Exercising Your St. BernardGood Exercises For Your St. Bernard

The St. Bernard is a large dog breed for working and for cold temperatures.  This breed was developed in the 1600’s by monks in the Swiss Alps that kept a hospice for travelers crossing the mountains between Switzerland and Italy. The dogs were used at the Hospice of St. Bernard – a refuge for travelers crossing the mountain passes – for search and rescue of lost travelers. These powerful dogs were also used as pulling sleds or wagons and guarding. This large dog is a cross of the ancient Tibetan or Roman Mastiff with the Great Dane, and then later with Newfoundlands.  The breed was a popular a rescue dog working to save people from avalanches in the snowy passes but was also known as a drafting dog and guard dog.

Breed Type
Guardian Dog
Physical Characteristics
  • giant, strong, muscular dog with adults between 120 and 180 pounds and up to 30″ in height
  • thick, double coat
  • feet are large with strong well-arched toes
  • slow-moving dog
  • coat: rough or smooth, but both are very dense
  • extremely gentle, affectionate, fun-loving, playful
  • patient, gentle, and great with children
  • obedient, extremely loyal, eager and willing to please
  • highly intelligent and easy to train
  • good with strangers, but not a great guard dog, but will bark
  • loves being outside
  • moderate energy level
Best Exercises
  • For such a large dog, your St. Bernard actually does not need vigorous exercise. But because of his size, exercise is important for weight maintenance.
    • Walks – daily, moderate to long (25 – 60 minutes) walk at a steady pace is fine
    • Hiking – moderate to long, low-key hikes are great
    • Runs – adult dogs are OK for short runs (15 – 20 minutes) in cooler temperatures
    • Dog park (ONLY IF WELL TRAINED, see Things to Know)
    • Dog sports and training for dog competitions that are not endurance/long-distance runs
    • Games – this playful dog loves games, they love the interaction with you and the challenge.
      • You can teach St. Bernard’s more challenging games.
      • Play indoors if the weather is hot.
      • When cold, get outside and play, especially if there is snow.
Suggested Exercise Plan
It is important for this breed to have daily exercise to stay fit, especially with the possible health issues – see below. A moderate daily walk will suffice. They love the outdoors and are excellent in cold weather, don’t let bad weather deter you, take him or her out even on bad days. However, this breed does not do well in heat, keep in the house if temps are approaching 80’s. If your dog is particularly active, consider training once or twice a week for weight-pulling competitions.
Things To Note
  • Because this dog is so large AND so friendly, it is important to train him or her well from the beginning. An unruly dog of this size is difficult to walk or allow to play with other dogs, even for a strong adult.
  • This breed, because it grows so fast, also has a tendency for hip and elbow dysplasia and heart problems.
  • Also, because this breed grows fast, there is the temptation to treat or train a puppy as a full grown dog. Resist this temptation as puppies bones are still growing and hardening, which takes longer in large breed dogs, up to a year and a half!
  • Also prone to obesity.
  • Very low tolerance to heat and can overheat easily – don’t exercise in hot weather.
  • Does very well in cold weather – play outside when cold or snowy is good.