St Bernard

katy towle 26 July 2021

Breed History

St Bernards originated in the Wester Alps of Switzerland where they were bred as rescue work dogs by the Great St Bernard Pass hospice.

General Appearance

The St Bernard is a colossal breed with a truly giant skull and lopped ears set high on the head. They can weigh anything from 50kg to 75kg. Coat colours can vary and include red and white, brown and white and brindle and white.

Temperament

St Bernards are a very friendly breed. They have a lovely temperament and are kind and careful. The St Bernard is sometimes known as a ‘nanny’ dog. Indeed, it was the children’s nanny in the 1953 Disney movie ‘Peter Pan’. They are gentle giants with seemingly never-ending patience. While they can generally be trusted with young children, they are so big that they could cause an accidental injury. Due to this, always supervise any interaction with children.

Health Considerations

The St Bernard has an average lifespan of 8 - 10 years. There a few health conditions in St Bernards we note:

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia: Sadly, many older St Bernards will suffer with joint dysplasia and chronic arthritis. As they are a very large breed, this can dramatically impact on their quality of life. Where possible, we should aim to buy puppies who come from parents with good hip scores. Joint disease is usually managed with a combination of pain relief, anti-inflammatories, joint supportive diets, like Pooch & Mutts’ Joint Care Dry Food and joint supplements such as Pooch & Mutts’ Joint Daily Care Supplement

Bloat: All deep-chested dogs are at an increased risk of bloat, or ‘gastric dilatation volvulus’. It is unclear why some individuals will develop this condition while others do not. Theories including diet (wet vs dry), conformation, exercise and genetics have all been put forward. When a dog develops bloat, signs come on quickly. They can include restlessness, panting, drooling and a tense and bloated abdomen. Prompt treatment is required to correct the issue and, if treatment is delayed, this condition can be fatal.

Ear Problems: Due to their pendulous ears, St Bernards are prone to ear infections. This is due to the poor ventilation and the fact that the ear canals tend to become moist and humid. This is the ideal environment for yeast and bacteria to proliferate. We can help to prevent infections by drying ears thoroughly after swims and baths and cleaning ear canals regularly.

Trainability

St Bernards are good-natured dogs and are usually relatively easy to train. As they’re incredibly friendly they may be prone to jumping up at people so a good place to start is with obedience training from an early age. St Bernards respond well to positive reinforcement so get those treats at the ready. Pooch & Mutts’ Mini Bone Treats are the ideal training treat as they are low calorie. 

Grooming

As this large dog tends to drool and shed (a lot!) very house-proud owners need not apply. It would not be unheard of to find puddles of slobber on the floor as well as on the windows, and for your sofa to be covered in fur after just a day or two.

Exercise

Giant breeds should not be over-exercised while maturing as this can lead to joint issues down the line. Rather than going for a repetitive jog on pavement, stick to off lead exercise on grass or sand.

Feeding Considerations

Similar to other large breeds, the St Bernard requires a nutrient-rich diet with high quality protein sources that is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Pooch & Mutts’ Chicken & Superfood blend can see your St Bernard through from puppy through to senior and combines lean, free-run chicken with antioxidant rich superfoods such as sweet potato and kale.