Saint Bernard

Breed History

Saint Bernard side shot of head

Saint Bernard is a massive working dog that is bigger than most dogs you will ever see in person. There is gentle giant atmosphere around this calm and social dog breed.

Coming from the Western Alps between Switzerland and Italy they get their name from the missions they did in that area. Rescue missions from the Great St Bernard Pass and Little St Bernard Pass were bitterly cold and difficult to pass.

From the 2nd century Bernard of Menthon made a pass for the less fortunate. Name wasn’t Bernard but because of the pass they identify him with the pass that was his creation. That pass is third biggest in that region. Walking in this area on foot in this terrain was very difficult.

Paintings of the breed in these areas show a large dog but with a shorter coat and body frame than we see today. Adjustments must be made because it was hard for this breed to get across the pass due to the cold weather with such a small coat.

Due to very cold winters they were in need of a bigger coat and the only way to change their coat was to breed them with a dog that has a longer coat size. Many sources think that the Newfoundland is the dog of choice.

Cross breeding made them larger in size and the coat became much longer. To this day you can find a short and long coat puppy from this breed.

As working dogs, they have been known to be rescue, herding, hunting, and guardian dogs with little limitations to what they can learn and accomplish.


Registration in 1885 and was the second wave of dogs after the initial registration of dogs that came in 1878. Not as popular as some other breeds in the states they continue to rank in the top 50.

Overall, their purpose and use has seen changing because people use them on farms and as family pets than for hard working missions, they once were invaluable for in the mountains.

There are three different types of breed standards and they’re American, English, and the international version from the FCI.

Being such an old breed, they have recognition all over the world and these are the major Kennel Club that have a breed standard and document the bloodline.


Male Height: 28-30 inches

Female Height: 26-28 inches

Male Weight: 140-180 pounds

Female Weight: 120-140 pounds

Men are substantially bigger than females. You can tell from first glance if you are dealing with a female or a male from this breed.

Litter Size

Average litter size is 8 puppies. Mothers can have a larger litter of ten plus sometimes 14 puppies at one time. Breeders must be aware of the possibility of a litter this size before breeding and prepare accordingly.


  • Brindle Grizzle
  • Brown and white
  • Red and white
  • Mahogany and white
  • Orange and white
  • Rust and white

All colors in white can be in reverse with white being the primary color.

These are the legal colors for the Saint Bernard.

Any other colors will not be allowed, and all solid colors are not allowed.

Different Types

The two different types of Saint Bernard’s are long and short hair. There are many differences besides the coat size and the history of the dog will explain the reason.

Because the coat was too short for the region and the Monks of Switzerland saw the need to increase the coat size, they bred with the Newfoundland dog.

Once they bred the coat became longer but the longer coat shows the influence of the crossbreeding. Shorter coats are more align with the ancestors and original look.

A regular St. Bernard without crossbreeding looks like the short coat version and that is the only difference. Size regarding weight and height are the same.


Prices vary depending on region, country, supply, demand, and quality of puppy but you can expect to anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a St Bernard with papers.

The documentation of the different Kennel Clubs will show you where the dog came from and different lines in the same blood.

Dogs without papers will come with no documentation and no guarantee of being full blood. Taking the time to figure out if you should get one with papers will be worth the wait.

Either way understanding the dog breed standards can help determine what these should look like with or without papers from any Kennel Club.


You will experience heavy shedding with this dog for multiple times per year. Type of shedding issues depend on if you have the long or short hair version. Either way here are the areas you need to focus on when it comes to grooming.

  1. Brushing
  2. Combing
  3. Bathing
  4. Ears
  5. Nails
  6. Professional Help

Find out which brush you need for whatever coat type you have. Each coat will need brushing multiple times per week to keep it in best condition. Shedding you will need to be punctual to make sure you take care of loose and extra hair.

Combing is the same as brushing and that needs to happen a few times per week. Doing them both at once can save you some time.

Bathing can happen on a schedule if that is more convenient to the owner. Washing when dirty or smelly is another method you can use that is less intense.

Ears can get dirty and become an area that will cost you in vet bills. Cleaning the ears weekly will keep this cost low to none depending on the area you live in. Desert climates will experience the most maintenance.

