The Saint Bernard

In keeping with the legend, this lovely giant with his uncanny sense of smell can find lost people in snow. He can also be trained to lie by a lost victim to give warmth until help arrives. There are two varieties (the long-haired and the short-haired). Expect moderate to heavy grooming and light trimming on the long-haired, light to moderate grooming on the short-haired. Moderate shedding on both.

Short-haired is thick, smooth, tough, bushy tail; long-haired is medium length on body, shorter on head and ears, curls lightly.

white with red, red with white, or brindle with white.

Dog, minimum 27 1/2"; bitch, minimum 25 1/2"/ 121 - 176 1/2 lbs.

A quick learner, normal animals love everyone, including lively children. Gentle and mild-mannered. Somewhat inactive indoors, needs lots of outdoor exercise. Recently puppy mills have bred unstable animals; know your breeder before buying.

Winning traits:
Overall a powerful giant with a very intelligent expression; head is massive, wide, and has a furrowed and wrinkled brow and short, straight muzzle with ample flews; ears are high-set on head and fold so that the outer edge is away from head and inner edge lies close to face; legs are extremely strong-boned, powerful, and straight; body is very broad and has a moderately deep chest; tail is natural and heavy like the rest of the animal, and has a gentle curve.

Too many wrinkles in face, over/undershot jaw, eyelids that are too saggy, eyes that are too red or are too light-colored; tail that is carried over back or is too erect, back that is sway or too long, cowhocks, elbows that bow out.

May develop hip dysplasia, may be troubled with digestive problems, prone to snoring.

Price range:
$300 - $600

Understanding the Saint Bernard

A Saint is not for everyone

Too many people make an impulse dog purchase only to discover ten months later that buying a puppy was a big mistake. With a lovable giant-size breed, such as the Saint Bernard, this happens all too often. Typically, a well-meaning person falls in love with a 20 pound bundle of Saint Bernard love, only to discover that dog ownership takes a whole lot more time and commitment than he or she had ever imagined. The Saint puppy continues to grow and begins to become unruly - but no one has time to train the poor little guy to be a good family member. As the puppy's size increases, its behaviors are less tolerated and, eventually, it ends up permanently in the backyard. Separated from its family, the Saint is a very miserable dog indeed. Banished to the backyard and never allowed in the house, it is usually only a short time before the Saint ends up in the shelter where, as an adult dog, its chances of finding a second home are slim to none.

The Pros and cons of the Saint Bernard

The Saint Bernard is a true working dog and, with rare exceptions, is easily trainable, intelligent, and has a pleasant, stable temperament. (can you imagine the disasters that an unruly, independent-minded Saint could have made carting fragile eggs, milk, and cheese to market?) There is nothing that makes a Saint happier than to be asked to perform a chore for its owner and receive praise for a job well done.

With Children:
When raised with children, Saints are renowned for their infinite patience and understanding. Because of its large size, the Saint Bernard has no fear of being squeezed too hard by a toddler's enthusiastic hug or accidentally squished by and inadvertent tumble. However, parents that want to make a Saint a part of the family should be aware of a few things. One is that the size of the adult Saint might intimidate some children. Also, an enthusiastic greeting from a dog this size could bowl a child over - or unwittingly knock it down the steps. A parent with small children must be vigilant in supervising dog-child play. If you can't supervise, separate. Additionally, parents should teach their children at a very early age how to be gentle and kind to a dog, which includes not riding the dog like a horse. Also, many parents misinterpret the puppy teething stage of a sweet Saint as aggressive behavior. From two to four months, it is quite natural for a young puppy to mouth an adult's or child's hand. Mouthing is much different from biting. Unfortunately, a Saint's teeth are like little needles and can frighten a small toddler. Most breeders recommend always supervising (or separating) puppies and toddlers or young children until the puppy has finished its teething to avoid any frights. When the puppy has finished its teething, most small children and Saint puppies get along fabulously.

