Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Table of Contents

greater swiss mountain dog portrait
Meet the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, a breed that's as grand as the Alps they hail from! With their magnificent tri-colored coats and heartwarming personality, these gentle giants are an irresistible blend of strength, versatility, and charm.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a perfect fit for active families with space to spare. Their robust strength, coupled with an enthusiastic nature, makes them excellent companions for outdoor enthusiasts, while their loyal and gentle demeanor endears them to children.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEGreater Swiss Mountain Dog
OTHER NAMESSwissy, Swissy Mountain Dog, Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Grand Bouvier Suisse
ORIGINSwitzerland
BREED GROUPWorking Group
BREED SIZELarge
HEIGHT23.5-28.5 inches
WEIGHT85-140 lbs
LIFESPAN8-11 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYModerate
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK83rd
greater swiss mountain dog standing in a field
Photo: Nicholas Chase/Getty Images

Appearance

Prepare to be awestruck by the sheer size and grandeur of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog! With males standing 25.5 to 28.5 inches tall and females at 23.5 to 27 inches, these gentle giants can weigh anywhere between 85 to 140 pounds. Their imposing stature is a testament to their historical role as herding and drafting dogs.

The first thing you’ll notice about a Swissy (as they’re affectionately known) is their dense, tri-colored coat. The striking combination of black, red, and white markings gives them an air of majesty. Their topcoat is short and thick, perfect for withstanding harsh mountain conditions, while their undercoat is dense and insulating.

Now, let’s talk about their heads. Broad and flat, the Swissy’s head is a defining feature. The backskull and blunt muzzle are roughly equal in length, exhibiting a perfect blend of power and elegance. Framing their face are medium-sized, triangular ears that sit high on their head, adding to their alert and attentive expression.

Speaking of expressions, their dark brown, almond-shaped eyes are a window to their soul. They convey a sense of intelligence and gentle warmth that is simply irresistible. The Swissy’s gaze is one of the most endearing aspects of their appearance, capable of melting hearts and winning over skeptics.

Their bodies are as sturdy as they come, heavy-boned and muscular, built like the star quarterbacks of the dog world. Their broad chests and strong backs highlight their incredible strength and endurance. And, trailing behind them is a long, tapering tail carried low when relaxed and slightly above the back when they’re in action.

Last but not least, their paws are round and compact, designed to traverse the rocky terrain of their homeland. Strong and sure-footed, they’re a testament to the Swissy’s remarkable adaptability.

In essence, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a splendid blend of brawn and beauty, their physical attributes reflecting their hardy origins and loving nature. Whether it’s their expressive eyes or their stunning tri-colored coat, every facet of their appearance exudes charm and character.

greater swiss mountain dog sitting on autumn leaves
Photo: Nadiia_Diachenko/Getty Images

Temperament

At first glance, you might be awed by their size, but don’t let that intimidate you. Beneath their robust exterior lies a heart of gold. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are known for their warm and friendly nature. They’re incredibly social creatures, always eager to make friends and spread joy. They are not just dogs; they are cherished family members who love to be at the center of all activities.

One of the most captivating aspects of a Swissy’s personality is their unwavering loyalty. Once a Swissy takes you into their heart, you’re there to stay. They form deep bonds with their human families and are known to be fiercely protective when needed. Their devotion is unparalleled, making them excellent companions.

Despite their imposing stature, Swissies are gentle with children, often showing an instinctive understanding and patience towards the little ones. Their playful demeanor makes them excellent playmates, and their protective nature makes them trustworthy guardians. They truly embody the phrase “gentle giant.”

Swissies are also known for their intelligence. These aren’t just brawny dogs; they’ve got the brains to match! They’re quick learners, always eager to please their humans. This intelligence, combined with their work ethic, is a testament to their heritage as Swiss farm dogs.

However, it’s important to remember that Swissies are sensitive souls. They thrive on positive interactions and can become distressed if exposed to harsh or negative environments. Their feelings run deep, and they have a keen sense of their humans’ emotions. If you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if your Swissy comes to offer comfort with a nuzzle or a paw.

That being said, Swissies also have a bit of a mischievous streak. Their playful antics and goofy expressions can bring laughter to even the dreariest of days. They’re known to be quite expressive, often “talking” to their humans with a variety of vocalizations.

In terms of their relationship with strangers, Swissies are generally welcoming, but they can be reserved initially. They’re discerning dogs, taking a moment to assess the situation before warming up to new people. However, once they’ve made up their minds, they’re incredibly welcoming.

At the end of the day, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a blend of many wonderful traits. They’re friendly, loyal, intelligent, and sensitive with just a dash of mischief. Their love is as vast as the mountains they hail from, and they share it generously with those they hold dear. With a Swissy in your life, every day feels like an adventure filled with love and laughter.

greater swiss mountain dog in the snow
Photo: Wojciech Popiolek/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

Ah, the ideal environment for a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog – let’s paint that picture together! These lovable giants are more than just eye candy; they’re working dogs at heart, bred for hard labor in the Swiss Alps. This means they thrive in active households where there’s plenty of room to romp and explore.

