The Saint Bernards

Description: The Saint Bernards are those powerful, big-boned, muscular white and red dogs, that we usually see in pictures with a barrel of brandy instead of a collar. Nothing less true, from a medical point of view. Even if the dog was developed as a mountain rescuer, everybody knows, nowadays, that drinking brandy when you are frost-bitten is not a good idea.

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St. Bernard with Rescue Keg

The Saint Bernard appeared in the Swiss Mountains, and, as all Swiss breeds, it is said to be derived from the Roman Mastiffs. In fact, the St Bernard is also called the Alpine Mastiff.
The breed was refined by the monks of a Swiss Hospice from the Saint Bernard Pass, a hospice at 8000 feet (3500 m) above sea level. The dogs, initially called "Hospice Dogs", proved to be very useful in rescuing lives and it is documented that, during three centuries, they had saved more than 2000 lives.

Group: Working (search and rescue)

Physical characteristics:
Height: 25.5-27.5 inches (65-90 cm)
Weight: 120-180 pounds (50-91 kg)

Temperament: As almost all big breeds, the Saint Bernards are intelligent, friendly, big hearted. But they require back as much love as they can offer.
They are known to be very gentle and patient with children. They enthusiastically participate in any family activities and, even if they never harm anyone intentionally, with their size they can knock down a child with their paw or tail.
The Saint Bernards make good watchdogs and their size and bark are sometimes enough to deter any intruder. But with a bolder intruder who knows well the characteristics of the breed, it might be a problem. The dog, so willing to please everybody, might let him search the house, actively participating to the search. But, if a member of the family is at risk, the St Bernard won't hesitate to intervene, because they are protective with those they love.

Health: As with any big breed, the Saint Bernard dogs are prone to hip dysplasia and bloating. This is why it is preferable to give them two meals a day in moderate quantities (taking into account the fact that they are a placid breed, they do not need more food than other smaller but more active breeds).
Entropion is another ailment you should take care of. As an alpine breed, the Saint Bernards don't take well hot weather. The most dangerous for their health is going from air conditioned to hot weather outside, in which case they can have heat strokes.

Maintenance/Grooming: The Saintie sheds twice a year, generally in spring and in fall to adjust better to changes in temperature. Anyhow, the full grooming interval should be of 8-10 weeks, and a good brushing and combing twice a week should prevent the matting of the dense undercoat. Stray hairs under the feet should be trimmed. After bathing, the dog should be dried, otherwise it is prone to smell and it can get skin infections.

Training: Early training is a must, as with any large breed. The dog, being as enthusiastic as it is, will be difficult to manage when fully grown if it does not have the basic obedience training done.
It is not a good idea to keep the Saint Bernards chained, this being the second reason for which obedience training should begin early.
The Saint Bernards have a strong desire to please the ones they love and respond well to gentle but firm training. Anyhow, this dog is not a quick thinker, this is why the trainer must be patient and make sure the dog understood what is required of him. The small pups should not be over exercised until their bones are strong enough, that means around two years of age.

Breeding, puppies: Well, the litter can vary from 1 to 15 puppies, with an average of 8. Can you believe how much stamina has mamma Saintie ?

Varieties: The colors do not vary too much. The Saint Bernards are red (or brown-yellow) and white, with white chest, tip of the tail and paws.

Famous dogs: The most notorious of the Saint Bernards seems to be Beethoven, the movie star who still enchants us and our kids, as well as George, its similar character from the 1970's. But the first really famous Saint Bernard was Barry, who lived between 1800-1814 at the Saint Bernard Hospice and saved, during his life, 40 people. As a honor, his name was given, for a period of time, to the breed: these dogs were called some 50 years after him "Barryhounds".

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