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The Saint Bernard is a gentle giant dog breed originally from Switzerland that is famous for mountain rescues. Known to be affectionate, kind, and easy-going in spite of its size, this working dog breed is an excellent companion. The Saint Bernard is great around children. It is also a people-pleaser, so training is easy.
Will you take home this huge dog breed? Here is a brief background of this versatile gentle giant.
As a powerful, giant-sized dog breed, the Saint Bernard's history is unclear, although it is believed to originate at a monk's hospice in the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Swiss Alps in 1707. Experts claim that this monastery dog was bred to be a watchdog, but not long after was repurposed to become a rescue dog, finding lost people even in terrible weather conditions (hence the moniker mountain rescue dog).
The breed almost went extinct in the 1830s when the monks tried to interbreed several dogs too much, which resulted in the dogs developing diseases. Nevertheless, the result of crossing the breed with the Newfoundland, the Great Dane, and the Great Pyrenees resulted in the modern Saint Bernard we see today.
The Saint Bernard is recognised by the Kennel Club in the UK. It was first entered into the Swiss Stud Book in 1884, whilst the breed standard was later approved in 1888. Since then, it has become the Swiss national dog. Today, the Saint Bernard is beloved by anyone who owns it because of its affectionate and devoted nature which makes it a great human companion and family pet.
The Saint Bernard is a giant dog breed that weighs 120–180 pounds and stands 65–90 centimetres. It has a sizeable imposing head, short muzzle, well-defined stop, and square-shaped nose, dark eyes with a gentle and intelligent expression, and slightly large ears that are reaching the dog's cheeks. The jaw is strong and the neck is well-muscled and moderately arched with nicely-developed dewlaps. Its broad shoulders are sloped up at its withers whilst the legs are strong, straight, and well-boned.
The Saint Bernard's coat is either rough or smooth. The smooth coat is tight and lies close to the body, whilst the rough coat is thick, flat, and more abundant around the neck and legs. The commonly accepted colours are mahogany brindle with white and a red shade with white. Usually, black shading is found on the face and ears. Regardless of which type of coat it wears, the Saint Bernard is a bit high-maintenance since it's known to be a prolific shedder. With that said, make sure to brush its coat a few times a week or daily, if possible. Often, owners hire professional groomers to make it easier for them to maintain the dog's coat.
Dog grooming is an integral part of the well-being of the Saint Bernard, or any dog. Aside from making sure the coat is clean, it is also necessary to pay attention to other physical aspects that require care such as the ears, teeth, and the nails. Brush the dog's teeth to prevent gum disease and bad breath. Ears should also be checked for signs of infection and cleaned regularly to avoid problems. Nails must be trimmed at least once or twice a month, or when you start hearing clicking sounds on the floor.
Living up to its name, the Saint Bernard is a calm, tolerant, and gentle dog breed. With that said, the Saint Bernard is a suitable choice for a family with kids. However, its sheer size is enough reason to make sure playtime or any interaction is well-supervised. We don't want the dog accidentally knocking over small kids.
When it comes to guarding, the Saint Bernard has no violent bone in its body so it may not be able to ward off thieves. It is also on the quieter side of the canine spectrum, so it is neither a watchdog nor a guard dog. When properly trained, it can be quick to let an owner know if someone is about. Also, its size is enough to scare away people not familiar with the breed.
The Saint Bernard is eager to please and, as such, is easy to train. However, do note that this working dog excels in dog sports including cart-pulling (drafting), weight-pulling, obedience trials, and tracking, so you might want to enrol this breed in dog training. Also, keep in mind that no matter how gentle a dog breed is based on its genetic makeup, a bored dog can develop undesirable habits and behaviours. Make sure that the Saint Bernard is given ample mental and physical exercises daily.
With its friendly nature, the Saint Bernard does not have a very high prey drive and will rarely show aggression to other dogs and small animals alike. However, when the mood strikes it, it may find small animals amusing to chase. so care should still be taken.
A typical serving for an adult Saint Bernard is five to six cups of quality dry dog food per day. A nutritious and balanced diet is essential to keep your dog healthy. Dog diets also depend on several factors such as age, size, activity level, and health. Check with the veterinarian if you are unsure about its diet.
The following are the typical daily calorie needs of an adult Saint Bernard weighing 150 pounds:
Always check package labels for nutritional adequacy, which means the dog food should be appropriate for large adult dogs like the Saint Bernard. Of course, you can prepare home-cooked meals. However, getting the right mix of protein, vitamins, minerals, and fats can be challenging. If you want to insist on making home-made diets, you should consult a canine nutritionist to help you outline a healthy diet for your Saint Bernard.
To help the Saint Bernard live an easy and healthy life, it is essential to understand the most common health problems, including the signs and symptoms for early detection. For a Saint Bernard, these common health problems include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, entropion, epilepsy, dilated cardiomyopathy, cataracts, gastric dilatation volvulus, and some allergies.
Regardless of size and activity level, all dogs need to exercise daily. Without activity, the dog will become bored, unhealthy, and will develop undesirable behaviours. For the Saint Bernard, being a moderately active dog breed, sixty to eighty minutes of daily exercise will suffice to meet its needs. However, not all dogs are the same. If you are concerned about whether your dog can handle long walks or need a specific exercise plan, talk to a veterinarian.
If you are interested in caring for a Saint Bernard, be ready to spend at least £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. To ensure it stays healthy at whatever age, you will need to feed your dog high quality dog food and treats, which can set you back £80-£100 a month. You would also need to spend on dog accessories such as leads, collars, eating bowls, crates, beds, and toys. The combined initial cost for these things is estimated at £200.
Moreover, you need to consider paying for pet insurance to offset veterinary bills in case your dog suddenly falls ill or gets into an accident. Depending on where you live and your dog’s health and age, a time-limited cover can cost £66 a month while a lifetime one can cost up to £117 a month. Generally, insurance companies do not cover routine veterinary consultations, initial vaccinations, boosters, and neutering or spaying, so you may also have to spend an additional £800 annually for these services.
On average, the minimum cost to care for a Saint Bernard is £150-£220 per month depending on your pet insurance premium. This estimate does not include the rates for other services such as walking and grooming.
Are you sure the Saint Bernard is the best breed for you? Take the Pet Breed Selector Quiz to find your perfect breed match.Dog Breed Selector Quiz
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