As caretakers and aficionados of the Saint Bernard, we love puppies as much as you can imagine. However, our work and dedication with this breed is in rescue. For those who are considering purchasing a puppy, we cannot stress enough how important it is to purchase a Saint Bernard from an ethical and qualified breeder. We see many dogs come into this rescue that have health and structural problems due to poor breeding. We also receive emails or phone calls on a weekly basis from people who’ve purchased a Saint Bernard from an unscrupulous or ignorant breeder, and now they’re faced with problems such as hip dysplasia, temperament problems, etc. This page is designed to help you learn more about the Saint Bernard breed and what to look for when purchasing a puppy.
First of all, we are going to recommend that you become familiar with this breed by visiting the National Saint Bernard Club’s website at
A very large majority of the dogs that are surrendered to us or to shelters and worse, are because they were purchased as puppies and then discarded because they “got too big”. I think it’s safe to say that the general population understands that the Saint Bernard is a big dog. You need to understand how big this really is. To those who work with this breed every day, we’re used to the size. A 120lb dog to you may seem gigantic. To us, that’s an average to small Saint Bernard. They are the Clydesdales of the dog world and have certain nutritional and recreational requirements in order to raise them properly. They will drool. Not all of them, and not all of the time, but expect it. There is no such thing as a “dry mouth” Saint Bernard. And anyone who is trying to sell you one, is breeding a low-quality dog and will not be bred to the AKC standard. There is a list of recommended breeders at the National’s website. Find one in your area and get to know them. People are always happy to talk about their dogs.
We will also recommend that you visit the
Greater Milwaukee Saint Bernard Club’s website at www.wisconsinsaintbernardclubs.org
If you are in the state of Wisconsin and are looking to purchase a puppy, they have a breeder’s listing there as well. Seriously consider becoming a member of the club as it’s a great way to interact with people who share the same interest as you and to learn more about this wonderful breed. Your enthusiasm will be noticed and appreciated.
What is a Puppy Mill?
This is not where you want to get any puppy from, let alone a Saint Bernard puppy. We can’t stress enough how important it is to do your research when adding a new pet to your family. There are individuals who will put more effort into organizing their child’s birthday party, than investigating and learning about the new dog they just purchased. Every time you purchase a dog from a pet store, you are adding to the misery of the puppy mill epidemic. They ALL come from puppy mills no matter what the store will tell you. Do not fall for the quick impulse emotion when viewing cute, adorable puppies, do not fall for the free financing offered by the store, and most importantly, if you feel the need to “save” a puppy you see in a pet store, instead of giving the store your money, call the proper authorities and let them know that dogs are living in poor conditions and should be investigated.
To learn more, visit www.stoppuppymills.org
What about “papers”? Doesn’t that mean I’ve got a quality dog?
Not necessarily. However, it does mean that your dog is registered. A lot of people that purchase a puppy from an unethical breeder or pet store will claim “but it came with papers”. In a lot of cases, if you investigate a little further, these papers consist of nothing more than a sales receipt printed out on fancy paper to look more “official”. If you have a dog with AKC registration papers and you see the prefix, “Ch.” in front of individuals names, and preferably the parents names, then you have a dog that came from Champion parents and have been bred to the standard and have been compared against it’s peers in a showring. “Papers” that show parents with names such as
“Barney bred to Big Momma”..are worthless.
The following are examples of quality Saint Bernards from careful, ethical breeders who are paying attention to the breed standard and it’s concerns.
Notice the quality of these dogs. There is no mistaking these are Saint Bernards. They have proper heads and large, powerful legs that can support their weight. There is nothing weak or “rangy” about them. This is what you should be looking for when purchasing a Saint Bernard from a decent breeder. They come from breeders who are familiar with this breed and dedicate a lot of time and effort into producing a quality dog. They have health guarantees. Their parents and grandparents have had their hips scanned for displaysia and are clear. They were raised properly and they’ll be sold to you when they’re ready to leave their mother and not a minute before. If you need assistance or questions answered in the lifetime of the dog, you can always ask the breeder and get a knowledgeable answer. They have pedigrees that are actually worth something. Their ancestors have qualified themselves against their peers in an AKC showring, and are proven winners. They have steady temperaments. You’re getting a dog that’s bred to live a long, healthy life.
