Spotlight on the St. Bernard

by C. Finkbeiner | June 4th, 2015 | Dogs, Spotlight

st. bernard (400x400)Meet the enormous dog with softest heart, the famous St. Bernard.

The dog is named after Saint Bernard of Menthon, a Catholic saint who established hospice for poor and sick travelers within the Alps.  St. Bernards are working dogs whom were originally bred to rescue humans. Throughout history St. Bernards were used in mountain range areas to rescue victims of avalanches. This is why some depictions of St. Bernards include a barrel worn around the neck attached to the collar. In the past, these barrels would contain whiskey or water for the rescue team (this is no longer a practice). But carrying cargo wasn’t their only talent. These heroes are strong enough to reach and pull a snow covered adult out of a pile.

St. Bernards are Giant Dogs that when full grown can reach weights as heavy as 275lbs, and height as tall as 3 feet. If he stands on his hind legs, he can stand as high as 6 feet tall. Females generally are slightly smaller in frame, but are just as tough and strong as males.

St. Bernards are a highly recognizable breed. Most St. Bernards have a “mask” of dark fur around their eyes, and a “blanket” coat of darker fur on their backs. However there are several variations of markings due to crossbreeding over the centuries. These beautiful dogs have been used in film and art for centuries. More recently, the film series Beethoven introduced a generation to the lovable slobbering breed. Whereas in contrast, Stephen King’s Cujo showed audiences a darker, rabies infected, fictional version of the dog.

Their size may be intimidating at first, but there isn’t a mean bone in the bodies of these gentle giants. St. Bernards make great companions for all ages. They are great watch dogs and guard dogs. But they will not attack unless they are being threatened, or their masters are in danger. They are especially good with children and will protect them closely. As rescue dogs, St. Bernards are also instinctively vocal with an intention to warn. Their barks are deep and heavy, and indicate approaching danger, or distress if someone is visibly injured or hurt. The bark is definitely bigger than the bite. They are lovers, not fighters.

As puppies they can be rambunctious, but they tend to slow down as they grow larger. Although their size can physically limit them with speed and energy, they are not above being big babies. They will sit with you on the couch, or across your lap if you let them. However, they are very easy to train. They do well with short, simple commands to serve an immediate purpose. If need be, they will spring into action, but will need plenty of rest to recuperate. These lazy pups love being an active member of the family, and they are very attached to their masters.

If you want a human sized dog to cuddle with, the St. Bernard is a perfect match.

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