The story of Saint Bernard has deep roots in myth and history dating back to the 11th century at the Alps Mountains. The dog was named after the Italian archdeacon Bernard of Menthon who found the monastery and hospice to help the travellers in the treacherous Alpine passes between Italy and Switzerland.  

It is believed that St. Bernard was serving as a watchdog at a monastery hospice in the Alps nevertheless; their life-saving ability saved thousands of travellers and mountaineers over the years.  The thriving of harsh climate and isolation made the dog powerful and adaptive to extreme climate conditions. 

In 1820 the then-teenage painter Sir Edwin Henry Landseer painted the Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller. There was a cask around the neck on one of the dogs and it wasn’t anything related to reality. But the mythical story of the life-saving Saint with brandy filled cask, who rescues the travellers, is still carried on. 

The saint is also a celebrity on the big screen. They have appeared in several movies including Beethoven in 1992 and Beethoven 2 in 1993. The saint also made a stylish appearance in 2006 with Anne Hathaway in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’

(Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller)

Type of Dog Mastiff /Working
Colour Variants Red&White, Brownish-Yellow, Reddish-Brown Mantle, Reddish-Brown Splash
Height  Male 70-90 cm, Female 65-80 cm
Weight  Male 64-82 cm, Female 54-64 cm
Temperament  Friendly, Gentle, Calm, Watchful, Lively
lifespan 8-10 years
Price  ₹ 35k – 50k

Physical traits of Saint Bernard

  • St. Bernard is one of the largest dog breeds in the world; they grow up to be massive dogs with huge heads and tall, powerful bodies. 
  • The coat can be either smooth or rough, the smooth coat seems to appear close to the body and the rough coat is dense, intense, and strong. 
  • Their tails are long, thick and tend to hang high. 
  • They have weary eyes and floppy ears.
  • They take time to mature; they attain their maximum size when they are 2 or 3 years old. 

Pet Grooming   

  • St. Bernards are lazy, laid back dogs that need a push for everything. 
  • Cleanliness and St. Bernard doesn’t go well. They love to play with mud hence chances of getting your home dirty is high. 
  • They do not settle well in a warm climate, in case if you are bringing them to a warm place make sure to use an air conditioner. 
  • They are prone to boredom and separation anxieties hence keep them entertained with affection and toys. 
  • They are rowdies especially the younger ones; obedience training and socialization is mandatory. 

Daily Care 

  • Since they have one of the thickest coats among the dogs, daily brushing is inevitable.  
  • They tend to drool a lot, cleaning their mouth after each meal is compulsory. 
  • They are very playful and mischievous especially at a young age; try to keep them clean after the outdoor activities otherwise, they will make your indoors muddy. 
  • You need to teach him commands and socialising lessons from the first day itself. 

What to eat

A St. Bernard loves to eat whatever he/she gets, do not overfeed them. It is suggested to feed about five to six cups of high-quality foods every day. However, the meals should be divided into two or three times for adult dogs and four to five for puppies. 

The diet should include vegetables, meat, chicken, duck, fish, and brown rice. It is suggested to avoid red meat from the diet because it contains high- fat which will lead to obesity. Do not forget to clean their face and mouth after each meal. Do not feed them human food. 

Recommended Food Products for St. Bernard 

St. Bernard Food Products  Age Group 
Meat up puppy dog food  puppies
Pedigree wet dog food ( Lamb in Jelly) Adults 
Pedigree Dry dog food  Adults
Drools Absolute Calcium Sausages  All Ages 
Puppet chicken and milk puppy food  Puppies of up to 12 months 
Chappi Dog Food  Adults 

Vet Consultation 

Saint is a larger than life breed, but their food and exercise activities are as usual as any other larger breed dogs. They are prone to some major diseases thus their lifespan is relatively less. 

  • Hip dysplasia is one of the major orthopaedic diseases seen in dogs; it is a genetic disease that causes mild to severe changes to the inner working of the hip joint. It is painful and expensive to treat. 
  • Overheating disorder (malignant hyperthermia) seems to have a defective mechanism called ‘internal thermostat’ that increases the body temperature leading to a heat stroke. 
  • Entropion is a common disease of the eyelids in which the lower or the upper eyelid rolls inwards. This is most common in dog breeds that have heavy facial folds and droopy eyes. This could lead to the removal of eyeballs. 
  • Osteochondrosis is that can affect a variety of joints of a dog’s body, it leads to inappropriate bone growth that creates painful laceration within the joints. 
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (bloat) is known as “the mother of all emergencies” as it is one of the most hazardous diseases that could lead to the death of the dog. It takes place when the dog faces a sudden accumulation of gas and it twists; this will gradually cut off the blood supply to the stomach and spleen. The dog could confront a gradual death if not treated urgently. 
  •  Panosteitis is a condition in which the superficial layer of the bone known as the periosteum becomes painfully inflamed. Fortunately, this particular condition is a self-limiting condition that means; it will resolve by itself in a week or so.  
  •  Acute cruciate ligament injury is another common disease seen in larger breed dogs like St. Bernard. It is mostly a genetic condition in which the ligament that majorly serves to stabilize the knee joint breaks down or completely ruptures due to a sudden movement, or a fast turns in the yard or gradual degeneration over time. 

