St Bernewfie

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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Lovers of big, slobbery dogs gather round! The St Bernewfie is a delightful mix of the gentle Swiss St Bernard and the people-loving Canadian Newfoundland. The crossing of these two giant breeds has resulted in a laid-back, sociable hybrid who has inherited some of the best traits from each of its parent breeds. While some may at first assume that this colossal breed has the potential for aggression, this is very rarely the case.

The St Bernewfie may have a solid or patterned coat colour and is typically brown, black and/or white. Their most impressive feature is their over-sized head, which houses their dark, expressive eyes. As well as long, thick limbs, they have over-sized paws that can pose an issue for those clumsier breed members who step on their owners’ toes!

About & History

The St Bernewfie is one of the newer designer dogs on the scene and is a breed that was designed as a pet rather than a working or sport dog. There are not many in the world and it can be hard to track down an established breeder given their scarcity.

The St Bernard

St Bernards were developed by Swiss monks about 500 years ago. The Great Swiss Mountain Dog was used in their creation and they were chiefly used to haul heavy loads and work on farms.

Notably, they were also used as rescue dogs and were invaluable when it came to rescuing those trapped on the local, snowy mountains. They are the national dog of Switzerland and are a much-loved native breed.

The Newfoundland

The Newfoundland, unsurprisingly, hails from the Canadian province of Newfoundland. They played a similar role to the St Bernard and were employed as all-purpose farm dogs and came in especially useful for moving heavy items and to even pull carts.

As with the St Bernard, they are a noble and altruistic breed and have been traditionally used to rescue those who get into trouble in the water. Thanks to their webbed paws, they make excellent water dogs and can swim long distances.


The handsome St Bernewfie tips the scales at weights of 80kg and beyond and will grow anywhere from 64cm to 76cm tall at the withers. To get an idea of just how giant they are, this means they can weigh up to 40 times more than a Chihuahua!

With their large heads, deep chests, stocky bodies and long limbs, there is plenty of dog to go around. Their ears are pendulous and their small eyes widely-spaced. They have moderately droopy jowls and a prominent, dark nose. Their neck is wide and thick and they have a dewlap of skin that is usually covered in lots of slobber. Their tail is long and densely furred, commonly carried down towards the ground.

The coat of the St Bernewfie is typically dense, straight and medium in length. Some will have the traditional tricolour (white, black and brown) fur of the St Bernard, while others may be a solid colour, such as brown or black. For many, their darkest fur is found on their face.

Character & Temperament

Probably the best thing about the St Bernewfie is its ‘gentle giant’ persona. This dog couldn’t hurt a fly, unless of course it sat on one! They are a friend to all and will forge especially close bonds with the youngest in the household. Many will describe them as ‘nanny’ dogs and, despite their size, find that they can trust them in the company of their children. Of course, given how big they are and the potential for injury from a simple jump or a bang, it is important to always monitor any interactions closely.

As the St Bernewfie is so comfortable in the company of people, they can become distressed if left alone for too long. Due to this, owners should ensure they have the time available to spend with them and do not leave them in their own company for prolonged periods. Similarly, though laid-back, they appreciate being given something to do. Owners need to put some effort into keeping them occupied in order to prevent boredom from setting in.

Many are happy to use their St Bernewfie as a watch dog as their imposing stature and deep bark will deter all but the most foolish of burglars. Whether or not the St Bernewfie would actually attack an intruder or not is another story.


When it comes to training a young St Bernewfie, it is important to take the task at hand seriously as an untrained adult is no joke. These giant dogs can pose a danger (to others and themselves) if not taught about proper ‘doggy manners’ such as not jumping up and not snaffling food from surfaces. While we need to be firm and somewhat strict, it is also key that we reward good behaviour and encourage our dogs every step of the way.

As the St Bernewfie is a clever student and one that is eager to please, they are usually capable of learning quickly. Owing to their background as working dogs, they have a good understanding of what is expected of them when it comes to the human-dog relationship.


There will be certain health issues that are more prevalent within the St Bernewfie population, such as:

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Giant dogs are more prone than others to bone and joint abnormalities and are also less able to cope with them due to the huge amount of pressure exerted by their vast bodyweight.

Diagnosing chronic and debilitating conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, is important to safeguard the future population. When an animal is found to be affected, they should not be bred from in an effort to eradicate the disease.

Eye Disorders

Ectropion, entropion, cherry eye and distichiasis are all issues that commonly affect the eyes of the St Bernewfie, who has excessive amounts of skin surrounding its eyes. Any eye issue requires immediate veterinary attention as it has the potential to result in blindness if left untreated for too long.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Though DCM results in a heart that is enlarged, the walls of the heart are thin and the heart is unable to beat efficiently. The resultant heart failure leads to a myriad of symptoms, including a chronic cough and difficulty exercising.


The wide and deep chest of the St Bernewfie means that they are at risk for developing ‘bloat’ or ‘gastric dilatation volvulus’. The stomach of an affected dog fills up with gas and liquid and then rotates on its own axis, meaning the contents are unable to pass through and become trapped. The resulting pressure on the surrounding organs and blood vessels can quickly lead to shock and death.

Affected dogs become poorly quickly and will exhibit signs, such as panting, pacing and retching. They will have a noticeably large and firm abdomen that gets bigger over time. If seen and treated promptly by a vet, animals do have the potential to make a full recovery.

Exercise and Activity Levels

This is a crossbreed that enjoys long, lolloping walks along beach fronts and in the woods. While they may not be up for sprinting the whole way, they are well able to walk and explore for hours on end.

The thick coat of this giant dog means that they are at risk of heat stroke in warmer weather so owners should be cautious about exercising them in the summer. Stick to walks when the sun is low in the sky, stay in the shade and always bring water.


These dogs can shed an awful lot and, to keep on top of this, should be brushed every day to remove the dead fur and dander. It is important to keep their chin and neck clean and free of drool, as excess saliva on the skin can result in chronic dermatitis and yeast infections. The droopy ears of the St Bernewfie should be cleared out of wax when needed, which is about twice a month or so.

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