Saint Dane

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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Whether we are talking about their height, weight or personality, there is nothing small about the Saint Dane. A mix between the affectionate Great Dane and the docile Saint Bernard, this breed truly has a heart of gold. Well-behaved around people and animals, the Saint Dane can integrate well into households where pets are already present.

A good mix of each parent when it comes to the looks department, the Saint Dane is incredibly tall and well-built, with a proportionate body and giant skull. Their fur is soft and short, with colours including white, brown and black.

About & History

Though the Great Dane and Saint Bernard may be very different breeds, they certainly share a lot of similarities. Of course, both are over-sized, with the Great Dane being the tallest dog breed there is. As well as their matching sizes, both breeds are known for their sweet temperaments and calm, patient natures.

Mixing two established breeds together to create a ‘designer dog’ has been common practice worldwide for the last three decades or so. As with many new crossbreeds, no-one is quite certain at which time and in which country the very first Saint Dane – also known as the Great Bernard – was bred. While this new breed is very recent and still quite rare, we know enough about each parent dog to be able to predict their personalities and general requirements.

The Great Dane

The Great Dane was once called the Boar Hound as they were traditionally used to hunt wild boar. These original breed members would have been shorter, more athletic and less docile than the Great Danes we know and love today.

There are paintings of dogs resembling Great Danes that date as far back as the 13th century within Greece. Through the centuries, these dogs migrated through Europe, and were particularly popular within Germany where they were used to hunt and were known as Deutsche Dog or German Dog.

The St Bernard

The multi-purpose Saint Bernard is also European, though hails from Switzerland, where they were bred by local monks from Swiss Mountain Dogs and have historically been used to rescue those trapped in snowfalls, as well as farmyard dogs and guard dogs. Beloved within their homeland, the Saint Bernard has been the national dog of Switzerland since the 1800s.


Larger than life, the Saint Dane certainly takes after its parents when it comes to its colossal size. Their head is particularly big, with a substantial jaw and upper lips that droop. Their black nose is quite big while their brown eyes are relatively small and spaced quite far apart. They face portrays a commanding and noble expression. They have a thick neck, which leads to a well-muscled body that is rectangular in shape. Their limbs are dense and strong. Their tail is medium in length and is held down low.

The fur of the Saint Dane is short and moderately dense. Many breed members are a mix of brown and white or black and white, though other fur colours, such as grey, blue and tan, are also possible. Weighing from 70kg to 86kg and measuring 58cm to 76cm, the Saint Dane is an extra-large or ‘giant’ dog.

Character & Temperament

While the expected temperament of a mixed-breed can be hard to predict, as the Great Dane and Saint Bernard share many personality traits, we can expect a relatively uniform character from their progeny. The Saint Dane is placid and laid-back, not one to over-react to a situation or to become hyper and over-excited. They are relaxed when in the company of humans and are extremely tolerant of children. While the Saint Dane is a gentle soul and would never knowingly injure or heart a child, they always require supervision when in their presence purely due to their size.

Affectionate with their family, they are also known for being protective and will question any new arrivals in their home. Their booming voice is enough to warn away any potential intruder! Most Saint Danes integrate well with other pets, even with those that are far smaller than them. As with any multi-pet household, animals should be introduced to each other from an early age and initial encounters should be closely monitored.


An intelligent dog whose ancestors have been used to carry out a number of important tasks, the Saint Dane can be trained to a high standard. Not only are they smart, they enjoy learning and are eager to please their masters. From an early age, the Saint Dane needs to be taught not to jump up or run at people, as once they are fully-grown this behaviour can pose a danger.

Sensitive souls, the Saint Dane should be trained using positive reinforcement methods and owners should refrain from shouting at them or reprimanding them. With large appetites, they respond well to any type of training when food is involved and training treats should be offered as a reward for good and consistent behaviour.


Sadly, over-sized and giant breeds tend to be plagued with ill health and have short life spans. Indeed, the average life span of the Saint Dane is a mere six to ten years. When compared to the small Chihuahua who usually lives into its teens, it’s clear that size can greatly impact an animal’s health.


It would seem that the larger and deeper a dog’s chest is, the more likely they are to develop a twisted stomach (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) during their lifetime. Sadly, for the Saint Dane, this puts them at high risk.

Current thinking is that in order to try and prevent a GDV, giant dogs should not be fed from an elevated food bowl, should eat slowly (slow feeder bowls work well) and should wait for one hour after eating before exercise.

lated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

DCM is a cardiac condition that results in a grossly enlarged heart that is unable to pump blood around the body adequately. Ultimately, affected dogs will go on to develop congestive heart failure. Investigations, such as chest x-rays, echocardiograms and ECGs, can aid in the diagnosis.

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Abnormal conformation of either the hip or elbow joint can be devastating in such a large dog as their mobility is hugely impacted and many will struggle to get around. Strict breeding programmes that screen all breeding animals for hip and elbow dysplasia and only allow those with good conformation to breed are essential to reduce the incidence of these devastating diseases within the Saint Dane population.

Osteochondrosis (OCD)

OCD is mostly seen in large and giant dogs that grow quickly. Cartilage within their joints does not form as it should. Trauma, over-exercising and improper nutrition, as well as genetics, can all contribute to OCD.

The affected joint will often be swollen and will cause a localised lameness and discomfort. Treatment often consists of operations to remove any cartilage flaps, as well as exercise restriction, anti-inflammatories and joint supplements.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Such a big dog needs plenty of exercise and expansive space to run around in. Many will require harnesses and ‘Halti’ type head collars in order to control them. Teaching them to walk to heel and obey basic recall commands is essential as it can be incredibly difficult to make an unruly Saint Dane come with you when they don’t want to.

An hour or two of exercise each day should be sufficient and can consist of long walks in the park and a variation of hikes. While quiet and somewhat lazy in the home, owners should not neglect the basic exercise requirements of these dogs, as they can be prone to obesity.

It is critical that owners do not over-exercise a growing Saint Dane, as we now know that this can lead to irreparable joint and bone disease. Heavy impact exercises, such as jogging and agility, should not be undertaken until fully matured. Owners should discuss a juvenile dog’s exercise programme with their vet.


The Saint Dane is known for their impressive drooling ability and owners will have to contend with slobber dripping from their mouth for most of the day. On top of this, this breed does shed quite a lot so should be brushed down outside of the house a few times a week to limit the amount of dead hair shed within the home.

As is true of any powerful dog, it’s important for owners to get them accustomed to routine grooming tasks, such as claw clipping, tooth brushing and ear cleaning, from an early age. A compliant Saint Dane is ten times easier to deal with than one that is unsure or anxious.

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