Bred for Success: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed

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greater swiss mountain dogs happy faceThe Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is one of four Sennenhund breeds bred to be the ultimate working dogs. These mastiff-types just love to work, and they are not called GREATER for no reason. Today, they are so much more than amazing working dogs. They are family dogs. They are guard dogs. Most importantly: They are Swissies!

A Brief History of this Breed! 

Julius Caesar’s legions first brought the ancestors of the Swissy over the alps as war dogs in the years BC. These originals were bred by the Swiss to be the largest of their Alpine mountain dogs or Sennenhund breeds.

As such, they are related to the Entlebucher and Bernese Mountain Dog breeds and are therefor a component breed of the German Rottweiler and Saint Bernard. They were useful all-purpose, hard-working farm dogs in these remote mountainous regions. They hauled smartly outfitted dog carts to market, loaded with dairy and meat products.

It has been a long journey for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (GSMD) to be recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995. Albert Heim, a canine researcher, first saw two “short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs” in 1908 at a Swiss Kennel Club Jubilee.

He recognized them as Sennenhund types and is responsible for them being recognized as a separate breed in 1909. In this year, the Swiss Kennel Club listed the “Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund” (German for GSMD) in the Swiss Stud Book.

In 1968 the U.S. saw its first Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and soon after the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America was formed.

Kings of the Mountain Dog Breeds: They’re Bred to Excel! 

All you would need in a mountain dog and more! Swissies are agile, muscular and good-tempered. They’re not only excellent working dogs but great family and guard dogs, too.

While they put all they have into the tasks expected of them, they’ll also happily curl up at your feet when given the opportunity.

Although most Swissies are no longer expected to excel at herding, hauling and guarding mountainous farmsteads, they still look the part. Be warned that a Swissy is not the best option for a first-time owner or apartment dwelling. They are large and smart and need space to exercise and do what they do best: be a greater mountain dog!

The Appearance of the Impressive GSMD

These lovable giants are definitely head-turners. Impressively large with a beautiful distinct black outer coat and rust and white markings on the face and body.

They look like the Draft and Drover breed that they are: large, powerful, confident dogs with a sturdy appearance. Swissies are deceptively agile for such well muscled and heavy boned dogs. They are not great shedders, but are stereotypical slobberers, much like other Swiss Mountain dog breeds.

greater swiss mountain dog breeds playing

Average Size and Weight! 

This large dog with a giant heart, on average stands at between 23.5 and 28.5 inches at the shoulder and weighs 85 to 140 pounds.

  • Males stand 25.5 to 28.5 inches tall and weigh 105 to 140 pounds.
  • Females stand 23.5 to 27 inches tall and weigh 85 to 110 pounds.

Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament and Personality

Sweet gentle giant about sums up this breed. The Greater Swiss is a perfect family companion. Faithful, gentle and even-tempered, they love people! Don’t mistake them for pushovers though!

They can be headstrong so start training them when they are still young. They love having a leader, so be sure they know that you are their alpha!

Swissies are slow to mature and remain puppies for about 3 years, mentally and physically. Some are perpetual puppies, while others mature quicker – it’s all in the selection.

When looking for a pup, be sure to see the parents and siblings, to ascertain personality. A well socialized and genetically amenable pup will be better as a family pet.

A Busy Swissie is a Happy Swissie!

What you don’t need is a bored giant of a dog with a long puppyhood! Remember that these are inherently working dogs, well suited to herding and hauling. If left for extended periods without stimulation or company, they will get up to mischief.

Cats, small animals, and even children may be herded, so socialize the pup accordingly if they are to share living space with any of the these. Letting your Swissy pull the kids around the garden in a cart will make for happy kids and a happy dog.

Give your Swissie sufficient exercise, but always keep them on a leash when out in public because of their herding instincts. When exercising, know that the Swissy is prone to overheating. Maybe hold off exercising if the weather is hot, and let him stay in an air-conditioned room or in front of fans in extreme heat.

How Long do They Live? 

Being a large breed, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog lives only 7 to 9 years.

Potential Health Issues to Be Aware of! 

As a well-bred puppy, GSMDs have no breed specific health ailments. Health problems suffered by large breeds are always a probability, though.

  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is an abnormal formation of the hip socket that can if very severe, eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints.
  • Distichiasis is when eyelashes grow the wrong way or from an abnormal location on the eyelid.
  • Panosteitis, or growing pains, is a painful inflammation of the long bones of the legs.
  • Shoulder Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) involves an abnormal development of the cartilage, usually in the shoulder joint. Inflammation follows when the affected cartilage separates from the bone. It Can also affect the elbow, hip, or knee.
  • Gastric torsion occurs when the stomach becomes overstretched by excessive gas content, and twists;
  • Seizures
  • Female urinary incontinence is commonly seen in spayed bitches and is problematic especially in dogs who live inside the house.

greater swiss mountain dog puppies sleeping

4 Tips to Caring for Your Swissie! 

  1. Nutrition and proper feeding are essential. Obesity is a problem in already giant breeds, and overfeeding is your biggest risk.
  2. As a wash-and-wear pooch, they love a bath and good grooming at least twice a year when their coat goes through the normal blow out. You should brush and bathe your doggo as needed!
  3. Trim nails regularly and do brush teeth and clean their ears.
  4. Your GSMD will love hiking with you. They are after all mountain dogs!

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Puppies for Sale! 

A good breeder will match you and the ideal pup. Explain your lifestyle and your needs and Bob’s your uncle!

How to Find a Reputable Breeder! 

Your best port of call is the American Kennel Club, and your vet might be helpful in suggesting a recommended breeder.

Adopt, Don’t Shop! Ask an Animal Shelter About Swissie Rescues!

It’s never a bad idea to adopt a dog but go into this relationship with as much knowledge as you can get. From a puppy to an eager adult, there are so many rescues that would love to be a part of your family.

Common Questions 

Would it be okay to move my 5-year-old Swissy into an upstairs apartment? 

I am looking at getting a Swissy for my aged father, would this make a good companion dog for an energetic older person? 

How often should I bathe my GSMD puppy? 

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