Monday, September 25, 2023

St. Bernard Dog Vs. Bernese Mountain Dog: Which One to Choose

When it comes to St Bernard vs. Bernese Mountain Dog, both are adorable breeds. They come under large dog breeds and make excellent family pets. Despite showing almost similar traits, the St. Bernards are slightly larger than the Bernese Mountain dogs. Also, their color, energy levels, care needs, and lifespan vary.

If you are planning to take one of these furry friends home, here is what you need to know. We have compared these two gentle giants to help you make an informed decision. Even if you’re a dog enthusiast and looking to expand your knowledge, this guide will answer your all queries.

So, let’s dive into our St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs guide and find out which of these working dog breeds better suits your lifestyle and preferences.

St. Bernard Dogs Vs. Bernese Mountain Dogs: An Overview

Saint and Berner both seek a positive and playful environment with proper care and stimulation. You must know about each to set a favorable environment before bringing one home.

So, take a look at our expert-curated comparison between St. Bernard dogs and Bernese Mountain dogs based on their origins, traits, physical characteristics, care needs, life span, grooming, and exercise requirements.

Let’s dive straight into the comparison.

Characteristics St. Bernard Dog Bernese Mountain Dog
Size Larger and heavier Slightly smaller
Coat Dense, various colors Glossy, tri-color pattern
Temperament Gentle, patient, affectionate Calm, sweet, and friendly
Grooming Weekly brushing, ear/gland cleaning Weekly brushing, ear/gland cleaning
Exercise Needs Moderate Higher
Lifespan 8 to 10 years 7 to 10 years
Health Concerns Prone to bloating Prone to arthritis
Other Names Alpine Mastiff


St. Barnhardshund

St. Bernard



Bernese Cattle dog

Berner Sennenhund

1. St Bernard vs Bernese Mountain Dog: Origin and History

St. Bernard Dogs Vs. Bernese Mountain DogsFirst things first, let’s go through the origins before exploring St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs.

Saint Bernard:

The story of Saint Bernard begins amidst the breathtaking Swiss Alps in the early 18th century. The breed gets its name from the iconic Saint Bernard Hospice. Located at the Great St. Bernard Pass, it’s a mountain route that connects Switzerland and Italy, and serves as a refuge for travelers and pilgrims. The hospice, established by monks, provided safe shelter and provisions to weary travelers making their way through the perilous mountains.

The monks soon realized the value of canine companions to assist in their noble mission of rescue and aid. They selectively bred large, strong dogs with a keen sense of direction and an innate ability to navigate through the snowy terrain, even during the harshest winters. These early Saint Bernards played a crucial role in finding and rescuing lost or stranded travelers, often guiding them back to safety.

Bernese Mountain Dog:

Guess what? Even the Bernese Mountain dogs trace their roots to the picturesque Swiss Alps, like Saint Bernard. The breed originated in the canton of Bern, Switzerland, where it was a valuable asset to farmers and herders in the region. Bred for their strength, versatility, and reliability, Bernese Mountain dogs could perform a variety of tasks on the farm.

You can trace their roots back to Roman mastiff-type dogs that barged into the region with Roman soldiers around two millennia ago. Over the centuries, these mastiff-type dogs intermingled with local working breeds, eventually giving rise to the Bernese Mountain dog we know today. Like Saint Bernard, the Bernese Mountain dog also found appreciation beyond Swiss borders when it caught the attention of dog enthusiasts.

2. St Bernard vs Bernese Mountain Dog: Traits and Physical Characteristics

Now that origins and history are done with, it’s time to focus on physical traits. This will give you a better grip on St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs.

Saint Bernard Traits:

Saint Bernard is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and gentle giants in the canine world. This breed boasts a remarkable set of traits that endear it to families and adventurers alike.

  • We know them for their kind, patient, and gentle demeanor. They exude a natural calmness, making them exceptional therapy dogs. Despite their imposing size, they are surprisingly gentle with children and make wonderful family pets.
  • These noble dogs are intelligent and possess a strong desire to please their human companions.
  • Saint Bernards are naturally sociable and enjoy being part of a loving family. They form strong bonds with their humans and thrive on companionship and attention.
  • They may not be the most vigilant watchdogs, but their protective instincts kick in when they sense any threat to their loved ones.

