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What a St. Bernard Dog Can Bring To Your Family?

Updated on June 6, 2018
St Bernard with Young Boy at Christmas Time.  Picture from Google Images.
St Bernard with Young Boy at Christmas Time. Picture from Google Images.

St. Bernard Stats

 

Classification:  Working Group

Height: 27.5 to 35.5 inches (70-90cm) at the shoulder

Weight: 64-120kg (140-264lbs)

Life Span: 8-10 years

St. Bernard Being Gentle and Patient with Baby Chick.  Picture from Google Images.
St. Bernard Being Gentle and Patient with Baby Chick. Picture from Google Images.

What a St. Bernard Adds To Your Family?

This large dog breed is affectionate and aims to please the family pack.  When well socialized as a puppy, this breed can be a great companion for children under responsible adult supervision.   Though, some dogs may not know the strength of their own weight when playing with children. 

 The breed has a natural tendency to want to protect their family pack, and may bark on occasion at strangers.  They are not aggressive; just use their voice in warning.  These dogs are loyal and affectionate and fun to play with because of their large size.  They love lots of exercise and need room to stretch out and relax. 

 A single family home with a yard is best.  But the dog will still need long walks in the country or neighborhood for excitement and socialization.  A bored St. Bernard can become destructive.  These dogs need human companionship and do not want to be alone for long periods of time or left out doors, separated from the family. 

 As a puppy St. Bernards may be excitable and rambunctious.  They require firm, consistent but gentle training and socialization to other humans and animals to learn proper manners.  These dogs love the snow and long for a purpose in life.  Such as, pulling a cart, sled or wearing a backpack for exercise and fun. 

 St. Bernards do shed and drool a lot.  But many families love them anyway and are able to overcome those less favorable characteristics. 

St. Bernard with Legendary Brandy Barrel Around Neck.  Picture from Google Images.
St. Bernard with Legendary Brandy Barrel Around Neck. Picture from Google Images.

The History of The St. Bernard Breed

The St. Bernard breed originated in the Italian and Swiss Alps.  The breed originated when the ancient Romans brought Molosser breeds to the Alps.  Molosser breeds are defined as ancient breeds that are genetically similar to specific breeds today, such as the ancestors for the bulldog breeds.  Generations of breeding the Molosser breeds eventually developed into the Swiss Mountain Dog and Swiss Cattle Dog.  After breeding the Swiss Mountain Dogs with the Cattle dogs the resulting breed over generations became the St. Bernard.  St. Bernards were used to guard livestock, herd other dogs, search and rescue people and assist on hunts. 

The St. Bernard became recognized as a dog breed in 1707.  The dogs lived among monks at Great St. Bernard Pass.  It is from these times with the monks in the Alps that the St. Bernards got their reputation as recue dogs of injured people buried in the snow.  It is rumored that the dogs would carry flasks of Brandy around there necks which was supposedly drunk by the victims and helped to re-warm them while they were brought to safety and medical attention.  

 However, severe weather and avalanches in 1816-1818 killed many of the St. Bernard dogs that were used for breeding at that time.  For the few St. Bernard breeding dogs left, they were bred with Newfoundland dogs.  This dramatically changed the appearance and function of the breed as it was known at the time.  The new puppies had a longer coat that froze in the snow and became too heavy while the dogs were performing recues.  But it resulted in the St. Bernards appearance as we know it today.  St. Bernards became recognized in the American Kennel Club in 1885.

Health Care Symbol from Google Images
Health Care Symbol from Google Images

St. Bernard Health

Most St. Bernard puppies to be adopted will be healthy.  However, the breed is prone to some illness both because of heredity and aging.  Some of the more common illness that can affect the St. Bernard breed are:

  • Bone deterioration, due to the fast growth weight of the breed and their weight.  Proper exercise and diet can prevent these devastating affects.  Working closely with a veterinarian through your St. Bernard’s youth with provide optimum nutrition for the dogs growth and development
  • Hip or elbow dysplasia, a painful condition in which the bones occasionally slip out of place.  This condition is treatable with surgery and pain medication management. 
  • Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer.  Can be a hereditary disorder in the breed, sometimes taking a few years to show symptoms. Treatment may not provide a cure, but can provide symptom management and improve quality of life.  Surgery, and chemotherapy and radiations may be options that your veterinarian may suggest and other medications for symptomatic management.  A reputable breeder may be able to provide encouragement on the chances of the puppies acquiring this disorder based on the parent’s pedigrees. 
  • Eye disorders, where the eyelid turns in or out, can be irritating to the dog and requires surgery for treatment. 
  • Epilepsy, a seizure disorder.  Symptoms are managed with medications.  Again, a reputable breeder may have encouraging news regarding the chances of the puppies developing epilepsy due to the blood lines of the parents. 
  • Heart disease, usually diagnosed later in life.  Medications and diet modification can help promote a great quality of life and longevity.
  • Eczema, or itchy skin.  Treatment consists of medications, lotions or shampoos directly applied to the skin to ease discomfort.  May need some modification to the dogs environment to prevent any contact with possible allergens. 

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