Saint Bernards are big and lovable--but they're not the ideal dogs for just anyone. They can be lazy, they shed and drool on a daily basis, and they can eat their own weight in food in a month's time. So in a nutshell, Saint Bernard care and maintenance is quite a task. Below you'll find detailed info on Saint Bernard puppy care, exercise, diet and nutrition, and much more. For everything you need to know about how to take care of a Saint Bernard, read on!
Exercise needs for this breed are only moderate, but they need to be a daily undertaking. Saint Bernards have a pretty high tendency for obesity, and if under-exercised they can grow restless and disobedient, so these dogs need at least an hour of physical activity each day. You can begin exercising a Saint as early as three months of age, but keep the sessions short, and make sure the activity doesn't include too much jumping or running, which can put too much strain on the still-growing (though already large!) puppy's joints and bones.
And as such a large breed, adult Saint Bernard exercise should be given carefully as well. Avoid activities that will cause stress on their joints, as these can lead to arthritis and orthopedic issues. Saint Bernards also suffer heat stroke extremely easily, so exercise in cool weather or, on hotter days, keep the exercise sessions much shorter; regardless of the temperature, give your Saint access to plenty of fresh water before, during, and after any physical activities.
Precautions aside, make sure your Saint gets off its considerable hind-quarters every single day. Obesity and Saint Bernards aren't a good mix: an overweight dog of this breed will have heart, respiratory, and digestive issues, and obesity will likely shorten a Saint's already brief lifespan even more. And though fairly obedient overall, an undisciplined Saint Bernard can be difficult to handle due to its size alone; exercises that include some type of obedience training (especially for Saint puppies) are highly recommended. A few exercise ideas:
- Walking: Short (30-45 minute) walks, using a leash, are perfect for this breed
- Swimming: Great exercise for hot days
- Laser Pointer: Like most breeds, a Saint will chase the red dot for hours; good for indoors--just make sure you have adequate room
- Agility/Obedience Competitions: Great for younger Saint Bernards
- Hiking: Especially good for those in colder, mountainous climates
Indoors, a Saint Bernard can be quite lazy, so activities that require the dog's participation (tug-of-war, for example) are encouraged. It's recommended that you also have a consistent daily exercise schedule for your Saint: perhaps a short walk in the morning, followed by one or two play sessions throughout the day, and ending with a longer walk after dinner.
Maintenance for this breed, at least in terms of drooling and shedding, is quite extensive. Saint Bernard coats come in both short- and long-haired varieties--and unfortunately, both coat types shed a lot, especially during the twice-yearly shedding seasons. And these dogs drool as much (or more) than any breed known.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst), Saint Bernard shedding is an 8 or 9. They typically shed moderately for most of the year, but for 2-3-week periods during both the spring and fall, these dogs lose their winter and summer coats--and they shed like crazy. Owners say the best way to reduce the amount of shed hair from covering the floors, furniture, and clothing can be summed up in one word: brush, brush, brush. The more frequently a Saint is brushed (especially during shedding season), the less the hair collects; unfortunately, they say, it can't be stopped completely. So all Saint Bernard owners will need both a high-quality vacuum cleaner and several good lint rollers.
And as if the hair cleanup isn't bad enough, breed owners will also have to deal with Saint Bernard drool--and lots of it. Whether in anticipation of food, when they're excited, or hot, or thirsty, Saint Bernards seem to have saliva dripping from their mouths almost constantly. Like the shedding, owners won't be able completely control the issue, but it can be reduced. Some solutions include:
- Prepare the dog's food while it's out of the room. A Saint will leave puddles of saliva on the floor while it watches you fill its bowl; put the dog outside while you get the food ready, then let it in to eat.
- Teach the dog the "Off" or "Down" command. While the Saint is still a puppy, teach it one of these commands to not jump up and lick people's faces, thereby covering them with slobber.
- Have your Saint Bernard wear a bib. Seriously. These dogs will get saliva all over their necks, chests, and front legs, and those areas will become dirty and stinky. Tie a bandanna or a towel around their necks to help catch any wayward slobber.
It's probably no surprise that Saint Bernards can eat a tremendous amount of food. Depending on its activity level, an adult dog of this breed should receive an average of six cups of dry food per day, divided between two meals; a Saint Bernard puppy should get about half that, depending the pup's age, divided into three meals until age 6-7 months.
Some further details on the Saint Bernard diet: most breed enthusiasts prefer feeding their Saint Bernards (both adults and puppies) dry food. Some owners will mix either ¼-½ cup of water or ¼ can of canned food (or both) in with the dry food to make it more appealing to the dog. The danger of this "tasty food" is that Saint Bernards are prone to gastric torsion, also called bloat, a life-threatening condition which can occur after a dog eats too quickly. You can minimize the chances of your Saint experiencing bloat by dividing meals into two or three so the dog doesn't wolf its food, and by not exercising the dog for at least an hour before or after a meal. For more info on feeding, refer to this Saint Bernard dog diet chart:
Unfortunately, Saint Bernards can become overweight pretty easily. A fat Saint Bernard may have breathing problems, trouble with food digestion, and a shortened life expectancy, so make sure not to overfeed and/or under-exercise a dog of this breed. If you're wondering if your Saint is obese, give it this simple test: place your hands on its back, with your thumbs along the spine and your fingers splayed down on either side of its back; if you can't feel ribs beneath your fingers, it's diet time. Reduce the portion of each meal by a half-cup, and add a few minutes to exercise sessions. And it's never a good idea to "free feed" a Saint Bernard: rather than leaving uneaten food in the dog's bowl all day (which would allow it to eat any time), pick the bowl up after the dog initially stops eating.
Owners and breed enthusiasts agree that the best dog food for Saint Bernards (puppies and adults alike) is the dry kind--but make sure it's of good quality. With the amount of food a Saint eats, high-quality dry food will provide the dog with the most balanced nutrition, and at the lowest price.
Ideally, a dog of this breed will live in a home with a medium- to large-sized yard that will allow it plenty of space to move around. A Saint Bernard in an apartment is not the greatest situation--mainly due to the limited space available. Temperature-wise, a Saint will be fine in cold climates, but does poorly in hot weather.
Read the grooming requirements for Saint Bernards including coat care and other maintenance.Go to the Next Page