The German Shepherd breed is known for a number of desirable characteristics. Because of this, they…
Having a mixed breed is always an interesting experience. It could be a good way to enjoy the best characteristics of two different breeds. The uniqueness of a mix can also make dog ownership so much more enjoyable. Of course, that all depends on whether the mixed breeds are compatible.
So what about crossing a German Shepherd and a Saint Bernard? Is the St. Bernard German Shepherd mix a good breed?
About the German Shepherd
The work of German Shepherds began in the fields where their drive and intelligence assisted humans in herding sheep. Apart from herding, they played a huge role in protecting their flock.
Today, the GSD’s superior intelligence, imposing stature, and protective instincts are among the reasons why it is one of the world’s most popular breeds. These dogs have proven their value not just in the fields but also in personal protection as guard dogs, police work, and military roles.
About the Saint Bernard
Before earning their reputation as a cuddly, slobbering, giant goofball, the St. Bernard was loved for saving lives in the St. Bernard Pass located between Switzerland and Italy.
Although they had shorter hair and smaller frames than they do now, their bodies were broad enough to clear paths for their companions. Most importantly, they were treasured for the sharp senses that enabled them to find injured or lost travelers, even when they were buried deep in snow.
For over 150 years, these dogs saved countless lives on the treacherously snowy Alps. Eventually, they were crossed with Newfoundlands to give them even more protection from the cold. However, that didn’t work out because the longer coat retained snow, which didn’t work in their favor. Nevertheless, that was the beginning of the large, fluffy St. Bernard breed we know today.
Why Cross a German Shepherd with a St. Bernard?
Although they’re both among some of the most recognizable breeds in the world, ownership of St. Bernard’s is not as widespread as German Shepherds. Part of that may be due to the difficulties of caring for such a large dog, and one that sheds and slobbers.
Nevertheless, the Saint Bernard is actually a delightful breed. Compared to the GSD, these dogs tend to have a gentler nature and are more tolerant of other people and animals. However, German Shepherds have undeniably superior intelligence and protective instincts.
Breeders that choose to cross German Shepherds with St. Bernards might do so in order to combine this calmer temperament with the intelligence and work drive of the GSD. Others might do so to get a mix of their equally handsome but vastly different appearance.
In many cases, however, German Shepherd-Saint Bernard crosses are the product of accidental mating. No matter the reason or purpose behind these mutts, it’s critical for you to understand their nature in order to give them the best care.
General Characteristics of a St. Bernard German Shepherd Mix
Although they are both working dogs, German Shepherds and St. Bernard’s are very different from each other. That’s what makes the St. Bernard German Shepherd mix—also affectionately called Saint Shepherd— such an interesting cross.
If you’re interested in welcoming one into your home, here are some of the things you should expect:
The German Shepherd is already considered a large breed, but the Saint Bernard is much larger. In fact, these dogs can actually weigh twice that of a typical GSD.
Here’s how the two compare in terms of height and weight:
|German Shepherd Dog
|24 – 26
|22 – 24
|65 – 90
|50 - 70
|28 - 30
|26 - 28
|140 – 180
|120 - 140
Depending on which parent they will take after, a St. Bernard German Shepherd mix can be anywhere from 22 to 30 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 65 to 180 pounds. Very likely, these mutts will be at the larger end of the average GSD or the smaller end of the typical Saint Bernard.
The German Shepherd and the Saint Bernard are shedders, with the latter being much more so. The color and markings of their cross could go both ways. Often, they will be black, brown, pied, or sable.
No matter the appearance, the pups will surely have medium-to-long straight and dense hair. They are also expected to have thick undercoats.
The St. Bernard German Shepherd mix will require frequent brushing—at least once a week—if you want to keep the fur around your home at a minimum.
Additionally, these dogs will blow off their coats twice a year, which will require even more frequent brushing with tools especially made for heavy shedders. Ideally, that would involve daily brushing using a de-shedding tool and a slicker brush.
As with any other dog, this mixed breed should have their teeth brushed and nails trimmed regularly. Although they are not typically prone to ear infections, it helps to keep their ears clean and dry, especially if they have floppy ears like their St. Bernard parent.
The German Shepherd is known as a strong breed with a remarkable bite force and impressive pulling strength. As for the Saint Bernard, their large size and thickset bodies are a clue to their power.
The St. Bernard German Shepherd mix is expected to be a tough dog with the strength required to fulfill a wide variety of roles as a working breed.
