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St. Bernard

The St. Bernard is a true giant of the dog world, and everybody recognises this legendary life-saving dog with his massive jowled head, gentle eyes, and short thick orange and white coat. These are muscular dogs with powerful, imposing heads, and are capable of covering very rough ground with unhurried, smooth movements.

The need-to-know
  • Dog suitable for experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys walking an hour a day
  • Giant dog
  • Heavy drool
  • Requires grooming daily
  • Non hypoallergenic breed
  • Chatty and vocal dog
  • Guard dog. Barks, alerts and it's physically protective
  • May require training to live with other pets
  • May require training to live with kids

Key Facts

Lifespan: 8–10 years
Weight: 68–91kg
Height: 70–90cm
Colours: Orange, mahogany-brindle, red-brindle or white with patches of these colours
Size: Large
Kennel Club group: Working


Family-friendly: 5/5
Exercise needs: 2/5
Easy to train: 2/5
Tolerates being alone: 1/5
Likes other pets: 5/5
Energy level: 3/5
Grooming needs: 4/5
Shedding: 4/5


A 'gentle giant' sums up the character of the St. Bernard. They are good-humoured, trustworthy and love family life. They are very loyal dogs who rarely bark, but will defend you and your possessions if they deem necessary. They normally accept other household animals with no problems. Young dogs must be taught from an early age not to pull on their leads, as this habit will be problematic when they are older and enormous!

History and Origins

Country of Origin: Switzerland

The St. Bernard breed was developed in the 18th century by monks at a hospice offering aid and shelter to travellers in the Swiss Alps. It was recorded in 1774 that these dogs were being used as rescue dogs to locate travellers in need of help. Their fame grew and for a while they were called Good Samaritan Dogs. It’s thought that over 2000 travellers have been saved by St. Bernards.

It isn’t just mountain rescue that St. Bernards excel at. One St. Bernard called Bamse, a ship’s dog of a Norwegian minesweeper in World War II, won a PDSA award for courage in action. He was stationed in Montrose, Scotland, and one of his duties was to collect his shipmates from the pubs at closing time! He became so well known in the town that upon his death in 1944, local schools closed to allow hundreds of children to attend his funeral. Today his grave is still honoured in Montrose.

Health and Common Issues

Exercise Needs

Space Requirements

Nutrition and Feeding

Grooming St. Bernard’s

Training St. Bernard’s

Best Family Dog Breeds

Did You Know?

  • Monks attempted to cross the St. Bernard with the Newfoundland to create a thicker, warmer coat. However, this backfired as they found the longer fur captured matted snow and ice and weighed them down. You can still see the effects of this breeding in the longer haired variety of the St. Bernard.
  • It can take up to three years for them to finish growing.
  • In the film, Beethoven’s 2nd, over 100 puppies were used due to the fact that they grew so fast the production couldn’t keep up with them!
  • Although history paints them with a barrel around their neck (supposedly filled with brandy), this is a myth and they never carried one at all.
  • The most successful Saint Bernard rescue dog was called Barry and, in his lifetime, he rescued over 40 people from the Alps. His preserved body is now on display in the Natural History Museum of Bern.
Dog with red collar looking out the window
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