Even though the breed as a whole gets high marks in the temperament department, there is no denying that there are some Saints with quirky or unreliable temperaments. Obviously, a full-grown Saint Bernard with a nasty temperament is not something that can be tolerated. Conscientious breeders work very hard to perpetuate the legendary, loving Saint temperament; however, you cannot count on this same effort from inexperienced or uncaring breeders. Therefore, it is always advisable to carefully screen prospective puppy or adult Saint for any temperament problems.

Fear biting is one of the most common reasons for injuries from dogs. And, though aggression is rather rare in Saints, fearfulness or shyness is not. If you have children or if you are an inexperienced owner, it is best to avoid a shy Saint, whether it's a puppy or an adult.

Long ago, Saints were kept to guard property and flocks. Sometimes, this protectiveness will surface in a Saint today. However, you should not buy a Saint as a guard or watch dog. In fact, any protective behaviors should be strongly discouraged. To encourage your dog to do anything more would be like loading a handgun. Don't do it.

Alpha Dominance:
Saints generally are quite easygoing and don't try to exert their dominance over other household pets. In fact, they often don't realize their size and will let a toy dog or cat rule the roost, so to speak. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and there are, on occasion, those dogs that will want to test the pecking order in your household. With a 130 - to 200-plus-pound dog, there should be no question as to who is the boss. You are! In fact, the dog must realize that even an unsteady toddler ranks higher than it does. Immediately enrolling your Saint puppy in puppy kindergarten is a great way to gently - but firmly - instill the notion that the dog is at the bottom of the totem pole.

Separation anxiety:
Saints absolutely adore their people. A Saint makes no judgment calls. They love us all. However, because Saints love their people so much, a pet owner cannot expect to keep a Saint relegated to the backyard. They are not outside dogs. Saints need human companionship. A Saint will want to be part of your everyday life, from going to get the groceries and picking up the kids from school to lying at your feet while you watch the evening news.

Activity level:
Once the Saint Bernard has passed the puppy stage (which can take up to two years), it usually has a fairly low activity level.

By nature, the Saint Bernard is a very amicable canine - unless it is neglected and becomes bored. Alone, the bored Saint can think of all sorts of things to do. Inside your house, it might chew on your door frames or the corners of your cherry cabinets (just a little nibble here and there). Left unattended outside, a bored Saint may bark (usually to the annoyance of the neighbors) or dig a backhoe-size trench in your garden (remember how well it could dig out avalanche victims in the Alps?). These problems can usually be avoided, however, by simply making your Saint a loving member of the family and using a crate whenever leaving your Saint unattended at home.

Saints are a fairly healthy breed; however, there are some health-problems that can occur, some more frequently than others. For instance, Saints are in the top 10 of breeds that are susceptible to bloat. They are also subject to hip and elbow dysplasia, along with other joint problems. Extropion, entropion, epilepsy, heart conditions, and other ailments can occur, too. Conscientious breeders spend a considerable amount of time trying to eliminate hereditary problems in order to produce puppies that are physically sound and robustly healthy.

With a giant breed, you absolutely cannot put off obedience training. From the moment you bring home that eight-week-old puppy, you must begin its schooling. There are no exceptions to this rule. If you don't have the time to take your puppy to puppy kindergarten and involve the entire family with its training, you probably should consider a less demanding breed. The reason why a Saint needs immediate training is that it simply grows so fast that the situation easily can be out of control in a matter of weeks. The good news is that the Saint is a very trainable dog. The Saint is not a hard head, and actually is rather "soft", getting its feelings hurt easily.

Coat Maintenance:
All Saints shed. In the spring, they lose their winter coats and the summer coat grows in. In the fall, the summer coat falls out and the winter coat grows in. During the "off season", Saints are continually losing dead hair and replacing these lost hairs with new hair. Translated, this means that even in "non-shedding" season you will still have hair everywhere unless you brush. Long-haired coats can be quite a challenge. This coat requires daily grooming, often taking 15 minutes or more a day. If the dog is not groomed daily, its coat will soon become matted, and the dog can develop a host of skin problems related to this lack of care. Baths are required about once a month or so for both coat lengths and are fairly simple; however, drying out the soft, downy under coat may take some time! And finding a bath area for a fully grown Saint can be a challenge. People who live in temperate climates can always give a warm-water bath in the driveway; those who live in the northern states will have to decide which bathtub is best during cooler weather and who is going to clean out all the hair afterward.

