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Bernese Mountain Dog Vs Saint Bernard Dog vs Dog Which is Better?
At first glance, the Bernese Mountain Dog and Saint Bernard may bear a resemblance to one another, but there are some striking differences between these two large, full-furred dogs.
Let’s have a look at these two dogs closely and see where the differences lie, which makes the better pet, and which is the right breed to add to your family.
History of the St. Bernard and Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog originated in the farmlands around the city of Bern in Switzerland as all-purpose farm dogs. Their main purpose was to be companion dogs and to provide protection to the farmer and his family, although they were also used to help drive cattle long distances to pasture and as drafting dogs, pulling heavy carts.
The Berner’s pulling weight capacity is estimated at between 1,000 and 2,200 pounds.
We don’t have a date as to when the breed came into existence, but the Bernese Mountain Dog has roots in the Roman Molossian hound breeds of ancient southern Europe.
The St. Bernard, also called the Alpine Mountain Dog, is also of the Roman Mollosser-type breeds.
The St. Bernard is the large general farm dog of the farmers and dairymen of the French Alps, livestock guardians, herding dogs, and draft dogs as well as hunting dogs, search and rescue dogs, and watchdogs.
The name “St. Bernard” originates from the Great St. Bernard Hospice, a traveler’s hospice on the often treacherous Great St. Bernard Pass in the Western Alps, between Switzerland and Italy. The pass, the lodge, and the dogs are named for Bernard of Menthon, the 11th-century Italian monk who established the station and later canonized.
There the Saints were primarily used for search and rescue of people lost in the treacherous pass.
It is said that the St. Bernard can locate a person buried under 20 feet of snow.
Both being of the Molloser type are large dogs. But, the St. Bernard is a bit larger than the Berner.
St. Bernards stand anywhere between 26 and 30 inches at the shoulder, depending on gender. They can weigh up to 260 pounds.
The Bernese Mountain Dog stands 23 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder also depending on gender and can weigh up to 120 pounds.
The St. Bernard’s coat can be either smooth or rough; the smooth coat being close and flat while the rough is dense, flat, and more profuse around the neck and legs. The color is typically a red shade with white or a mahogany brindle with white. Black shading is usually found on the face and ears.
The tail is long and heavy, hanging low.
Eyes are usually brown, but sometimes can be icy blue, and should have naturally tight lids, with haws only slightly visible.
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a heavy dog with a distinctive tri-colored coat, black with white chest and rust colored markings above eyes, sides of the mouth, the front of the legs, and a small amount around the white chest.
Known as a classic example of a Gentle Giant, the St. Bernard is calm, patient and sweet with adults, and especially children. The biggest threat to small children is being knocked over by this breed’s larger size. Overall they are a sweet, gentle, calm, loyal and affectionate breed, and if socialized are very friendly.
While generally not instinctively protective, a St. Bernard may bark at strangers, and their size makes them good deterrents against possible intruders.
Saints can also get along well with other pets, especially if they’re introduced to them in puppyhood. Supervise them around smaller dogs and cats just to make sure they don’t accidentally step or lie on them.
The breed standard for the Bernese Mountain Dog states that dogs should not be “aggressive, anxious or distinctly shy”, but rather should be “good-natured”, “self-assured”, “placid towards strangers”, and “docile”.
Bernese mountain dogs are a breed that generally does well with children, as they are very affectionate. They are patient dogs that take well to children climbing over them. Though they have great energy, a Bernese will also be happy with a calm evening.
Bernese work well with other pets and around strangers. They are excellent guardians. They tend to bond with one owner and are somewhat aloof and standoffish.
Saint Bernards can be difficult to train, especially for novice dog owners. They are willful, stubborn and independent animals who sometimes listen and other times do not.
They test boundaries and like to see what they can get away with and have little regard for the rules you put in place.
Because of its large adult size, it is essential that proper training and socialization begin while the St. Bernard is still a puppy, so as to avoid the difficulties that normally accompany training large dogs. An unruly St. Bernard may present problems for even a strong adult, so control needs to be asserted from the beginning of the dog’s training.
A confident, consistent, but gentle hand is needed with the Bernese Mountain Dog breed. They can be stubborn and slow to learn, so patience and an even keel are important for anyone training a Bernese Mountain Dog. Despite their initial stubbornness, they do well in basic obedience training and can be graduated to advanced tricks and agility.
Energy and Exercise
The St. Bernard does not need a lot of exercise. It’s not a jogging companion and will wilt in hot climates. Saints suffer from heat exhaustion quite easily and need access to shade and plenty of fresh, cool water during hot weather. On the other hand, you’ll never find a happier Saint Bernard than one who’s enjoying a good romp in the snow.
Bernese are outdoor dogs at heart, though well-behaved in the house; they need activity and exercise, but do not have a great deal of endurance. They can move with amazing bursts of speed for their size when motivated. They enjoy hiking and generally stick close to their people. Not being given the adequate amount of exercise may lead to barking and harassing in the Bernese.
Health and Lifespan
As large breeds, both dogs share a similarly short lifespan at about 7-9 years with some dogs living to as old as 10 and rarely living to 12.
The very fast growth rate and the weight of a St. Bernard can lead to very serious deterioration of the bones if the dog does not get proper food and exercise. Many dogs are genetically affected by hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia. Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) has been shown to be hereditary in the breed. They are susceptible to eye disorders called entropion and ectropion, in which the eyelid turns in or out. The breed is also susceptible to epilepsy and seizures, a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy, and eczema.
Cancer is the leading cause of death for dogs in general, but Bernese Mountain Dogs have a much higher rate of fatal cancer than other breeds; in both U.S./Canada and UK surveys, nearly half of Bernese Mountain Dogs die of cancer, compared to about 27% of all other dogs.
Inherited medical problems that a Bernese Mountain Dog may face include malignant histiocytosis, progressive retinal atrophy, and possibly cataracts and other eye problems.
Bernese Mountain Dogs also have unusually high mortality due to musculoskeletal causes like Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cruciate ligament rupture.
Prospective Bernese Mountain Dog owners should be prepared to cope with a large dog that may have mobility problems at a young age.
In conclusion, these are both large, loving and loyal dogs. And both have their caveats. Short life spans and health concerns plague both breeds and owners should expect that with either comes hefty vet bills.
Oh, we should probably mention that both breeds are heavy droolers due to loose mouth skin and large jowls.
Neither is particularly easy to train, but once trained make excellent family companions and protectors.
So, which breed do you think wins? Which would you have in your home? Let us know in the comments below. Any other breeds that you’d like me to compare? Shout them out.