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We’re always happy to see a gorgeous Saint Bernard cross our path, but to stranded travelers in the Swiss Alps, these muscular dogs were more than just a sight for sore eyes: they were a literal lifesaver! Although the breed never actually wore the legendary brandy kegs with which they’re so frequently pictured, they did work as rescue dogs for three centuries—saving over 2000 lives during that time.
Famously watchful and gentle, Saint Bernard puppies can make excellent family pets, but they’re not a perfect fit for everyone. We’ve explored the ups and downs of life with a Saint Bernard, so read on to see if your lifestyle might be suitable for this breed.
- Do you have a soft spot for large breeds with even larger hearts? Saint Bernards hit high marks for friendliness and patience, making them a beloved breed of many.
- And yet, they present a few issues you’ll want to know about before you bring one of these giant pups home.
|Size||Giant. Male Saint Bernards will reach a height of 28-30 inches while females are usually around 26-28 inches. Males tip the scale with an average weight of 140-180 pounds, and females will be slightly “daintier,” clocking in somewhere between 120 and 140 pounds.|
|Breed Characteristics||These powerful dogs come with muscles aplenty. Their impressive strength and towering stature act as warnings to any potential predators: no one’s gonna mess with a Saint Bernard! Fans of the breed love this dog’s expressive face that radiates both kindness and intelligence.
As for their coat, you’ve got options: these dogs come in short-haired and long-haired varieties, with shades ranging from tan or red to dark mahogany.
|Temperament||This breed is the definition of a “gentle giant.” Unfailingly sweet and endlessly patient, Saints are a great match for families with young children. These pups can be shy and sensitive, so early socialization is a must. And while they’re rarely aggressive, their giant size is enough to ward off any threats to their family.|
|Grooming and Health Needs||Even though Saint Bernards are relatively reserved and calm dogs, they aren’t exactly delicate flowers. They’d surely put Miss Manners in a tizzy with their slobbery slurping at mealtime. If you’re like most people and prefer not to get doused with drool and water regularly, you’ll make a habit of wiping your Saint Bernard’s mouth after every meal.
Their coat isn’t particularly high-maintenance: a weekly brushing should suffice. Shedding season is a different story, though, and you’ll need to kick it up to daily brushing.
Since obesity can lead to painful structural problems, keeping a Saint trim is hugely important. Bloat, a life-threatening condition common in large breeds, is another health issue to look out for. Saint Bernards are also prone to hip dysplasia and eye problems.
|Training||When you consider a Saint’s massive size, the importance of early obedience training is pretty clear. You’ll want to socialize your Saint Bernard puppy from a young age so he learns it’s not polite to jump on people or knock them over.
Due to their natural shyness, socialization is imperative for a well-adjusted family pet. Intelligent and sweet-tempered, a Saint Bernard isn’t difficult to train, however, they’ve been known to have the occasional stubborn streak. Positive, reward-based training works best with this breed.
|Energy Level||Couch potatoes, rejoice! Saints are calm and low-energy dogs who only require moderate exercise to keep them in shape. They’re not the most playful dogs, so a nice daily walk is adequate.
Saints also love to compete in dog sports that highlight their great strength, and they especially enjoy participating in cart-pulling or drafting competitions with their owners.
|Life Expectancy||8-10 years|
If you love the look of a larger breed, but don’t have the stamina to keep up with a super high-energy dog, then a Saint Bernard might be for you. These dogs are only moderately active, and as long as they get a decent walk in, they’ll be happy to chill with you for the rest of the day. Yard size isn’t an issue with this breed: a small space will suit them just fine.
Be ready to share your space and your attention with this dog. People-oriented and friendly, Saints bond closely with their owners and have a strong desire to be near them at all times. They prefer to participate in all household affairs—wherever the action is, that’s where they want to be.
Prone to heatstroke, Saint Bernards don’t do well in hot climates unless they have regular access to air-conditioning. You’ll need to take extra care when proofing your home for Saint Bernard puppies. These pups are eager chewers, and their large size means this habit could inflict a lot more damage than the average pup.
Saints are also mega-droolers, so if slobbery kisses aren’t your thing, then a Saint probably won’t be either.
Sadly, this breed has a short life expectancy, but if you can deal with that heart-breaking reality, a Saint Bernard can be a loving and loyal addition to your family.
The decision to adopt or to work with a breeder for your new Saint Bernard puppy is a personal choice that requires research. Thankfully, there are many resources out there to help you find a rescue or a breeder who offers healthy, ethically-sourced Saint Bernard puppies.
Adopting Saint Bernard puppies
It may come as a surprise, but adopting a Saint Bernard puppy is possible. According to the AKC, most shelters report that the majority of their rescue dogs come from individual owner surrender due to a lifestyle change or an incompatibility with the dog. What this means for you: there may be many adoptable dogs and puppies out there who are looking for a new forever home.
The main difference between a breeder and a rescue is that a rescue may not always have young Saint Bernard puppies to choose from. The benefit, however, is that most are mandated to only adopt out dogs that have been microchipped and spayed/neutered. This means you may end up with a dog who’s already been housebroken and doesn’t need these common medical procedures. You may also find a Saint Bernard mix that has all the traits you want from the breed, but with a little extra thrown in.
Finding a Saint Bernard rescue can be as simple as searching the internet. Start by checking out the Saint Bernard Club of America, where you’ll find plenty of useful information with links to several rescue sites.
Finding a Saint Bernard breeder
The first step is to do your research. Sadly, there are many puppy mills posing as reputable breeders along with many online scams. Be aware, and reach out to different online forums for conversations about getting your future furry family member.
Be sure to ask questions, and make arrangements to meet the parent dogs or mother. In the end, you must follow your gut. If something seems wrong at a breeder you visit, or the Saint Bernard puppy seems too good to be true, there’s probably something fishy going on. The AKC also offers resources for finding a breeder, with fairly strict guidelines on who they let participate.
Knowing what you’re in for when you get a Saint Bernard puppy is an important step in being a responsible pet owner. Whether you find an ethical breeder or are planning to adopt, prepare yourself for an affectionate and friendly addition to your household.
After you find the right Saint Bernard puppy, it’s time to prepare your home! Here are a few resources to get you started.
- How to Survive the First 24 Hours with Your New Puppy
- How Long Can You Leave a Puppy Alone?
- How Often Should I Walk my Puppy?
- The Essential New Puppy Checklist