If you're not used to a dog that can shake its head and throw gobs of drool up your walls, be prepared. Saints do not have dry mouths. They drool when they are hot. They drool when they get excited. They drool when they exercise. They drool when they're hungry. They drool when they eat. And some Saints, but very few, just drool. In addition, a Saint's loose lips are not very good at keeping a tidy area at dinner time. Food tends to go everywhere. Drinking is very similar to scooping up a ladleful of water and pouring it out everywhere. Of course, these drawbacks all have solutions - such as keeping a towel and hand vacuum cleaner handy - but it takes an understanding and loving owner to overlook some of the minor inconveniences that might be caused by his or her beloved Saint.

Heat Stroke:
It stands to reason that a dog with a heavy coat isn't going to handle heat well. Saints are no exception, and even shaving their beautiful coat doesn't help. They were bred for centuries in an area of the world that measures its snowfalls in feet and considers a hot summer one that hits a scorching 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Saints are also a giant breed and have such an immense body that it is difficult for them to cool themselves efficiently (through panting). For these reasons, a Saint cannot be left outside on a hot day even if there is shade. Any activity in conditions such as this could cause a heat stroke. And never ever should a Saint be left in the car with the windows rolled up or partially open on a warm day. On hot days. a Saint is best left in a nice cool area of an air-conditioned house, preferably in front of a fan or near an air conditioning duct. Likewise, a Saint cannot survive the freezing cold. If you are outside playing with your Saint during cold weather, it will be able to keep itself warm while it's active. When it is inactive, your Saint needs to come inside and cuddle up in front of a warm fireplace with its family. Remember, if it is too cold for you to be outside for any length of time, it is also too cold for your Saint.

Life Span:
Giant-size breeds usually have a rather short life span. Though a Saint Bernard may live as long as eleven or twelve years, the more typical life span hovers around eight to ten years. Feeding your Saint high-quality food, giving it the very best in veterinary care, and providing it with a safe and loving home are all factors that will help the longevity of your Saint; however, the predisposition to a short life span does exist and needs to be realized.

Infectious Diseases:

With today's vaccines, there's little reason for your Saint to suffer from many infectious diseases. But, to get this protection, you must get your Saint vaccinated! You must also follow your veterinarian's advice on when your Saint should be vaccinated and with what vaccines. Depending on the age of your Saint and the area of the country in which you live, the vaccination schedule of your Saint may vary slightly from that of a Saint of another age in a different region.

Parvo Virus:
This virus is a known puppy killer. It is a highly contagious viral infection that strikes young puppies more than adult dogs. Unvaccinated dogs of all ages, however, can become infected. There are two forms of parvo virus: One is gastrointestinal; the other is a coronary form. A dog that is sick with gastrointestinal parvo virus will be lethargic and have little appetite. It will also have vomiting and extremely severe diarrhea. The parvo virus that attacks the dog's gastrointestinal tract is difficult to treat. The myocardial form affects the puppy's heart muscles. Pups with this form have difficulty breathing, often pulling off while nursing and gasping for breath. The coronary form does not have a treatment and death can be rapid. Often pups that manage to survive die a few months later from chronic congestive heart failure. Infected dogs shed the virus in copious amounts through their stools. Unfortunately, the virus can live for up to six months. Your puppy should receive its first vaccination against parvo virus at six to eight weeks. The puppy then needs to be given a booster every two to three weeks until it is five months old. Adult dogs will receive an annual booster.

Carona Virus:
This is another known killer that preys on puppies but can infect adults as well. A puppy or dog with carona virus may have diarrhea, vomiting, and excessive thirst. The puppy or dog may also be listless, suffer from weight loss, and have a loss of appetite.

