The history of the St. Bernard dog breed is one that is mysterious and almost mythical. But there are some things that are known to be factual or at least probable. For one thing, the St. Bernard's ancestors were likely working dogs, hence the breed's categorization in today's breed recognization associations like the American Kennel Club and the FCI. The fact that the dogs were working dogs explains why they were eventually bred to be rescue dogs and also explains their size and temperament. [...]
While the ancestors of the St. Bernard dog breed were typical working dogs, meaning that they worked on farms as herders, hunters, and watchdogs, the St. Bernard that we know today was bred to be a rescue dog. In fact, his existence is shrouded in lore because of this, and he has become both a legend and an enigma.
The ancestors to the St. Bernard were brought to Switzerland by invading Roman armies around the first two centuries CE. These dogs were interbred with the native dogs in the area forming a breed used as farm dogs. These dogs were large and very loyal, plus they were incredibly strong and had a very high sense of self-preservation. These aspects of the dog's temperament made them attractive to the monks in the monastery in the St. Bernard Pass located in the Swiss Alps. These monks needed both companions and dogs that would be able to assist them in their rescue missions of snowbound travelers. [...]
As is true with any dog breed, the St. Bernard needs socialization in order to be a well-rounded and accepting dog. He is naturally friendly, but he needs to learn the proper manners he needs to be around other people and animals. The basic reason for this is because of his size. Large dogs don't often know instinctively that their size can be an impediment to their "friendships" with strangers, and they need to learn to control themselves when they meet new people and animals. [...]
Think carefully before you decide to adopt or purchase a St. Bernard puppy. Sure, they're cute and cuddly, and they make terrific pets. They are loving, loyal, and great with children and families. They like other people and are tolerant with other animals. But that tiny St. Bernard puppy that fits in your arms right now will eventually grow up, and when he does, he will become a huge, furry problem for owners who are not prepared for the issues that come with large dog breeds.
The St. Bernard is a very, very large dog. In fact, he is one of the largest dog breeds in the world. This fact should give the prospective owner some pause as large dogs can be very problematic. The St. Bernard will grow up to be a dog that stands between 27 inches and 35 inches tall, and will reach between 150 and 200 pounds in weight. A dog that is heavier than most people and who is tall enough to rest his chin on the kitchen table can be a menace for the unprepared owner. [...]
St. Bernards have a lot of wonderful characteristics. They are great family dogs, and are tolerant of other pets. They are fun dogs, and are very friendly. They love to do whatever their owner is doing, so they are terrific companions. They are happy going for a walk with you, or just sitting on the couch and reading with you. But the best part about the St. Bernard dog breed is their loyalty.
These dogs are exceptionally loyal to their masters, and will even defend them if they are being threatened. This is not to say that St. Bernards are aggressive - far from it. Rather, the St. Bernard's loyalty for his family and his master will supercede his natural wiring as a docile animal. This is very unusual for such a temperament, and it is one of the most remarkable characteristics of the St. Bernard. [...]
We all know the beautiful St. Bernard Dog. He is the fluffy friend of stranded travelers. We have seen him on cartoons and in movies saving snowbound people from certain death by digging him out and warming him up. Of course, these movies and cartoons often depict the dog doing things like making a martini for the stranded traveler to "warm him up", and this, obviously, is untrue. But the dogs were trained to lie on top of the nearly-frozen person to raise his body temperature and prevent hypothermia.
But where did these magnificent dogs do these feats of rescuing bravery? The St. Bernard dog did these things in the Great St. Bernard Pass, the pass that went through the Alps and was the only one that went between Italy and Switzerland. This is not to be confused with the Little St. Bernard Pass, a pass that went through the Alps between Italy and France. [...]
St. Bernards love children. This is a great thing if you have a family or want to have a family and either own or want to purchase a St. Bernard. The dog will bond to your children and will become quite loyal to them. Well-socialized St. Bernards will accept their family's children, and any children that may come to visit or that they may meet in the park or elsewhere. However, as is true with every dog breed, a St. Bernard should never be left alone with a child, no matter how well socialized the dog is. [...]
There are very few absolute facts about the history of the St. Bernard dog breed. Because of their legendary status as rescue dogs in a foreboding area of the Swiss Alps, and the lost records of the monastery that began breeding them, the dog is surrounded by a large amount of myth and wonderment. However, there are some commonly held theories about the dog that are taken for fact or as close as historians can get to it. [...]
For hundreds of years, from at least the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century, St. Bernards were bred and raised in the Great St. Bernard Pass in the monastery and hospice run by the monks who had originally bred the breed. The monks were strict with their breeding standards, and as a result, they had a marvelous breed of dog.
Breeding began outside of the hospice and monastery in Switzerland in 1855 by a man named Henrich Schumacher. Schumacher bred the dogs according the original hospice breed standard, and provided the dogs to the monks. But this standard was no upheld by foreigners like the English who bred the dogs all around Switzerland. In order to protect the dog's specific breeding, the Swiss Kennel Club was formed in 1883; they wrote the Swiss St. Bernard breed standard in 1884: it maintained the standard established by the monks in the hospice and monastery. [...]
The St. Bernard was a watchdog for the monks of the hospice and monastery of the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Alps between Italy and Switzerland. He was also originally a companion dog. It was not until the mid-seventeenth, early eighteenth century that the dogs started their legendary jobs as rescuers.
Until the early nineteenth century, all St. Bernards were short-haired. In around1830, the monks tried breeding St. Bernards with Newfoundlands to create a long-haired St. Bernard that could stay warmer in the snowy climate of the Alps. Unfortunately, the long-haired dogs were immobilized in the snow by the weight of the icicles that formed in their long coats. While the short-haired versions of the St. Bernard were once again used for rescuing, the long-haired variety has survived as a companion dog. [...]
In these times of GPS, cell phones and tracking and locating devices controlled by satellites orbiting the planet it may be hard to believe that Search and Rescue dogs are still the best option in many areas. If you are a dog lover or someone that has had the opportunity to work with or observe these amazing dogs in action you will have no doubt about the unique set of skills that makes them ideal for the job.
One of the major benefits of using Search and Rescue (SAR) dog is that they can go anywhere that a human can go, and even places a human could not. They can get into smaller spaces than a person and they are not afraid of heights, depths, rugged climbs, digging through rubble or even scaling walls and fences to find their target. SAR dogs are used by the military, police forces, private search agencies and even private citizens to help find lost hikers, skiers, children, criminals or anyone at anytime that has become lost or goes missing. [...]
Most people that have a sled dog breed have at one time or another considered trying him or her out pulling in some form or another. There are really a very wide range of types of winter sledding or dry land pulling, carting or racing that dogs can compete in year round. Knowing which type of sport you want to do will make a bit of a different in how you train the dog. [...]