Pros and Cons of Having a Saint Bernard as a Pet/Guard Dog

The Saint Bernard, with its dignified presence and imposing stature, is a breed that has captured the hearts of many dog enthusiasts. Originating from the Swiss Alps, these gentle giants are known for their strength, loyalty, and endearing nature.

Saint Bernards have a rich history, initially bred by monks at the Saint Bernard Hospice in the Alps for their impressive rescue abilities. Over time, they transitioned from their heroic rescue missions to becoming beloved family pets. This unique blend of strength, loyalty, and gentle temperament makes them a fascinating choice for those seeking both a pet and a guard dog.

While Saint Bernards are often celebrated as affectionate pets, they also possess the qualities that make them effective guard dogs. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of having a Saint Bernard as both a pet and a guard dog, helping you make an informed decision if you’re considering adding this majestic breed to your family.

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Pros of Having a Saint Bernard as a Pet/Guard Dog

Gentle Giants: Saint Bernards’ Affectionate Nature

Saint Bernards are often affectionately referred to as “gentle giants,” and for good reason.

  • Loyal Companionship: Saint Bernards are renowned for their unwavering loyalty, forming deep bonds with their owners and families. They are the type of dog that will stand by your side through thick and thin, offering a steadfast presence that can be immensely comforting.
  • Kid-Friendly Disposition: These gentle giants are often excellent with children, making them ideal family pets and protectors. Their patient and tolerant nature means they can handle the enthusiastic antics of kids, providing a reassuring and protective presence.

Impressive Size and Deterrence Factor

The sheer size of a Saint Bernard can be a powerful deterrent.

  • Natural Guardians: Saint Bernards have a protective instinct, making them natural guardians of their homes and loved ones. They are known to be watchful and alert, ready to spring into action if they sense any potential threats.
  • Intimidating Presence: Their imposing size alone can be enough to discourage unwanted visitors. Potential intruders are more likely to think twice when faced with such a substantial and imposing canine.

Cold Weather Champions

Given their origin in the Swiss Alps, it’s no surprise that Saint Bernards are well-equipped to handle cold weather.

  • Thick Double Coat: Their thick, weather-resistant double coat equips them to thrive in cold climates, keeping them comfortable and warm even in harsh winter conditions. They come prepared for snow and low temperatures.
  • Winter-Ready Stamina: Saint Bernards are not only prepared for cold weather; they also have the stamina to enjoy it. If you’re an avid winter enthusiast, they can make wonderful companions for outdoor adventures in the snow.

Moderate Exercise Needs

Despite their size, Saint Bernards do not demand excessive exercise.

  • Calm Indoor Demeanor: Saint Bernards are relatively calm indoors, content to lounge with their family members. They are not hyperactive dogs that require constant stimulation, making them suitable for households where a relaxed atmosphere is appreciated.
  • Outdoor Adventure Partners: While they enjoy outdoor activities, they do not need high-intensity exercise routines. Whether it’s a leisurely walk or a mild hike, they are adaptable to various outdoor adventures, often enjoying them as much as their owners.

Cons of Having a Saint Bernard as a Pet/Guard Dog

Size and Space Considerations

Saint Bernards are indeed large dogs, and their size comes with specific considerations.

  • Space Requirements: One of the most prominent cons is their need for ample space to move around comfortably. If you live in a small apartment or a house with limited room, accommodating a Saint Bernard’s size can be challenging.
  • Home Adaptations: Homes may need adaptations to accommodate their size, such as reinforced fencing and larger doors. These adjustments come with additional costs and planning.

Grooming Challenges

The Saint Bernard’s luxurious coat and their propensity for drooling present grooming challenges.

  • Shedding and Fur Maintenance: Saint Bernards are heavy shedders, requiring regular grooming and vacuuming to manage their abundant fur. If you have allergies or a strong aversion to pet hair, this can be a significant drawback.
  • Drool Factor: They are known for their slobbering tendencies, which can be a drawback for some pet owners. If you prefer a dry and tidy environment, you may find managing their drool challenging.

Health Concerns

While Saint Bernards are generally healthy dogs, they are prone to specific health issues.

  • Prone to Certain Health Issues: Saint Bernards are susceptible to specific health issues, including hip dysplasia and bloat, which can lead to significant veterinary expenses. It’s essential to be prepared for potential health challenges.
  • Financial Implications: Caring for Saint Bernard may involve higher veterinary costs due to their potential health concerns. Budgeting for regular check-ups and potential medical interventions is crucial.

Socialization and Training

Socialization and training are essential for any dog, but Saint Bernards has unique requirements.

  • Early Socialization Needs: Proper socialization is crucial for Saint Bernards to ensure they are well-adjusted and friendly around other animals and people. This requires a significant time commitment during their early months.
  • Training Challenges: Training a Saint Bernard requires patience and consistency, as they can be strong-willed. Their size and strength mean that proper training is vital to ensure they are well-behaved and manageable.

Lifespan and Commitment

Saint Bernards have a relatively long lifespan, which means a long-term commitment to their care.

  • Long Lifespan: Saint Bernards typically live around 8 to 10 years, which is longer than many other large breeds. While this means more time with your beloved pet, it also means a more extended commitment.
  • Lifelong Commitment: Potential owners should be prepared for the responsibility of caring for Saint Bernard throughout their life stages. This includes adapting to their changing needs as they age.

Finding the Right Fit: Assessing Your Lifestyle and Needs

Compatibility with Your Home

Consider whether your living space is suitable for a large breed like a Saint Bernard. Apartment dwellers may find it challenging to provide the necessary space for their pet’s comfort.

Time and Energy Commitment

Evaluate your ability to provide the time and energy required for their care and exercise. Saint Bernards may not need intense exercise, but they do require daily walks and mental stimulation.

Financial Preparedness

Assess your financial readiness for potential veterinary costs and grooming expenses. Budgeting for routine care and potential health issues is essential to provide the best possible life for your Saint Bernard.

Willingness to Invest in Training and Health Care

Determine your willingness to invest in training and health care to ensure a well-behaved and healthy Saint Bernard. Training classes and regular veterinary check-ups are integral to their well-being.


Saint Bernards are undoubtedly charming and loving companions, capable of fulfilling the roles of both pet and guard dog with grace. Their gentle nature, impressive size, and loyalty make them a breed that has much to offer.

By weighing the pros and cons and considering your lifestyle and needs, you can make an informed decision about whether a Saint Bernard is the right addition to your family and home. While they require specific considerations, the rewards of sharing your life with one of these gentle giants can be immeasurable.

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