Rabies is generally transmitted by a bite from an infected animal. Fox, skunks, raccoons, and bats are often infected with rabies. Once infected, the animal typically begins showing symptoms between two to eight weeks after being bitten. The classic signs of a dropped jaw and foaming mouth result from the paralysis of the dog's throat and muzzle. Once the signs of the disease appear, the animal usually dies within a week from respiratory paralysis. Since rabies attacks central nervous system, after the death of the animal the brain may be examined for sign of infection to confirm rapidity. Though your Saint may never be bitten by a rabid bat or catch a rabid fox, why risk it? Rabies vaccinations should be given to your Saint at about 14 weeks of age, followed by a booster shot every one to three years, depending on the type of vaccination given.

This highly infectious viral disease that affects the respiratory and nervous systems of an animal is responsible for more deaths among unvaccianted young puppies than any other disease. Unvaccinated adults are also at risk. Distemper is a virus that can infect a variety of animals. In the first stages of the disease, it will appear that he has a cold. Its eyes and ears will progress from being quite watery to having a thick discharge. It will most likely have a fever, be off its feed, and perhaps act lethargic and listless. As the disease progresses, the puppy gets much sicker, with coughing, diarrhea, and nasty, pus-filled blisters on its stomach. If the disease is not immediately treated, it can progress to the dog's brain, which means almost certain death. Your puppy's first vaccination against distemper should occur between the ages of five to eight weeks. Your veterinarian will then follow up with a series of booster shots until your pup has gained an immunity to the disease. As an adult your Saint will receive an annual booster for distemper.

Bordetella or Kennel Cough:
Vaccination agains kennel cough used to be recommended mostly to people who planned on boarding or showing their dogs. However, since you will be exposing your Saint regularly to other dogs through puppy classes, obedience classes, and a good socialization program, you will want to protect your puppy and adult from this annoying, persistent, and potentially dangerous respiratory infection. The bacteria that cause the disease are airborne. It is treatable through antibiotics and cough suppressants, however, it is much less expensive and problem-free to vaccinate and prevent the problem from ever happening.

Canine Hepatitis:
Humans cannot catch this type of hepatitis from their dogs, however, it can kill a dog. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and pain in the abdominal area. The disease can cause severe kidney damage or even death. Fortunately, hepatitis can be prevented with a vaccine that should be administered to your puppy along with its vaccinations for distemper, parvo virus and coronavirus.

Regional diseases:
In addition to the above-mentioned disease, there are other bacterial and viral diseases that are regional in nature. Leptospriosis and Lyme disease are two such examples that are limited to certain regions. be sure to consult with your veterinarian on any additional diseases that could be contracted in your area, and follow his or her vaccination advice.

Strep Throat:
If you have repeated occurrences of strep throat among family members, have your dog checked by a veterinarian. Sometimes dogs can carry the streptococcus bacteria without apparent ill effects - sometimes only a postnasal drip. However, this is enough to infect your family members. So, if sore throats are going around your clan, your Saint may be the culprit.

Parasites - inside and out
They're in the park, in the grass, in the mud, and they're most likely in your yard. You can't see most of them, but they're out there. And they are just waiting to latch onto a host and begin replicating and reproducing. Protect your Saint inside and out from these nasty parasites through regular veterinary exams and a vigilant eye.

Those nasty worms:
There's no such thing as a good parasitic worm, but it's easier to rid your dog of some than others. A dog can become infected by smelling stools, ingesting contaminated soil, eating rodents or other wild animals infected with worms, or even swallowing a flea. In general, always maintain an immaculately clean backyard (pick up immediately), try not to allow any dirt patches to develop in your dog's area, and do not allow your dog to sniff or sample (yuck) other dog's stools. In addition, it may be advisable in some areas of the country to give your Saint a regular wormer such as those offered in combination with heartworm preventive. The following are the most common forms of worms, their effects, how to treat an infected dog, and , of course, how to prevent an infestation whenever possible.

