The Greater Swiss Mountain dog breed was developed to be an all-around working dog, herding cattle, pulling carts, and standing guard. These days, the Swissy enjoys life as a family pet, but because of his working heritage, he enjoys being busy. This powerful breed excels in all sorts of dog sports, from agility to weight pulling.
Switzerland has four varieties of farm dogs, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, is the largest. On the farm, his jobs included guarding and herding livestock and pulling carts loaded with milk and cheeses. This is a giant breed, with males weighing in at 105 to 140 pounds and females at 85 to 110 pounds.
These days, the Greater Swiss is primarily a family companion or show dog, beloved for his gentle, easygoing temperament. He has many good qualities, including an alert nature that makes him an excellent watchdog. But, like any breed, he’s not right for everyone. If you want a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, be prepared to do a lot of homework to find him and to put in plenty of effort training and socializing once you bring him home.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have a short, easy care coat. Weekly brushing — more often during shedding season — will help to keep loose hair under control. Clean the ears and trim the nails as needed, and bathe the Swissy when he’s dirty to keep his tricolor coat gleaming.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs love people and will pine without human companionship. They should have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home the Swissy should be with them. It’s also important to remember that the Swissy does not tolerate heat well, so during hot weather he needs to stay in a cool, shady place with ready access to fresh water.
- Due to his large size, the Swissy is not suited for apartment or condo living. A home with a fenced yard is ideal.
- The Swissy was bred to work and likes to have a job to do. Obedience training can give him the mental stimulation he needs, and is essential for handling a dog of this size.
- Although he’s generally good with kids, the Swissy is a large dog who can accidentally knock over a small child.
- The Swissy is prone to overheating. Keep him inside in air conditioning or in front of fans when the weather’s hot, and wait until it cools off to exercise him.
- Some Swiss Mountain Dogs will chase small animals. To keep the neighbor’s cat safe — as well as your dog — make sure the yard is securely fenced, and keep him on leash when you’re out and about.
- The Greater Swiss Moutain Dog was an all-around farm companion who drove livestock to pasture, pulled milk carts to the dairy, and acted as a watchdog. They usually hauled the heavy cans of milk in pairs, so it was common to see two of them hooked up to a cart.
- The Swissy is a large dog with a tricolor coat, a gentle expression, dark-brown eyes, triangular-shaped drop ears, and a long tail.
The average life span of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus), epilepsy, elbow dysplasia and hip dysplasia.
As it is a traditional working dog, this breed is fond of spending time outdoors, particularly in cold weather. It can survive outdoors in cool climates, but prefers to spend more time with its human family. The dog is also fond of pulling.
A vigorous romp or a good, long walk is sufficient to fulfill its daily exercise requirements. Indoors, the dog requires a lot of space to stretch itself. Coat care in the form of brushing once a week is enough, but the frequency should be increased at times of shedding.
They will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised. They prefer cool climates. A small yard is sufficient.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are a challenge to train, even for experienced owners. They are willful and independent, and training should begin as early as possible. Once this dog hits adolescence, he will behave like a typical teenager, testing your boundaries whenever possible.
Consistency and strong leadership is key, but a Swissy should never be treated harshly. Training should involve a lot of treats, as this is probably the only way to motivate this headstrong animal.
Although Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs require a good bit of exercise, they do not need to run for long periods of time like some other breeds. Several long walks will keep a Swissy happy. He will be even happier if he is allowed to carry a backpack or pull a wagon.
The Swissy likes to feel that he is doing a job so incorporating work with fun will make your dog feel needed.
Grooming the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is easy. Brush once or twice per week to keep shedding under control, though Spring and Fall will mean brushing several times per week. Bathe only as needed, which typically amounts to every four to six weeks.
Check the dog’s ears regularly for signs of irritation, infection, or wax buildup. Clean the ears with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved cleanser. Brushing teeth weekly (or more), can keep tartar from building up, promote gum health, and keep bad breath at bay. If the dog does not wear down his toenails naturally, trim the nails once per month. If they make a clicking sound on hard floors, they are too long.
Children And Other Pets
The Swissy enjoys the attention and company of youngsters if he’s given plenty of exposure to them beginning in puppyhood, and the kids are taught to treat the dog with care and respect. However, young children should never be left unsupervised with any dog. Even if the Swissy means well, this is a large, strong dog, and a Swissy can easily knock over a small child by accident.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
The good-natured Swissy generally enjoys the company of other dogs and loves to play rough and rambunctious. This is especially true if he has been properly socialized with other dogs at an early age. As in any breed, dogs of the same sex who haven’t been spayed or neutered may not tolerate each another.
Swissy dogs vary in their prey drive: some will chase squirrels, cats, and other small animals, and some won’t. As with any dog, you’ll have a better shot at peace among the family pets if you expose your Swissy to other animals beginning at an early age, and are careful about the introductions.
Is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog the Right Breed for you?
Low Maintenance: Infrequent grooming is required to maintain upkeep. No trimming or stripping needed.
Moderate Shedding: Routine brushing will help. Be prepared to vacuum often!
Difficult Training: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog isn’t deal for a first time dog owner. Patience and perseverance are required to adequately train it.
Fairly Active: It will need regular exercise to maintain its fitness. Trips to the dog park are a great idea.
Not Good for New Owners: This breed is best for those who have previous experience with dog ownership.
Good with Kids: This is a suitable breed for kids and is known to be playful, energetic, and affectionate around them.
Did You Know?
In Switzerland, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is known as the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, which means “large dog of the Alpine pastures.”