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Saint Bernard Dog Breed… Everything You Need to Know at a Glance!

The Gentle Giant

The Saint Bernard Dog Breed is BIG! This dog stands up to a height of 27.5 inches at the shoulder level and weighs 180 pounds. And yet there is no menace or threat about them – these are remarkably gentle dogs, incredibly docile around children.


Every dog owner has a story to share about their St Bernards. This gentle giant does not have a single angry bone in his body. He is all muscle and bulk in physique, yet lovely, caring, and affectionate.

There is a good reason…

Why do they call him a “saint”? He is no show-off; he is not an aggressive dog.  He has strong protective instincts and loves children. You should check out the many videos on YouTube that show kids playing with St Bernard Dogs – cute!

This makes him different from aggressive and somewhat angry-looking guard dogs. St Bernard is a Mastiff and is compared to other gentle giants such as the Great Dane and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.

But did you know?

Saint Bernards are excellent mountain rescue dogs. St Bernards staying at the St Bernard Hospice in the Swiss Alps are known to have rescued more than 2,000 people trapped in avalanches over the years.  This is a pack dog, which means it is comfortable moving around in packs when searching for people trapped in natural disasters or calamities. Of course, these days, they are more popular as family dogs. They love playing with kids, rolling in the snow, and pulling the sled with a child.

Is he too gentle to be a guard dog?

Well, no.  St Bernard may be gentle, but he has such an imposing physique that most burglars and intruders are deterred by his presence. He may be friendly and gentle with his family and with your guests, but if someone tries to attack you, he can be as ferocious as a Rottweiler!  But remember, Saint Bernards are from the Swiss Alps. So as you may imagine, he needs to be more suited to parts of the country with hot weather, such as Texas. He prefers to stay inside and requires the air conditioning to be switched on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is why, even though these are great dogs, there are better kinds of dogs for everyone.  We encourage you to read more before considering adopting one of these magnificent animals.

Saint Bernard Fast Facts

Country of Origin: Switzerland

Original Purpose:  Search and rescue, working dog

Height: 25.5 to 27.5 inches

Weight: 130 to 180 pounds

Dog Breed Classification:  Working group

Life Span: 7 to 10 years

Origin of the Saint Bernard Dog Breed

The Saint Bernard Dog Breed gets its name from an actual person, a legend, in fact – the great St. Bernard – who lived in the Swiss Alps and traveled through the mountains, rescuing stranded or trapped travelers.  Initially, Saint Bernard was a farm dog from around the area.   Then, the St. Bernard Hospice monks took a strong liking to him and bred him to be a rescue dog. This was around the 17th century.

You see, dogs like St. Bernard…

I have lived in Switzerland for more than 1,000 years. They belonged to various large breeds such as Mastiffs, Molossers, etc. St. Bernard was developed from these breeds.  These dogs became famous worldwide because of their fantastic rescue prowess. They could smell a traveler trapped in the snow for miles. They were incredible and have saved over 2,000 people over the centuries in the Swiss Alps alone.

Saint Bernard Dogs in America

St Bernard was brought to America in the 19th century. There was a massive curiosity about them because of their large size and amiable nature.  This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885.  The Saint Bernard Club of America was founded in 1887 and became hugely popular in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s.

But unfortunately…

The breeders of those times followed an unethical breeding program because of which the structure and temperament of this breed were affected in a big way.  Fortunately, those days are behind us. The new St Bernard Dogs bred in the United States are just as impressive as their cousins from Switzerland.

 Physical Characteristics

St Bernard is an impressive-looking dog. He is big and powerful, 27.5 inches tall, and 180 pounds. He has a large, broad head with highly developed cheekbones, a tapered muzzle, and a deep furrow.

He has large…

Floppy ears, sharp teeth, black nose, sensitive nostrils, and dark brown eyes. He has a thick neck, a broad back, and a deep chest. You can see that he has a powerful physique. There is a noticeable dark mask on the ears and around the eyes.

Coat types

St Bernards are of two types: Short-Haired Dogs and Long-Haired Dogs. Their coats may be short or long. Long coats have wavy hair, while short coats are smooth with bushy hair. The skins are usually white with red or red with white.

 Personality and Temperament

He is a perfect family dog.  After all, St Bernard has a loving nature and makes for an ideal family dog. As long as you have a big house – it would be rather tricky for the big guy to move around quickly in a small apartment.

He can be a therapy dog or companion dog for seniors, an enthusiastic playmate for children, and a friend to singles and young couples. He will stay loyal to the very end.


Like all large breeds, St Bernards have a short life expectancy of 7 to 10 years. Because of their large size, their cardiovascular system has to work extra hard to pump blood. This takes a toll on their bodies in the long run.  So if you bring a Saint Bernard puppy home, prepare yourself and your kids for the inevitable.

There is nothing you can do about it…

Nature intended this wonderful dog to have a short life span. But in the little time he is around, he brings joy and happiness wherever he goes.  So it’s undoubtedly worth bringing this dog home. He deserves a loving family.

Potential Health Concerns

St Bernards are big and strong dogs, but vulnerable to specific health issues such as…

And while…

Many of these conditions may not be life-threatening, but they can become quite expensive, particularly if they become recurring issues.  This is why we here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not.  But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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