Vaccination 

Dog vaccinations can be primarily divided into two, core vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core vaccines are given to every do irrespective of gender, breed, size, or medical history. Non- core vaccines depend on several factors including age, medical history, environment, travel habits, and lifestyle.

Core vaccine includes DHPP (a combination of vaccines that prevents distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) and anti-rabies vaccine. DHPP should be given when the puppy is 6-8 weeks old. And the primary dose of the anti-rabies vaccine should be taken when the puppy is 3 months old and annually revaccination is recommended. 

Non-core vaccines include Bordetella vaccine, leptospirosis, Lyme disease vaccine, coronavirus, vaccine and canine influenza vaccine. Combination shots of these vaccines should be taken when the puppy is 2 months old and the second dose should be taken when the dog is 4 months old. Annual revaccination is recommended.  

How to raise a St. Bernard 

  • St. Bernards are generally happy-go-lucky kind of dogs, they jell well with people. But as with any dog, early socialization is recommended, which means the puppy should be trained the basic commands from the first day itself.  
  • Most Bernard dogs are lazy and laid back. They need a lot of push and encouragement for activities. 
  • These dogs are highly intelligent which means it is easier to train them. But they don’t necessarily need a lot of exercises. A basic 15-20 minute walk is enough for them. 
  • Bernard dogs mature very slowly. They are puppies trapped in huge bodies. You need to be patient while training them because they could be aggressive if they feel agitated. 
  •  It is not advisable to bring a St. Bernard if you have a tiny baby in the home; even if the dog is caring and lovely the humongous size could knock over the baby. 

Living in an Apartment 

    • They are not quite apartment-friendly mainly because of the gigantic size.
  • They are massive dogs that take up a lot of space in your apartment. It would be better if they have their room or appropriate space to settle in because they are mostly lazy.  
  • Make sure to go for a walk with them daily. They need a little amount of exercise every day. 
  • They shed heavily; cleaning the apartment would be too much of work. 
  • They do not bark unnecessarily but make sure that the loud noises from outside are not making them panic, smile and pamper them. 
  • They are extremely heat-sensitive; they can’t survive the Indian heat. Make sure your apartment is air-conditioned. 
  • They slobber and drool a lot. If you are living in a small space managing them would be a herculean task. 

Living in a Home 

  • They need a happy family with a lot of space to roam around inside the house. 
  • St. Bernards are generally laid back dogs as they grew up hence not necessarily need a huge backyard. A small fenced yard would be enough. 
  • They are not one of the cleanest dogs; they stink.
  • They love kids and other pets. Yet, keep in mind that the dog might not be aware of its size. 
  • They tend to be quiet dogs and barking is not their cup of coffee. 

Travel with St. Bernard

  • They consume a lot of space; you will need a spacious car to take them for a trip. 
  • Large breed dogs can travel in the back of the vehicle, and a pet barrier can be installed. 
  • Do not forget to pre-book a pet-friendly stay and inform them that you are bringing your pet along with you. 
  • Make sure to turn on the air conditioner, they can’t survive the heat. 
  • If the pet is a puppy, use a crate. 
  • Tag or microchip them. 
  • Use a strong harness and attach it to the seat belt buckle. 
  • Do not let your dog ‘head out the window’. It will make their coat dirty and the chances of getting debris in their eyes, ears, and nose are high. 
  • Consult a veterinarian before the journey and collect all the necessary documents, health reports and vaccination certificates.   
  • Hydrate them well; entertain them with toys and snacks throughout the journey. 

Adopt your pet, do not buy

Pet adoption is the easiest and safest way to bring your companion home. It helps to save a lot of money and is less stressful than unauthorised pet mills and shops. Forget all these, just imagine you giving a lovely animal a second chance to love, isn’t it adorable?  What are you waiting for? Go bring your love home!

Things to remember before bringing the pet Home 

  • Decide on what type of breed you need, consider several factors including financial capacity, space, the time you can spend with them, maintenance etc. 
  • Bringing a puppy home is a long-term commitment, be prepared for that. 
  • Do not support unauthorised shops and brokers. 
  • Enquire about the diseases and genetic history of the puppy and parents. 
  • You can also register your puppy in the Kennel Club of India (KCI). This will ensure the certification and breeding quality of the dog which will help in breeding and selling the puppies in the future. 

Kennel Club of India (Registration Link) – https://www.inkc.in/single-dog-registration/

The process of adoption in India

  • Search for the nearby shelter/rescue homes
  • Visit them several times and talk to them about your needs and concerns 
  • Ask the authorities about the history and medical records of the dog
  • Follow the official adoption process
  • Take your companion home
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