Do you want a sweet laid-back companion dog who is large enough to ward off evil intent without having to attack?
Do you like the looks of a guard dog but do not want the heavy commitment to exercise and entertainment of a GSD?
Maybe you want to avoid the headaches you associate with purebred dogs?
Of the numerous German Shepherd mixes and designer dogs for sale, how would you narrow your choices? Everyone likes Saint Bernards, right? Should you consider a St Bernard German Shepherd mix?
What does owning a German Shepherd Saint Bernard mix or Saint Shepherd, entail? To gain perspective on how a hybrid puppy might look and act, you need information about features of the parent breeds, like historical purpose, size, appearance, temperament, exercise requirements, and pet and guard dog qualities.
Once you know the individual contributing factors, you can predict the probability of the possible outcomes. People seek out Saint Shepherds, so we can fill in some holes based on what a significant number of previous litters have produced.
What is a guard dog versus rescue canine?
German Shepherds gained their start in the 1850s from bands of herding dogs across the plains of Germany.
Max von Stephanitz, once a captain of the cavalry, was interested in developing an ideal working dog who could do more than herd sheep.
Stephanitz chose a show dog named Hektor Linksrhein as the perfect representative, changed the animal’s name to Horand von Grafrath, and proceeded to create the German Shepherd breed in 1899.
Stephanitz invested years of work into generations of inbreeding, linebreeding, and culling, to produce a dog that still has specific and recognizable form, versatility, and beauty.
Saint Bernard, named for the Augustine monk St. Bernard of Menthon, according to Smithsonian Magazine, originated in the Alps around 1665. Developed by monks, the Saint Bernard dog was both a loyal pet and a guard dog along the Great Saint Bernard Pass.
Forbearers of the St. Bernard included Asiatic mastiff types the Romans brought with them. Later influences came from the Newfoundland in some lines and the Great Dane, Great Pyrenees, Swiss Mountain Dog, and Tibetan Mastiff.
Since the areas where the dogs lived were at elevations of 8,000 feet, it was not surprising that St. Bernards found use helping trekkers navigate the passes. The dogs accompanied marroniers, or special servants, assigned the task of guiding foot travelers across the mountains.
Saint Bernards would realize their true calling rescuing victims who became buried under snow shortly before 1750. Saint Bernards are as recognizable as German Shepherds although not as popular.
Saint Shepherds joined the designer dog ranks in the 2000s among dog lovers who wanted to create an ideal companion who would also have moderate guard potential.
What is a St Bernard German Shepherd mix appearance?
Shepherd females are 22 to 24 inches tall while males are 24 to 26 inches in height. The breed standard, according to the AKC, does not specify weight requirements, but German Shepherds are balanced according to their height, typically weighing from 55 to just over 100 pounds.
Saint Bernards are giant dogs. Females stand 26 to 31 inches tall at the shoulders, and males can be up to 35 inches. Saint Bernards weigh anywhere from 140 pounds to a staggering 260 pounds.
A Saint Shepherd is not as large as a Saint Bernard, but you still will be dealing with a very large dog. According to Doggiedesigner.com, German Shepherd Saint Bernard mix females are 25 to 28 inches tall and weigh 90 to 140 pounds. Males can range from 28 to 31 inches tall and weigh over 150 pounds.
What is the general body type?
German Shepherds are medium-large dogs with a lean frame. They have a long snout with some squaring of the muzzle, a dome-shaped forehead, brown medium eyes with a slight slant, muscular lengthy limbs, and a rectangular back that slopes downward towards the bushy tail. Your impression should be one of elegance, confidence, and strength.
Saint Bernard is a mastiff-type with a massive head and large-boned body. His muzzle should be deeper than it is long and his eyes brown and set forward and deep.
He will have wrinkles and furrows on the forehead, a broad chest, large shoulders, and a strong back that slopes slightly from the shoulders to a slightly curved tail. He gives an impression of power.
A St. Shepherd has the large head of Saint Bernard with a moderation of the jowls and lengthening of the muzzle.
