Dog Health & More
Originally the Saint Bernard dog breed was used to guard the grounds of Switzerland's Hospice Saint Bernard as well as to help find and save lost and injured travelers. Today the St. Bernard enjoys the comforts of family life in many homes across the world. He is versatile and excels in the show ring and in obedience trials, drafting (pulling a cart or wagon), and weight pulling competitions.
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A late night cold sufferer fills the TV screen. His night-time affliction causes him to toss and turn, each cough painful and every sneeze wracking his body. Then a deep-throated bark draws this invalid to his door, where he finds a massive dog with a flask attached to his collar. By the end of the commercial, the Saint Bernard has done his job and the cold sufferer is fast asleep.
The Saint Bernard did in fact rescue people from the cold — not the virus, of course, but the chill winds and snows of the Alps, so treacherous to travelers. Not surprisingly, he's a kind, gentle, intelligent, good-natured dog. He's also a giant, a large, muscular dog who can reach a height of 30 inches and a weight of 180 pounds. The Saint comes in shorthaired and longhaired varieties, the shorthaired being the one preferred by the monks of the Saint Bernard Hospice where the dogs originated.
Despite his size, the Saint Bernard is a quiet indoor dog who makes a wonderful family friend. Although he's calm indoors, it's nice if he has easy access to a yard where he can have a little room to spread out. He can live in small quarters, however, as long as he gets a good daily walk. More important than the size of your home is your tolerance for mess. Saints aren't the best choice for a fastidious housekeeper. They drool and shed, and they track in mud and dirt. With this breed, saintliness is not necessarily next to cleanliness.
Saints aren't suited to living outdoors with little human companionship. They need to live in the home with their family. They're not aggressive, but they'll bark when there is cause, and any threat to their people will bring out their protective instincts. Their size is usually a deterrent to any would-be attacker or burglar.
The easygoing Saint is gentle and patient with children if not necessarily playful. He's great to snuggle with while reading or watching television, but he can be a bit much for younger children, accidentally knocking them over with a swipe of his tail.
The Saint Bernard does not need a lot of exercise. He's not a jogging companion and will wilt in hot climates. Saints suffer from heat exhaustion quite easily and need access to shade and plenty of fresh, cool water during hot weather. On the other hand, you'll never find a happier Saint Bernard than one who's enjoying a good romp in the snow.
On a sadder note, the Saint's giant size condemns him to a shorter than average canine life span. He also can suffer from a variety of genetic diseases and disorders.
The St. Bernard is a much-loved breed today. He's versatile, good-natured, and a fine choice for the person or family who would like a large but gentle dog with moderate exercise needs.