The St. Bernard dog is a very large animal. The most famous St. Bernard is Barry, who is reported to have saved between 40 and 100 lives. There is a monument to this dog in the Cimetier des Chiens, and his body is preserved in the Natural History Museum in Berne. St. Bernards are also well known as the dogs carrying whiskey casks around their necks. Others may know this breed from the book “Cujo” by Stephen King.
St. Bernard – Breed History
St. Bernards were first bred in a monastery in Switzerland, called the St. Bernard Monastery, in order to guard the sanctuary. They were then used as rescue animals in the mountain passes. They have an incredible sense of direction and a keen instinctive nature, which helped them to become rescue dogs in the very cold Alpine wilderness. Their origin is owed to the Roman Molossian dog, which is related to the Tibetan mastiff.
St. Bernard Personality
This breed is extremely gentle and friendly, and is very tolerant of children. They are slow-moving, obedient, and patient. They are highly trainable, but training is best done when they are very young and still of manageable size. A dog of this size can be difficult to control, so they must be taught at a very young age not to jump on people and not to be unruly. Very important to start basic obedience training at an early age. A St. Bernard is a good watch dog, and its size and a good deterrent to strangers. They have a highly developed sense of smell, and also seem to have a sixth sense about impending danger from storms and avalanches.
St. Bernards are powerful, tall, muscular animals. They have square heads with wrinkled foreheads, short muzzles, black noses and ears that hang close to the face. There are two types of coats: rough and smooth. Both are very dense and are usually white with markings in tan, red, mahogany, brindle, black or some combination of these colors. The ears and face are usually black. The rough-coated dogs have slightly longer hair, and there is feathering on the thighs and legs.
St. Bernards are ideal companions for single people, families, experienced dog handlers and active, sporty type people. Although they may appear to be mellow, these dogs are fiercely loyal and protective of their families. Be prepared for their size when living with a St. Bernard. They require a wide berth, and furniture may need to be adjusted to accommodate their size. They tend to drool and snore! This breed is sensitive to heat. They need a mild climate and lots of room to breathe. They do not do well in tight spaces, but will be happiest with a yard in which to play. They can live outdoors, but prefer to be inside with the family. The do need a moderate level of activity each day.