Founded by St. Bernard de Menthon in 980 ACE, the muscular, strong and giant Saint Bernard was bred by some monks by crossing the Tibetan Mastiff and the Great Pyrenees, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and Great Dane. Around the 1600s, it was used as a rescue dog (saving people who got trapped under the avalanches). It has great smelling power (that would help them to smell people through the snow) and can hear sounds of very low frequency. Its talents are carting, guard dog, search and rescue, and watchdog. It cannot tolerate hot weather, warm cars, and warm rooms. If you go for this breed as your pet, and you live in hot weather, you have to take careful and great care of it. In 1885, this breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Measuring 25.5 to 27.5 inches in height (females are about an inch or two shorter) and 110 to 200 pounds in weight (females are about 10 to 15 pounds lesser), the powerful head of the Saint Bernard is massive with a wide (than long) and short muzzle. With open wide nostrils, it has a broad nose, and black lips. The medium sized, dark eyes are rather set on the sides than the normal position as in other breeds. The eyes need good attention as they have a tendency to water. The high-set ears are medium sized, and drops and stands little away from its head. With muscular legs, the strong and large feet have toes that are quite well arched. The powerful and broad tail is long and low-held when it relaxes. Its water-resistant, oily coat is of two varieties—(1) smooth (has black ears and face), and (2) rough (has longer hair than the smooth coat, and the legs and thighs have featherings). The coat is dense in both the varieties and is white (with a combination of mahogany, brindle, red, black and tan markings). Shedding twice a year, you need to brush its coat on a regular basis. Do not dry shampoo it but bathe it when absolutely necessary.
Slow-moving, friendly, children-tolerant, patient, highly intelligent, extremely loyal and gentle, easy to train, eager to please and watchdog, the Saint Bernard should be taught not to jump on others (its natural instinct) when you would be training it in obedience and socialization. You need to also teach it to heel and not jump around. It must be taught to enter or exit any doorway after you. Certain dos and don’ts should be set for the dog to follow. Everyone in your family must be taughthow to handle this breed. If it feels you are timid and submissive, it would tend to be very possessive, overprotective, dominating and aggressive. Physical and mental exercises are required on a daily basis; so are long walks. You need to keep it on leash while walking. If you fail to maintain this routine, it would be nervous, high strung and restless. You can put it off leash in a safe and protected area, and inside your house. Do not leave it alone for long; then it would show behavioral problems like snapping, separation anxiety, etc.Therefore, you need to be consistent, firm, stern and authoritative but not behave harshly at any point of time. Where food is concerned, give it dog food as small meals thrice a day. Other than the meals, do not try to overfeed it. Also, do not give it one large meal a day. Be careful with its food as it is highly prone to bloat.
With a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, the Saint Bernard suffers from twisted stomachs, extropion, hip dysplasia, heart problems, tumors, skin problems and Wobbler Syndrome.