Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard

Characteristics Of The Saint Bernard

The Saint Bernard has a heart as big as his imposing body. Despite his size, his kindness and love for children make him popular as a family pet, even with those with young children. It is a calm and balanced dog that does not get irritated easily. At the same time, the gentle giant is also compassionate and needs to have close contact with his humans. Life in a kennel would be torture for this affectionate dog.

He likes to always be close to his caregiver, whose closeness he seeks again and again to protect him. Its reliability, vigilance, and protective instinct make it a good watchdog. He does not usually show his strength, which, in most cases, is not necessary due to his imposing appearance. Who would want to put the potency of an adult Saint Bernard to the test?

His enormous strength should not be underestimated in the family sphere either. Despite being so playful and affectionate, a little push can make a young child fall easily. To direct his irrepressible strength in the right direction, the great Swiss dog requires a consistent education. After all, the Saint Bernard is also known for his stubbornness. However, this large breed dog is a very obedient and faithful companion when integrated into a family that provides love and affection and consistent education.

Appearance Of The Saint Bernard

With a height at the withers of 90 centimeters, males can weigh up to 80 kilos. Thus, the Saint Bernard is one of the largest and heaviest breeds in the world. The females are also impressive, with a size of up to 80 centimeters. The voluminous head, stable neck, and strong body give it an extraordinary appearance, which may seem a bit scary to some, but this is only until it has shown its kind nature.

Today, the Saint Bernard can be long-haired or short-haired (stockhaar), which is how the dog’s hair was in its beginnings. The coat of the long-haired variant is medium in size, smooth, and close to the body. It may be slightly wavy. Today, lovers of this breed prefer them with long hair.

Color variants are a white background with reddish-brown spots or reddish-brown background with white spots. According to the breed standard, white markings are required on the chest, feet, nose, neck, and tail tip. A white-collar and asymmetrical dark mask completes the perfect image of the giant hound.

Origin And History Of The Saint Bernard

The history of the Saint Bernard is closely related to the history of the hospice at the top of the Great Saint Bernard Pass, on the border between Italy and Switzerland. According to legend, the hospice was founded around 980 by the Augustinian monk Bernhard von Menthon.

As the Great Saint Bernard was called at that time, the Mons Joux became one of the most important trades and pilgrimage routes in the Alps. Starting in the 17th century, the monks who lived there owned and raised the large dogs as guards and rescue dogs. Saint Bernards are, above all, known as avalanche dogs that have saved the lives of many people.

The breed gained worldwide fame thanks to the legendary Barry, who lived at the hospice from 1800 to 1812. Barry is said to have saved the lives of more than 40 people who were buried by avalanches. The story that Barry woke up a boy buried in the snow by licking him and making him climb on his back so he could take him to the hospice has not been proven, but it made him hugely popular around the world.

Like Barry’s history, the origin of the Saint Bernard breed has not been ascertained with certainty. While some cynologists claim that his ancestors are the Molossians, who came to the Alpine region about two thousand years ago with the legions of Julius Caesar, others believe that he is a relative of the Alpine Mastiff. Finally, some insist that it comes from the Asian Tibetan Mastiff. Neither of these theories are 100% certain. However, the close relationship of Saint Bernard with other breeds of Bulldog cannot be denied.

saint Bernard

What is certain is that earlier Saint Bernard dogs, known as avalanche dogs, bear little resemblance to the current breed. Although long-haired Saint Bernards appear very imposing, due to the breed’s development, they are no longer useful as avalanche dogs and have been replaced by other breeds in this area.

The original short-haired and more agile Saint Bernards probably crossed paths with Newfoundland dogs in the hospice. The monks gave away and sold the dogs, which became unusable for the mountains, to important personalities. This made the impressive Saint Bernard, over time, something of a luxury dog. Today, the Swiss national dog is above all a family and companion dog. Only rarely is it still used as a watchdog.

Breeding And Health Of The Saint Bernard

This legendary breed of dog was bred until 2005 at the hospice in Greater San Bernardo. At present, it is the Barry du Grand-St-Bernard foundation that continues with the breeding of dogs. When purebred breeding began in the middle of the 19th century, the first breeders were still guided by the short-haired variant.

