Saint Bernard Dog Breed at a Glance


The Saint Bernard dog breed is now listed as the 49th most popular dog breed in the United States.[1] Known for its patience and friendly manner, it is also described by many as being a “nanny dog.” This large-sized dog is also known as simply Saint, and also as St. Bernhardshund, Alpine Mastiff, and Bernhardiner. The St. Bernard dog is highly intelligent and strong, and was used in the past, to locate travelers in freezing cold snowstorms that left them helpless. Today, they are excellent family companions who thrive in homes with large yards, given their size, but may not be the ideal dog for families with small children because Saints may knock them over accidentally, causing them injury.

Breed Group: Working Group

Saint Bernard Puppies

HISTORY of the Saint Bernard Dog Breed

In the first two centuries A.D., it was discovered by the monks that this dog breed had a highly developed sense of smell, giving them excellent path-finding abilities. Over the course of three centuries, it is believed that Saints saved over 2000 people’s lives. The earliest records of this breed were in 1707.

Throughout crossing with the Newfoundland, the Saints’ long coat was developed, although these long-coated dogs were not suitable for rescue work.

Its name originated from the Great and Little St. Bernard Hospice.

Origin: Switzerland


Although seemingly appearing stern at all times, it is never an ill-natured dog breed. The Saint is not a breed recommended for new owners, as it is difficult to train. However, with basic obedience training, which is a must, the St. Bernard is an excellent dog. This dog breed has lots to learn, such as to not bump into children, not jump on anyone, and to not take advantage of its massive size. Training must start early, when it is a young puppy. It’s a good watchdog, barking only when necessary, but given its gentle nature, cannot be depended upon to defend its family. Saints are good with children, other pets, including cats, but don’t usually fare well when left alone for long periods. In fact, they need to live indoors with human companionship.

This is a gentle and affectionate breed that’s quiet and social, and makes a great therapy dog for autistic kids.

Biting Statistics: The Saint Bernard has been linked to 13 attacks on humans since 1982, placing it in the top 30% of dog attacks. More particularly, this breed was involved in 8 injuries that resulted in maiming the victim. Of these attacks, 9 were children and 2 were adults. Furthermore, the Saint is responsible for 1 death. However, this breed is highly unlikely to cause casualties. 

Physical Characteristics of the St. Bernard Dog

Powerful, muscular, and tall are all words used to describe the St. Bernard. Its coat may be either short or long, and until 1830, all Saints were short-haired. Its coat may be smooth or rough, its tail is heavy and long and hangs low. Saint Bernards have a huge head and a short muzzle with dark eyes, and a wrinkled brow, but their expression is always friendly.

The common colors of the Saint Bernard are brown, mahogany, orange, red, and rust with white, as well as brindle grizzle. A black mask is the only standard marking acceptable by the AKC.

Saints weigh between 120 and 200 pounds, meaning it is one of the heaviest of all dog breeds, and it stands between 25 and 35 inches in height.

Saint Bernard Dog Breed

Shedding is constant with the St. Bernard, so prepare to vacuum regularly. It is not a hypoallergenic breed and owners should expect plenty of drool.

HEALTH and CARE of the St. Bernard Dog Breed

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of the Saint dog is between 8 and 10 years, which is far shorter than the average for giant breeds.

Each dog breed is susceptible to certain health issues. In general, the St. Bernard dog is a healthy breed but may be at risk of developing the following [2]:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Eye Disease
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat)
  • Osteochondrosis of the Shoulder


Although not an active breed, daily exercise is required for this dog breed. Long walks or play time in the backyard will suffice to keep this dog breed happy. Saints are not well-suited to apartment living because of their size. Although it is capable of tolerating cold weather, it does not tolerate heat very well, and will in fact wilt on very hot days. Be sure to provide your Saint with plenty of shade and water on hot days, and don’t overexert it on such days. This dog breed has a potential to gain weight, so provide it with adequate exercise.

St. Bernard Dog Breed


As this dog grows extremely quickly, serious deterioration of its bones may occur if it does not get good food and an adequate amount of exercise, so feed your dog a high-quality dog food to ensure health and longevity. With the average weight of the Saint Bernard being 160 pounds, feed your dog approximately 5  1/4 cups of dry dog food each day.[3]


Regular grooming is required with Saint Bernards. In addition to brushing your dog at least twice weekly, the occasional bath is also required to keep its coat clean. Additionally, check its ears regularly for any wax buildup or debris to avoid an infection from developing. Moreover, check its eyes regularly and clean them gently when necessary.

The Saint Bernard dog breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1885.




[1] AKC

[2] Wikipedia

[3] PetBreeds