GSDs can run pretty fast at speeds of approximately 30 miles per hour. In contrast, the large and heavy bodies of St. Bernards keep them from being fast and agile dogs.
Nevertheless, the German Shepherd-St. Bernard mix is expected to have the energy levels, stamina, and athletic ability of both their parents.
Both the Saint Bernard and the German Shepherd are known to be high-energy dogs. Since they are working breeds, they need both physical and mental stimulation to avoid destructive behaviors.
The St. Bernard German Shepherd mix will likely need a one-hour walk or 30 minutes of intensive play per day, at the minimum. They will also need to be mentally stimulated with activities like training and brain and puzzle toys games.
The German Shepherd is known as the third most intelligent working dog breeds in the world. It belongs to the top tier in the canine intelligence ranking. At this level, it takes only 5 exposures for them to learn something new. They are also able to obey commands at least 95% of the time.
In contrast, Saint Bernard’s rank 65th and belong to the fifth tier of intelligence. At this level, it takes up to 80 repetitions for them to learn a new command. Additionally, they are only expected to obey 40% of the time.
The GSD-St. Bernard mutt’s intelligence would really depend on which parent it takes after. Nevertheless, they are expected to have an excellent work ethic when properly trained for a specific function and will be very easy to train.
The Saint Bernard has a gentler and more tolerant nature than GSDs. These dogs are also more sociable than German Shepherd, who tend to prefer the sole company of their own family. However, GSDs are much more trainable and have superior protective instincts.
Given the temperaments of both parents, the Saint Shepherd will ideally have a good balance of intelligence, drive, and playfulness. They are also expected to be loyal, protective of their home and family, and incredibly affectionate.
These dogs can be incredibly good family dogs as long as their humans invest time and effort in their training. They need to be trained in obedience and also socialized in different settings at a young age. With proper socialization, they coexist peacefully with other animals and even young kids.
As large, deep-chested dogs, both the German Shepherd and the St. Bernard are prone to bloat. This painful condition occurs when the stomach expands dangerously due to excessive gas, fluids, or food.
In some cases, this can lead to a life-threatening condition called gastric dilation volvulus (GDV), where the stomach twists and causes the dog’s condition to rapidly deteriorate. Since both parents are predisposed to this condition, it is something that owners of Saint Shepherds should watch out for.
The St. Bernard-German Shepherd cross might also be prone to bone and joint conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia, as are most large dogs. Both parents should also be screened for degenerative myelopathy, which is a condition that causes the progressive deterioration of the spinal cord.
Don’t let these scare you away from a GSD-St. Bernard cross, however. All breeds have genetic predispositions. Being aware of them enables you to avoid them and also know when to seek medical help.
The average Saint Bernard lives between 8 and 10 years while German Shepherds commonly live from 12 to 14 years old. Knowing this, it is reasonable to believe that the GSD-Saint Bernard cross could live for approximately 10 to 12 years.
Recorded average lifespans per breed give you a good idea of how long your own pup might live. However, remember that it’s common for dogs to surpass their breed’s life expectancy. A lot depends on their environment, nutrition, and health maintenance.
The American Kennel Club is primarily a registry for purebreds and a body that serves to uphold breed standards. So, it’s no surprise that it doesn’t recognize the German Shepherd-St. Bernard Mix.
However, the AKC does have a Canine Partners program that this hybrid can register for. Through the AKC Canine Partners program, hybrids and crosses are able to participate in various dog sports.
This program includes some of the most popular canine sports like Rally, Agility, and Scent Work. These dogs are also able to work towards certain AKC titles, including those to become good citizens, therapy dogs, and search & rescue dogs.
How Popular is the St. Bernard German Shepherd Mix?
Saint Bernard-German Shepherd crosses are not very popular. They are difficult to find because their parents have more value as purebreds, so breeders are not motivated to mix them together or even with other breeds. Often, you’ll find these mutts as products of accidental mating.
Nevertheless, you might still find breeders that cross GSDs and Saints on purpose. Such puppies will definitely be more expensive than those from unplanned litters, especially because the parents would have been selected for specific traits.
The Saint Shepherd, or German Shepherd-St. Bernard cross can be a delight to own. Although their size and grooming requirements might be challenging, its likely affectionate nature and eagerness to please should be incredibly rewarding.
Nevertheless, if you’re interested in a cross but aren’t quite convinced that the German Shepherd-Saint Bernard mix is for you, check out the German Shepherd Dalmatian mix, the German Shepherd Bloodhound mix, and the German Shepherd Jack Russell mix.