Honey, a ten month old St Bernard.

When Sinyee was a baby, her playmate was a gigantic St Bernard called Slobber. She was a gentle animal who sadly died when Sinyee was just three years old. Sinyee only has vague memories of her presence.

The family decided to take a break from dog ownership at that stage, but somewhere deep inside Sinyee’s mind, the yearning for a canine companion had been planted. As she grew older, she started to ask her family again and again: can we get another dog?  Dog ownership is a huge commitment, and Sinyee was really too small for a giant dog like a St Bernard. For several years, she was fobbed off with “Yes, we’ll get another dog one day”, but she’s a determined and persistent girl. In an effort to keep her happy, she was given a large electrical toy dog, called Biscuit. She played with the robotic animal for a day, then put it to one side. She wanted a real dog, not a pretend one.

Eventually, her family decided that the time was right: it had been long enough since Slobber’s passing, Sinyee was big enough to help with a dog, and their home life had reached the stage where they were ready to commit the time, money and energy to giving a home to another pet. They found a St Bernard breeder who had a batch of puppies, and Honey bounded into their lives.

She was just a ten week old puppy when she arrived, and she already weighed 20kg – as much as an adult Collie.  She was good-natured from the start, loving contact with humans, and the Fitzpatrick have taken steps to ensure that she has been well socialised ever since then. St Bernards are so big that it’s critically important that they fit in well with their human companions. They can weigh up to 120kg: more than most humans. If a little terrier took a snap at a passer by, it would be a problem, but if a St Bernard did this, it could be life threatening. Honey was taken to  puppy parties when she was young, meeting other puppies of all sizes and temperaments. As soon as she was fully vaccinated, she was taken out for regular walks in local parks, meeting different people and animals every day. As a result, she’s matured into a relaxed, friendly animal, unfazed by strangers.

In fact, if anything, Honey loves people too much. She likes to snuggle up to people, pushing her muzzle into their side, saying hello in her own way. A dog like Honey would never hurt anyone deliberately, but she can be clumsy and she doesn’t realise how big she is. At ten months of age, she’s like a puppy in a giant dog’s body, and she could easily knock a small child over. Sinyee has learned how to handle her but when she has friends visiting, she needs to remind them to take care not to be bowled over by this overenthusiastic playmate.

The Fitzpatricks have made sure that she’s as well trained as possible. She sits, stays and walks to heel on command. She knows that she can’t take food off the table or kitchen surfaces (which would be well within her reach). And if she’s allowed off the leash to sniff in the bushes in the local park, she always comes back when called.

The St Bernard breed is not for everyone: you need space, time and serious commitment to give these huge dogs the life that they deserve. But if you can give what they need, you’ll be paid back many times by their love and friendship.

Tips

  • St Bernards are giant dogs, more than twice the size of Labradors
  • The breed has special requirements that not every family can provide
  • If the home situation is right, a St Bernard can become your best friend in the world

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