St. Bernard19 July 2023
Let's talk about... St. Bernards: what are they?
- St. Bernards are a large and gentle breed known for their imposing size and friendly nature.
- Originating in the Swiss Alps, they were originally bred for rescue work in the mountains.
- St. Bernards are famous for their role as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps, where they were trained to locate and aid travellers lost or trapped in the snow.
- St. Bernards are notable for their massive build, with males typically reaching a height of 70-90 cm and females slightly smaller, ranging from 65-80 cm. They can weigh between 64-120 kg, depending on their size and build. The average life expectancy of a St. Bernard is 8-10 years.
What is the temperament of St. Bernards like?
- St. Bernards have a calm and gentle temperament, making them great family pets.
- They are known for their friendliness, patience, and tolerance, especially towards children.
- St. Bernards are loyal and protective of their families, often displaying a calm and patient demeanour.
- While they may be reserved with strangers, they are generally good-natured and enjoy the company of people.
- Due to their large size, early socialisation and training are important to ensure they grow up to be well-mannered and well-behaved dogs.
How much exercise do St. Bernards need?
- St. Bernards are a moderately active breed that requires regular exercise to keep them healthy and mentally stimulated.
- They benefit from daily exercise sessions of about 1 hour.
- Although they are not as energetic as some other breeds, they still need regular walks, playtime, and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and encourage muscle tone.
- Moderate exercise, such as walks or playtime in a secure area, is suitable for adult St. Bernards.
- Keep in mind that their size and heavy build may make them susceptible to joint and bone issues, so avoid excessive strain on their bodies.
- St. Bernard puppies should not be overexerted due to their rapid growth and developing joints.
- Short and controlled play sessions several times a day are recommended for puppies.
- As they grow, gradually increase the duration and intensity of their exercise.
- Avoid activities that involve jumping or excessive running until they have reached their full size and maturity.
- Consult with your vet for personalised advice on the exercise needs of your St. Bernard puppy.
Do St. Bernards need a lot of grooming?
- St. Bernards have a dense, double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it clean and free from mats and tangles.
- They shed moderately throughout the year and have heavier shedding periods, commonly known as "coat blowing."
- Brushing their coat at least 2-3 times a week will help remove loose hair and prevent matting.
- During shedding seasons, more frequent brushing may be necessary to manage the amount of hair they shed.
- Like any dog, regular tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste twice daily is ideal. If you can’t manage that often, just do it as often as you can.
Are St. Bernards easy to train?
- St. Bernards are generally intelligent and eager to please, but they can also be independent and stubborn at times.
- Training should start early with consistent and positive reinforcement techniques.
- Patience, positive rewards, and gentle guidance work best with this breed.
- Socialisation is crucial to expose them to different people, animals, and environments from a young age.
- St. Bernards may have a slower learning pace compared to some other breeds, so patience and persistence are key.
- Professional training classes or assistance from an experienced dog trainer can be beneficial for novice owners.
What do St. Bernards eat?
- A well-balanced and high-quality dog food is essential for the health and well-being of a St. Bernard.
- Their diet should be appropriate for their size, age, and activity level. Most of them do well being fed twice daily.
- It's important to feed them in appropriate portions to prevent obesity, as excess weight can strain their joints and exacerbate health issues.
- St. Bernard puppies have specific dietary needs for their growth and development.
- They should be fed a specially formulated puppy food until they are around 12-18 months old, depending on their individual growth rate and the specifications of the food.
- After that, they can transition to adult dog food.
- Puppies should be fed 3-4 times daily until 6 months old when this should be reduced to twice daily.
- Consult with your vet for specific dietary recommendations based on your individual St. Bernard's needs.
Are St. Bernards healthy?
St. Bernards are generally healthy dogs, but they are prone to certain health conditions, including:
Bones and Joints
- Cruciate Disease - when a cruciate ligament of the knee is either partially or fully torn leading to discomfort and lameness
- Elbow Dysplasia - this condition is where there is an issue with how the bones fit together at the elbow joint
- Hip Dysplasia - a condition where the thigh bone and pelvis do not sit together properly at the hip joint, which can lead to discomfort and arthritis
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) - an inflammatory condition where cartilage detaches from the bone and can enter into the joint cavity and cause discomfort
- Panosteitis - a painful, inflammatory condition of the long bones of the leg
- Osteosarcoma - a malignant bone cancer that tends to start in the long bones of the legs
- Ectropion - with this condition the eyelid rolls out, which can expose the eye to dryness
- Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) - this occurs when the stomach twists and gas and contents get trapped inside. It is a very serious condition and a vet should be contacted immediately!
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) - a disease of the heart muscle causing the heart ventricles to get larger, which can lead to heart failure
- Skin fold dermatitis - inflammation, and possible infection of the skin between two skin folds. Often seen on the facial folds of St. Bernards.
This list is by no means comprehensive, so if you have any concerns about the health of your dog or want to discuss further if a St. Bernard is right for you, consult with your vet.
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Information on this page should never replace advice given by your veterinarian. Potential health issues presented are given as a guide only and are not meant to be comprehensive. If you ever have any concerns about your dog's health, contact your local vet.
Large Working Dog Breeds
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