Saint Bernard Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Saint Bernard Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013
A well-bred Saint Bernard is calm, sensible, and patient. Some are more outgoing, others more introspective.
Adult Saint Bernards are calm and quiet indoors -- youngsters are boisterous -- but all Saint Bernards need space and deserve a roomy home with a spacious fenced yard in the suburbs or country. This breed needs daily exercise (whether he seems to want it or not) to stay fit, although long daily walks will do, along with regular opportunities to stretch out and lope around. He loves to romp in the snow, and pulling a cart or carrying a backpack gives him a purpose in life.
Companionship is of prime importance to this sociable breed. Left alone too much, he becomes dispirited -- and destructive.
Saint Bernards are generally relaxed and accepting of everyone, but because he is such a massive dog, he requires early, frequent excursions into the world so that he grows up to trust and respect people.
Most Saint Bernards are fine with other animals when raised with them, but there is some dog aggression, which can be frightening to experience because of this breed's sheer bulk and power.
Saints have an independent streak, but they are willing to please if you can establish consistent rules through motivational training methods that include praise and food rewards.
Saint Bernards are hard to beat as droolers, slobberers, and loud contented snorers.
If you want a dog who...
- Is massive, heavy, and powerful, with a thick furry coat
- Is usually kind and steady-tempered with everyone
- Loves pulling carts and sleds and romping in cold weather
- Is responsive to training in a slow, good-natured way
A Saint Bernard may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- A very bulky dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
- A heavy dog who wants to sit on your feet and lean his weight against your leg
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
- Loneliness and destructiveness when left alone too much
- Fearfulness or aggression in some lines, or when not socialized enough
- Some stubbornness and/or dominance problems, especially in males
- Heavy shedding
- Slobbering and drooling
- Potential for serious health problems and a short lifespan
A Saint Bernard may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Saint Bernard
If I was considering a Saint Bernard, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Saint Bernards need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. Adult Saint Bernards need more exercise to keep them in shape, but not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds.
Since you have to minimize their exercise, young Saint Bernards can be rambunctious. They will romp with uncoordinated gawkiness all over your house. You need to substitute extra quantities of companionship and supervision. Otherwise, left alone, young Saint Bernards become bored and destructive -- and their powerful jaws can literally destroy your living room.
I strongly recommend that you get your Saint Bernard involved in obedience classes at the intermediate or advanced level, or tracking, or pulling a cart or sled, or even just hiking and swimming. This is a working dog who needs something interesting to do.
- Providing enough socialization. Saint Bernards need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become extreme shyness, suspiciousness, or aggression, all of which are difficult to live with, especially with such a massive dog.
- Stronger temperament than you might think. Though Saint Bernards look like huge, soft teddy bears, they are not pushovers to raise and train. Some individuals, especially males, are willful and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Some Saint Bernard males are also dominant or aggressive toward other male dogs.
To teach your Saint to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Saint Bernard Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Heavy shedding. Saint Bernards shed a LOT. You'll find hair and fur all over your clothing, upholstery, carpeting, under your furniture, on your countertops -- even in your food. Frequent vacuuming will become a way of life. Make sure you're REALLY up for this.
- Slobbering. Most people are not prepared for how much Saint Bernards slobber and drool, especially after eating or drinking. When they shake their heads, you will literally be toweling saliva and slime off your clothes, furniture, and walls.
- Serious health problems. The lifespan of a Saint Bernard is short and an alarming number are crippled by bone and joint diseases and/or succumb to cancer in middle age.
To learn more about training Saint Bernards to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Saint Bernard the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Saint Bernard puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Saint Bernard might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Saint Bernard home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Saint Bernard...
When you're acquiring a Saint Bernard PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Saint Bernards who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2013 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
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