Each dog breeding story is different, and this interview is one of Diane Deuchar Fawcett from Saranbeck Saint Bernards. She had the honour of breeding Best of Breed at Crufts in 2005, Ch Barandi Spymaster, but she has been continuously improving her bloodline with imports and meticulously thought-through breedings.
Please introduce yourself, Saranbeck Saint Bernards and how you originally fell in love with the breed.
Our family have always loved dogs and for many years we rescued and rehomed strays. My children would end up in tears as the dog left with their new owners, so after much discussion, we decided to get a dog of our own. My husband wanted a BIG dog.
I just happened to see an advert for a litter of St Bernards at Guiseley, England. With research done and a lot of thought – the story began in 1969 and with a lot of help from Mr. Ken Gaunt of the well-known Cornagarth Kennels and Miss Majorie Hindes, owner and breeder of the famous Crufts’ Best in Show Ch Burtonswood Bossy Boots, we joined the mad world of show dogs.
Could you educate us about the similarities and differences between the St Bernard, the Bernese M0untain Dog, the Newfoundland and the English Mastiff?
The St Bernard, Newfoundland and the English Mastiff are some of the breeds classed as the High Profile Breeds by the Kennel Club. The Bernese Mountain dog is not.
The Kennel Club’s definition of a High Profile Breed is that these breeds can display visible conditions that may cause health and welfare concerns leading to possible health problems. A dog may not be awarded its Champion title until it has passed two veterinary examinations, by two different vets, in attendance at two different Championship shows. A Best Of Breed award cannot be awarded until examined and passed by the Vet attending the show. It will then be allowed to compete in their particular group for Best In show.
To compare the 4 breeds:
- St Bernard — Lifespan of 8-10 years. Height upwards of 30″. Female smaller. Weight up to 65-120kg, female a bit lighter. Two coat types: smooth coated and rough Coated. Affectionate, loving, can be stubborn. Loves company.
- Bernese Mountain Dog — Lifespan of 6-8 years. Height, male 64-70cm and female smaller. Weight of male 39-50kg, female around 36-48kg. Loyal, faithful, intelligent and affectionate.
- Newfoundland — Lifespan of 8-10.years. Height of the male 69-74cm, female smaller. Weight of 60-70kg for males, females around 45-58kg. Gentle, sweet-natured, and trainable.
- English Mastiff — Lifespan of 10-12 yrs. Height for males is 70-91cm, females smaller. Weight of 75-100kg for males, females 54-77kg. Protective, good natured, courageous, dignified and affectionate.
What are the most common medical conditions affecting the St Bernard?
Medical conditions affecting the St Bernard are mainly hip and elbow dysplasia and other bone and joint problems. Eye problems, heart problems, epilepsy and bloat regularly appear, too.
It is essential to find out from the breeder of your puppy that the mandatory tests have been passed by the parents and verified by the British Veterinary Association’s x-rays of hips and elbows, heart and eye tests and that you are able to see written proof of these tests before buying you puppy.
This is a Giant breed, so how can St Bernard breeders tackle Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and other bone deteriorations?
Much research is being carried out both in this country and in the USA on the bone condition Osteosarcoma. Present thinking is that it is not thought to be linked genetically. There is a theory that it could possibly be linked to blunt bone injury.
It is quite exceptional to see a St Bernard reach and pass 10 years of life.
Sadly in common with other giant breeds, the St Bernard lifespan is relatively short when compared to the smaller breeds. The orginal St Bernard bred by the Monks was of a lighter build, a more agile dog suited to its mountain rescue work. As the breed evolved over the years, a heavier build emerged and has had to pay the price. Having said that, I have had dogs here living to 13 and a half years.
What are the St Bernard bloodlines and breeders that you look up to the most?
At the present time the outstanding St Bernard kennel is Chandlimore St Bernards owned by Mr Tan Nagrecha who has been top breeder for the last 15 years.
Of the latter day breeders, Cornagarth Kennels owned by the late Mr Ken Gaunt and Burtonswood Kennels owned by the late Miss Marjorie Hindes.
St. Bernards are extremely kind and gentle, but just one push can knock a child over. Are they good family dogs?
St Bernards are excellent family dogs and love to be with people. We ask all prospective buyers to come and see the dogs for themselves and to meet the puppy’s parents.
Although excellent with children, due to their size even the most gentle Saint could inadvertently knock over a toddler and hurt them, so older children are preferred and they must be taught not to tease the puppy and give it respect.
The prospective owner must also consider that these dogs slobber and shed hair on your carpet and furniture, so not for the house proud!
If you are out at work all day, the St Bernard is NOT for you! They crave company and hate to be left for long periods of time. It is essential that your breeder should advise you in regards to the diet, the very careful rearing and exercise required for this breed and should always be there at the other end of the phone to help with enquiries.
What sort of grooming does a St Bernard needs?
There are two types of coat: a smooth (short haired coat) and a rough coat (long haired.)
The smooth needs to be brushed on a regular basis. The rough coat needs more attention and regular grooming, paying attention to ears, eyes and teeth. Both types shed – the rough more than the smooth, so look out for carpets, furniture and clothes!
What would you reply to people saying there is no need for breeders because shelters are full of loveable creatures waiting to receive some love…?
Around 30% of dogs that end up in shelters are pure bred, many bred by puppy farmers purely for profit with no care for their future. They are raised in appalling conditions, taken from their Mothers too soon – many smuggled into the country with false passports and inoculation certificates.
The Kennel Club, in an effort to educate the puppy buying public, set up The Assured Breeders Scheme whose members are set a high standard and inspected by Kennel Club Inspectors before they are passed to exhibit the Assured Breeders Certificate in their advertising. A list of members can be viewed on the Kennel Club website.
All Assured Breeders must carry out the health and x-ray tests that are required for their breed and litters cannot be registered unless this is undertaken. They also advise that puppies must be seen at the breeder’s home together with their mothers and any other relatives.
A good breeder will always take a puppy back if it is not wanted. Our own St Bernard rescue –The St Bernard Trust– last year took in over 200 unwanted Saints, with ages ranging from only a few months old to ten-year-olds just discarded when no longer wanted.
So please think carefully before you buy that adorable little puppy. Remember A DOG IS FOR LIFE.