Saint Bernards are titled giant dogs; reaching up to 35 inches and weighing up to 120kg. Therefore, it is important to know how aggressive they are and what their temperament in generally like. This is especially true if you are looking to own one or spend any time around one. Intrigued, I decided to spend some time researching the nature of this breed. I would like to share my findings with you here today.
So, are Saint Bernards aggressive? Saint Bernards are generally not very aggressive. Instead, they are mostly calm, gentle and friendly. They are known for being loving and tolerant, despite their size and are a good choice as a family dog as they do well with children. However, due to their loyalty, they can be protective. This is mostly likely to happen around other male dogs and where acts of aggression may arise.
Being a breed initially bred for rescue operations; it naturally follows that they have a close relationship with humans.
They inherently care for our well-being and this couldn’t be more true when they are kept in the home.
There are several tendencies and traits that make this breed such an excellent choice of dog.
Let us now take a closer look at their temperament, along with other important questions in relation to it.
Such as, whether or not they are dangerous, protective, and if and when they can display aggression.
What Is The Temperament Of A Saint Bernard?
Saint Bernards are known for being affectionate and great companions for their owners, beloved for being calm and patient.
However, they are not born this way.
Saint Bernards generally become more docile as they age.
In fact, puppy Saint Bernards are typically boisterous; loving to play and get excitable just like in other dog breeds.
Nonetheless, as they develop, grow into their larger size along with being properly socialized and trained, they mature and become far more mellow.
The result is a dog that is very social with a keen desire to be around people. Especially their family members.
They can be quite stubborn in temperament; not being the easiest to raise and train. But it can be done.
Males in particular are known for being more dominant. Some will attempt to lead the pack and be at the top of the social hierarchy.
So, it must be said that these dogs need to be carefully managed and raised, with appropriate measures. They require consistency, so ensure they fully appreciate your commands.
Of course, every dog does have their own unique individual ways and personality. Some of this is due to the genes that they inherit, whereas environmental factors do play a role too.
Either way, Saint Bernards are generally great dogs to be around. They mostly have a laid back, placid nature whom love to participate in family activities.
In fact, they will most likely sulk if left out!
Are Saint Bernards Dangerous
Saint Bernards are not dangerous in the traditional sense. They typically do not suffer with anger, aggression and a desire to cause harm.
However, we must acknowledge and recognize their sheer size. They can be inadvertently dangerous, especially to small children.
They are very large; reaching up to 35 inches and weighing up to 120kg. Therefore, you can imagine the kind of strength that is needed to counteract any jumping or over-exuberant playing.
This is one of the primary reasons why as an owner, you need to train them from a young age. You need to teach and install them not to jump, along with other people-friendly behaviours.
One thing to note here, is that Saint Bernards are not generally dangerous if raised from a young pup, in a good home environment.
The same cannot always be said if they are adopted later in life.
They may have been mistreated or raised poorly.
Sometimes even a loving, gentle and friendly dog can have a bad day. They could meet the wrong person under the wrong circumstances. If provoked, they can do damage.
So, when owning a Saint Bernard you must remain vigilant and responsible at all times. You owe it to your community, family and your dog to take the best care of them. With the right upbringing, training and preventing potentially problematic situations, dangerous acts are not likely to occur.
The truth is, just like with any breed of dog, or human for that matter, they must be treated and approached with respect. Any dog has the capacity to be dangerous is raised poorly or whom have been abused.
With all this said, Saint Bernards are considered for being “Gentle Giants”; tolerant and well-behaved around most people.
Are Saint Bernards Protective?
The Saint Bernard is a mastiff-based breed. One such characteristic of them is that they are protective by nature.
One of the striking characteristics of Saint Bernards is that they are very loyal. It naturally follows that they are protective of their owners and those people who take care of them.
In fact, they are known for being quick to protect in situations where they believe their family members could be in any form of danger.
This could be a person, another animal or even another dog.
If they have not been educated, socialized and trained effectively, they can even misinterpret a situation which is when potential issues could arise.
In other contexts, they can be territorial; where they may bark at strangers or those whom they do not recognize.
This is just one of the reasons, along with their size, why they are sometimes kept as guard dogs or deterrents from potential intruders.
Nonetheless, they are moderate barkers and this is not as natural tendency of theirs. Its only if they feel the need to bark, that they generally will.
When Could A Saint Bernard Be Aggressive?
Any dog can be aggressive; this is just the truth of the matter. Saint Bernards are not totally immune to this – just as humans are not either.
While Saint Bernards will not show signs of aggression often; there are some particular environments and contexts in where it is more likely.
As we have previously mentioned, how they are raised and kept is a key contributor to aggression. For most owners, aggression never is observed, noticed or becomes an issue in this breed.
Nevertheless, let us take a look at some examples of situations where a Saint Bernard may become aggressive:
Some Saint Bernard males are more dominant and have a desire to be the alpha male.
