st. bernard Q&A with victOr dingus, betty-Anne stenmArk And stAn Zielinski
companion animals, seeking to save and rescue human beings from distress in alpine conditions. These animals must show compassion and care giving, friendliness, and even companionship to humans. The Saint Bernard is never ill natured. Our breed must function in rescue work and farm and family companionship. In fact some breeders and fanciers believe the Saint Bernard has par- ticular genes for seeking and detecting humans in alpine distress and this sets them apart in the dog world. This has not been scientifically proved however and may be just folklore, making a good story even better! Movement and locomotion in Saint Bernards is a must for fulfilling their purpose in the animal kingdom as envisioned by the Swiss standard writers and bearers! Saints must have strong bone and muscles to create power and durabil- ity to be the best they can be achieving their service of humankind. The tasks and functions of the Saint require strong and well-developed muscles and strong bone cor- rectly constructed. The first seven words of the general section cannot be over emphasized. Furthermore, one finds reading through the standard the following: power- ful and strong muscles, being proportionately tall, slop- ing shoulders very muscular and powerful, very power- ful and extraordinarily muscular upper arms, very well arched chest, very broad straight back, well developed hindquarters with hocks of moderate angulation. These virtues result in certain structure and desired function. Integrating our standard descriptions and our legendary function, one would expect certain types of movement. The above describes the structure for creating enduring power and efficient gait from one place to another. The agility is reasonable and stable for long walks. In conclu- sion, the better a Saint adheres to our standard, the more efficient that dog will work, compete, frolic and avoid chances of injury or structural breakdown. (The above is resourced from Pat Hastings book, entitled Structure in Action, The Makings of a Durable Dog. ) BS: Of course not. How can a dog bred to be a mountain rescue dog not been sound of mind and body? He should move out efficiently like the rest of the Working breeds. I was not a fan of the new standard that seemed to be more apt to fit the dogs of the day. We should breed to the standard, not adjust it to fit the dogs running around the backyard. 7. What characteristics would effectively eliminate a Saint from receiving top awards? VD: Based upon the opening description in the general section, the following would eliminate a Saint from a top award: Ill-natured, lack of head type, not proportionately tall, lack of substance, not appearing powerful and mus- cular in every part. Lastly, a Saint would not receive my top award for poor movement and gait. BS: Being short legged, long in body, exaggerated in head, be more a cute teddy bear than a tall, athletic, mountain rescue dog.
VD: Owning a Saint Bernard is a great pleasure and also a responsibility. Like every dog, they need regular exercise, veterinary care, vaccinations and good nutri- tion. Extra care of exercise and good nutrition is very important in the early years due to the growth rate and size. A Saint needs adequate housing, fencing and suf- ficient space for them to properly exercise. A healthy, well-trained Saint Bernard make for a happy Saint living life with happy owners. SZ: I have three serious “Stanley concerns” that I would like to share here. These are characteristics that are not spelled out in the standard, but are necessary features of dogs that had specific tasks to perform. These are answered by the old response to the claim that if it isn’t in the standard it is open to anybody’s interpretation. The response is, “The standard also doesn’t specify how many legs grow on a proper Saint Bernard!” The use of a little logic would be appropriate during any such discourse. Here are some examples. Think about the length of leg required when traveling in deep snow. Contemplate the lung and nasal requirements for operating at 8,000 feet. Consider the intelligence required for a team of 2 or 3 dogs to get fallen travelers up and walking, or barring that, two to lay down to use body heat to make the trav- eler survive long enough for the third dog to go get help. Understanding the tasks these dogs were assigned goes a long way for deciding what conformation was needed. The first “Stanley Concern” is a bad temperament in disguise, I urge everybody to use caution whenever you come across a shy Saint Bernard. To begin with, you should understand that shyness is the other side of the bad temperament coin. A shy Saint Bernard is a potential biting event if viewed from the “Fight-or-Flight” scenario. Don’t reward the slightest hint of such behavior. Further- more, a Saint Bernard is expected to be gregarious—a behavior necessary to accomplish their historic work. They were expected to save people—not eat them! My second “Stanley Concern” is the strange attitude adopted by many when it comes to evaluating proper Saint Bernard locomotion. If you want your dog to move like a German Shepherd then it must be built like a German Shepherd. If you want your dog to move like a properly configured Saint Bernard then it must be built like a properly configured Saint Bernard. Gone must be over angulated rears. Grown to an adequate length are the stubby legs. Disappeared are the features that would be a great hindrance to any dog hoping to land a Saint Ber- nard’s job—useless timber, excess skin, soft muscles, and so on. My message for aspiring dogs is, “If you don’t have the tools of the trade you will have a difficult task ahead if you try to pass yourself as a true Saint Bernard.” My third “Stanley Concern” is the way many people ignore the first paragraph of the standard for Saint Bernards. I ask that anybody concerned with Saint Bernards to memorize the first paragraph of the standard and use that text to form a mental picture of a correct animal—one that is suitable for performing their famous work. Then, forevermore, use that image inside your head to make your decisions.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed?
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