Saint Bernard

  • Overview

    The Saint Bernard is a giant breed. They are often over two feet tall and weigh up to 200 pounds. Despite their size, they are gentle giants who are calm and quiet in their homes.

    Despite their intimidating size and sloppy habits, Saint Bernards want nothing more than to be loved and cared for by their family. With consistent attention that will help your dog feel like he's part of the action and frequent grooming to manage his mess, the Saint Bernard makes an affectionate family companion.

  • Personality

    The Saint Bernard is known for being a big ball of oafish enthusiasm. This characterization is not entirely accurate. Even though the Saint Bernard is not the most tidy or graceful of breeds, they are generally quite calm and even-tempered. They love to greet their families and hate to be left alone — Saint Bernards want to be around their families constantly. These gigantic dogs are only clumsy and blustery accidentally. It is always a good idea to supervise large dogs' playtime with children, but they will never do anything to harm those they love. They are especially docile with children, but they can be aloof and protective around strangers.

    Although they are large dogs, they do not require a lot of exercise. In fact, they might need some encouragement to get up off the couch. Their large size and heavy coats make them reluctant, somewhat uncomfortable joggers, so they prefer romping in the snow and stretching out on the couch with their owners. Training requires patience, if only because the Saint Bernard's large size requires that he spend some extra time learning manners and caution. At first, Saint Bernards will meet commands with their inquisitive, sensitive expressions, but with kind, thoughtful training they will soon strive to please their owners.

  • Coat Care

    The Saint Bernard's coat can be either short-haired or long-haired. Short-haired Saint Bernards have short, dense coats that are smooth to the touch. Long-haired Saint Bernards do not have curly or shaggy hair, but their coats are slightly wavier than their short-haired friends'. No matter the variety, they will shed twice a year. Their coats range in color from deep brown to brownish-yellow, but all Saint Bernards have white markings all over their bodies. They will frequently track mud or debris through your house, either on their large paws or long coats, and they shed and drool seemingly continuously.

Brushing

Saint Bernards need to be brushed about three times a week to prevent their coats from becoming messy and unruly. Long-haired Saint Bernards should be brushed with a pin brush to remove excess hair, but short-haired Saint Bernards can be brushed with a glove or a rubber brush. When they shed, a shedding comb will help manage the copious piles of hair that will fall right off their big bodies. Saint Bernards are not the most tidy of dogs, so both you and your pet will appreciate your efforts to help him stay tidy.

Bathing

Saint Bernards will benefit from quick brushings and short baths with detangling shampoo to help them stay clean and beautiful. It will also help you manage their messy tendencies.

Hair Clipping

Clipping or trimming your dog’s coat is far easier than you would ever imagine. With the right clipper, trimmer and scissors, giving your dog a haircut is easy on your wallet and your schedule.

Dogs with heavy coats generally require routine trimming around the face, ears, feet and behind to help them stay comfortable. You do not need to clip or trim the body hair because it acts as insulation for your dog in cold weather and helps cool him off in warm weather.  It’s a good idea to take your dog for a short walk to calm him down before you groom him. Thoroughly brush the coat to remove any tangles and mats. Use trimmers to trim excess fur off the dog's body, choosing the appropriate clip attachment to achieve desired length. Trim around the tail, paws, sanitary areas and chest, if needed. Groom the head and face last, being watchful for sudden movement. Trim with the flow of the fur, away from the eyes and nose.

Nails

Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

Eyes / Ears

Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.

It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Small dogs, like Pomeranians, and dogs with extremely profuse coats, like Newfoundlands, American Eskimo Dogs and Keeshonds, have ears that need to be checked weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. Small dogs like Pomeranians and Pekingese, and dogs with white coats like American Eskimo Dogs and Samoyeds, are prone to developing tear stains around their eyes, so clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes.

Teeth

Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.

Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.