- The Saint Bernard is the original search and rescue dog.
- In the mid 1600s the monks of the St. Bernard Hospice, which was a refuge for travelers journeying between Italy and Switzerland, brought in large dogs to pull carts and turn spits. Inevitably the dogs also became valued as companions and watchdogs. They found their fame, however, as pathfinders in deep snow and especially, as locators of lost travelers.
- When a dog found somebody, the dog would lick at the person and lie beside him, warming him with body heat.
- The dogs are credited with finding more than 2000 people over the course of 300 years. The most famous of these dogs was Barry, who was credited with saving 40 lives.
- The dogs were known by several names, including hospice dogs and Barryhunds.
- In the early 1800s many of the dogs were lost to severe weather, disease and inbreeding, so that crosses were made with Newfoundlands. This introduced the longer coat to the breed. The longer coats weren't used for rescue work because the ice tended to clump in their hair.
- The first Saints came to England around 1810. They were called "sacred dogs" at the time.
- By 1865, the name Saint Bernard was in common use.
- The AKC recognized the breed in 1885.
Saint Bernard Behavior Concerns
- Makes a loyal and protective companion.
- Gentle and generally good with children, but may be overly protective of them when around strangers. It also may not be playful enough for children. As with all large dogs, dogs and children should always be supervised.
- Tends to be somewhat aloof toward strangers.
- Fairly friendly toward strange dogs.
- Good with other pets.
- Learns quickly, but can be stubborn.
- Does best with a firm owner who can combine reward-based training with good control and leadership.
Saint Bernard Suggested Exercises
- Makes a calm and well-mannered housedog.
- Requires daily exercise in the form of a moderate walk or short jog.
- The Saint Bernard enjoys cold weather, but doesn't do well in warm weather.
- Obedience training is essential not only for control, but for the mental exercise it provides.
Saint Bernard Grooming
- Coat can be either smooth, in which the hair is dense and tough; or long, in which the hair is of medium length, and straight to slightly wavy.
- The coat needs only occasional brushing, once every week or so, to remove dead hair.
- Shedding is average.
- Be prepared for drool.
Suggested Saint Bernard Nutritional Needs
- Saint Bernards tend to stay in good weight or be slightly overweight.
- Adult dogs should be fed a balanced diet, with restricted calories if the dog starts to gain too much weight.
- Puppies should be fed a large-breed growth food, which slows their growing rate but not final size. This may decrease the incidence or severity of hip dysplasia in adults.