The Care of a Saint Bernard Dog
by Alexander Mackenzie-Hughes
The Ladies Home Journal
April 1894
 
If a dog is loved by his master he is likewise loved by his mistress. Very often a dog will become more closely attached to the woman of a house than to the man, who is apt to be absent from it more frequently. And if there is one type of dog that may, with truest application, be associated with woman, it is the St. Bernard.

It is undoubtedly true that the St. Bernard is the gentlest and the most affectionate of all dogs. The St. Bernard is seldom bad-tempered, his principal characteristics being extreme docility and gentleness. He is a friend and a protector above all things, and confidence in him is well reposed. Nor does the St. Bernard, in the home, call for any more care or attention than other dogs. But even if he did, the extra trouble required would be worth giving, since he repays every act of attention.

A St. Bernard puppy should never be taken away from his mother until he is six weeks old, and only then if healthy. And a few days before the puppy is taken from his mother he should be given, daily, a little hominy made thin, or some of the patent pepsinated puppy food, given according to the directions which accompany the biscuits. This food prepares the puppy’s delicate little digestive organs for the most trying ordeal of his life: the severance from natural to artificial diet. A puppy should lap the hominy or puppy food, whichever is selected, of his own free will, and never fed with a spoon. When the puppy can feed himself he should then have placed before him a bowl of milk, which should be boiled and allowed to cool to the temperature of blood. Great in sudden changes in diet must be avoided. Milk is the most valuable food for newly-weaned puppies that can be given, and as it is advisable to give them, if possible, the same cow’s milk, which is not obtainable always, I have found that condensed milk, keeping to the same brand, is the most desirable. As puppies grow older, scalded bread, thoroughly boiled oatmeal, and puppy dog-cakes (made to a pulp) should make two of the six necessary meals a day that they crave. From six to twelve weeks their other meals may consist of the same solid materials, substituting broth in the place of milk. The more variety a puppy can have the better for his health. As a puppy advances in size and age, it is, perhaps, needless to remark that he requires more food but less frequently. Flesh food may be commenced, but given sparingly. Let it be boiled to thin shreds and carefully mixed with the food. When the puppy is fed with solid food a small quantity of bone meal should be sprinkled over it, and when milk is given is it always well to add one-sixth part of lime-water to the quantity. The three great essentials to be observed in caring for a St. Bernard puppy are the quantity of food, the number of meals a day, and the regularity in feeding  The number of meals after three to six months of age should be four daily; after that, till a year old, three is sufficient; after one year, two meals – a light meal in the morning and a more substantial one at night.

When a St. Bernard puppy reaches the age of a year it will be necessary to feed him liberally with meat if you wish him to grow large and muscular. I do not intend to convey the idea that meat should be given alone, but about one part meat to two parts of the "puppy food" biscuits by weight. That proportion may be too strong if the dog has no exercise, but discretion must be always used even in feeding dogs.
 
Overfeeding and a lack of exercise are, I believe, common causes of eczema in dogs. In connection with eczema, which is a common trouble with St. Bernards, I give here the formula which I use immediately after observing a dog begin scratching or biting himself. It should be applied with a sponge frequently throughout the day: Carbolic acid, one-half ounce; glycerine, one-half ounce; laudanum, one ounce; bicarbonate of potash, one dram; add water, one and a halt pints. It must be remembered that dogs thrive better on coarse meat than on porterhouse steaks. When changing his teeth a puppy cannot very well manage the hard dog-cakes, therefore he should have, until the gums harden again, soft food with powdered charcoal dusted on the food once a day.
 
Too much stress cannot be laid on the importance of exercise for a puppy, and that it must be given, so far as possible, on the grass, not on the hard boards or stone walks. The great drawbacks to growth are injudicious feeding and want of exercise.

When a St. Bernard dog is two years old he should be given two meals a day – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Following the feeding of a St. Bernard, the next important element is his good lodging. His kennel should be high and dry, free from any dampness and all draughts. A dog appreciates cheerful surroundings just as much as a human being does.

St. Bernards should always have a goodly supply of clean, fresh water. This is most important. It is a very common idea with most people that a lump of sulphur should be placed in the drinking pan, but as it is insoluble in water one can readily see that it is superfluous; if sulphur has to be used let it be given in the form of flowers of sulphur in the food.
 
It is not necessary, as most people imagine, to wash a St. Bernard frequently, as he does not require it if he is well groomed, that is, brushed and combed every day. This grooming is very necessary, for not only does it open the pores of the skin and create a healthy action, and so gives the coat the desirable bright look, but while so attending the dog it is easy to perceive any skin disturbance, and attend to it forthwith. During the summer it is well to encourage the dog to go in the water and take a swim, but during the winter once in six weeks is all that is necessary. The water for the bath should be tepid, not hot, as hot water is weakening, and the dog is more liable to take cold after a hot bath.
 
When it is necessary to punish a St. Bernard a whip with a good lash should be used, as a hard blow from a stick is liable to break a bone or cause some internal injury. Let it be borne in mind, also, that a dog should never be struck on the head, as a blow on the ear is very liable to give him a canker, which is both painful to the poor animal and at times hard to cure. Very little actual punishment is really necessary with a St. Bernard dog, provided the training given is careful and discreet. The St. Bernard is rarely a misbehaving dog – misbehaving, I mean, in a willful sense.
 
Neither a St. Bernard nor, indeed any of the large breed of dogs should be kept on the chain, as it is, in kennel parlance, liable to "throw him out at the shoulders," but when he is full grown, that is, when he is two years old, being chained when occasion requires can do him no harm, provided he is allowed his full liberty at other times.
 
It is not absolutely necessary that a dog should have a kennel, but he should have some place allotted to him that he will know what to do when he is ordered to lie down. I always place a mat or piece of carpet in the kitchen or hall and make him lie down there, and when he once knows where he has to sleep he will go there as a matter of course.
 
The best way to attach a dog to his owner is to allow on one but the mistress or master to feed him, though the idea of allowing everybody to feed him at any time and all times has its advantages in that the animal does not know to whom he looks for his daily support, and therefore regards one and all as his best friend. Nothing repels a dog sooner than constant scolding. I he has to be reproved let it be done with firmness, but at all times with consideration. At the age of three months begin to train a dog to become a house pet. It is generally believed that there is but one way to teach a dog anything, and that all knowledge, unless beaten into him, is worthless, but my long experience has taught me that kindness, and not severity, overcomes all things. Regarding the method of breaking a dog for a house life I start by letting the puppy have a good run outside the house before bringing him within doors, and then allow him to run about for a quarter of an hour in the room, each day allowing him to remain longer. Should he transgress I take him to the spot and show him his misdoings, and then turn him out-of-doors, allowing him to remain for a short time before returning to the house, speaking in a decided manner to him all the time I am carrying him to the door, and when there sending him off with a sharp word. This must be done for several days, when if he still persists in his wrong ways strike him over the ribs gently with the open hand before sending him outside. This punishment must be continued until the object is accomplished.
Consideration, however, is the secret of good discipline with a dog, and this is particularly true of the St. Bernard since his intelligence is singularly acute.