Find out why is the Saint Bernard dog also called the gentle giant
The Saint Bernard - History
The Saint Bernard is one of the worlds’ most popular and beloved dog breeds. The Saint Bernard is popularly called “the gentle giant”. This breed originated in Switzerland where they were often used as farm dogs, but the breed was named after the isolated Hospice of the Great Saint Bernard Pass where were found records and paintings of Saint Bernard-like dogs that date back to 1707 and even earlier. The Saint Bernard Pass is a well-known alpine pass that lies roughly 8,000 feet above sea level and can only be traveled between July and September. These dogs were used to rescue travelers lost in this pass, in the Alps, between Italy and Switzerland. Saint Bernards brought those lost travelers to the hospice and were taken care of. These dogs were also used by the hospice monks to guard the grounds.
The most famous St. Bernard rescue dog was named Barry. Barry is believed to have saved between 40 and 100 travelers. Because of this, there was a time when the breed was even called "Barry" dogs.
FUN FACT: The Saint Bernard is Switzerland's national dog.
DID YOU KNOW? Contrary to popular opinion, Saint Bernards never wore a miniature brandy keg around their necks. Although the brandy keg is a symbol of the breed, this was only a product of artistic license taken by a painter Edwin Landseer, who painted a portrait of the breed while visiting Switzerland.
The Saint Bernard - Information
The Saint Bernard is a member of the Mastiff family. It is a giant-size breed and a male usually reaches 28-30 inches at the shoulder and weighs 140 to 180 pounds. Females are 26 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weigh 120 to 140 pounds.
The Saint Bernard is affectionate, gentle, calm and patient. They make wonderful family pets and go along great with children. However, they are not recommended for very young children because of their size; they could accidentally knock over and hurt small child. This is also a reason why you should always supervise interactions between young children and St. Bernards, as well as with small pets. St. Bernards are even-tempered and sweet-natured so they generally get on well with other animals and would rarely be the ones to start a fight. They rarely show signs of aggression, and if they do, it is because they are trying to protect their family. Saint Bernards create strong bonds with their family members and sometimes can be overly protective of their family. This is also why they don’t like to be left alone for too long. They are a good choice for big families where there is always at least one person at home at all times.
They are not suited to live outside the house. Also, they are not recommended for anyone who is house proud because they shed and drool (a lot).
The Saint Bernard - Grooming
The Saint Bernard is strong, powerful and muscular dog with large, imposing head and short muzzle. Eyes are dark colored and always have gentle and kind look. The forehead is wrinkled. His ears are quite large and lie close to a dog's cheeks. The Saint Bernard has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite. The rest of the body is strong, well-muscled and covered with thick coat. There are two coat types: shorthaired and longhaired. The shorthaired one is smooth but dense. The longhaired coat is slightly wavy (but never curly). Both coats come in various shades of white with red or red with white markings on the chest, around the neck, around the nose, on the feet and on the tip of the tail. Both varieties shed heavily in spring and fall. You should brush your Saint Bernard at least a couple of times a week to keep the shedding under control. You should brush shorthaired St. Bernard with a rubber curry brush or hound glove while longhaired St. Bernard should be brushed with a pin brush.
Saint Bernards often develop stains around their eyes so it is important to wipe the eyes daily to remove eye stains. You can use a soft, damp cloth or pads soaked in a product formulated to remove eye stains and keep the eyes clean, which reduces the chance of any painful sores developing.
Brush your Saint's teeth at least two or three times a week. That will keep the dog’s teeth healthy and in a good condition. Trim his nails when the dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Check ears regularly and clean them with a cotton ball, using an ear cleaner.
The Saint Bernard – Training
Because the Saint Bernard is a very large dog, it is important to start training him at an early age. You don’t wont to end up with a dog this big pulling you wherever he wants to go and dragging you down the sidewalk in his eagerness to greet people. These dogs tend to be stubborn sometimes, so you need to lay down some ground rules, and be consistent in requiring that the dog follow them. Luckily, they are also pretty eager to please their people, so training should not be a problem. They usually start responding to commands as soon they understand what is expected of them (they are intelligent but known as “slow thinkers”).
It is also important to socialize the Saint Bernard well. Expose your Saint Bernard to different people, sounds and sights to make sure he grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
The Saint Bernard – Exercise
The Saint Bernard’s exercise needs are modest. This dog is happy and satisfied with few moderate walks a day. They do well in cold weather and love to play and romp in the snow. Heat, however, is not their favorite. Saint Bernards suffer from heat exhaustion quite easily. During hot weather keep an eye on your Saint Bernard – search for any sign of heatstroke (heavy panting, dark-red gums, weakness or collapse), make daily walks shorter, and make sure that the dog always has access to shade and plenty of fresh water.
Keep in mind that Saint Bernards puppies should never be over exercised because their joint and bones are still growing. If there is too much pressure on their joints at an early age, they can develop joint problems later in life.
The Saint Bernard – Health
The Saint Bernard breed has a heartbreakingly short life span of approximately 7 to 10 years. This is common to most very large breeds. Saint Bernards are prone to specific health issues associated with their size. These issues are: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat, epilepsy, eye problems such as cataracts (opacity on the lens of the eye) and entropion (rolling in of the eyelids), dilated cardiomyopathy (hearth condition that develops when the heart muscle becomes very thin), osteochondrosis (an inherited orthopedic problem), etc.
These dogs are prone to obesity too. Make sure to keep an eye on a dog's weight and, if needed, adjust their daily calorie intake and exercise them properly.
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