After watching two of my favorite dog movies Beethoven and Rin Tin Tin, I wanted to have the best of both worlds and mix the breeds. A mixed-breed dog gives you characteristics of both types of dog, and they are a pet that you can guarantee no one else on the block has.
Below is your guide to the St. Bernard German Shepherd Mix, also known as a Saint Shepherd.
History and Reasons to Cross-Breed
Saint Shepherd originated in the early 2000s with German and Switzerland roots. The German Shepherd was used for carrying military supplies during World War I, while Saint Bernard was used for rescue missions in blizzards and other natural disasters. The Saint Bernard’s gentle nature paired with the more intelligent and protective German Shepherd makes for a unique pet.
The Saint Shepherd has a longer than average coat length, floppy ears, a large head, and a thick, muscular body. They have a distinctive, bushy tail and long snout, while their face and bodies usually are a combination of white, brown, and black colors.
Their coats are dense and long, and they are designed for cold weather. Be prepared to pick up lots of hair with the Saint Shepherd. There are many tips to help with dogs that shed, but the more proactive you are, the more you will keep the hair under control. It would help if you were cautious of the warm temperatures during the summer because Saint Shepherds cannot insulate themselves.
Keep lots of cold water around, and limit your time outside during peak temperatures. Create a schedule that includes regular coat brushing, vacuuming, and changing your car and furniture covers. Also, experiment with different dog food brands since a healthier diet will help keep the shedding under control. You can find a list of the best dog foods for large dogs here.
You are going to turn some heads with the sheer size of the St. Bernard German shepherd mix. It is considered a large dog, and depending on what parent it takes after, it can top the scales at well over 100 pounds and stand at nearly three feet tall. There is not much difference between the male and female in terms of size.
Don’t let the docile nature of the Saint Shepherd fool you with their toughness. They can easily pull you to the ground, so make sure you have a good grip on the leash when you take them out. While Saint Shepherds are unlikely to bite unless provoked, use caution since their bite is powerful. Make sure your pet is trained properly before allowing your children to interact with it.
You’ll be surprised with the athleticism and agility of such a large dog. They will have no problem running around with your kids or chasing after that frisbee! Saint
Shepherds can run close to 30 miles per hour!
Grooming and Maintenance
One of the challenging components of owning this breed of dog is the amount of grooming required. You’ll need some different “tools” to keep your Saint Shepherd looking its best. Use a brush with a hard bristle or a metal comb on your Saint Shepherd.
It’s recommended to brush your dog at least five times per week, but brushing it daily is ideal. On the positive, the Saint Shepherd only needs to be bathed about once a month since their skin is more susceptible to irritation. Use a mild shampoo, and make sure you rinse your pup thoroughly.
You’ll need to trim the nails to prevent them from splitting and brush their teeth up to three times per week. Also, make sure to dry their ears well after being exposed to moisture, especially if their ears are more on the floppy side.
The Saint Shepherd is a great option for families. Saint Bernards are a “gentle giant” and an outgoing dog that pairs nicely with the German Shepherd that is easier to train.
Their laid-back personality makes them both a great companion and guard dog for your home. You can picture them sitting beside your front door on a cold winter night. Saint Shepherds are sociable, and they will play with children and chase other dogs in the neighborhood.
Since they are large dogs, you will need to train them to interact with children to avoid accidents. Saint Shepherds are very affectionate! Be prepared for lots of “kisses” and bites of your ice cream cones. Saint Shepherds are not known for barking a lot, but without proper training, you’ll find them barking for no reason.
Both sexes are relatively similar in temperament, but males are a bit more on the playful side. You can rely on males and females to protect you from a thief in the night.
Start a training regimen that is consistent when the Saint Shepherd is a puppy. Similar to other breeds, your dog will respond to training that is frequent and consistent. German Shepherds are highly intelligent, while the Saint Bernard not so much.
