Saint Bernard Dog

Description. Most people have probably come across this dog, or at the least seen a picture of one. Even as a puppy they would probably be described as a medium to large dog, as adults, they are little short of enormous. Normally standing 25 to 27 inches in height and weighing between 110 and 200 pounds. However, the largest recorded dog was apparently nearly 2 m in length and weighing 140kgs. As with everything else the Saint Bernard’s head is massive and powerful, with a thick muscular neck and heavyset muscular body. Being such a large dog diet is very important, when first obtaining one of these dogs you should find out the various supplements and food types the dog is at present eating. If purchased as a puppy, the breeder will give you a diet sheet upon request. Inadequate diet or incorrect feeding may cause problems for this dog, which as, given its size it can not afford to have. They can come in a variety of colours, and can have either rough or smooth coats, eitherof which is very dense. These dogs can only be described as looking like an enormous great teddy bear.

History. Saint Bernard DeMenthon is believed to have founded this breed in 980A.D. and is most probably the result of crossing or mixing the breeds of the great Pyrenees, the great Dane, the Tibetan mastiff, and the greater Swiss mountain dog. The original dogs were of the shorthaired variety as it was soon noticed the longhaired variety tended to form icicles in their coat. St Bernard DeMenthon had formed a hospice, which could be used by weary travellers. During the 17th century St Bernard’s were often used for rescuing people from avalanches, or travellers who had collapsed in the snowy passes. They have a very keen sense of smell and can actually scent a person through several feet of snow, and even dig them out. Believe it or believe it not, upon finding a person buried in the snow a dog would lie alongside, which provides the person with warmth. It would then attract the attention of another dog, by barking, who would then head back to the mission to collect a rescue team. Along with their trademark small barrel hanging under their neck, they were able to provide rescue and fortification. Furthermore, because of their size they were actually capable of pulling small sledges, or assisting the weary traveller, which adds taking the casualties of the weather to suitable refuge, to the list of tasks this dog is capable of.

Temperament. As a breed they are tolerant and obedient and loyal friendly and tolerate children very well. It is important to socialise these animals as young as possible, and also to commence training as early as you can. One very important factor in training is to discourage them from jumping up on humans. Obviously given the size this animal grows to, if jumping up is not stopped, it could be a major problem in the future, and could cause serious injury to elderly relatives. Another consideration in training is that they must respond to your commands, again at this size you cannot afford this dog to run wild and please itself. Although very good and tolerant with children, and have been known to allow children to hang in their hair, a certain amount of care must be taken because at this weight a simple accident could have serious results. The dogs are not malicious at all, but accidents can happen, just be aware.

Health issues. St Bernard’s are prone to some health problems, the obvious hip dysplasia, skin problems a condition known as wobbler syndrome, some heart problems, a condition of the eye where one of the eyelids folds outwards, also twisted stomachs. They are also a little prone to bloat. It is better to feed these dogs three small meals rather than one large meal daily. It is important to avoid the temptation to overfeed this dog, their normal weight is enough of a strain on the skeleton, they can ill afford to be overweight, it will only cause them problems later. Overfeeding of a dog is neither a treat nor a kindness of the owner.

Grooming. Shedding occurs twice a year, you will notice when. Generally their coat is easy to look after with brushing, using firm bristles, and combing. Bathing should not be done frequently as it strips the protective oils from their coat destroying the water resistant properties. When bathing, use a very mild shampoo. Special attention needs to be paid to the eyes, keeping them free of grit, dust, or other things that may irritate, being prone to eye problems this is obviously an important part of the dogs care.

Living conditions. Whilst they prefer living indoors, with the family, they are capable of living outside in most weather conditions, as long as suitable shelter is provided. They require a large amount of exercise, but as long as it is provided, they are fairly inactive inside, and they can, in fact, live in an apartment. They do not do well in hot weather, cars, or warm rooms.

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