Saint Bernard Physical Characteristics:

Saint Bernards are majestic dogs with distinctive physical features.

  • Adult male Bernards typically weigh between 140-180 pounds, and females usually weigh between 120-140 pounds.
  • They stand tall at the shoulder, reaching heights of 25-28 inches.
  • Their robust and sturdy build, combined with their deep chest and strong legs, gives them the strength needed for their historical role as rescue dogs.
  • They have broad and massive heads, reflecting their power and strength.
  • Their eyes are soulful and dark, expressing kindness and warmth.
  • The ears are set high on the head and are medium in size, hanging close to the cheeks.
  • The breed’s coat is dense and water-resistant, ideal for enduring the harsh Alpine climate. They have a rough outer coat with a soft undercoat that keeps them warm in chilly conditions.
  • Saint Bernards come in various colors, with the most common being a white base with red or mahogany markings on the ears, around the eyes, and on the body.
  • On the downside, Saint Bernards have a tendency to drool. As a potential owner, you should be prepared for it. However, regular wiping around the mouth and beard can help manage drool and keep them clean.

Bernese Mountain Dog Traits:

Famous for their loving and devoted nature, the Bernese Mountain dog shares many endearing traits with Saint Bernard. They thrive on human interaction and are at their happiest when surrounded by their family. The breed is also overly friendly with strangers, which makes them poor guard dogs but exceptional family pets.

Bernese Mountain dogs are intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. Positive reinforcement training methods work best with these sensitive souls. Bernese Mountain dogs are naturally alert and will bark to alert you to any perceived threats or unusual occurrences.

Bernese Mountain Physical Characteristics:

The Bernese Mountain dog is a strikingly beautiful breed with an eye-catching tricolor coat and a robust frame.

  • Adult male Bernese Mountain dogs generally weigh between 85-110 pounds, while females typically weigh between 80-105 pounds.
  • They stand at a height of 23-27 inches at the shoulder. Their strong, sturdy build reflects their history as working dogs on farms in the Swiss Alps.
  • They have luxurious coats, consisting of a thick double layer. The outer coat is long, straight, and slightly wavy, while the undercoat is dense and insulating.
  • The breed’s signature color pattern includes a jet-black base with rich rust and bright white markings on the chest, paws, and face.
  • The Bernese Mountain dog has a friendly and expressive face, with almond-shaped dark eyes reflecting its kind nature. Their distinctive rust-colored “eyebrows” and “cheeks” add charm to their appearance.
  • The breed’s bushy tail is carried low and gently curves upward, while some dogs may have a natural bobtail.
  • Bernese Mountain dogs often have dewclaws on their hind legs, which can be removed in some regions.

3. St Bernard vs Bernese Mountain Dog: Temperament and Care Need

As you know, all dogs have a specific temperament and care needs. St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs aren’t an exception either.

Saint Bernard Temperament:

The temperament of these dogs is a blend of gentleness, patience, and loyalty.

  • Despite its imposing size, this breed has a tender approach towards children and other pets. They are incredibly tolerant and have a calming presence that can soothe even the most anxious souls.
  • They form deep bonds with their human family members and are incredibly devoted. They thrive on companionship and are at their happiest when they are near their loved ones. Their affectionate nature extends to cuddling and leaning against their humans, showing their love in the most heartwarming ways.
  • This breed exhibits a calm and composed demeanor, even in challenging situations. This steadiness makes them reliable partners in various settings and an excellent choice for families.
  • While not aggressive, Saint Bernards have an innate protective instinct towards their family. Early socialization and training can help them differentiate between real threats and everyday situations.

Saint Bernard Care Needs:

Caring for Saint Bernard involves meeting their specific needs, and ensuring they remain healthy, happy, and well-adjusted members of your family. Early and ongoing socialization is vital for Saint Bernards.