These worms are very common, especially in puppies. The infestation is passed from animal to animal via eggs in the feces. A heavy infestation can be very damaging to puppies, and isn't healthy for adults either. A dog with roundworms may have a potbelly, dull coat, weight loss, and vomiting and/or diarrhea. Roundworms are also preventable; some heartworm preventatives contain additional preventives for roundworms as well. Of special note is the fact that roundworms can be passed on to humans.

If a dog has tapeworms, you will probably see bits of tapeworm segments in the stools or rice-like cratures crawling around the anal region. Dogs can become infested by ingesting an intermediate host, for example, a flea, rodent, or rabbit harboring tapeworm eggs. An adult tapeworm infection is normally not life-threatening; however, some dogs may have vomiting and diarrhea. Treatment for tapeworms is through worming. Unfortunately, tapeworms can also infect humans.

These guys are nasty. The adult hookworms attach themselves to the small intestine and suck blood. Anemia, diarrhea, and bloody stools are usually indicators of hookworms. The worms are transmitted through fecal contamination and penetration of the skin by hookworm larvae. There is heartworm preventives available that contain additional medications to prevent hookworms. Hookworms can infect humans who either ingest eggs or inadvertently expose their skin to hookworm larvae. If a person sits down on a damp, sandy beach where a dog has previously defecated, the larvae can actually pierce the skin and begin to travel under the skin. A thick itchy red line will appear where the larvae is migrating. both conditions require immediate medical attention.

Whipworms are tough. They're hard to diagnose through fecal samples because the eggs aren't shed on a continual basis through the dog's feces. Once diagnosed, they are also very difficult to get rid of. Because the eggs can live through some extreme weather temperatures, they can infect a dog several years after another dog has shed them. It is also possible to keep reinfecting with eggs that the same host shed months ago. Whipworm infestations can be prevented through a monthly combination heartworm preventive.

They are spread by infected mosquitoes that pass along heartworm microfilariae into the dog's bloodstream. For these microfilariae to develop into fullfledged worms, another mosquito must bite the dog and withdraw some microfilariae into its system, allowing the microfilariae to develop into the "infective laral stage" - a process that takes 10 days or so. When the infected mosquito bites the next dog, it infects the new wound with larvae ready to develop into adult worms. As the larvae mature into adults, they migrate from the dog's skin to it's pulmonary arteries, where they rest and begin to reproduce. When the worms reach the dog's lungs and heart, their presence causes a persistent cough. A dog with a heavy infestation may pass out from moderate exercise. Other symptoms include weight loss, coughing up blood, general listlessness, and weakness. To test for heartworm, a blood sample is taken and analyzed for any antigens and microfilariae that might be circulating in the bloodstream. A dog diagnosed with heartworm can be treated; however, the success of the currently available treatments depends much on the extend of the infestation, the dog's age, and its overall health and vitality. In some cases, the treatment may be worse - or more deadly - than the disease. Prevention is much much easier than any treatment could possibly be. Given in a monthly chewy treat that dogs like to eat - or a daily tablet - they are simple to give and effective.

External Parasites:

These annoying little parasites have been around since prehistoric times. Besides being annoying, fleas can transmit infectious diseases. Resilient and difficult to eradicate, fleas have adapted well to their changing environment. In warm climates, fleas are a year-round problem. In cold climates, there is at least a winter break. With the Saint's lush coat, fleas can be particularly difficult to find unless you use a flea comb on a regular basis. However, because fleas can be hard to detect initially, it is especially important that a Saint owner keep a vigilant eye out for the little beasts and take routine preventive measures. there's nothing worse than the discovery that you and your Saint aren't the only victims in the house - that your rugs, carpets, couches, and bed are infested with bloodsucking parasites. In order for an immature flea to become sexually mature and reproduce, it must first have a meal of blood. Flea bites can cause a range of reactions depending on the sensitivity of the animal and the population of the fleas. Dogs may itch to the point where they self-inflict wounds from scratching. Others may actually have an allergic reaction to the flea bite, with just one bite making the dog ill. Unless your animal AND it's environment are treated, your efforts have been in vain. Because no one product takes care of the eggs, larvae, immature fleas AND adults, your vet may prescribe a combination of products.