As a result, most hybrids do not drool as much as Saint Bernards. Saint Shepherds usually have ears that hang down, roughly triangular like a Saint Bernard’s.
Their legs and body are strong and their backs straight or slightly sloping. Occasionally, the German Shepherd St Bernard mix will have relatively large ears that stand up.
Will your Saint Shepherd Sport Unusual Colors?
Not all Shepherds are black and tan and not every Saint Bernard is the stereotypical tricolor brown and white with black. The German Shepherd can be red and tan or blue and tan. She can also be solid red, black, tan, blue, or white.
The AKC specifies all Saint Bernards must have white on the chest, feet, the tip of the tail, and neck. Colored patches can be brindle or any shade of red. Show judges and the public alike prefer dogs with dark masks on their faces.
A black facial mask is a very common trait among German Shepherd Saint Bernard offspring. Most of the hybrids are white and brown, red, fawn, or sable. Saint Shepherds can also be tricolor, like a Saint Bernard, or black and white pied.
Are there any special grooming considerations?
German Shepherds have three possible coat types and Saint Bernards two. The Shepherd can have long or medium-short straight hair with a thick undercoat. The third coat type is long outer fur without an undercoat.
Saint Bernards come in a long- or short-haired variety. Both coat types have a thick undercoat and the outer guard hairs are usually straight to wavy.
Your Saint Shepherd will have a dense undercoat with medium-long straight outer hairs. You will need to brush it at least every other day to prevent snarling and matting. You should also plan on monthly baths. To prevent the skin and coat drying out, do not bathe too frequently, use a mild shampoo designed for canines, and make sure to rinse all the soap.
Check your dog’s ears frequently, especially if they are floppy. Clip nails as with any dog every four to six weeks.
A heavy coat is great for winter.
Your Saint Shepherd’s double coat will protect her from the frigid cold just like both parent breeds. However, similarly to Saint Bernard, the Shepherd hybrid is susceptible to overheat in the summer when temperatures head north of 85 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. She cannot insulate from the sun as the Shepherd does.
When it is cold outside, make sure your dog still has access to shelter. Although his coat is water-resistant, you need to take additional precautions to make sure your Saint Shepherd does not get wet lest his core temperature drop.
Measures you can take to help with the heat are to set up a wading pool or run a misting system or sprinklers. Freshwater should always be available regardless of the weather.
Shepherd-Saint Bernards make good family pets
Will your mix be good around children?
Saint Shepherd often inherits the Saint Bernard dog’s good-naturedness towards kids. However, you should limit the Shepherd Saint Bernard cross’ exposure to extremely young children because of his size.
Do Saint Shepherds get along with other pets?
German Shepherds can be dog aggressive, but early socialization with a lot of exposure to other canids may lessen this tendency.
However, the combination of their independent working style and a brief history of dogfighting makes it prudent to exercise caution when introducing German Shepherds to an unfamiliar dog.
According to Dogtemperament.com and other sources, Saint Bernards get along with a variety of animals, including other dogs and even cats.
The Shepherd-Saint Bernard most often inherits her social make-up from the Saint Bernard side. Saint Shepherds get along with other dogs and like to play.
There are a few things you should know about intelligence and training.
According to much of the literature concerning canine intelligence, including dogbreedslist.info, German Shepherds rank in the top three most intelligent dog breeds.
Saint Bernards rank in the mid-60s out of 137 dogs, near Old English Sheepdogs and Bull Terriers. We have seen Shepherds ranked as high as No. 2 and as low as No. 5.
Although Saint Bernards may be a little stubborn from their mastiff ancestry and require a few repetitions to learn certain commands, they generally are eager to please.
Another source, Cyberpet.com, cites that the three components used to gauge canine intelligence are obedience, the job for which they were bred, and finding solutions to problems or solving puzzles. An example of a job ranked high for intelligence is herding, which requires dogs to think.
Your Saint Shepherd will be a very intelligent and obedient dog. Nevertheless, you need to begin training early as Saint Bernard mixes will become giant dogs and impossible to control if they have been allowed free reign for most of their lives.
