The St Bernard is a giant among the dog world. Originally bred as search and rescue dogs along the Great St Bernard Pass along the Italian-Switzerland boarder of the western Alps, these dogs are very caring, charismatic, loyal, and inquisitive in nature. They are great helpers and always want to please their owners.
St Bernards have a long history in the United States. They were brought over by English settlers, and were used as search and rescue dogs, just like they were used in their native homeland. Today, they are still used as search and rescue dogs, primarily in remote, snowy locations, such as the mountains of Alaska. However, given their loyal, patient, and affectionate disposition, this breed also makes a great family pet.
For more information about this large dog breed, including feeding, health, and grooming, keep on reading for valuable tips.
St Bernard Food and Health
Like all dogs, St Bernards should be fed a diet that consists primarily of real meat, such as turkey, fish, or duck; avoid meat byproducts and fillers, as these ingredients can cause adverse reactions for their health. You can ensure that your St Bernard is receiving its nutritional needs by feeding him a premium-quality dog food, such as Taste of the Wild High Protein Dry Dog Food or Only Natural’s Dehydrated Raw Dog Food.
This breed should be fed between 5 and 6 cups of food a day, split into two separate meals. Avoid leaving food out, as they enjoy eating and if they have regular access to food, there is a risk of obesity, which compounds other common large breed health issues such as hip dysplasia and arthritis. The amount of food you should feed your dog will depend on his age, lifestyle, and size. For instance, a high-energy puppy or a rescue dog will need to consume more calories, while a “couch potato” will need to eat less. To find out how much food you should offer, speak to your veterinarian.
Overall, St Bernards are generally healthy; however, they are prone to a few health conditions. Health complications can include elbow and hip dysplasia, epilepsy, entropion (a condition of the eyes), cataracts, food and contact allergies, and dilated cardiomyopathy (a condition of the heart). Considering the health concerns that a St Bernard could encounter, investing in a pet insurance policy is a wise decision. This insurance will prevent you from having to pay for high vet bills out of your own pocket. Many highly regarded insurance companies offer this type of coverage, including Nationwide, Geico, and Allstate. Other providers include Hartville Pet Insurance, and Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.
Leashes and Collars for your Saint Bernard
Of all the products that you purchase for your St Bernard, the collar and leash are among the most important. Like all dogs, this breed requires exercise, and a collar and leash is a great way to safely give them the physical activity that they need. Additionally, a collar displays the identification information for your dog, further ensuring his safety.
When you are shopping for a collar, always consider the size, as well as the material. This dog has a large neck and thick fur, so a large-sized Martingale Dog Collar is ideal; however, for a puppy, you will need a smaller collar such as Soft Touch Collars. Using a tape measure, determine the size of your dog’s neck and use the measurement to choose a collar that will fit him properly. There should be enough space for you to fit two fingers between the collar and his neck. Due to the massive amount of fur this breed has around its neck, you’ll want to choose a collar made of either leather such as Breeds Leather Dog Collar or Genuine Latigo Leather to prevent matting and pulling.
For a leash, comfort and function should be considered. It should be easy for you to handle, yet offer your dog enough space to explore. It should also be made of a durable material, such as chain, leather, or paracord, such as Heavy Duty Leather Dog Leash, and EzyDog Zero Shock Leash so that it can withstand the strength of this dog. If you’re training him, consider using a Martingale collar such as Mighty Paw Training Collar to help teach him how to walk properly on a leash, as well as other commands.
While some people do use bark collars and other types of training collars with St Bernards, they aren’t recommended. This dog is extremely gentle and a fast learner. As such, there shouldn’t be any need for a training collar; moreover, using this type of device could traumatize your dog.
Best Crates, Beds, and Doghouses for Saint Bernards
Adult St Bernards generally won’t require a crate, as they are even-tempered and easy to train. However, a crate can provide your dog with the security he desires when you are not home. It can also be a great training tool, especially for puppies.
When choosing a crate for your St Bernard, always keep his size in mind. Make sure that he has enough room to stand up and turn around comfortably; however, there shouldn’t be an abundant amount of space. Also, keep in mind that if you have a puppy, you will need to adjust the size of the crate as he grows, which would involve purchasing a new one or investing in one crate that has a divider that can be used to accommodate his space needs.
For a bed, you’ll want something on the large size and that will afford your dog enough room to spread out. A bolster-style or pillow-type bed such as ever popular Big Barker bed or this orthopedic memory foam extra-large dog bed with a pillow that features quality stuffing and durable materials is ideal. You want to choose something high-quality so that it can withstand his weight. Additionally, consider something that is easy to wash, as these dogs have a tendency to shed.
For a dog house, you’ll also want to keep the size of your pup in mind. Make sure that there is plenty of space so that he can move around freely. Also, consider your location, as you want to ensure the house offers features that will ensure his comfort. For instance, these dogs do not do well in heat; therefore, a dog house that features air conditioning is a wise option for hot climates, such as Alabama or Georgia. Other features worth considering include operable windows, which will offer much-needed ventilation, as well as insulation to keep drafts out.
Grooming Insights for St Bernard owners
There are two varieties of St Bernards: long- and shorthaired. The long-haired variety is bushy and dense, while the shorthaired version has shorter, smoother hair, yet it’s still dense. Their coats shed all year long, but shed even more during the fall and spring.
To remove dead hair, keep shedding under control, and maintain the health of your dog’s coat and skin, brushing should be done several times a week. Use a thick wired brush, like Self Cleaning Slicker Brush, to keep the hair under control and remove mats.
For bathing, do so sparingly; for example, when he’s rolled in something smelly or his coat is visibly dirty. Since these dogs are large, bathing outdoors is probably the easiest; though if you have a walk-in shower, you could bathe him inside with ease. Use a hypoallergenic shampoo and wash him twice to remove dirt buildup. Also make sure you check his ears and use a soft cloth to remove any waxy buildup or other debris. Pay close attention to the area around his mouth, as the St Bernard is famous for drooling.
Flea and tick control and prevention should always be a high priority, as these dogs have dense fur and pests can easily hide inside and quickly multiple. This is particularly true if you live in an area that’s prone to fleas and ticks, such as New York and Nevada. There are plenty of flea and tick control and prevention products on the market, including powders, baths, pills, and topical applications. Some excellent products include All Natural Pet Shampoo, Pet Hair Grooming , and Easy to Clean Pet Grooming Brush. However, if you are not sure what type of flea and tick product you should be using, consult with your veterinarian.
Saint Bernard Accessories
There are several products on the market that can be used with St Bernards. These products range from accessories that can help to dress your pup up, remove hair, and improve his comfort.
For the types of products you should use with your St Bernard, consider his demeanor and his lifestyle. For example, if he’s an outside dog, a brightly colored bandana tied around his neck is a great way to keep him in your sights; especially if he ever walks without a leash. If he walks on hot or rugged terrain, paw protector products, including lotions and boots, can be worn to save his feet and keep him comfortable. If he is going to be hiking, you might want to consider investing in a backpack. You can store supplies in the backpack so you can easily access them once you reach your destination or locate someone who is lost.
As mentioned, these dogs don’t do well in hot climates, so if you live in such an area, a cooling vest can help to keep your St Bernard comfortable and safe. Check out more interesting large dog breeds.