Heinrich Schumacher, a butcher and restaurateur from Hollinger bei Bern, is considered the founder of modern Saint Bernard breeding. In 1867, his short-haired dogs, Sultan and Favorite, won gold medals at a dog show in Paris. But when more and more modern breeders started breeding a larger built, long-haired Saint Bernard, Schumacher stopped breeding.

Exhibition visitors and potential buyers preferred the modern variant with a heavy, angled head, so the original short-haired hospice dog slowly disappeared from the scene. To which all breeders belonging to a subordinate FCI (Federation Cynological International) Saint Bernard club are obliged to follow, the Swiss standard allows both longhaired and stock hair.

Thanks to the good interrelation of the numerous Saint Bernard associations belonging to the FCI, it has been possible to make Saint Bernard a fairly healthy and robust dog. As a result, this large breed dog is considered very resistant to diseases and health issues.

Although hereditary diseases such as hip dysplasia, which mainly affects large dogs, still occurs, the number of diseases has been reduced thanks to breeding efforts. However, the life expectancy of this breed is usually below 10 years. The diseases frequently attributed to Saint Bernard’s are eye problems, salivary cysts, diabetes, stomach torsion, and bone cancer.

Saint Bernard

To avoid these diseases, those interested in acquiring a puppy should turn only to serious breeders who can test all the animals health for breeding. Given that the necessary health tests and examinations and immunizations entail considerable costs for the breeder, it is understandable that a healthy Saint Bernard puppy, with all the necessary papers, can only be obtained for a price of 1200 dollars.

Feeding Your Saint Bernard

Acquiring a pure and healthy breed dog is not enough to maintain the dog’s good health. The fact that the puppy becomes an adult, healthy and agile dog is, above all, in the hands of its caregiver. The choice of food plays a fundamental role in this. Proper nutrition depends on several factors, such as the dog’s age, health, weight, and activity. Unfortunately, there is no general answer to the ideal composition of the food. To be sure, it is best to ask your breeder or veterinarian for help and thus be able to develop a feeding plan.

In general, the food composition must be balanced. That is, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats must have an adequate proportion. Also, the dog needs to receive the correct amount of trace elements and vitamins. Therefore, as a general rule of thumb for adequate nutrition for these wolf-descendant dogs, it is considered that the food should consist of approximately 70% meat, 20% vegetables, and a maximum of 10% bowls of grain.

Whether the food is dry food, wet or fresh food depends on the palate of the dog and the decision of its human. After all, it is the Saint Bernard’s owner who must integrate the purchase or production of the large amounts of food that such a large dog requires into their daily routine. But don’t overestimate the amount of food a Saint Bernard can eat.

There are still too many overweight dogs of this breed. Also, it is advisable to avoid meals between meals and snacks. You should not exceed two or three daily servings.

Caring For Your Saint Bernard

It is more than clear that a dog as large as a Saint Bernard can only be kept in a house with a large yard. Saint Bernards cannot live in a small apartment in the city. Also, this breed is so close to people and needs direct contact with its family and would wither in a kennel.

You must bear in mind that this large dog tends to salivate a lot, so saliva stains on pants, sofas, or armchairs are the order of the day. It is important to avoid climbing many stairs and floors that are too smooth to protect its joints and muscles. This is vital, especially early in the development stage, and it can regain importance as they get older.

The Saint Bernard’s need to run is very moderate. It is also not suitable for dog sports. However, it does need a lot of exercise in nature. Therefore, long walks with its human are a must. The important thing is that they get used to the leash from a young age and that, with a loving but consistent education, you teach them the basic rules of behavior. Otherwise, the dog may take his owner for a walk and not the other way around. Almost no person could compete with the power of an adult dog of this breed. With an early and consistent upbringing, this personable gentle giant is very docile and obedient.

Compared to education, care is more laborious. Regular brushing is essential in the long-haired variant. Also, special attention should be paid to eye care to avoid possible problems and detect diseases in time.

For dog lovers who have a lot of space, time, and money (after all, having such a large dog does not come cheap), a Saint Bernard will be a very faithful and friendly companion who will surprise his caregiver with his special sensitivity and willingness to help, which does not include pouring a glass of liquor: the stories about the famous liquor barrels that dogs wore around their necks to warm avalanche victims are just that, stories.

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