A Saint Shepherd is all the guard dog you need
German Shepherd Saint Bernard mixes are in many ways ideal guard dogs. Their size alone is enough to deter trespassing, let alone break-ins or home invasions. Saint Shepherds have a loud bellowing bark as well. Finally, they are not quick to attack, reserving biting as a last resort.
What health concerns should you have?
Shepherd Saint Bernard hybrids tend to live longer than their parents, but they can inherit several serious health problems. In parentheses is which breed can pass the problem to the mixed puppies.
- Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus – GDV, not necessarily heritable, is a life-threatening problem that threatens any large dog with a deep chest as well as Dachshunds. The stomach becomes bloated with gas and can rotate 180 degrees or more. Sometimes the spleen also twists.
- Ectropion/Entropion (Saint Bernard) – In ectropion or entropion, the eyelids droop away from the eyes or roll inward, respectively.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia (St. Bernard, GSD) – According to TopDog Health, the incidence of hip dysplasia in Saint Bernards might be as high as half of all tested dogs. German Shepherds have a higher-than-average occurrence of elbow dysplasia.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (Saint Bernard) – Along with Dobermans, Boxers, and Great Danes, St. Bernards are vulnerable to heart failure. Dilatative cardiomyopathy is usually left-sided and leads to enlargement of the heart and thinning of the cardiac walls.
- Cystadenocarcinoma and Nodular Dermatofibrosis (GSD) – A hereditary condition that causes skin tumors, uterine cancer, and changes in the kidneys.
- Pannus (GSD) – Pannus is a disease that affects the cornea of the eye.
Rarely, your dog may become diagnosed with degenerative myopathy (a progressive neurological and muscular disorder), perianal fistulas (draining tracts around the anus), hemophilia (blood clotting disorder), and decreased pancreatic enzymes, all diseases affecting the German Shepherd.
Saint Bernards only live about 7 to just under 10 years long. German Shepherds can live 10 to 12 years. Perhaps exhibiting slight hybrid vigor, Saint Shepherd’s cam live 10 to 14 years, according to dogbreeds10.com.
How much exercise does the German Shepherd Saint Bernard need?
German Shepherds are highly active dogs with abundant energy and exceptional stamina levels. With the mental stimulation they also require to remain emotionally balanced, Shepherds require 90 to 120 minutes of exercise and training per day.
On the contrary, sources like Dogtime recommend moderate exercise for Saint Bernards. Saint Bernard as a puppy is prone to bone developmental disorders from rapid growth being oversized. Overexercise can exacerbate abnormal growth, pain, and discomfort.
Saint Bernard puppies still need to exercise to prevent problems associated with becoming overweight. An exercise regimen should accommodate the St. Bernard’s need for gradually increasing increments of exercise duration and intensity. Ultimately, a Saint Bernard needs 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily.
Saint Shepherds are between their two parents in exercise requirements and activity levels. They are moderately energetic and require about 45 to 75 minutes of daily exercise depending on how much they resemble the GSD. You must always take into account the weather because your Saint Shepherd will be more heat-sensitive than a GSD.
Here are examples of what you can expect from a GSD Saint Bernard mix.
These pups are typical of Saint Shepherds. Most will not have the classic color pattern of a Saint Bernard but, instead, will be fawn or sable or varying degrees of reddish-brown.
This video illustrates the vast difference in size and appearance between Saint Bernards and German Shepherds as well as a few of the color variations you can see in black and tan GSDs.
Although the professor at one point in the video questions the parentage of Moose, this dog could have been taken straight from the breed standard of Saint Shepherd. Note the reddish-brown color with a black mask. Moose’s ears are quite reminiscent of a Saint Bernard’s.
The way Moose’s muzzle joins his face reminds you of a Shepherd but the wrinkles tell of mastiff-type bloodlines. Look how exceptionally friendly and comfortable he is, partially from socialization and largely from a good-natured temperament.
He is a large dog with medium hair. His feet and the tip of his tail are white like a Saint Bernard. Many hybrids of this particular mix are tall and leaner than you might expect.