- Breed group – Working Group (American Kennel Club), Guardian Dog Group (United Kennel Club)
- Height – 26 to 35 inches
- Weight – 120 to 180 pounds
- Coat length & texture – Smooth, dense coat that may be short or long
- Coat color – St. Bernards typically have a reddish or brownish coat with white, cream, or yellow areas. Coats may be red and white, brownish-yellow, or reddish-brown. St. Bernard puppies may be slightly different in color with subtle changes over time, like from a lighter red to a darker mahogany.
- Exercise needs – Moderate
- Intelligence – Moderate
- Barking – When necessary
- Life span – 8 to 10 years
- Temperament – Gentle, calm, friendly, and affectionate
- Hypoallergenic – No
- Origin – Switzerland
👉 No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but some are better than others for allergy sufferers.
St. Bernard fun facts
- St. Bernards originated in the Swiss alps. They were once known as “hospice dogs” for rescuing travelers in the Alps who were lost or stuck in avalanches.
- St. Bernards are nicknamed “nanny dogs.” This is due to their gentle and watchful nature toward children.
- The most famous St. Bernard dog was named Barry. The precocious pup rescued (depending on accounts) as many as 100 people in the Alps. Barry’s body rests in a museum in Berne, Switzerland.
St. Bernard temperament and characteristics
While St. Bernard dogs may look somewhat menacing with their large bodies and strong faces, this breed is incredibly loving. St. Bernards are known for being great around children, although they may or may not be as friendly around other dogs, cats, or other animals. Expect to give your St. Bernard plenty of love and attention. They are cautious around strangers and are extremely observant and watchful, but a St. Bernard dog will only bark to alert you that something is wrong. These dogs like to play, but they won’t wear you out with non-stop games of tug-of-war.
Common St. Bernard health problems
St. Bernards can face a number of challenging health complications, particularly when it comes to their hip bones, elbows, or eye areas.
- Canine hip dysplasia. St. Bernards are prone to the chronic but common condition, canine hip dysplasia. This happens when the femur bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket.
- Elbow dysplasia. St. Bernards and other large dog breeds may inherit elbow dysplasia , which occurs due to congenital abnormalities within the elbow joint and leads to degenerative joint disease.
- Gastric torsion. Gastric torsion, or gastric dilation volvulus syndrome or bloat, can be lethal. The stomach fills with gas and fluid causing it to twist and lead to the restriction of blood flow.
- Bone cancer. Giant breeds, like St. Bernards, are vulnerable to osteosarcoma , which is a form of bone cancer.
Cost of caring for St. Bernard dogs
Since this giant breed dog is prone to a number of minor and major health problems, St. Bernard dogs will cost about $185 to $800 per month to care for, with an average around $200 per month. But pet insurance may help reduce the out-of-pocket expenses for vet visits for emergencies, accidents, or illnesses that are not pre-existing conditions. To supplement your pet insurance plan or prepare an alternative to pay for your dog’s care, you can also create a pet savings account.
History of the St. Bernard
The St. Bernard (or Saint Bernard) dog breed is named after the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Alps, between Italy and Switzerland. This pass was notoriously dangerous, and travelers would become lost or trapped. Monks owned these dogs as companions on their rescue missions. These dogs were known for their rescue work and were able to save about 2,000 people over the span of 200 years, starting in the early 18th century. Before then, this breed was also used as watchdogs in the 1600s.
There are popular legends that these dogs used to have containers of liquor strapped around their neck to bring to travelers to help them warm up, although there is no proof of this happening.
Many St. Bernards died in severe avalanches in the 1800s, and the breed nearly went extinct. Careful breeding helped restore the St. Bernard breed. The breed’s most recent claim to fame is the canine star of the 1992 movie “Beethoven”.
Caring for your St. Bernard
While caring for a new St. Bernard puppy or dog may be a little intimidating with the first trip to the vet or taking your dog for vaccinations, this breed will reward you with plenty of love and affection during its lifetime. Here’s what to expect when you adopt a St. Bernard.
St. Bernards are giant breed dogs so they are better suited for homes that have fenced-in backyards compared to apartment living. Despite their muscular, large size, these dogs need a moderate level of exercise. One long walk per day or about 30 minutes of indoor play time is enough exercise for the St. Bernard breed. No matter where your dog is exercising, a St. Bernard prefers to exercise with their owner or family, as they are an affectionate breed.
St. Bernards have two types of coats: short or long. No matter the length of the fur, you’ll need to brush them at least once a week. Although, brushing a few times a week or even daily with a pin brush or bristle brush is best to remove dirt. A metal comb will help prevent matting by loosening any tangled fur, especially for longer coats.
Their double coat means you can expect some shedding throughout the year. While their general coat won’t typically need trimmed, you may want to trim the hair around their paws. Don’t forget about nail trimming, as long nails can be painful for this large breed.
Bathing this massive dog may be intimidating, but it’ll be easier with a large bathtub or an outdoor bathing area. As with any breed, make sure to brush your St. Bernard’s teeth two to three times per week to help ward off dental diseases.
Diet and nutrition
For dogs that can healthily weigh up to 180 pounds, St. Bernards require quite a bit of food each day. An adult St. Bernard can eat about four to eight cups of food per day (depending upon the type of dog food), which should be divided into two meals. It is important to consult with your veterinarian on the best quality dog food to feed your St. Bernard and determine proper feeding amounts. As with any breed, a St. Bernard’s nutritional needs include healthy proteins, fats, and complex carbs.
Training your St. Bernard
You should start training and socializing your St. Bernard puppy as soon as possible. This early education will help keep them from jumping on people or taking food from tables and counters as they grow taller. This breed wants to please their owner, so they tend to learn quickly, especially when they are rewarded with love and attention for good behavior. When it comes to bad behavior, quick, firm commands and consistency is key, especially for the minds of growing puppies.
Breeds similar to the St. Bernard
Not quite sure that a St. Bernard is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This breed is slightly smaller than a Saint with a short coat and muscular build.
- Great Pyrenees. Extremely loving and calm, this gentle giant acts much like a St. Bernard.
- Newfoundland. This is a fluffy, family-oriented dog that looks similar to a St. Bernard and is also called a Newfie.
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Frequently asked questions
Is a St. Bernard a good family dog?
St. Bernards make a great addition to any family, even earning the nickname of a “nanny dog.” They want a lot of love and affection, but they also will stay on watch to keep their loved ones safe. They tend to be great around small children and love attention from their family members.
Do St. Bernards bark a lot?
Especially with proper training from a young age, St. Bernards don’t tend to bark much. They’ll usually only bark to alert you to something.
Do St. Bernards drool a lot?
If dog drool grosses you out, you might want to consider another breed. St. Bernards can drool a lot, and you may need to keep some towels and pet-friendly cleaners on hand to clean up lots of slobber.
How much does a St. Bernard dog cost?
St. Bernards cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000, although most pups of this breed will cost about $1,000 to $1,500. Aside from the cost of this dog, make sure to budget for food and healthcare. This giant breed dog will grow a lot and require a larger portion of food compared to most other dog breeds. This breed’s size also puts it at risk for many health challenges, including hip dysplasia.