So you are a Novice just starting out, and would Love to have a large dog called a St. Bernard, what is really the first thing you should do? I'm going to try to explain to you the best way to save yourself lots of Time, Effort ,and Money. After having 37 years. experience naturally I too was a Novice at one point in time and yes, Experience is of course what is left over after you have already made all the mistakes. HA!! So yes, I feel like I'm very qualified to talk to you about being a Novice and whether or not you want to stay that way or learn all about The Great St. Bernard Dog.
Not everyone has an interest in becoming a St. Bernard Breeder, in fact most folks don't intend to ever become a breeder, but everyone should want to learn as much as they can to enable them to raise one of these giant size dogs. Yes, I'm telling you, as a Novice you do not know how to correctly raise one of these particular dogs. I know, I ruined some myself before I learned how to properly raise one to an adult. Now, everyone thinks in their minds that they are the best parents and of course the best dog owners in the World, I did, you will etc. etc. But, do you actually know how to raise a particular large breed like a St. Bernard the answer to that question is NO, NO, NO. Don't think for one minute that you can even learn how to over night, it simply can't be done. It's just like everything else takes time to learn how to do what is a must to develop a structurally sound large dog.
The hardest thing for a long time Breeder like myself to tell someone is How they have absolutely ruined their beloved Pet by keeping it too fat and not allowing it enough exercise. This breed must be allowed a lot of time outdoors, and of course never ever Free fed. St. Bernard puppies are real chow hounds and do not know when to stop eating. Puppies must be put on different diets at different ages. I have tried for many years now to come up with a plan for every single home that would work, but as of yet I have not been able to do it due to everyone having a different environment and even living where the climate is so different. Everyone having different life styles etc. The best I have ever been able to come up with is to ask every new owner about their life style and try to design a plan for that individual puppy and it's new home and family. NO, not just anyone can get them a St. Bernard puppy and plan on raising a Healthy to adult grown dog.
First of all most vet do not seem to be able to tell the new owner of a Saint puppy," Hey, your Saint puppy is being kept way too over weight," but the vet's always seem to be able to tell the person that their puppy is having some serious problems walking when it's already limping, and after they have made an x-ray, the vet's are great at being able to tell the new owner," Hey this puppy has Hips Dysplasia, and guess what, we do just happen to have a new surgery where we will cut the pups pelvic bones in three places and we can line up these hip sockets". And guess what, it is only priced right now your lucky day, at only $5000. When all that vet would have had to say to begin with is," Hey your puppy is way over weight for it's breed at this age." But, hold on a minute, does the vet's really know what is way over weight for a St. Bernard puppy at their different and very critical growth stress stages? NO NO NO! Well, Vet's do not specialize in each individual breed or any problems each breed may have, but of course they do know how to do a surgery and charge a big price for it. When the problem could have been stopped or maybe even solved by saying to their clients the pup is too Fat, it's just that simple. Naturally most people do put all their faith and trust in their vet's just like they will their doctors. Puppies can't talk so they can't tell the owner what is the real problem therefore it only gets worse as the puppy is growing and trying to develop. Because as I said before we all like to think we are absolutely the Best parent and the very dog dog owners possible. We Love them from Hell to Breakfast and then wonder why something went wrong. We are very sure we did our very best even when it's a person who has never ever raised one of these large dogs they are sure it couldn't possibly be their fault the puppy is too large for it's age, it must then be the Dog food they are feeding. Or then it's the Breeder or maybe it's the Bloodlines their pup comes from etc. etc. etc. But, it can not possibly be the New Inexperienced Dog Owners fault. This is just Human Nature for people to think like this and of course once in a while I will run into the person who does blame themselves for everything in life. But, they are few and far between. Most people are very eager to place the blame on something else or someone else, when a problem comes up with their puppy.
First of all you must start out with a structurally sound built puppy, that is in fact capable of developing good conformation for it's breed to be able to have a good foundation under one of these large dogs, the Structure is so Important. So Yes, that is the Breeders or Bloodlines fault if the puppy is not Structurally sound to begin with it is not capable of developing good strong Muscle tone, which it of course must have to be a Healthy Giant size dog the rest of it's life. So this is Genetic. Now, of course you can take a structurally sound built puppy and put it into the wrong home where it could be kept grossly over weight and Yes, ruin it in a very short time I have personally seen pups ruined in just 2 months time by a wonderful Loving home that allowed the puppy little to no exercise and yet allowed the puppy to judge for itself how much food it should eat each day. Too much Fat on a puppy and there can't possibly be the development of good strong muscle that's just common sense.
Now, if you happen to start off with a horrible built puppy to begin with guess what? At best even with the correct environment and all the exercise possible etc. you will still end up with a puppy that has Horrible Structure, Why, because there is no way a horrible built puppy is capable of developing enough muscle tone to ever allow it to end up with good structure for this breed as per it's Breed Standard, or as per what it's going to need to hold it up and be a functional Working Dog the rest of it's life. Now, if parts of the structure are average or not the worse possible Front, rear end, or topline then maybe that can be worked with to some degree, but it will never ever have the very best structure.
Presuming you have gotten a puppy with the best possible conformation, and presuming you have bought your puppy from a good breeder, and by that I don't just mean someone who is Popular with other St. Bernard Breeders either, because that is no way to judge whether this so called Breeder really knows their breed or not. But, presuming you get real lucky and just happen to get you a good breeder but the bloodlines just weren't that good yes, the Breeder obviously thought they were or they wouldn't have done the breeding, but it just didn't turn out that way, and the bloodlines do have several serious structural problems back in the pedigree and yes, there are even plenty of champions back in the pups pedigree, but most of those dogs finished, but just weren't the best in structure, then NO NO NO, you should not breed this type of puppy when it's grown, because sooner or later those structural problems will crop up, and come out in other puppies. So if you shouldn't breed this type puppy then Why should it ever be shown?
It shouldn't be shown at all because it might accidentally get some championship points and then of course you'll want to breed it. There are too many dogs pointed or even finish their championships today that shouldn't have ever been shown to begin with. When there are Show/Exhibitor Breeders who just breed up from what they already have, and are limited to a very few dogs, naturally they are going to show what they produce and get others to show what they have produced. After all they want as many of their puppies shown from a litter as is possible so their Stud Dog can also win some Fame and Glory, or their female needs to be the next Best Brood. The really sad fact is then everyone runs out and breeds to that Stud Dog or everyone wants a pup from that brood. Instead of a bigger variety of Stud Dogs used to indvidual females, everyone thinks they must use the same Stud Dog and then there will be a whole bunch of pups, and then grown dogs showng up at the show in the next generation with the exact same short-comings or faults. And then this just snowballs into several generations of the same Stud Dogs reproducing the same problems over and over again.
Back when I started in Saints, it was wonderful to find a pedigree with many champions in it, of course back in those days it took a lot more dogs to make a major win too. Now a days, I have seen some of the most terrible Saints come from pedigrees filled completely with champions, so that's not a true test any more, but many years ago it was. This is why it is so important for you to learn for yourself the Breed Standard, so you can recognize the short-comings or faults for yourself, and not just take the word of some popular Breeder. If you see somethng that just doesn't look right to you it probably is a short-coming, if you are new to this breed and recognized it.
When someone says "That Dog has a Great Head" for example, then ask that person what it is that they like the most about that dogs Head, see if they can tell you, what makes them think that Dogs Head is so great. Then look at it yourself to see if you think there is any short-comings or faults to the Head, if so point them out or question it.
Hopefully this will be of some help to you learning about this breed so you no longer will be a Novice forever.
Yours In Saints,