Breed Spotlight: Saint Bernard

Three Minutes
Jan 22, 2024

What Are Some Facts About St. Bernards?


8–10 years


120–180 lbs


26 – 30 inches



Personality: Affectionate, playful, kid-friendly, stubborn

Health Problems: Bloat, hip dysplasia, cataracts, entropion

Saint Bernard: How Do I Look?

This gentle giant is known as much for their slobber as for their size. With a short, rough coat and a good amount of shedding, Saint Bernards — aka Saints — benefit from regular brushing.1

Coat type and colors

Saint Bernards have a short double coat of smooth but coarse fur. They can come in cream, red, and brown colors and often develop “black mask” markings on their faces.

Shedding and grooming

Despite their short coats, Saint Bernards shed often. Daily brushing of their fur becomes a must during shedding season. Otherwise, brushing once a week will help keep them looking their best. An occasional bath — once monthly or so — will also go a long way toward a fresh and healthy coat.1


The iconic droopy ears of the Saint Bernard hold close to their skull. When seen from the front, they have a triangular shape; from the side, they are oval and can often disappear into the dark coloration of the Bernard’s large head.

Drooling level

Be sure to have a supply of paper towels on hand, because Saint Bernards have an almost-constant level of slobber.


Protect your Pets

Even the healthiest of pups can come with unexpected vet costs. Pet insurance can help keep your dog and your bank account happy.

Saint Bernard Characteristics

What My Adoption Bio Would Say:

Don’t let my size intimidate you: My giant frame just means there’s more love to go around! Some say I’m just a big puppy no matter my age, which might be why I get along so well with kids. I may be good at knocking things over, but I almost never raise my voice — unless it’s to alert my family!


If you adopt a Saint Bernard, be prepared to handle a giant puppy until they’re several years of age. Saints take longer to mentally mature, but their personality is truly one of a kind. Saints are known for their loving, friendly, and gentle nature. Commonly known to be therapy dogs, they’re gentle to people of all ages, ranging from children to an elderly adults.1


Training a Saint can be difficult due to their extreme intelligent and stubborn personality, so consistency and persistence is key. As long as you maintain a consistent routine with your Saint, and they know what’s expected of them, they’ll do their best to please you.1

Exercise needs

Saint Bernard dogs can get along fine with only a moderate amount of exercise per day. A walk each day should be enough to prevent obesity. That doesn’t mean they don’t love exploring, though. Saints can be great hiking, camping, and backpacking dogs as long as you take measures to keep them cool and hydrated. Some Saint Bernards also enjoy pulling carts around, either in competitions or while playing with children.1

Good with kids?

The Saint Bernard is a loving, patient, and gentle family dog who enjoys the company of all people in their household, including young children.

Good with other pets?

Saint Bernards can be moderately good with other pets, as long as they’ve been socialized. Take care around smaller animals, as the Saint’s large size can sometimes lead to misunderstandings or accidental injury.

Barking level

The Saint is generally not a big barker. They’re known for their quiet personality and may only use their voice when alerting their family.1


A Saint Bernard sits against the backdrop of the Alps wearing a barrel on its collar.

Saint Bernards: A History

For hundreds of years, Saint Bernards have been known as the heroic helpers of the Swiss and Italian Alps. Starting in the middle of the 17th century, monks residing at the Great St. Bernard Hospice in Switzerland began training Asiatic mastiffs as watchdogs for their peaceful abode.3 The dog’s broad chest also made them perfect for clearing a path through the deep snow that filled the Great St. Bernard Pass: a 49-mile-long route through the Alps.3

Over the next two centuries, the Saint Bernard would go on to save thousands of lives in the Alps. Napoleon’s army famously relied upon the Saint to shepherd 250,000 soldiers across the mountains between 1790 and 1810. Two years of severe snowstorms from 1816 to 1818 actually resulted in the original Saint Bernard almost going extinct, but they were revived thanks to the help of the St. Bernard monks.3

Modern Saints are descended from the original Asiatic mastiff and English mastiff. The Swiss Kennel Club officially recognized the Saint Bernard breed in 1880. Today, they are beloved in homes around the world, while the Great St. Bernard Hospice replenishes its population with new puppies every year.3

4 Saint Bernard Health Issues

Throughout the Saint Bernard’s lifespan, they may suffer from a number of health problems common to the breed. These include:1

  • Hip dysplasia: A common bilateral defect that can affect both hip joints, resulting in pain and limping
  • Bloat: A life-threatening condition commonly seen in large, deep-chested dogs
  • Cataracts: Vision loss caused by degradation of the eye’s lens
  • Entropion: Inversion of the eyelid, which can damage the cornea and cause vision loss

How Pet Insurance Can Help Saint Bernards

Hip dysplasia

Like many large purebreds, Saint Bernard dogs are prone to hip dysplasia — a congenital condition caused by defects in the ball and socket joint in the hip.4 Specifically, the joint grinds against the pelvic bone, an uncomfortable experience that can affect a Saint’s mobility and even result in lameness of the leg.

Diagnosing hip dysplasia is relatively easy and can be done with a simple X-ray to check the condition of the hip joints.5 Treatment depends on the severity of the Saint’s condition. At best, they may only require some lifestyle changes and medication to manage pain and inflammation. In more extreme cases, your vet may recommend surgery and/or total hip replacement. Because hip dysplasia can be a lifelong condition, the cost of management and treatment can quickly reach the thousands. Consider getting a dog insurance policy as early in your Saint’s life as possible, before hip dysplasia becomes a pre-existing condition.


Many dog breeds suffer from cataracts as a natural part of aging.6 They can progress over many years and, if left untreated, may cause significant pain and/or total vision loss. Surgery is often recommended to resolve cataracts. This may involve replacing the cloudy lens with a new prosthesis or — in extreme cases — the complete removal of the affected eye. The bill for dog eye surgery can run between $2,700 and $4,000, but the upshot is a long-term success rate of 85% to 90%.6,7

Pet insurance may help cover some of the cost of cataracts in your Saint Bernard, including diagnosis and surgery. Like hip dysplasia, cataracts are another condition that can develop later in life — meaning that when it comes to getting your pup an insurance policy, the earlier, the better.

Learn more about how MetLife Pet Insurance can help you and your Saint Bernard by reading our guide, How Pet Insurance Works. You can also get started today with a free quote.

Protect Your Saint Bernard With Pet Insurance

Protect your Saint

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Saint Bernard Dog Breed Information,” American Kennel Club

2 “Can Saint Bernard Be A Good Service Dog?,” Service Dog Training School International, 2022

3 “A Brief History of the St. Bernard Rescue Dog,” Smithsonian Magazine, 2016

4 “Hip Dysplasia in Dogs - Musculoskeletal System,” Merck Veterinary Manual, 2022

5 "Hip Dysplasia in Dogs", American Kennel Club

“Cataract Surgery For Dogs: What You Should Know,” Argyle Veterinary Hospital

7 “Cataract Surgery,” College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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