The difficulty in training your mutt will depend on which parent breed it takes after. They are generally easy to train but respond best to positive reinforcement. Remain firm, and use lots of doggie treats and clapping to praise and reward desired behaviors.
You can also look into obedience training through a reputable pet training company. They will respond to socializing with dogs and children as long as you commit to the process early. Saint Shepherds that are properly trained will enjoy a better quality of life. Plus, you will keep your frustration level in check, and your adventures and activities with your dog will be much more enjoyable.
The Saint Shepherd will adapt to your exercise habits whether you’re a couch potato or a morning jogger. They will need a good amount of exercise to keep their weight under control and prevent other health issues.
They should exercise about one hour after eating, and it’s a good idea to have them eat smaller meals instead of one. Just like humans, you’ll keep their minds sharp and active with regular exercise since the Saint Shepherd will become destructive without enough mental stimulation.
The Saint Shepherd will need at least one solid hour of vigorous exercise daily. Some great suggestions for exercise include walking, playing fetch, going to the dog park, and swimming. If you run out of ideas, check out this list of other activities for your furry friend.
One of the unfortunate parts of being a pet owner is the potential and inevitable health concerns they will have. Here are some of the major health issues with the Saint Shepherd.
- Bloat-A painful and serious condition caused by excess gas or fluid in the stomach. Since Saint Shepherds have large and deep chests, they are more prone to this issue.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia- Occurs when bones do not fit properly into the joints. You’ll notice your dog swaying and becoming less active. This health condition is relatively common among larger dogs.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)- A condition characterized by a weakened heart muscle that cannot pump enough blood through the rest of the body.
- Ectropion/Entropion- A condition where the eyelids roll inward or outward.
- Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)- A painful condition for the Saint Shepherd that causes the stomach to twist. This condition can occur if bloating is not addressed immediately.
There are also minor health issues such as Pannus and dry eyes, but regular checkups and diagnostic exams at your local veterinarian will help keep the health issues at bay.
It’s probably not a surprise that the Saint Shepherd has a large appetite. A well-balanced diet filled with lots of calcium and minerals will keep their weight under control and limit health problems.
Provide a diet with a higher amount of protein and moderate fat. Plan their meals for the day to prevent overeating, and avoid the temptation to give your dog the scraps leftover from your dinner. The occasional treat is fine, but they are prone to obesity. Plan to spend around $100 per month on their diet.
The Saint Shepherd will be tough to find at a dog pound, and you will inevitably need to go to a breeder. If you are lucky enough to have local shelters, it will probably be snatched up before you can get there.
You can usually strike a good deal and get a Saint Shepherd for under $1000, depending on the breeder’s litter size and your negotiating skills. Be cautious if the price is too good to be true. Often, these dogs are victims of abuse or have unaddressed health concerns. You’ll also need to think about the recurring costs that come with owning a pet.
Saint Bernards live on the shorter end of dog life expectancy at around eight years old, while German Shepherds at around 13 to 14 years old. You can expect your Saint Shepherd to live for a solid decade with regular care and excellent nutrition.
Is a Saint Shepherd Right for me?
It’s a difficult decision to determine what type of dog will suit you and your family best. Here are some additional points to consider before making a Saint Shepherd your next pet.
- Space- The Saint Shepherd will take up a lot of living space in your home. They probably are not the best pet for apartment or condo living situations. A large area for them to roam and play is ideal. Consider all the elements in your living space to provide the most comfortable environment for your Saint Shepherd.
- Budget-Talk with your family and make sure you have the money to care for your Saint Shepherd properly. Food, grooming, and health maintenance costs add up quickly.
- Cleanliness- You are going to have to get over your OCD about your home being spotless. Between the slobbering and shedding, you can forget it. The grooming regimen can be tedious and time-consuming.
- Attention- Saint Shepherds are known for wanting to be in the spotlight, and you’ll need a plan that gives them regular interaction. Create a schedule with your family members to help divide and conquer the responsibilities.