Ah ... the wonderful dog days of summer. Whoever thought up that phrase probably didn’t have a Saint Bernard. This breed thrives in cold weather, preferring snowdrifts to sundrenched beaches. With care, a Saint Bernard can tolerate hot weather, but don’t expect him to romp with enthusiasm until the snow flies.
Keeping Cool Outdoors
When the temperature tops 90 degrees, everything slows down and your Saint Bernard is no exception. With a thick hide and massive body, hot weather saps a Saint’s energy, and you can find him stretched out under a nearby shady tree. A Saint Bernard can tolerate 90-plus temps but not without protection from the sun. The dark parts of a Saint’s coat absorb the sun’s rays and can become very hot. A doghouse isn’t the best protection from the sun because it doesn’t get adequate ventilation. If a large tree isn’t available, a thick tarp, stretched over four posts, can provide a shade canopy to protect your dog.
Fresh water is essential for keeping a Saint Bernard cool and hydrated during hot weather. Left in the sun, a water bowl quickly heats up and by mid-afternoon the water temperature can reach over 100 degrees. Put the water bowl in the shade and change the water at least twice daily. Consider installing an on-demand water spigot on your hose hydrant that emits fresh water every time your dog drinks. Always keep an additional bowl of water handy, however, in case the on-demand spigot malfunctions.
Saints love to romp and run, but they’re also big on napping, especially in the heat. Schedule playtime and walks for early mornings before it gets too hot. A Saint Bernard expends energy in quick bursts, but this breed isn’t known for its endurance. Walks should be relaxed, and if the dog shows signs of exhaustion, such as sitting or lying down, take shorter walks until cooler weather arrives.
There are two types of Saint Bernard coats: long-haired and short-haired. Dogs of both coat types feel the effects of hot weather, but long-haired Saints suffer the most. Unless there’s a specific reason why you don’t want to shave your dog, take it to a groomer early in the summer and again in midsummer for shearing. If you don’t want to shave a long-haired Saint, keep him indoors when temperatures exceed 90 degrees.
A Saint Bernard’s appetite usually wanes in hot weather. Since he’s not as active now, he doesn’t need as much food. If he leaves food in his bowl, note how much is left over and feed that much less at the next feeding. His appetite should return with gusto when cooler weather arrives.
Traveling in Warm Weather
If your Saint rides in a car, put up sticky blinds to keep the sun from shining through the windows onto his fur. Take a jug of fresh water and a bowl on any trips that last longer than an hour. If you’re flying, talk to the airline before buying your Saint a cargo ticket in hot weather. Not all commercial airlines have temperature-controlled holds, and your dog can become dangerously overheated on long flights without access to water.
- Saint Bernard Club of America: FAQs
- A New Owner’s Guide to Saint Bernards: Betty-Anne Stenmark
- Three Lions/Valueline/Getty Images