Caring for your Saint Bernard

©Koolandra, January 1999


A Guide to a Happy, Healthy Saint Bernard

The move to a new home is a great disruption to your pups' life as it is the first time he has been away from the companionship of his littermates. This is a very important time for your puppy. He will need plenty of love to come through these early days and adapt to his new home and lifestyle.


On no account give dogs cooked poultry, chop or fish bones. Whilst his teeth are sharp and will certainly crush them, they will end up in his stomach as sharp splinters and may perforate an intestine and could quite easily cause his death. Marrow Bones sliced lengthways are best, chicken wings and necks, even carcasses should be given raw.


I worm my puppies fortnightly since birth and will require worming fortnightly until twelve weeks of age and then every three months thereafter.


Puppies are vaccinated at 6 weeks of age this will only be temporary and will not be 100% effective until his permanent needle at about 16 weeks of age. Until then your puppy should be kept away from other dogs and not walked in places such as parks, shopping centres, pavements etc. He will then need a booster needle each year.


Sleep will collect in the corner of his eyes and must be cleaned out regularly, otherwise the eyes may develop and infection. Ears should be checked regularly. Clean inside the flaps with equal amounts of water and methylated spririts, or an ear cleaning fluid available from Pet Shops. Use cotton wool and dry with a clean cloth. His toenails should be checked that they are not too long, if so, trim them with dog toenail clippers.

House Training

If you allow the puppy to roam the house he will quite happily leave puddles everywhere and will soon ruin the carpet. Restrain him to a room where the floor is washable and place newspaper near the door. If he does urinate or defacates on the paper, praise him, if he does not, place him on the paper. Take him outside and walk him after every meal and upon wakening. Don't come back inside until he has done something. Establish a sleeping place for your puppy from day one. Have a blanket or similar for him to sleep on that will be his only. The laundry is an ideal sleeping place for the nights. Your puppy will no doubt cry for the first few nights when closed away by himself. Do not give in to him by letting him out. This is his first step for training YOU. A radio playing softly may be helpful.


Give him some large rubber toys to play with so he will be less inclined to chew your shoes etc. He will soon learn that his toys are his. Your puppy will grow into a large dog and whilst it is rather cute when puppy jumps to be patted, it can be frightening to children and friends when the same puppy has grown into a large dog, he may knock them over. So right from the start BE FIRM. Discourage it by pressing him down and at the same time say very sternly NO or DOWN. They are very quick to learn and will be more so if they really know you mean it. Use the same word for any naughty thing he may do. But use it sparingly and be consistant. Play training can begin as soon as your pup has settled into his new home. Start by introducing puppy to a leather collar. Leave the collar on until the pup forgets he is wearing it. You can then attach a lead and walk with your pup (around the yard only). Use plenty of encouragement and he will catch on. Never drag your pup around. A choker can be introduced at a later date. Proper training can begin at 4-6 months of age. I recommend joining your local training club as it not only leads to a well balanced adult Saint but quickly builds a strong bond between Saint and owner. REMEMBER: be firm, but gentle.


Your puppy must become used to being brushed while he is still young. He will probably wriggle and be most uncooperative. However, be firm with him from the first week you take him home as grooming is an essential part of keeping him in tip-top condition and looking clean and attractive. Grooming is also a means to notice any skin problems, cuts or wounds which may otherwise not be noticed. In spring, check in between his toes for grass seeds. Groom as regularly as possible. Your puppy may be bathed as often as you feel necessary. His coat will not suffer as long as you use a good quality, mild shampoo and conditioner. It is essential that he be dried quickly in winter - use a hair dryer.


If your dog has fleas you need to treat him regularly, trying to break the cycle of the flea. Always remember that you need to treat his environment too. They do not breed on the dog, but in the carpet, his bedding and/or kennel, sandy areas of the garden, sand in between the paving bricks. Everything needs to be treated on the same day.



Breeders have different ideas about feeding their Saints, this is only my opinion.

