint Bernard was a savior to stranded travelers in the Swiss Alps, but he never wore a brandy keg around his neck.
No, the Saint Bernard never wore a miniature brandy keg around his neck. The image was merely the product of artistic license taken by Edwin Landseer, who painted a portrait of the breed while visiting Switzerland in 1819. The public loved it, and the brandy keg remains a symbol of the breed to this day.
It’s true, though, that monks at the hospice of Saint Bernard, high in the Swiss Alps, used the dogs to seek out and rescue lost travelers. These days, the Saint is primarily a family companion or show dog, beloved for his calm and patient temperament. The Saint Bernard has many good qualities, but (even if breeding is the best it can be) he may also have health and temperament issues. If you want the calm, protective dog of legend, be prepared to do a lot of homework to find him and put in plenty of effort training and socializing him once you bring him home.
The Saint Bernard is a member of the Mastiff family, as evidenced by his huge head and tall, powerful body. He is gentle, but his size alone is enough to deter many would-be intruders or assailants. He is only moderately active, making him suited to homes with small yards. He drools and is sensitive to heat, so he must live in air-conditioned comfort in hot climates.
This is a giant breed. A 25-pound Saint Bernard puppy certainly looks manageable, but he will eventually weigh 120 to 180 or more pounds. His huge size is often what attracts people to him, but the tradeoff is a heartbreakingly short life span of approximately 7 to 10 years. And if you reach your home by stairs and should ever need to haul him up and down, you might be in trouble. If none of that fazes you, a Saint Bernard may well be your dog.
Contrary to his size, the Saint Bernard’s food and exercise needs are modest. He doesn’t eat more than any other large breed dog, and he will be satisfied with a couple of short walks daily. Like any dog, Saint puppies are inveterate chewers and because of their size can do more damage than puppies of other breeds. They are prone to ingesting items such as socks and dish towels, resulting in veterinary visits or even surgery for intestinal blockages.
Though you might think of him as an outdoor dog, the Saint Bernard loves his people and will pine without human companionship. They are also prone to heatstroke and should never be left outdoors for a long time in hot weather. Saints should have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, the dog should be with them indoors.
Other Quick Facts About the Saint Bernard
The Saint Bernard drools. Don’t believe a breeder who claims to produce “dry-mouth” Saints.
Saint Bernards excel at dog sports such as drafting (pulling a cart), weight-pulling, and obedience trials.
The Saint Bernard’s coat can be long or short and ranges from deep brown to red brownish-yellow with white markings.