  • Despite their large size, they have moderate exercise needs. Regular daily walks, playtime, and mental stimulation through interactive toys will keep them physically and mentally content. However, avoid excessive exercise, especially in hot weather, as they are susceptible to heat-related issues.
  • Saint Bernards have thick, water-resistant double coats that shed moderately throughout the year and heavily during seasonal changes. Regular weekly brushing is essential to remove loose hair, prevent matting, and maintain a healthy coat.
  • Additionally, you need to clean their facial wrinkles regularly to prevent moisture buildup and skin issues. A balanced diet is crucial for the well-being of this breed. Their large size puts them at risk for joint issues, so feeding them a high-quality, age-appropriate diet that supports bone and joint health is essential.

Always consult with a veterinarian to determine the best diet plan for your dog.

  • However, they are susceptible to certain health conditions common in large breeds, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloat, and heart issues. Regular veterinary check-ups and taking preventive measures, like maintaining a healthy weight and providing joint supplements, will be the best.

Bernese Mountain Dog Temperament:

You can define the Bernese Mountain dog’s temperament as warm and loyal.

  • They form strong bonds with their human family members and thrive on close companionship. Bernese Mountain dogs have a friendly and approachable nature, making them excellent family dogs.
  • They eagerly welcome strangers with their wagging tails and are usually amiable with other pets, which helps in creating a peaceful environment within multi-pet households.
  • This breed is remarkably sensitive and has a unique ability to sense the emotional needs of their human companions.
  • Notwithstanding their large size, they maintain a playful and youthful spirit throughout their lives. They enjoy playtime with family members, especially children, and will gladly participate in various activities, whether it’s a game of fetch or a leisurely stroll in the park.

Bernese Mountain Dog Care Needs:

Caring for Bernese Mountain dogs involves understanding their specific requirements and providing the love and attention they deserve.

  • Introduce them to different people, animals, and environments to build their confidence and minimize fearfulness.
  • These dogs require moderate level physical activity regularly to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Daily walks, play sessions, and opportunities for exploration will keep them content and happy.
  • Their luxurious double coat requires regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Brush their coats at least a few times a week.
  • Alongside, provide a well-balanced diet to support the health of Bernese Mountain dogs. Ensure they receive high-quality food that meets their specific nutritional requirements. However, avoid overfeeding to maintain a healthy weight, as obesity can lead to joint issues.
  • Like many large breeds, these dogs are susceptible to certain health conditions, including hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and certain cancers. Regular vet check-ups, proper nutrition, and preventive care are essential.

4. St Bernard vs. Bernese Mountain Dog: Life Span and Health

The life span is an important factor when it comes to choosing between St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs.

Saint Bernard Life Span:

They have a relatively shorter life span compared to smaller breeds. On average, a well-cared-for Saint Bernard can live between 8 to 10 years. However, factors, such as genetics, diet, exercise, and overall health play significant roles in determining the individual life span of each dog.

Health Considerations for Saint Bernards:

As a large and majestic breed, Saint Bernards are prone to certain health issues that potential owners should be aware of.

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: It is a genetic condition where the hip or elbow joints do not fit properly, leading to degeneration and potential pain, and mobility issues. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and joint supplements can help manage and reduce the risk of these conditions.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus or bloating is a serious condition where the stomach fills with gas and can twist on itself, cutting off the blood supply. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. To reduce the risk of bloat, feed your Saint Bernard smaller, more frequent meals, and avoid vigorous exercise right after meals.
  • Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a concern for large breeds, including Saint Bernards. Regular check-ups and early detection are crucial for managing cardiac health.
  • Joint Issues: Given their large size and weight, Saint Bernards can acquire joint issues, such as osteoarthritis. Joint supplements, a balanced diet, and managing exercise can support joint health.
  • Heat Sensitivity: Saint Bernards have thick, insulating coats, making them sensitive to heat. It’s essential to provide them with a cool and shaded environment and avoid excessive exercise during hot weather.