Ideal Owner

Swissies are best suited to families who love spending time outdoors. They enjoy energetic games, long walks, and even hiking adventures. A spacious yard can be their paradise, but remember, these dogs are family-oriented, so they’ll want to come inside and join in the family fun rather than being left alone outside.

Other Pets

Now, what about other pets? Well, Swissies are typically sociable and get along well with other animals. However, due to their size and strength, it’s always a good idea to supervise interactions with smaller pets. As for children, Swissies are known for their gentle and protective nature, making them fantastic family dogs.

Physical Environment

While they might not be apartment-friendly due to their size, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can adapt to various living situations as long as they get enough physical and mental stimulation. They’re more than just pets; they’re companions, eager to participate in family activities and share in the love.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, Swissies are more comfortable in cooler climates, thanks to their double coat. They’re built for the snow-capped peaks of the Alps, after all! However, they can adjust to warmer climates as well. It’s crucial to provide plenty of shade and fresh water during hot weather, and avoid strenuous exercise during the heat of the day to prevent overheating.

greater swiss mountain dog lying on green grass
Photo: Nadiia_Diachenko/Getty Images

Grooming

Grooming a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog requires regular attention, the right tools, and a gentle touch. But don’t worry, with these giants, grooming is less of a chore and more of a bonding experience. Let’s delve into the world of Swissy grooming!

Coat Care

First things first, let’s talk about their beautiful, tri-colored coat. Swissies are double-coated dogs, with a dense undercoat and a short, thick topcoat. While they’re not heavy shedders year-round, they ‘blow’ their undercoat twice a year, usually in spring and autumn. During these periods, you’ll find tufts of fur around your home which might make you wonder if there’s a second dog you didn’t know about!

Regular brushing is the key to managing the shedding and keeping their coat healthy. Aim for a good brush-down at least once a week, but during shedding season, you might want to increase this to daily sessions. A slicker brush or a deshedding tool is perfect for this task, helping to remove loose hair and prevent mats.

Bathing

Now, let’s move onto bathing. Swissies are pretty clean dogs and don’t have a strong odor, so they don’t need frequent baths. Every 2-3 months should suffice unless, of course, they’ve decided to roll in something particularly smelly or messy during their outdoor adventures. Use a dog-friendly shampoo to preserve the natural oils in their skin and coat.

Dental Care

Dental care is another important aspect of Swissy grooming. Dental issues can lead to serious health problems, so it’s best to start a dental routine early. Brush their teeth several times a week using dog-specific toothpaste. If your Swissy isn’t a fan of the toothbrush, dental chews can be a great alternative.

Ear Care

Don’t forget about their ears! Swissies have beautiful, medium-sized ears that need regular checks. Clean them gently with a vet-approved solution to prevent infections. If your Swissy loves swimming, it’s even more important to ensure their ears are dry and clean after each splash session.

Nail Trimming

Last, but certainly not least, are their nails. Swissies have sturdy, round feet with strong nails that need regular trimming. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. If you’re comfortable doing it yourself, use a canine nail clipper or grinder. If not, a groomer or vet can help.

greater swiss mountain dog walking in a forest
Photo: qbavsop/Getty Images

Exercise

Welcome to the active world of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog! These robust canines are descendants of working dogs, which means they’re built for action. But don’t let that intimidate you — while they love a good romp, their exercise needs are surprisingly moderate.

Exercise Amount & Types

So, what does “moderate” mean? Generally, a brisk daily walk of 20-45 minutes will keep most Swissies in good shape. This isn’t just about physical exercise though; these strolls also provide mental stimulation as they explore their surroundings, catch up on the latest ‘pee-mail’, and socialize with other dogs and humans.

Swissies are versatile and enjoy a variety of activities. They’re great hiking companions, always ready for an adventure. Their strength and stamina make them excellent partners for longer walks in the countryside or treks up hill trails. Just remember to take some water breaks!

If you have a spacious yard, Swissies will love playing fetch or engaging in a friendly game of tug-of-war. They’re also quite fond of romping around in the snow, thanks to their Swiss heritage. However, it’s important to note that exercise should be balanced with periods of rest to avoid overexertion.

Dog Sports

For the competitive folks out there, Swissies excel in dog sports like carting and weight pulling, harking back to their drafting roots. These activities not only provide physical exercise but also mentally challenge your Swissy, keeping them happy and engaged.

Exercise Precautions

One thing to keep in mind is that young Swissies need controlled exercise. Their bones and joints are still developing, so overly strenuous activities should be avoided to prevent potential damage. Gentle play and short walks are ideal during this growth phase.

greater swiss mountain dog puppy running in the park
Photo: macgyverhh/Getty Images

Training

Training a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is like embarking on an exciting journey filled with mutual learning, bonding, and lots of treats! Known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, Swissies generally take well to training. However, their sensitive nature and occasional stubborn streak call for a special approach.

Firstly, it’s important to start early. Puppyhood is the perfect time to begin basic obedience training like sit, stay, and come. But remember, Swissies are big puppies, so be mindful of their joints and avoid exercises that involve jumping or climbing stairs.

