The St. Bernard or St Bernard is a breed of very large working dog from Swiss Alps and north Italy and Switzerland, originally bred for rescue. The breed has become famous through tales of alpine rescues, as well as for its enormous size.
Saint Bernards are extremely gentle, friendly and very tolerant of children. They are slow moving, patient, obedient, extremely loyal, eager and willing to please. Be sure to socialize this breed very well at a young age with people and other animals. It is highly intelligent and easy to train; however, training should begin early, while the dog is still a manageable size. Teach this dog not to jump on humans starting at puppyhood. Bear in mind that an unruly dog of this size presents a problem for even a strong adult if it is to be exercised in public areas on a leash, so take control right from the start, teaching the dog to heel. The Saint Bernard is a good watchdog. Even its size is a good deterrent. They drool after they drink or eat. Be sure you remain the dog’s pack leader. Dogs want nothing more than to know what is expected of them and the St Bernard is no exception. Allowing a dog of this size and magnitude to be unruly can be dangerous and shows poor ownership skills. Saint Bernards have a highly developed sense of smell and also seem to have a sixth sense about impending danger from storms and avalanches.
Saints are, well, saintly around kids. Patient and gentle, they step carefully around them and will put up with a lot. That doesn’t mean they should have to, though. Supervise interactions between young children and Saints to make sure there’s no ear- or tail-pulling, biting, or climbing on or knocking over on the part of either party.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs and never to approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how trustworthy or well trained, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Saint Bernards are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Saints in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Saint rescue.
The breed is strikingly similar to the English Mastiff, with which it shares a common ancestor known as the Alpine Mastiff. The modern St. Bernard breed is radically different than the original dogs kept at the St. Bernard hospice, most notably by being much larger in size and build. Since the late 1800s, the St. Bernard breed has been ever refined and improved using many different large Molosser breeds, including the Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Dane, English Mastiff, and possibly the Tibetan Mastiff and Caucasian Ovcharka. Other breeds such as the Rottweiler, Boxer, and English Bulldog may have contributed to the St. Bernard’s bloodline as well. It is suspected that many of these large breeds were used to redevelop each other to combat the threat of their extinction after World War II, which may explain why all of them played a part in the creation of the St. Bernard as seen today.