Ticks are disgusting little bloodsucking parasites. The enzymes in a tick's saliva can cause a reaction in sensitive dogs, typically swelling, but in some cases paralysis. Tick bites can be quite deep and can develop into secondary bacterial infection. Depending on the type of tick doing the biting, the tick could also be the carrier of a host of diseases. Mostly, ticks will migrate to your dog's neck, ears, and head area, where the blood flows closer to the surface of the skin. If you find a tick, remove it immediately with tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the head as possible (if you leave the head in, the wound may become infected), and pull straight to the top without twisting. To kill the tick, drop it into a cup filled with alcohol, gasoline, or turpentine. Wash the tick bite area with soap and water and apply antiseptic, such as rubbing alcohol.

There are five common forms of mites that can cause your Saint discomfort or even great pain.

They live on the skin's surface and are the cause of what is commonly referred to as "walking dandruff."

They live in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands and are bad news. Their presence causes a red, hairless condition called demodectic or "red' mange.

They burrow under the skin to lay their eggs - a condition that is very itchy - causing sarcoptic mange.

Mite larvae or Chiggers:
They can be picked up by your dog while romping in the woods or playing in areas of thick vegetation. The larvae's saliva causes swelling and itchiness that lasts long after the larvae are gone.

Ear mites:
Cause the infected dog to produce copious amounts of gritty, dark ear wax along with having unbearably itchy and sometimes painful ears.

For each type of mite, there is a specific medication or course of action that your veterinarian may use to eradicate the little buggers. If you suspect a form of mite is bothering your dog, get it to the vet's office!

Those that can Kill:

Saint Bernards are predisposed to it. A dog's stomach becomes distended or bloated with swallowed air and the stomach twists so that nothing can flow from it into the small intestine. This twisting, in turn, affects the small intestine and the supplying blood vessels. Within a few hours, GDV can bring an otherwise healthy Saint to the point of death. If the dog receives immediate veterinary care, its chances for survival will be much greater. There is evidence that risk factors could include the type of dog food consumed (dry), the manner in which the food was consumed (in great quantity, at a different time than normal, or with copious amounts of water along with eating), and the general temperament of the dog (fearful, stressful). At the present time, the current recommendation to try to avoid a bout with bloat is to break up your Saint's feeding into two or three small meals spaced evenly throughout the day. Keeping a fresh supply of water available at all times will help to prevent it from gorging on water. It is also advisable not to feed or allow a lot of water within an hour before or after vigorous exercise. It's important that you recognize the signs of bloat:
swollen or distended stomach
rapid, shallow panting or breathing
a weak pulse
gums that are either pale, very red or blue
If your Saint ever displays some or all of these symptoms, get it immediately to a veterinarian!

Cancer is not uncommon among aging Saints and can even crop up in middle-aged (three-to six year old) dogs. The cancers that are most common are mammary, lymphatic and bone. Because these cancers occur in Saints, it is important to make it a regular practice to check your dog for lumps, bumps, or swelling every time you groom it. If you notice anything suspicious, have your vet check it out.

Heart Disease:
Heart disease can be either congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life. Some forms of heart disease give the owner clues that something is wrong with the suffering dog; other forms of heart disease are more elusive and can cause sudden death.

Unfortunately, epilepsy is reportedly on the rise within the Saint Bernard breed. Epilepsy is not an acquired disease but rather the malfunctioning of neurons which causes seizures. Loss of consciousness, stiff limbs followed by "paddling" movements, salivation, crying, and loss of bowel control may occur during a seizure.There are many causes for seizures - other than epilepsy - including exposure to some poisons, an infection, disease, or a traumatic injury. Epilepsy is treated with drug therapy.

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