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Originally, the Saint Bernard dog breed guarded the grounds of the Swiss hospice Saint Bernard and also assisted in the search and rescue of lost and injured travelers.
The Saint Bernard originated in Switzerland along with several other breeds, including the Bernese Mountain Dog, Entlebuch Cattle Dog, Appenzeller Mountain Dog, and the Great Swiss Mountain Dog.
They probably originated when dogs indigenous to the Alps were crossed with Mastiff-type dogs that came with the Roman army during the time of Emperor Augustus. By the first millennium AD, dogs in Switzerland and the Alps were grouped together and known as "Talhund" (Valley Dog) or "Bauernhund" (Farm Dog).
The St. Bernard Pass is a well-known and treacherous alpine pass that is about 2 469 m above sea level and may only be hiked between July and September. Today, remnants of the great Roman road can still be seen, as well as evidence of the crossing by Napoleon.
Archdeacon Bernard de Menthon arrived in 962 AD at this pass, which would eventually be named after him, and it was there that he founded his hospice, which offered assistance to travelers who had crossed the treacherous pass. At that point, the history of the Saint Bernard began to expand from the Talhund or Bauerhund.
True to their heritage as service dogs, Saints are friendly and welcoming. They have a stable, benevolent temperament and are friendly and gentle with children. They love attention, but are not as demanding as some breeds.
Because of their large size, it is important to begin training Saints at a young age, when they are still manageable. They are intelligent and eager to please, but sometimes stubborn. They should never be aggressive unless it is in defense of a family member.