North Island St.Bernard Assn.Inc

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New Zealand
New Zealand
North Island St.Bernard
Association Inc.
Est: 1981


I was told they die at a young age.

While it is generally true that the larger the dog, the younger they die, most Saints live longer than people realise and, like with humans, general health is a major contributing factor. As stated elsewhere on this site, Saints used to live to 7 years of age but 9 or 10 is more usual these days. 12 years is not uncommon, and a rare one has made it to 14 years of age.


What is the best age to neuter a Saint?

For both males and females 6 months is optimum. While dogs that are neutered early can grow slightly larger, the best results occur when each gender is desexed before they become sexually active.


I was told to let them have a litter before I spey her.

There is no evidence to support that rationale. It does not ‘settle the bitch down’ or effect her and there is always a risk associated with pregnancy. Is the person who suggested this going to gain financially if you mate your bitch?


I was told that if I neutered him before he is fully grown, he would grow much taller.

You male will grow taller because the hormones that stop the growth of the long bones will not be present. The difference is 1 or 2 cm and you will be avoiding the risk of your male siring unwanted puppies. Males are much more settled if they are desexed prior to becoming hormonally driven.


My vet said it is such a good specimen, I should breed from them.

Unless your veterinarian has studied the breed standard and is totally familiar with what makes a very good example of a St Bernard – then they should not be making these sorts of comments. You must remember that your veterinarian is in business and suggesting you should breed your dog is potentially a financial bonus for them.


My dog is one and pushing us around.

Dogs go through the teenage stage just like any other mammal. If you have let them away with too much up until now because it was cute, you may have to teach them better manners by attending and seeking instruction from a Canine Obedience Group. If you started off with your puppy as you meant to go on, and they know basic obedience, then teaching them there are limits, and curbing bad behaviour, will get them back on track. If you have allowed your Saint on the bed or couch, and now they are challenging you for them, you need to nip this in the bud quickly and remind them who is boss in a loving, kind but firm and repetitive and consistent manner.


We need to find another home because we don’t have the time to look after them.

Sadly our club has to rehome St Bernard’s for various reasons and this is one of them. Maybe more thought should have gone into the purchase of this puppy before you committed to it. Now consideration has to be towards the fact that this is a living, loving animal who considers themselves an important part of your family, even if you don’t see them that way. They will be confused that you no longer want them. Use our Rescue Service rather than passing your dog onto a ‘mate who has always wanted one.’ Our Rescue Service is thorough in its checking process for suitable homes. It would be disastrous for the Saint if it was shifted to multiple homes.


Yes we have a bitch and a dog but we will keep them separate when she comes in season.

Unless you have impenetrable fences, dogs will always find a way to get to a bitch in season. Often someone leaves a door or gate open by mistake. The male is often waiting just for that kind of slip up. If you are not intending to breed, spey or neuter your dog to prevent a misalliance and a possible unintended pregnancy. Dogs have been known to break through windows and doors to get to a bitch in full season. They are very driven at this time. Putting one of them in a Boarding Kennel at this time is recommended.


Is that a small St Bernard? Our neighbour had one twice the size when I was a kid.

St Bernards have changed very little in size over the decades. Occasionally you see one that is a bit smaller than usual, but 95% would be within the same size range. What has changed is your perspective from a child to adulthood. As a child everything appears so much bigger and that steep hill you had to climb as a child, is more likely a gentle rise now.


I want a dry mouth St Bernard.

Saints are known for their drool although over the years the health of the mouth area has been addressed, particularly with the introduction of USA bloodlines. The pendulous flews that used to hold all the slobber are now a lot smaller with a better conformation. They will drool when food is around, just like most other breeds but most of them are no longer constantly saturated around their mouths and under their lower jaw. A dry mouth does not exist, but a healthier mouth does.


My vet told me my puppy needs its eyes operated on.

At any time during the growth period, one part of the anatomy can grow more than another. It is not uncommon to see a Saint with what appears to be excessive wrinkling on the head as a teenager, or any other time until they become full sized. The head of a Saint does not finish growing until at least three years of age and an incredibly small percentage of Saints would not have ‘grown into their skin’ by the time they are full sized. Dogs that are operated on to ‘correct’ their eyes before they are adults, often end up with a pronounced squinted look and problems can arise later from the eyes being too tight.


Is my Saint too fat or too thin?

During their development and adulthood, your dog should have a good covering over their ribs but you should easily be able to feel the ribs. If their skin rolls when they walk, chances are you have them too heavy. If the backbone is pronounced, feed them more food.


What should we expect at different stage of our Saints development and what is considered age appropriate?

8 weeks to 5 months old - Very cute, always playful, sleeps a lot, starting to get ‘nippy’ towards the end of this time.

5 months to 9 months – Very playful, can be a bit destructive or naughty if not given enough entertainment or attention. They will go through gangly stage as they grow. Towards the end of this time they will be starting to assert themselves.

9 months – 18 months – The teenage stage, growth up will slow down and more growth out will occur. In this period you might be challenged and need to show your Saint the boundaries. Males will become hormonally driven in this period and most bitches will come into season or experience their first heat.

18 months – 3 years – Your Saint becomes fully grown and if you have raised them correctly, what will emerge is a beautiful well balanced, intelligent, loving and soulful dog.

3 years -7 years – Adulthood, enjoy this magnificent breed.

7 years to ? – These are considered the senior years and your Saint may slow down a bit and prefer their bed for a bit longer.

When it comes to the end of your Saints life, don’t abandon them at the vet or with a stranger. They will need you to tell them how loved they have been and to hold them for reassurance. They have never abandoned you in your time of need, do not abandon them in theirs.


How much do they eat? No you don’t have to own a butchers shop, but they will eat more than you think for the first 18months and less than you think as an adult.

As an adult, a Saint will eat not as much as most people imagine, but this varies from dog to dog as it does with people. The maintenance diet for a Saint is 4-5 cups of a premium dog food such as Royal Canin Giant Breed Adult, spread between two or three meals daily. Top that up with your leftovers vegetables, eggs, plus a handful of larger biscuits (Tux Energy) or some dog roll or chicken necks, beef heart etc, your pan scrapings or vegetable water and that is a good maintenance diet for an adult, depending on their level of exercise.

As a puppy, until 18 months at least, the growing Saint needs a lot of food and nutrients to grow to 100 times their birth weight. Feed a premium diet such as Royal Canin Puppy changing them to Royal Canin Junior at about 9 months.

Refer to the feeding guide on the food bag, and again top their diet up with healthy extras such as unsweetened yoghurt, cottage cheese, eggs etc (refer to the article on feeding).


Do they like the snow?

Most Saints LOVE to play in the snow and despite being many generations from their Hospice forebears, they are excited and instinctive in snow. They should, however not be left outside, continually, in these conditions. Remember the snow dogs were smooth coated and the snow was found to sit on a rough coat weighing a dog down and potentially freezing them to death.

Do Smooth Coated Saints shed less than Rough Coated Saints?

Although you hear people say that smooth coated Saints shed less than their Rough Coated counterparts, both accepted coat types have the same number of hair follicles so therefore shed the same amount of both top coat, including guard hair, and undercoat.



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