Now look at these dogs.
These dogs, though clearly Saint Bernards, barely meet the breed standard. They’ve all come through our rescue and have gone onto better homes. They’re not entirely indicative of the dogs that are found in rescues, not at all, but they give you an example of the lack of quality that a “backyard breeder” is incorporating into their so-called breeding program. In most cases they were bred by individuals who had very little knowledge of what is involved with creating a healthy, mentally stable, and physically sound dog. They’re generally sold as a “first come, first serve” transaction and the type of homes these dogs end up in, is not a fore-thought. The pups are on their own with a wish for good luck after they leave their mother and littermates. In most cases, so are you when purchasing from uneducated breeders. Like we’ve mentioned before, we get a lot of people contacting us about their young adult Saint and it’s health problems. I will always recommend an alternate veterinarian in their area who may be able to help them with their bills, but will especially recommend to them that they contact the breeder they bought the dog from. I will guarantee that none of these breeders will offer any assistance to the buyer other than to swap their defective pup for another one..only to end up with the same problems a few months down the road. Buying a Saint Bernard from a pet store is even a worse concept. Not only does the pet store deny they’re responsible for anything happening to your dog months after you’ve purchased it, they’re buying their puppies from commercial breeders the same way you’d order a product via the Internet. You’re completely on your own with an expensive and unsound dog…and it’s not even two years old yet. And when you’re done digesting that information, try explaining to your children that you can’t afford the $6000.00 surgery needed to fix your beloved Saint Bernard.
“But I don’t want a show dog, we only want a pet.”
Don’t worry, you’re not getting a show dog. Those will stay with the breeder to either enter the show ring or be used to continue their breeding program. What you will get is a quality bred dog that not only looks like a great specimen of the breed, but it’s parents will have passed all of the necessary health checks required of this breed. The statement below is from Kings Mill Kennel (www.kingsmillkennel.com)
The reputable breeder works and plans and strives for perfection, knowing that perfection isn’t really possible. But they come as close as they can, and those that aren’t close enough to meet their standards are sold, as pets, but they are sold on limited registrations or with no registrations. They’re sold to live a long, happy life as a friend and companion after being neutered to insure that the unwanted imperfections aren’t passed along.
The reputable breeder knows how disruptive a litter will be, and only has a litter they know they will be able to care for. The hours, days and weeks involved lead into a life long devotion to their dogs. Some reputable breeders have only a few litters in their career. This doesn’t mean they aren’t as devoted to the breed, because those few litters are as well planned and cared for as the litters produced by those who do make it a career.
A reputable breeder doesn’t overload themselves with litters so they all suffer: They ALL get the same high degree of care and loving. They check certifications about hereditary problems. They assure the sire and dam are in good health before breeding, they insure against over breeding and do everything possible to have the most physically sound litters possible.
After Whelping the reputable breeder provides the best quality foods, all the recommended supplements and vaccines. They spend more time with the vet than with their human doctor. They do all this to guarantee that they have done the very best for these other members of their family.
And when it’s time to part with one of them…Well, I’ve seen relatives marry off a child with less care in the selection of the spouse than in the selection of a home for their puppies. Pups are not sold before 8 weeks of age and most times later than that. Many elements are taken into consideration before the decision to sell is made.
The reputable breeder is there for the buyers throughout the life of their dog, through the good and the bad times. Through sickness and through health, till death they do part. Any questions one would have about their dog the breeder is always there to help. Their knowledge can be a Godsend.
