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St. Bernard

The St. Bernard is a true giant of the dog world, and everybody recognises this legendary life-saving dog with his massive jowled head, gentle eyes, and short thick orange and white coat. These are muscular dogs with powerful, imposing heads, and are capable of covering very rough ground with unhurried, smooth movements.

8–10 years
Orange, mahogany-brindle, red-brindle or white with patches of these colours
Kennel Club group
The need-to-know
  • Dogs suitable for experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Potential health risks
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys one to two hours of walking a day
  • Giant dog
  • Some drool
  • Requires grooming every other day
  • Quiet dog
  • Barks and alerts to visitors/anything unusual
  • Could have issues with unknown dogs but gets along with known dogs
  • May need additional training to live with other pets
  • May need additional supervision to live with children
  • Needs a large garden
  • Can live in semi-rural areas
  • Can be left alone with training
This breed has a higher risk of health issues

The St Bernard breed is prone to:
- Hip dysplasia 
- Elbow dysplasia 
- Osteochondritis dissecans
- Gastric dilatation volvulus 
- Cruciate disease which is where the ligaments in the knee become diseased and damaged which can lead to pain and limping
- Entropion and/or ectropion which are painful conditions where the eyelids turn inwards or outwards, this happens as a result of excessive skin around the eyes
- Dilated cardiomyopathy¹ which is a condition where the heart muscle becomes progressively weak and cannot beat properly
- Osteosarcomas which are a serious type of bone cancer
- Ear infections
- Skin infections, especially around their lip folds 

Priority Kennel Club health schemes and testing: 
- Hip dysplasia screening scheme 


A 'gentle giant' sums up the character of the St. Bernard. They are good-humoured, trustworthy and love family life. They are very loyal dogs who rarely bark, but will defend you and your possessions if they deem necessary. They normally accept other household animals with no problems. Young dogs must be taught from an early age not to pull on their leads, as this habit will be problematic when they are older and enormous!

Did You Know?

  • Monks attempted to cross the St. Bernard with the Newfoundland to create a thicker, warmer coat. However, this backfired as they found the longer fur captured matted snow and ice and weighed them down. You can still see the effects of this breeding in the longer haired variety of the St. Bernard.
  • It can take up to three years for them to finish growing.
  • In the film, Beethoven’s 2nd, over 100 puppies were used due to the fact that they grew so fast the production couldn’t keep up with them!
  • Although history paints them with a barrel around their neck (supposedly filled with brandy), this is a myth and they never carried one at all.
  • The most successful Saint Bernard rescue dog was called Barry and, in his lifetime, he rescued over 40 people from the Alps. His preserved body is now on display in the Natural History Museum of Bern.
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