St. Bernard (St.Bernhardshund, Bernhardiner)

Country of origin:
Italy, Switzerland
Height (cm):
Weight (kg):
min. 80
Life span (years):
white with smaller or larger reddish-brown patches (splash-coated dogs) up to an unbroken reddish-brown mantle covering back and flanks (mantle dogs)
very large
Hair length:
long, short
Recognized by:
FCI code:
Good with kids:
Download standard:
Pros Cons
  • loves children
  • great protector
  • excellent family companion
  • giant size of a dog
  • short lifespan
  • sheds heavily

The St. Bernard is a very gentle, powerful and impressively big dog with a calm and patient temperament. This breed is a real gentleman, friendly, loyal, intelligent, even-tempered and obedient. Don’t be pushed away by the dog’s giant size – it makes a wonderful family companion that loves children and will be relaxed at home.

The St. Bernard originated in Switzerland in the Middle Ages. The breed got its name from the St. Bernard Monastery situated in Swiss Alps where first breed members - roman molosser-type dogs - were brought in the 60-70s of the XVII century.

When in the beginning of the XIX century the dog was under threat of extinction monks started crossing it with other dogs in order to save the breed. They used the local dogs and possibly the Great Pyrenees, the Great Dane and the English Mastiff. From 1830 the St. Bernard was also crossed three times with the Newfoundland.

Originally the breed was used as a guardian, search-and-rescue dog (saved people from avalanches, found tourists in the Alps) and to make trials through a snow. During the first 10 years of the XIX century the St. Bernard named Barry became a real hero when it saved around 40 people. These dogs also worked in a team: when they sniffed out of the snow a lost person one or more dogs stayed trying to keep a frozen human warm the other ran down to inform people. The St. Bernard was endowed not only with an excellent scent but also with a phenomenal hearing thank to which it can predict coming avalanches and storms.

In 1884, the first breed standard for the breed was issued by the Swiss Kennel Club and the St. Bernard was pronounced the National Dog of Switzerland. In 1885 the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed and in the 20's of the XX century the United Kennel Club (UKC) followed it.

Today, the St. Bernard is a popular breed that is a great family companion and a TV star. It doesn't search lost tourists any more but is still used for hauling.

The St. Bernard is a gentle, friendly, well-behaved and intelligent dog. It is incredibly devoted to its owners with which it forms very strong bonds. This breed will become a treasured and beloved companion that needs to be a part of the family. This dog will be a great choice for the families with the kids as it is patient and gentle with them.

The St. Bernard is not an aggressive breed and gets on well with strangers and tends to be polite with them though dogs of some lines may be shy. However if your dog sees that someone or something is posing a threat to its family or friend it will protect it forgetting about its natural friendliness and good manners. This breed also makes a good watchdog as it has a deep intimidating voice.

The St. Bernard is used to the company of other canines so it will get on well with other dogs and will be happy to live with one of them. It is not a dominant breed and has much less same-sex aggression than other mastiff-typed dogs. Your dog will accept other animals (even cats) too as it has a low prey drive though proper socialization is needed.

Health Problems
The most common problems for the breed include:

• Wobbler syndrome;
• heart problems;
• skin problems;
• canine hip dysplasia;
• epilepsy;
• eyes problems.

The St. Bernard needs regular grooming. The breed comes in two coat types: shorthaired and longhaired. Both types need to be brushed several times per week (preferably daily): for shorthaired use a grooming glove or a rubber curry brush, for longhaired use a pin brush.

Bathing with a special dog shampoo must be done on a regular basis but not too often. Clean the ears and eyes, trim the nails as needed and brush the dogs' teeth. You also need to be prepared that your dog will shed really heavily twice a year.

The St. Bernard an intelligent dog that is a quick-learner and is easy to train though training procedures must start at an early age. This breed is not stubborn but very independent so your dog can refuse to perform some commands just because it thinks there's no need in this action.

Always be patient, gentle, consistent, use positive reinforcement and make sure that a dog respects you otherwise it won't listen to your commands. Avoid negative methods, as the St. Bernard is so devoted to its owner that it will become really upset and discouraged if you punish it. And never forget about an early socialization!


The St. Bernard has moderate exercise requirements. This breed needs long daily walks but it's not a runner. One can even call this dog a slow-type as it doesn't like active playing or energetic exercises.

However, your dog will prefer a backyard where it can wander for hours and will greatly enjoy roaming in a snow. If you are a city dweller and still want this breed don't be upset – the St. Bernard can adapt for an apartment if long daily walks are provided.