Most people were first introduced to St. Bernards through the popular 1992 film, Beethoven. This giant breed has captured the hearts of many, and their gentle, calm, and patient natures are what makes them suitable for all sorts of families, including those with older children.
These massive dogs can get as tall as 30 inches and can weigh up to 180 pounds. They come in various coat colors, such as mahogany, brown, white, red, red bridle, brownish-yellow, black, and orange. Not only are they exceptional pets, but they’ve also been around for a long time, with records of these dogs dating back to 1707. They typically live until they are between 8 and 10. They were first bred to be watchdogs, but in the years since then, their life-saving abilities have been recognized and homed in on, and these dogs are often used in search-and-rescue missions.
What’s the Average Lifespan of a St. Bernard?
The sad reality, and one that St. Bernard owners must be aware of, is that this breed doesn’t live as long as many other dog breeds. Giant breeds, such as St. Bernards, tend to have a 2-year shorter lifespan than large dog breeds, which usually live 10–12 years. They live about 5 years less than medium dog breeds, which can live up to 15 years. Therefore, you can expect a healthy St. Bernard to live between 8–10 years.
There are not actually many studies into factors affecting the longevity of dogs and their various breeds. However common sense, experience and extrapolation from human studies are likely to give us a good base line.
The 5 Reasons Some St. Bernards Live Longer Than Others
It’s important to get your St. Bernard onto a good-quality dog food that is formulated for giant breeds. Make sure that it is also the right food for your dog’s life stage, as age-appropriate dog food will have the correct nutrition for your dog and help their bodies develop properly, which will contribute to a longer life expectancy. This is especially true for St. Bernards because of their size. Feeding them adult food while they’re still puppies could increase their risk for developmental orthopedic diseases.
Always make sure the dog food you get is high-quality and from a trusted brand. Much research goes into dog food formulation so look for a food company that employs veterinarians and board certified veterinary nutritionists. Only give your St. Bernard the recommended portions for their life stage to avoid obesity and other weight problems.
2. Environment & Conditions
A St. Bernard is a dog that loves to be a part of the family, including all the activities they’re involved with. If they’re not included, they will often sulk, so it’s important to reassure them with all the love and attention you can give them.
Regardless of their coat type, they should be brushed at least once a week. However, it’ll benefit you both if you brush them more often during shedding season. They are happy in cold climates, thanks to their thick coats, but those same thick coats are a disadvantage in hot climates as they can cause this breed to overheat. You should think carefully about the environmental conditions where you live before deciding to own this cold tolerant dog.
For the health of this breed, they do need both mental and physical exercise. If you’re not a fitness junkie, this breed will compliment your lifestyle nicely because they only require 30 minutes of exercise a day, which can be in the form of a walk or short jog. It’s important to exercise these dogs to keep them in good shape as they tend to be a bit overweight, which can play a part in issues with their joints.
Training your St. Bernard from puppyhood is a good idea because it’ll help you manage this giant dog as well as stimulate their mind. They’re pretty easy to train because they love to please their owners, but they can be stubborn.
4. Breeding History
When you get a puppy from a breeder, it is important to ask to see the puppy’s parents and find out about any health issues they may have. An untrustworthy breeder will try to sell you a puppy without clear paperwork, so look for a reputable one. They’ll have screened the parents of your puppy before the breeding process has begun to ensure that they’re healthy and not going to pass down genetic health issues to your pup. The degree of relation between the parents also plays a part as in-breeding reduces life expectancy.
Unfortunately, St. Bernards are predisposed to certain health conditions, such as bloat, hip dysplasia, and certain eye conditions. They are also at risk for parasites and should receive preventative treatment that kills fleas and ticks that come onto their body. They should also be taken for regular health checkups with the vet, and you’ll need to stay on top of all their vaccinations.
Checking their ears regularly and brushing their teeth will help prevent infections from developing. If you have any concerns about your St. Bernard, contact your vet, as it is essential to catch any health issues early before permanent damage has been done.
The 4 Life Stages of a St. Bernard
A St. Bernard can give birth to large litters, averaging at around 6 puppies per litter, but they are known to give birth to up to 12 pups. These puppies are born fully dependent on their mother for food and care, as they are unable to see for the first 2 weeks of their lives. Their hearing usually only comes in at around 3 weeks of age, so they have to rely fully on their sense of smell to navigate the world.
Your puppy will get the food source from their mother until they start to wean off the milk and onto solids at around 4 weeks old. At this stage, all their senses will have kicked in, and they will have developed some independence. By the time they reach 2 months of age, they should only be eating solid food.
However, some vets may recommend that you have it done earlier than a year. It is important to start taking your puppy to obedience and training school once they’ve had their initial vaccinations. Your vet will tell you which vaccinations your dog will need, and there will be quite a few, but they are essential.
Sterilizing your St Bernard should be discussed with your vet who will recommend what age this should be performed.
Your St. Bernard is a giant breed, which means they’re going to take longer to reach their full size than other smaller breeds. They’ll only be fully mature from the age of 2–3 years, so your dog will be in the puppy phase for quite some time. From around 24 months of age, you can start transitioning your St. Bernard onto giant-breed adult dog food.
Your dog will reach their last life stage at around 8 years old. They may develop some health conditions by this stage, so it is important to take them for regular health checkups and put them on the treatment your vet recommends. You’ll also need to change their food to giant-breed senior dog food. These last few years should be filled with lots of cuddles and making your dog feel comfortable.
How to Tell Your St. Bernard’s Age
A St. Bernard can take 2 years to reach their full size, so if yours is much smaller than the average size, they’re likely still puppies. If their paws look too large for their body or they have a lot of loose skin, these could be other indicators that they’re still young. However, gender and genes can affect their size.
A dog’s teeth are a big giveaway, as puppies should have all of their adult teeth by about 24 weeks. If they’re stained and not in the best condition, your dog is likely older.
A healthy St. Bernard can live between 8–10 years, which is quite short. However, most giant breeds have a similar life expectancy as they don’t live as long as smaller dog breeds. It’s important to feed your St. Bernard dog food specifically formulated to their size as well as their life stage.
Giving them daily exercise, keeping them up to date with their vaccinations, and taking them for regular checkups are great ways to keep your dog healthy.
Featured Image Credit: fred12, Shutterstock