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  • Temperament: Playful, Charming, Inquisitive
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 49 of 194
  • Height: 28-30 inches (males), 26-28 inches (female)
  • Weight: 140-180 pounds (male), 120-140 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 8-10 years
  • Group: Working Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Saint Bernard standing in three-quarter view
Saint Bernard head and shoulders facing left
Saint Bernard lying in three-quarter view facing forward
Saint Bernard coat detail

GENERAL APPEARANCE

Powerful, proportionately tall figure, strong and muscular in every part, with powerful head and most intelligent expression. In dogs with a dark mask the expression appears more stern, but never ill-natured.

HEAD

Like the whole body, very powerful and imposing. Nose (Schwamm) – Very substantial, broad, with wide open nostrils, and, like the lips, always black. Ears – Of medium size, rather high set, with very strongly developed burr (Muschel) at the base. They stand slightly away from the head at the base, then drop with a sharp bend to the side and cling to the head without a turn. The flap is tender and forms a rounded triangle, slightly elongated toward the point, the front edge lying firmly to the head, whereas the back edge may stand somewhat away from the head, especially when the dog is at attention. Lightly set ears, which at the base immediately cling to the head, give it an oval and too little marked exterior, whereas a strongly developed base gives the skull a squarer, broader and much more expressive appearance.

BODY

Neck: Set high, very strong and when alert or at attention is carried erect. Otherwise horizontally or slightly downward. The junction of head and neck is distinctly marked by an indentation. The nape of the neck is very muscular and rounded at the sides which makes the neck appear rather short. The dewlap of throat and neck is well pronounced: too strong development, however, is not desirable. Shoulders: Sloping and broad, very muscular and powerful. The withers are strongly pronounced.

COAT

Very dense, short-haired (stockhaarig), lying smooth, tough, without however feeling rough to the touch. The thighs are slightly bushy. The tail at the root has longer and denser hair which gradually becomes shorter toward the tip. The tail appears bushy, not forming a flag.

HINDQUARTERS

Well-developed. Legs very muscular.

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saint bernard illustration

About the Saint Bernard

Not ranked particularly high in AKC registrations, this genial giant is nonetheless among the world’s most famous and beloved breeds. The Saint’s written standard abounds with phrases like “very powerful,” “extraordinarily muscular,” “imposing,” and “massive.” A male stands a minimum 27.5 inches at the shoulder; females will be smaller and more delicately built. The huge head features a wrinkled brow, a short muzzle, and dark eyes, combining to give Saints the intelligent, friendly expression that was such a welcome sight to stranded Alpine travelers.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Saint Bernard

Find a Puppy: Saint Bernard

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Care

NUTRITION

The Saint Bernard should do well on a high-quality dog food that ideally is formulated for large breeds, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Like many large breeds, the Saint Bernard can experience bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach distends and twists. The causes of bloat aren’t fully understood, but experts agree that multiple, small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes may help reduce the chances of it happening.

GROOMING

Saint Bernards come in long-haired and short-haired varieties, but both types of coats require the same care. Weekly brushing will help to remove dirt and loose hair and keep the dog looking his best. Any tangles can be worked out with a slicker brush or metal comb. During shedding season, which occurs twice a year, brushing will become a daily activity. The occasional bath will keep the Saint looking and smelling fresh. As with all breeds, the nails should be trimmed regularly, as overly long nails can be painful to the dog and cause problems walking and running.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

EXERCISE

Despite being a large and powerful breed, the St. Bernard only requires a moderate amount of exercise. One long walk or half-hour play session per day should be enough to keep him healthy and happy. Of course, if his owner wants to take longer hikes, or go backpacking or on a camping trip, a Saint is always happy to go along. Saints often enjoy pulling young children in a cart, and some even participate in carting and drafting competitions. A Saint is happiest when he is doing activities together with his owner.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended for all dogs, but are absolutely required for dogs as big and strong as a St. Bernard. Obedience training will help the Saint learn not to jump on people, knock into small children, steal food from the table, and otherwise take advantage of their size. Saints are kind-hearted and eager to please, so they generally start responding to commands as soon they understand what is expected of them. A Saint wants to be with his family, and undesirable behaviors can result if he is regularly left alone for long periods of time.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Friendly

HEALTH

Large and deep-chested breeds can develop bloat, a sudden, life-threatening stomach condition. Saint Bernard owners should learn what signs to look out for, and what actions to take should they occur. Other conditions sometimes seen in the breed include hip dysplasia and eye disease. A Saint can handle hot weather as long as he has a cool place to rest and lots of water, but going from air conditioning to high heat can cause serious distress.