Nails can be something you ignore if you exercise your dog the way we recommend. Failure to do so will cause you to cut the nails on a regular basis. When the nails get too long cut them down.

Professional help is not a strong recommendation but if you can’t do any of the above on a monthly basis just commit to taking them to the vet for proper grooming.

Life Span

Lifespan is 8-10 years of age. Big breeds like this one pass away much earlier than some of the smaller dogs. Preparation for being a dog owner for at least a decade or more can be a possibility.

Getting an adult dog can be a real decision to make depending on how old they are.

Health Issues

Bloat – is one of the number one killers of dogs and the first sign can be death. Stomach problems like these plague big breeds who are prone to overeating. Over extension of the belly put pressure on organs and veins resulting in death.

Heart Problems – are an issue for bigger dogs as well. When a dog has a heart issue it comes from eating a large volume of dog food that is primarily meat that can clog arties and increase blood pressure. When a dog needs to eat a high volume of dog food to maintain weight it can come at a cost.

Eyes issues – many eye problems can arise from many ways. Most common types are cherry eye, glaucoma, and cataracts. At some point in this dog’s life it can become blind when dealing with some of these ongoing eye problems that continue to cause decline.

Hip – Examination should be done on the hip area to make sure your dog doesn’t have hip dysplasia. Their Kennel club recommends you get a hip exam and determine with your vet if they suffer from any issues. X-rays can be done on a young puppy.

Elbow – growth on the elbow joint is another condition that is a recommendation from their Kennel club. Take the time to get this examination as well and it will help you determine the health condition of the dog before trying to exercise the dog.             

Breed Group

Member of the working group due to their extensive work with rescues, herding, guarding and many other tasks makes them like every other dog in this group.

Here are some of the dogs that make up the Working Group

Exercise Needs

Saint Bernard’s needs exercise. The amount depends on the dog and no one can predict if it will be small or large. Exercise depends on the behavior of the dog and both are an extensive of the other.

Here is the recommendation for the Saint Bernard Exercise Needs

Morning: One hour

Evening: 30 minutes (optional)

Run, walk or treadmill can be in use for any time frame. Start with one hour and it will be a basic measurement of good the dog acts.

Age is an important factor just like with humans. When dogs are young you will notice more bad behavior when the dog is young. Energetic is more apparent at this age when you exercise from day one.

Adult dogs reaching their full size with this breed will take two to three years. Once the dog reaches three to five years old the exercise requirements will decrease due to age and longer recovery time periods.

Senior dogs are in need of the least amount of exercise. You can walk the dog around the corner and that may do the trick.

Although there is no magic number the dog being calm and listening to you is the best indication. When the dog is running, sprinting, excessive barking, biting, nipping, digging and more bad behavior you aren’t even close to meeting the exercise demands and need to increase.


  1. Exercise program
  2. Commands
  3. Socialization
  4. Corrections

Exercise program is the most important and time-consuming aspect of training a dog. Although people like to hype up other parts of the training you will spend all your time here. Owners have a strong responsibility to engage daily in working their dog out and proving them a daily outlet.

Commands are popular but one of the least time-consuming things you will do. In fact, after you teach a command that will be it other than some small maintenance. Besides, you don’t need to focus too heavy like some programs like to teach. Dogs will sit, stay, and lay while behaving in a way that embarrasses the owner.

Socialize the dog after exercise each time you go on any dog dates, friends with dogs, dog parks, and any other type of interactions. Think about it for a second, a dog exercises all day long while they socialize towards the end of the day. Wild dogs don’t go to an area just to exercise and that’s why we see bad behavior all throughout the park.

Correcting the dog is simple. Verbal first and correction after. Most of the time you won’t have to do much more than verbally correct. Lastly, make sure the dog sits or lays after you correct the dog. Don’t miss the ocean when you correct and follow the fundamentals. You will be able to correct humanely and in a way the dog understands.

Are St Bernard’s a Good Pet?

Family, kids, other dogs are all people the Saint Bernard is gentle with all the time. Trainability depends on the owner a lot of the times.

When someone comes over just like in the last section you need to exercise them before. Although I’m saying exercise before there should be daily exercise so this should be the case all the time.

The reference is when you haven’t been exercising before the visit is the perfect time to burn off any excess energy before having friends and family over.

Additional Resources