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Lost in the Alps? You need a St. Bernard

Saint Bernard dogs are said to have originated in monasteries located in a pass through the Alps between Italy and Switzerland. This pass is now known as The Great Saint Bernard Pass. There are great tales of rescue by the Saint Bernard, but their original purpose was more likely companionship for the monks, both at the hospice and on their own searches for people who were lost or injured in the snow. It was said that the Saint Bernard could sense avalanches coming, so they were able to warn the monks of impending danger.

These dogs eventually learned to do the rescue work on their own and would travel in packs of two or three looking for those in need of help. Even if someone were buried in the snow, the Saint would sniff the person out, dig to him, and lie beside him to keep him warm, while the other dog would return to the hospice for help. Smart dogs, those Saints!

Saint Bernard Characteristics
The Saint Bernard is known for its loyalty and vigilance and is tolerant of both children and animals. Because of these traits, it has become a family dog. They also make good watchdogs, as their size can be startling to strangers, though their temperament is mild. Today, everyone easily recognizes the Saint Bernard at first sight! The AKC standard for the Saint Bernard calls for the Saint to stay true to the original standard of the hospice dog. The Saint is a large breed, a member of the working group. They are strong and muscular, with a powerful head. Males should be at least 27½” tall, females at least 25½” tall. They weigh between 120 and 200 lbs.

The Saint Bernard muzzle is short, and his jowls hang slightly (yes, they drool). Their eyes should be medium sized, dark brown, and deep set. They should hold an intelligent, friendly expression. The Saint’s ears are medium-sized and hang close to the head, though they may perk up when the Saint is interested in something.

The long hair Saint (rough coat) should resemble the short hair Saint (smooth coat) in every way except for hair length. Interestingly, the longhaired Saint Bernard was created by outcrossing to the Newfoundland, but rather than keeping the dogs warmer, the weight of the snow hanging on their coat hindered their progress.

Saint Bernard Temperament
The Saint Bernard is one of the gentle giants of the canine world. They are docile beasts that are good around children (who are old enough to handle the Saint’s size), and though they aren’t overly playful, they are sweet and affectionate and like to be around their people. They are smart and extremely loyal. Saints can have a stubborn streak, so puppy-training classes are recommended for every Saint Bernard; but they are also very eager to please and respond well to positive, consistent training. You won’t have a better friend than your Saint!


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