Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
A Large, Gentle Dog who Loves Children and Acts Like a Puppy for a Long Time
With no exact origin known, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is possibly the result of interbreeding between indigenous dogs in the Swiss Alps and Mastiffs or Molossers that were brought to the area by immigrating settlers. These dogs may have also inherited qualities from the Rottweiler and the St. Bernard as well. At one point, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was the most popular breed in Switzerland, but it had largely died out by the late 19th century, until its rediscovery and resurgence in popularity in the early 20th century. Very important to the central European economy, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (or "Swissy") proved invaluable as companions and canine "partners" to farmers, merchants, herdsmen, and other professions that needed large, strong, intelligent, working dogs. Despite its value to society, the Swissy began to disappear as machinery took over many of its jobs, resulting in near extinction by the end of the 19th century.
The dog was rediscovered in the early 20th century, thanks to the contributions of Professor Albert Heim. An expert on Swiss Sennenhund breeds, he attended the 1908 Jubilee dog show in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Swiss Kennel Club where two of the entries at that show were described as "Bernese Mountain Dogs." Prof. Heim recognized that these dogs were a different large Sennenhund-type dog, and pressed for them to be recognized as their own breed. The next year, the Swiss Studbook listed the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog) as its own breed.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs In the United States
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog remains rare in the United States specifically because its development and growth as a breed in Europe has remained slow. The Swiss Army used the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in its operations during World War II, but it wasn't until 1968 that the first Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were imported to the US. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America was formed soon after to carefully control breeding and increase the popularity and strength of the breed in the ensuing years. The first dogs were registered by the club in 1983, with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog finally gaining recognition by the AKC as part of its Working Group in 1995.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s Appearance
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very robust, devoted working dog with the athletic agility to be able to navigate mountainous regions with ease. This is a rare and valued combination – to be large and sturdy yet nimble enough to function exceedingly well in a variety of environments. The coat is usually black on the back, tail, ears, and most of the legs, with brown on the legs and face, and white on the muzzle and sometimes the feet. This is a big dog, standing from 23 to 29 inches at the shoulder; in adulthood, it can weigh between 80 pounds to over 140 pounds. Males are larger than females.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s Appearance The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very robust, devoted working dog with the athletic agility to be able to navigate mountainous regions with ease. This is a rare and valued combination – to be large and sturdy yet nimble enough to function exceedingly well in a variety of environments. The coat is usually black on the back, tail, ears, and most of the legs, with brown on the legs and face, and white on the muzzle and sometimes the feet. This is a big dog, standing from 23 to 29 inches at the shoulder; in adulthood, it can weigh between 80 pounds to over 140 pounds. Males are larger than females.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s Temperament
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is an excellent, devoted pet with a very sweet and gentle disposition. These dogs are not at all aggressive and relate very well to children. Instinctively they may be prone to chase, but can be taught not to. Also a superb guard dog, it manifests the courage to protect home and family despite a relaxed personality.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is unique in its tendency to require a longer time to mature both mentally and physically. Because it's such a large dog, maturity comes slowly. While this dog is very obedient and devoted, you'll have to handle it like a puppy in terms of consistently reinforced discipline for at least the first two or three years, making sure that you establish yourself as its undisputed leader.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s Best Environment
Although the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large dog, it functions well in most environments. Because of its size, it is not particularly tolerant of apartment living, but is so well-behaved that you can certainly take your pet into confined spaces occasionally. A dog this large needs to be eased into strenuous exercise, especially when young and still growing. Therefore, steady activity like hiking with you (rather than running) punctuated with short bursts of very brisk activity (like running) is preferable to continuous boisterous or taxing exercise. This breed has excellent stamina given its heritage as a working dog, perfect for farm life or onerous activity like cart-pulling.
One of the best modern "nonworking" environments for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is simply to be part of a family. This dog absolutely needs your companionship, craving both your attention and physical contact. A relatively large house with a suitable yard for plenty of outdoor activity will make your pet the happiest. Because your dog is accustomed to cool environments, watch for overheating and make sure not to overexert your pet, especially in hot weather.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s Health
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is quite healthy for its size, although you may note that your pet is somewhat incontinent especially when asleep. This is not life-threatening and often affects females after they have been spayed. To be safe, make sure your vet checks that the reason for its incontinence is not because of infection, structural defect, spinal cord disease, etc.
Other than that, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is very healthy as a breed, although it can be prone to bloat, a condition common to most large dogs. Also called "gastric torsion," bloat can be fatal within an hour of onset. Symptoms, which include depression, inability to pass gas, attempts to vomit without success, etc., can be temporarily relieved with simethicone or another gas-reducing medication at your vet's recommendation. However, this is not a cure for bloat and will only buy some time before getting medical attention. Surgery can correct the condition permanently. If health is maintained, your dog will have a lifespan of about 10 years, average for most large breeds.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s Grooming
Your pet is an average shedder and will only need brushing every few days. However, your dog will shed heavily twice a year, at which time you'll need to brush more often, twice a day or even more. Bathing should only be necessary if your pet gets very dirty.