It may be hard to find a reputable breeder on the weekends. They are usually out at dog shows proving that the dogs are exactly what they bred them to be; as near to a perfect specimen that they could breed.
The Backyard Breeders’ and Puppy Millers’ Big Book of Old Excuses
© Denna Pace 2001
1. When called on bad breeding practices, ALWAYS claim that you are merely an innocent posting as a favor to a friend or family member.
2. Point out that everybody you know breeds this way, therefore it must be okay.
3. Claim that “snobby show breeders” are only criticizing you because they want to corner the market on puppy profit.
4. Claim that a Champion in the pedigree is just as good as 56 Champions in the pedigree. Not that it matters, because you doubt that there is such a thing as a dog with 56 champions in the pedigree.
5. Claim that you are just trying to produce good pets, therefore good pets are all you need for breeding.
6. When asked about health testing, enthusiastically point out that your bitch had a health checkup before breeding.
7. Be sure to mention that you do not need to run such health tests as OFA, CERF, thyroid, cardiac, patellae, etc., because your dogs look healthy and had no visible problems at their last vet checkup.
8. Point out that these tests cost too much and would cut into your profit margin. Be sure to champion the right of poor people to breed dogs.
9. Confidently assure worried rescuers that no puppy you produce, or any of their puppies or grand puppies or great-grandpuppies will end up in shelters because you have a bunch of friends who have told you that they’d like a pup from your bitch.
10. Point out that you don’t need Championships or working titles on your dogs because you are breeding for temperament and your dog is really sweet.
11. Silence those annoying people who ask about your health guarantee by assuring them that buyers can return any sick puppies and you will replace it with another pup as long as it got sick within a certain amount of time of sale and as long as you don’t think the buyer did something to make the puppy sick.
12. If your breed or line is rare (or you have a “rare” color, or believe your breed or color is rare), be sure to remind everyone that you do not need to show, temperament test, or health test your breeding stock because you are doing the world a service by continuing this “rare” breed/color/line.
13. No matter what anyone else says, claim that you obviously know what you are doing because you’ve been breeding for a long time. Point to the hundreds of puppies you’ve pumped out over the years as proof.
14. If this is your first attempt at breeding, make sure to remind everyone that you HAVE to breed your dog because how else are you going to learn how to breed?
15. Assure everyone that your dog does not need to be shown because you were assured by someone at Petsmart/the park/the vet’s office/a friend that your dog is a perfect example of the breed.
16. Always remember that “rare” colors, oversized or undersized dogs, and mixes of popular breeds are great selling points. Anyone who doesn’t think so is obviously not in tune with their customers’ wishes.
17. Claim that your dogs are better because they are not inbred, as inbreeding obviously produces sick/stupid/deformed dogs. If breeding poo [as in “Cock-a-Poo,” “Peek-a-Poo,” etc.] dogs or other mutts, always point to “hybrid vigor” as proof of your dogs’ superiority.
18. Remind everyone that you do not need a waiting list because your puppies are cute.
19. Assure everyone that your puppies will not end up in shelters because they are cute.
20. Claim that YOUR breed never ends up in shelters in your area, therefore your puppies will never end up in shelters.
21. If asked why you think your dogs are breeding quality, point out that they “have papers.” Extra points awarded for using the phrase “AKC Certified.” Double points if those papers come from the Continental Kennel Club.
22. If you sell a sick puppy, always blame the owners for making it sick. If the owners are clearly not responsible, blame their vet. (see #11)
23. If presented with irrefutable evidence proving you wrong on any excuses you have used, pretend your server did not receive the post/e-mail.
24. Claim that none of the rules of ethical breeding apply to you because you only intend to have one litter and therefore aren’t a “real” breeder.
25. If all else fails, tell everyone who criticizes you to “get a life.”
Written by Denna Pace . It was compiled by reading the horrible BYB ads on rec.pets.dogs.breed. Please credit when quoting.