As adults I feed a good quality maintence dry food, a product with no artificial colourings or preservatives. Pregnant bitches I feed a good quality dry puppy food. For puppies, I prefer to feed a low protein (usually a maintenance product) dry food, I find the lower protein level in the growing months, helps prevents a lot of the bone problems seen in the giant breeds. I don't supplement unless necessary.


I prefer to free-range exercise my pups until they have finished their fast growing stages. After 18 months they can be worked harder. Saints as adults need regular exercise to keep good muscle tone, (it also stops them getting bored and tearing up the furniture or backyard.) A walk around the block in the morning and night is sufficient if the dog is in a small yard. Some Saints love to swim, this is great exercise for them, others like a good run down the park.

Possible Saint Bernard Problems

Saint Bernards and other large breeds are often predisposed to certain medical maladies. The Saint has more than its share of problems, the most prevalent hereditary problems dealing with the eyes, blood diseases, and bone structure/bone diseases.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a condition affecting the hips, basically "badly formed joints". It is genetic, however it is believed it can be environmental and/or nutritional . DO NOT over exercise your puppy; DO NOT let your puppy run on slippery surfaces; DO NOT let children ride your puppy, HE IS NOT A PONY; DO NOT let your puppy get too fat (or too thin). A lot of breeders Xray and score their breeding stock to try to reduce the incidence of Hip Dysplasia. My dogs are elbow and hip Xrayed and scored under the AVA Scheme.

Osteochondritis Desicans

OCD as it is commonly called is sometimes seen in large, fast growing puppies. It can appear as early as four months. It can appear in the hock and almost mimic signs of Hip Dysplasia but more commonly appears in the shoulder. Usually the dog is growing so fast that the bone and cartilage do not keep correct syncronization. The pup most often limps favouring one shoulder or another. If the dog also has severe pain with this problem, surgery is usually recommended, after which a dog may lead a perfectly normal life. Depending on the type of lesion, surgery may not be required.



The dog may limp on one leg one day and another leg the next. This disease is called "growing pains" in children. Again, this appears between 4 months and a year and normally does not require medication or surgery and the condition will cease when the dog has done most of his growing. If the pain is severe, a vet may recommend medication. The pain may rotate through all four legs. I personally have found Vitamin C helpful with this problem.

Entropion and Ectropion

ENTROPION is the turning of the eyelids inward. When this happens, the eyelids rub against the cornea and scratch its surface. This is painful to the dog and can cause ulcers on the eye. Some pups may outgrow this condition when their skull develops fully - others may need surgery to correct this condition. In either case you need to have it treated by your Vet. If you notice your dog rubbing his face with his paw or wincing or blinking, he may have eye problems.

ECTROPION is the turning of the lids outward. It can cause similar problems as above, but seems characteristic of the breed to have a little of this - it's what gives the droopy, sad eye look. But too much is too much.


Gastric Dilitation Volvulus

GASTRIC DILITATION VOLVULUS - GDV - is the turning over of the stomach. The cause is undetermined and being studies by the Veterinary profession. This disease is often called BLOAT and occurs in many large chested - large breed dogs. IT IS NEARLY ALWAYS FATAL IF UNNOTICED AND UNTREATED IN TIME!!!! The dog's stomach may be heavy with food, or bloated with gas and it turns over. This pinches off the exits for gas to escape through the throat and the dog cannot belch or vomit (which he will probably be trying to do). It also pinches off the exit of the rectum making it impossible for the dog to pass gas. With no escape the stomach keeps swelling, making the dog appear nine weeks pregnant". Untreated, the stomach ruptures and the dog dies. IMMEDIATE VETERINARY ATTENTION IS NEEDED! Always seek veterinary advice on this problem FIRST. If your vet cannot be reached GET ANOTHER VET. I would suggest never feeding your dog straight after or before exercise.


Your Saint should have access to shelter at all times, although they much prefer the couch. Ensure that plenty of fresh water is available. NEVER leave a Saint tied up unattended. If you have chosen a bitch, then remember she must not be bred from until her second season (providing this is over 12 months of age) Pet Bitches will present no problems with seasons if they are spayed. This is best done by 12 months of age.


This has been taken from my 'puppy buyers information sheet', any opinions are strictly my own.


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