As such, it has been reported that some male Saint Bernards have acted aggressively when they have encountered other male dogs. This can be within or outside of the same breed.
Usually, the other male dog is of similar disposition; also trying to gain dominance and resultantly, you have a clash.
Some Saint Bernards may display signs of aggression if they suspect an intruder in entering your property, uninvited.
This is most likely to occur if they hear noises or suspect a threat to their owners. Often aggressive acts are reserved for the intruder; if and when they were to encroach into the home.
Placed In Uncomfortable Situations Repeatedly
If a Saint Bernard is continuously placed in a situation that makes them anxious or very uncomfortable, they may act out aggressively because its a last resort that they feel is the only route out.
This is known as learned aggression.
It can be often detected by other accompanying behaviors, and is unlikely to happen in a dog raised appropriately.
Preventing Aggression in Saint Bernards
Hopefully by now you should know that a happy and healthy Saint Bernard is unlikely to be aggressive.
Its very rare in this breed, but it can happen without the appropriate socialization and training.
It is essential that when raising a Saint Bernard from a pup, that you overcome and early signs of aggression. So, if you notice any growling or biting (beyond a puppies usual teething) that you work these behaviors out. You may even require the support of a professional dog trainer.
Equally, as any dog breed can become aggressive given certain circumstances, you must do all that you can to ensure that you are not facilitating or contributing to this response.
Below are some practical steps that you can do to limit aggressive behavior and tendencies and to ensure they grow up to be the gentle and calm giants we know them to be:
Monitor Your Dogs Behavior
First and foremost, you need to keep a close eye on your Saint Bernard. Especially while young or recently after you have adopted them.
You need to look out for any potential events, circumstances and environments that cause your dog unease.
Some of these will not always be able to be prevented, but a lot of them can, or you can improve the situation somewhat.
You may notice that your Saint Bernard displays signs of aggression at particular dogs. Therefore, you should do all you can to avoid that dog, or setting in the future.
If you are on a walk, look to go at a different time, or a different route.
If you notice your dog being protective of their food for example, you must respect their needs and be sure not to interrupt them doing this time.
Ultimately, you need to look for potential causes and circumstances, making note of such before you can construct a plan of prevention going forward.
Introducing your Saint Bernard to a lot of people in their younger and puppy years goes a long way to ensuring your dog is good around people. Better yet is doing so in different settings and environments.
This will help them understand how to act and behave; along with knowing how to respond following certain actions or events.
Visiting the park, and other dogs, can go a long way to preventing aggressive reactions to them latter in life.
Talk To Your Vet
If your Saint Bernard begins to display aggression, it may be that they have an injury or illness that they are looking to keep from you.
Dogs do not like it to be known that they are not well and do what they can to keep it concealed. Sometimes, this level of protection is wrongly mistaken for genuine aggression.
Taking your Saint Bernard to a vet for a full examination can confirm your suspicions. With an appropriate course of treatment, their behavior is likely to return favorably – if this was in fact the cause.
Hire A Professional
We all like to train our dogs, and doing so is important. It can help us to form a closer bond with them and it can also help us to set the social hierarchy within the home.
However, sometimes an animal animal behaviorist or a dog trainer is best and is recommended.
This is especially true if your dog is particularly hard to train, or is not responding favorably to your methods.
Professional and specialists will have a range of techniques to try, and they can help you to better understand your dog.
Either way, its important that your dog learns through positive reinforcement techniques and that they are never punished. This can only increase and lead to aggression – being totally unproductive.
Saint Bernards have one of the nicest reputations around. You’ll even commonly see them being referred to as Gentle Giants, or even Teddy Bears.
They are not inherently, and traditionally, an aggressive breed.
Instead, they are mostly friendly, laid back, gentle and patient.
This dog breed is commonly kept by families; due to the fact that they generally do so well around children.
With all this being said, the Saint Bernard is not entirely immune to acts of aggression. This is true of any breed of dog.
For this reason, it is imperative that your Saint Bernard experiences consistent and appropriate socialization and training from a young age.
Aggressive dogs are predominantly the result of mistreatment or an abusive relationship with their owners. Whether previous or current.
You therefore need to ensure that you raise your Saint Bernard in a comfortable, safe environment. You must do what you can to foresee and prevent any issues from arising.
Some owners decide to hire the expertise of a dog trainer or animal behavioral specialist. While this is not mandatory it does help; especially in those more stubborn personalities.
Nonetheless, the Saint Bernard makes a fantastic choice; it is in many ways an ideal family dog.
If you previously suspected that they were aggressive, or perhaps had an unfortunate and unlikely bad experience with one once, be rest assured that this is a friendly, loving dog that would make a great addition to any home.
Want to learn more about the Saint Bernard breed? Check out my other guides below:
- How Much Exercise Does A Saint Bernard Need?
- How Big Do Saint Bernards Get?
- Can Saint Bernards Swim?
- Are Saint Bernards Lazy?
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.