Saint Bernard Picture, also called Alpine Mastiff
Canis lupus familiaris

The Saint Bernard is a gentle companion dog, and reknown for its history as a rescue dog!

Used for rescue as early as the seventeenth century, the Saint Bernard is still popularly known today as a rescue dog. This is a very large gentle working dog breed that originated in the Swiss Alps. The name of its progenitor, the Alpine Mastiff (which is now extinct), is also used with the Saint Bernard. Other common names for this breed are Saint Bernhardshund and Bernhardiner

The legacy of this dog breed is recorded first in paintings and drawings in the 1600’s. In the beginning of the 1700’s it was further recorded by monks dwelling in a hospice at the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Western Alps, located between Switzerland and Italy. There, a famous Saint Bernard ancestor called Barry, is known to have rescued somewhere between 40 and 100 people. The name of the pass became the name of these incredible dogs.

The Saint Bernard, bred to rescue people, makes a gentle and loyal companion dog today. They are generally easygoing and friendly. They do very well with children, but they must be socialized while young. They make good watchdogs due to their large size and intelligence. When selecting a Saint Bernard, look for heart, skin, and joint problems and wobbler syndrome.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Canidae
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: lupus familiaris

Common Name(s)

Saint Bernard, Alpine Mastiff, Saint Bernhardshund, Bernhardiner

Breed Type

The Saint Bernard is a working breed. One of the larger breeds, the Saint Bernard has been involved in rescue work. They are best suited to cool climates.


The Saint Bernard was used as a rescue dog as early as the seventeenth century. A descendent of mastiffs, the original Saint Bernard nearly became extinct. The breed was kept going by crossing it with other dogs, possibly including the Great Dane and the Great Pyrenees. Crosses with the Newfoundland brought forth long-haired variety of Saint Bernard.

Today, popular hybrids include the Saint Berdoodle (Saint Bernard and Poodle mix) and the Saint Berner (Saint Bernard and Bernese Mountain Dog mix).


The Saint Bernard is a large, muscular breed. Rough and smooth coats are acceptable. The thick coats come in white with tan, red, mahogany, brindle or black markings, and in black. The ears are mid-length, and they eyes and nose dark. Both sexes are usually 25 �½ to 27 �½ inches tall and weigh 110-200 pounds. But as long as weight is in proportion to height, larger dogs are acceptable.

Care and Feeding

Saint Bernards’ diets should include lamb, wheat and potato. Regular combing and brushing will keep your Saint Bernard’s coat looking great. Baths should be given with mild soap, and only when necessary.
Saint Bernards need annual checkups to stay healthy. Vaccinations are due as follows:

  • 6-8 weeks: Distemper, Leptospirosis, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo, and Corona virus (DHLPPC)
  • 10-12 weeks: Second DHLPPC
  • 14-16 weeks: Third DHLPPC and rabies
  • Annually: DHLPPC and rabies booster

Saint Bernards shed twice a year. Regular vacuuming is essential during these times.

Housing Your Dog

Saint Bernards can live outside, but they prefer to remain in close proximity to their families. They can do well in an apartment if they get ample exercise.

Social Behaviors

Saint Bernards are generally easygoing and friendly, but they must be socialized while young. They do very well with children.

Handling and Training

Training a Saint Bernard is easy, but its size can be a problem. It is advisable to start as young as possible.


Saint Bernards need daily walks to stay in shape. They should not be overworked as puppies, however.


When selecting a mate for your Saint Bernard, check bloodlines for joint dysplasia, bone cancer, eye disorders, heart and skin problems, and epilepsy.

Common Health Problems

The Saint Bernard is prone to bloat. It is best to feed a few small meals each day to help prevent this.


Saint Bernards are reasonably easy to find. If there are no local breeders, they can be found online. Prices vary greatly, and are sometimes in excess of $1,000.


Featured Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock