They are some of the largest dogs in the world, and Saint Bernard dogs have a rich history. Although they started out as watchdogs and companions for monks in about 1700, they were first used to accompany the monks into the mountains after snowstorms, to find missing or trapped travelers. The dogs seemed to have an uncanny ability to sense an avalanche before it happened. The historic Saint Bernard dogs started to travel in packs of two or three and often had to dig through layers of snow and awaken the lost travelers. Travelers who could still walk would be led back to the hospice of the nearby monks. They would provide warmth, however, to people that could not move. One famous Saint Bernard, “Barry,” was credited with saving more than 40 lives.
If you are thinking of purchasing a Saint Bernard, you might find the history of the animal to be interesting, but the thought of training such a large dog, the kind that can dig through layers of snow in a dangerous snow covered area, might seem intimidating. Don’t be scared. Saint Bernard dogs are easy to train, and they make wonderful pets. They love to please their owners.
You may be afraid of whether your dog will be obedient when grown, but if a Saint Bernard is trained properly, it will continue to be obedient and want to please you. Such a dog will respond well to a reward for obedience but will respond poorly to punishment for disobedience.
Naturally the first step in training your Saint Bernard is for him to be housebroken. If you watch your new puppy closely, you will be able to tell easily when he needs to relieve himself. The dog will pace around, raise his tail, and spread his legs. When you see your puppy do those things, immediately yell, “No!” After that, carry the puppy outside.
If the dog does his business outside, praise him lavishly. If he does his business inside, give him a harsh, “No!” In a few days to a few months, you will have a housebroken dog.
Your Saint Bernard can easily be trained to “Come,” because he will want to come to you as his master anyway. When he is coming in your direction anyway, add an excited command of “Come” and his name. A good place to train your dog is in your back yard. When your dog ignores you, keep saying “Come” until he notices you. You have to get his attention, even if you have to pat your leg, jump up and down, or clap. When he does come, give him a treat, pat his head, and praise him.
It will be good to teach him to sit also, because when he is fully grown, you will not want a fully grown, 150 pound animal running at you at full speed. Use your yard to teach him to sit. He will begin to associate the word, “Sit,” with the action of sitting, if he is sitting when you say the word anyway. If he is standing, say the word and gently, but firmly, push down on his rear. When he does sit, offer lavish praise, pat his head, and give him a treat. Dogs love treats, and they want to please you. They will get the idea.
Your Saint Bernard can also be trained to “Stay.” Have your pet sit in an enclosed area. A friend can help you. Place your palm out, back up a few steps, and say, “Stay.” If your dog follows, have your friend hold his collar while you back up. Once you can back up a little and the dog stays, use your “Come” command. As always, praise your dog when he does what you want.
Once your Saint Bernard does start to stay, back farther and farther away. You will soon find you can go to the end of your yard while your dog is waiting for your “Come” command. The dog will not stay too long at first, but gradually increase the time you teach him to stay.
Training a Saint Bernard to “Lie down” or just “Down” is a little harder. If your dog does not want to lie down, it can be difficult to get him to, especially if he is old enough to be fully grown. While your pet is sitting, gently pull front paws out, so he is in a down position. Say “Down” or “Die down” and reward him for obedience.
You can train your Saint Bernard to “Roll over.” Such a trick can be used to enable to brush him, or just to show him off. When the dog is in a down position, cheerfully say “Roll over,” while turning him over. Tickle and scratch his stomach to get him to stay in that position.
You will want your big dog to get used to a collar and to heel.
Train your Saint Bernard to heel by having him sit by you. Firmly say, “Heel,” as you tug lightly on the leash and start to walk. Don’t let him run away. If he tries to, say, “No!” Firmly tug on the leash again. Your dog’s shoulder should be even with your legs as you walk. When your dog walks by your side, lavish praise upon him. Be cautious, because he heels once does not mean he will every time, but in time he will get the idea.
It would be good to teach your dog to stand on command before you take him to a veterinarian. When your dog is sitting, have a treat in your hand, and place your hand in front of the dog’s nose. Bring your hand slowly upward and forward, while saying, “Stand.” When your pet stands, repeat the command and tickle his stomach, so he will continue to stand. When he has stood for a couple of moments, praise him and give him the treat.
It is good to teach a large dog, such as a Saint Bernard to quit doing something undesirable, or to “Leave.” He will receive a treat only when you want to give it to him.
Have your dog beside you. Place the treat in front of him and give the command. Repeat the command several times while you hold his collar. Release him and say, “O.K.”
You will want to have the claws of your pet trimmed. Look at his ears, eyes, and mouth, so he will not mind later when a veterinarian does the same thing.
All puppies chew, whether it is an occasional item of clothing, or an expensive suit. Imagine a 150 pound Saint Bernard putting his mouth around your furniture, your house shows, or even your hands! Tell him, “No,” whenever he starts to chew on something.
Your Saint Bernard can be trained to “Speak” or be “Quiet.”
If the dog is barking anyway, say, “Speak.” You might also provoke him by making a noise yourself. If you bark, do it only after saying the word. Reward your dog when he obeys.
When you want train your Saint Bernard to quit barking, gently muzzle his mouth and give the command. When he remains quiet for awhile, reward him for obedience.
The history of Saint Bernard dogs is a rich one, and only a large dog could have been used to save so many lives. Don’t let their size scare you away from buying one, however. The dogs are easy to train.