Bernese Mountain Dog Life Span:

The Bernese Mountain dog, like its Saint Bernard counterpart, has an average life span of around 7 to 10 years. However, with proper care and attention to their specific health needs, some Bernese Mountain dogs have been known to live longer.

Health Considerations for Bernese Mountain Dogs:

As a large breed with a rich history as a working dog, the Bernese Mountain dog is prone to specific health conditions. Early detection and proactive care are essential for maintaining their well-being.

  • Cancer: Cancer is a significant concern for Bernese Mountain dogs, with various types affecting the breed. Regular vet check-ups and knowing the early warning signs can aid in timely detection and treatment.
  • Joint Issues: Just like Saint Bernard, Bernese Mountain dogs can be prone to these joint issues.
  • Cardiac Issues: Cardiac issues, including mitral valve disease, can occur in Bernese Mountain dogs.
  • Hypothyroidism: It is another condition that affects the thyroid gland, leading to various health issues.
  • BMHN: Bernese Mountain dog Hereditary Necrotizing Myelopathy (BMHN) is a hereditary neurological condition that affects this breed. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce BMHN incidences.

5. Grooming

Grooming needs are a key consideration when choosing between St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs.

Saint Bernard Grooming:

Grooming Saint Bernard is an essential aspect of their care routine, as their thick double coat requires regular attention to keep them healthy and tidy.

  • Bathe your Saint Bernard when they become dirty or emits an odor. However, avoid excessive bathing, as it can strip the coat of its natural oils and lead to dry skin. Use a gentle dog shampoo and thoroughly rinse the coat to ensure no residue is left behind. Be sure to dry your dog thoroughly after bathing, especially in cooler weather, to prevent any chill.
  • These dogs have adorable facial wrinkles that require regular cleaning. Use a soft, damp cloth to wipe gently between the folds, removing accumulated dirt or moisture. Keeping the wrinkles clean will help prevent skin irritation and potential infections.
  • Regular nail trimming is crucial for Saint Bernards, as their large size can put additional pressure on their nails. Long nails can cause discomfort and affect their gait. Trim your dog’s nails carefully with a dog nail clipper or grinder, ensuring you don’t cut into the quick, which contains blood vessels and nerves.
  • Check your dog’s ears regularly for any signs of redness, discharge, or foul odor, which may indicate an ear infection. Clean the ears with a dog ear cleaning solution and a cotton ball, while being gentle and avoiding the ear canal.
  • Good dental hygiene is vital for your dog’s overall health. Brush your Saint Bernard’s teeth regularly using a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. Dental chews or toys can also help maintain their dental health.

Bernese Mountain Dog Grooming:

Like Saint Bernard, the Bernese Mountain dog has a thick, double coat that requires regular grooming to keep it in optimal condition.

  • Regular brushing, at least two to three times a week, helps remove loose hair, tangles, and debris. Use a pin brush or a slicker brush to work through the coat gently, paying special attention to areas prone to matting.
  • Bathe your Bernese Mountain dog as needed, especially when they get dirty or smelly with a dog-specific shampoo.
  • Regular nail trimming is essential for Bernese Mountain dogs also as it is for other breeds.
  • Check his ears regularly for signs of infection or wax buildup.
  • Maintain your dog’s dental health by brushing the teeth regularly and providing dental chews or toys to help reduce tartar buildup.
  • During shedding seasons, which usually occur in the spring and fall, you may need to increase brushing frequency to help manage the increased shedding.


Whether you choose St. Bernard dogs vs. Bernese Mountain dogs, you’ll be welcoming a devoted, gentle, and loyal companion into your home. Both breeds offer unique qualities and will thrive with proper care, training, and lots of love. When choosing between the two, consider your lifestyle, activity level, and the time you can dedicate to their care. Remember, a well-cared-for dog is a happy and healthy dog.

Feel free to ask questions and provide feedback in the comment section below.

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Sameeksha Medewar
Sameeksha Medewar
With 3+ years of experience in curating highly-informative and well-researched technical blogs, Sameeksha is a passionate technical writer, technology enthusiast, and computer science graduate. Besides, she enjoys curating copies of travel, entertainment, and food.

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