Recommended Health Test from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Degenerative Myelopathy DNA Test

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard History
Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard
Saint Bernard

History

In the year 1050, at a snowy pass within the Alps, a monk named Bernard of Menthon (later canonized) established a hospice to aid pilgrims journeying to Rome. At 8,000 feet above sea level, with drifts as high as 40 feet, crossing the pass was treacherous. Over several centuries the hospice monks developed powerful working dogs able to locate and rescue luckless travelers buried by drifts and avalanches. Myth busted: Dogs of the Great St. Bernard Pass didn’t carry casks of brandy around their necks.

Did You Know?

It seems most possible that the Saint developed from stock that resulted from the breeding of heavy Asian "Molosser" (Canis Molossus), brought to Helvetia (Switzerland) by Roman armies during the first two centuries AD, with native dogs which undoubtedly existed in the region at the time of the Roman invasions.
During the following centuries, these Saint predecessors were widely used in the valley farms and Alpine dairies for a variety of guarding, herding, and drafting duties. They were referred to as Talhunds (Valley dogs) or Bauernhunds (Farm dogs).
The first notation concerning Saints was not until 1707, although it was written casually so as to imply that the breeds' work at the Saint Bernard Pass in between Switzerland and Italy was well known.
The dogs served as guard dogs of the hospice located in the pass (founded by Archdeacon Bernard de Menthon), and the lonely monks, who took the dogs along on their trips of mercy, soon discovered the excellent path finding and scent abilities of the dogs. The dogs' highly developed sense of smell enabled the breed to locate the freezing and helpless during snowstorms. The monks and saints were immortalized in many of the world's most romantic pages of canine history, it is estimated.
It is estimated that during the three centuries of rescue work, the Saints have saved over 2000 lives.
Prior to 1830, all Saint Bernards were shorthaired; it took 2 years of uncommonly severe weather and a dwindling of the Saint breed to convince the monks to outcross the breed with longer-haired dogs, resulting in a long-haired variety.
The Saint Bernard club of America was formed in 1888 as one of the oldest specialty clubs in the United States.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

Powerful, proportionately tall figure, strong and muscular in every part, with powerful head and most intelligent expression. In dogs with a dark mask the expression appears more stern, but never ill-natured.

HEAD

Like the whole body, very powerful and imposing. Nose (Schwamm) – Very substantial, broad, with wide open nostrils, and, like the lips, always black. Ears – Of medium size, rather high set, with very strongly developed burr (Muschel) at the base. They stand slightly away from the head at the base, then drop with a sharp bend to the side and cling to the head without a turn. The flap is tender and forms a rounded triangle, slightly elongated toward the point, the front edge lying firmly to the head, whereas the back edge may stand somewhat away from the head, especially when the dog is at attention. Lightly set ears, which at the base immediately cling to the head, give it an oval and too little marked exterior, whereas a strongly developed base gives the skull a squarer, broader and much more expressive appearance.

BODY

Neck: Set high, very strong and when alert or at attention is carried erect. Otherwise horizontally or slightly downward. The junction of head and neck is distinctly marked by an indentation. The nape of the neck is very muscular and rounded at the sides which makes the neck appear rather short. The dewlap of throat and neck is well pronounced: too strong development, however, is not desirable. Shoulders: Sloping and broad, very muscular and powerful. The withers are strongly pronounced.

COAT

Very dense, short-haired (stockhaarig), lying smooth, tough, without however feeling rough to the touch. The thighs are slightly bushy. The tail at the root has longer and denser hair which gradually becomes shorter toward the tip. The tail appears bushy, not forming a flag.

HINDQUARTERS

Well-developed. Legs very muscular.

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saint bernard illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
BRINDLE GRIZZLE Check Mark For Standard Color 483
BROWN & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 063
MAHOGANY & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 130
ORANGE & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 134
RED & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 146
RUST & WHITE Check Mark For Standard Color 162
WHITE & BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 204
WHITE & ORANGE Check Mark For Standard Color 213
WHITE & RED Check Mark For Standard Color 214

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BLACK MASK Check Mark For Standard Mark 004