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St. Bernard Temperament: A benign giant dog for the whole family

Are you here to learn more about the St. Bernard’s temperament and what a St. Bernard dog is like in a family environment? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re a novice dog owner or have owned dogs before, it’s always good to learn more about the temperament of the dog you’d like to call yours one day. This calm, steady and benign dog might be what you need to balance a busy family life. The following blog will examine their impressive history as human guarding angels, their temperament, and whether St. Bernards are a good family dog. So, without delay, let’s sniff out all the details!

Saint Bernard Temperament
If well socialised, there is not many dogs who show so much patience for children like the Saint Bernard

History of the St. Bernard

Saint Bernards were originally bred in a small hospice on the Great St. Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border. They worked as alpine search and rescue dogs, saving thousands of lives in treacherous snowy conditions. The hospice was named after the Italian monk Bernard of Menthon, who lived there in the 11th century and built the monastery to provide food and shelter to travellers. The hospice acquired the dogs sometime between 1660 and 1670.

Initially, they were crossbred from Great Danes and the ancestors of Mastiffs, also known as the Romanian Mastiffs. Back then, they were less bulky and had shorter coats. They accompanied travellers through the pass, and soon the monks discovered their great sense of smell and direction.

Rescue excursions became more and more common in the 150 years that followed. Often, the dogs went in pairs to search for stranded travellers. One dog would stay with the victim, lying on top of them to provide warmth, whilst the other alerted the rescue teams. The St. Bernard was protected from the cold by their thick short double coat.

The St. Bernard back then looked different to the bulky St. Bernard we see today, with wars, avalanches and other difficult conditions pushing the breed towards extinction. To save the line, the monks crossed them with Newfoundlands. This gave them a bulkier look by adding to their size and also resulted in a longer coat. Unfortunately, this crossbreeding backfired. The longer coat was a hindrance in the ice as snow stuck to it, which affected the rescue performance and lead to frostbite.

Today, the hospice still exists and keeps St. Bernards on-site for its tourists and travellers. Regarding rescues, they have long since been replaced by helicopters as they’re too heavy to be lowered up and down the mountain, but the St. Bernard will always stand as a beacon of a great alpine rescuer.

These days the St. Bernard can have a long or short coat with no ill effects.

2023 St. Bernard UK registrations

113 St. Bernards registered with the UK Kennel Club in October 2022. It shows the constant love story of the British people with this benign breed. There have been 499 registrations in total in 2022.

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