Socialization is another crucial aspect of Swissy training. Exposing them to a variety of people, places, and situations helps them grow into well-adjusted adults. Take them to dog parks, invite guests over, let them experience different sights and sounds. The more they explore, the more confident they’ll become.

Swissies respond best to positive reinforcement techniques. They’re sensitive souls who don’t take well to harsh corrections. So, stock up on their favorite treats and shower them with praise whenever they get something right. This will boost their confidence and strengthen your bond.

Don’t shy away from challenging their intelligence. Swissies are smart dogs who love a good mental workout. Incorporate puzzle toys into their routine or teach them new tricks to keep their minds sharp.

Patience is key when training a Swissy. There might be days when they’d rather chase a squirrel than focus on training. But don’t fret. Stay consistent, mix things up to keep it interesting, and remember to end each session on a positive note.

Lastly, consider enrolling in a puppy training class or hiring a professional trainer if you’re new to this. Not only will your Swissy learn important skills, but you’ll also learn how to communicate effectively with your furry friend.

Remember, training isn’t just about teaching commands; it’s about building a lifelong bond with your Swissy. With patience, positivity, and persistence, you’ll have a well-behaved companion who’s ready to accompany you on all life’s adventures.

greater swiss mountain dog running across a field
Photo: meadowmouse/Getty Images Signature

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is like catering to a discerning diner with a hearty appetite. These gentle giants have specific dietary needs that match their size, age, and activity level. So, let’s whip up the perfect Swissy meal plan!

What to Feed & How Much

Firstly, it’s crucial to choose a high-quality dog food that meets the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines. Whether you opt for dry kibble, wet food, or a raw diet, make sure it’s nutritionally balanced and appropriate for their life stage.

Puppies typically require more frequent meals — about three to four times a day. As they grow, this can be reduced to two meals a day. Remember, Swissies are prone to bloating, so it’s best to avoid one large meal and instead split their daily portion into smaller, more frequent servings.

The amount of food your Swissy needs will depend on their age, size, and activity level. An active adult Swissy might need about 4-5 cups of dry food a day, divided into two meals. However, every dog is unique, so it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet to determine the right portion size.

Lastly, monitor your Swissy’s weight regularly. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to prevent joint issues and other health problems. Your vet can provide guidelines on what a healthy weight range looks like for your Swissy.

Treats

Treats are a fantastic training aid, but remember, they’re the cherry on top, not the main course! They should make up no more than 10% of your Swissy’s daily calorie intake. Opt for healthy options like carrot sticks or apple slices, and always keep some special treats for training sessions.

Water

Don’t forget about hydration! Swissies need constant access to fresh water, especially during hot weather or after exercise. Keep their water bowl filled and encourage them to take sips throughout the day.

greater swiss mountain dog's face up close
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Health

When it comes to the health of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, there’s a blend of robust strength and certain breed-specific sensitivities. These majestic dogs have a life expectancy of around 8-11 years. While they’re generally healthy, like all breeds, they’re prone to certain conditions. Let’s take a closer look:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a common issue in larger breeds. It’s a condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit perfectly into the socket, causing discomfort or mobility issues.

Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this involves an abnormal development of the elbow joint, which can lead to pain and lameness.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat): This serious condition occurs when the stomach twists, preventing gas from escaping. It’s a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

Splenic Torsion: This is a rare condition where the spleen twists on its axis, disrupting blood flow. It can cause severe abdominal pain and requires immediate veterinary care.

Epilepsy: Some Swissies may suffer from epilepsy, leading to seizures. However, with proper medication, dogs with epilepsy can lead normal, happy lives.

Now that we’ve covered potential health issues, let’s talk prevention. A balanced diet plays a crucial role in maintaining your Swissy’s health. High-quality food can help keep their bones strong, their skin healthy, and their immune system robust.

Regular vet check-ups are your best ally in early detection of any health problems. Your vet can guide you on preventive care, including vaccinations and regular screenings for breed-specific conditions.

Don’t forget about exercise! Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, which is essential in preventing joint issues. Plus, it keeps their minds sharp and their spirits high.

two greater swiss mountain dogs running in a field
Photo: meadowmouse/Getty Images Signature

History

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs is considered the oldest of the Swiss breeds, which also includes the Bernese Mountain Dog, Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and Appenzeller Sennenhund.

The breed’s roots reach back to ancient Roman times. The Romans brought large, Mastiff-like dogs to Switzerland over 2000 years ago, and these dogs are believed to be the ancestors of today’s Swissies. They were bred for strength and endurance, traits that made them invaluable to Swiss farmers.

Swissies were the “poor man’s horse,” used for herding cattle, pulling carts laden with milk and cheese, and even serving as watchdogs. Their versatility, strength, and gentle nature made them an integral part of Swiss farm life. However, as modern transportation and machinery took over, the number of Swissies began to dwindle.

The breed was nearly forgotten until the early 20th century when a canine researcher discovered a stunningly beautiful dog at a Swiss dog show. He recognized it as a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, a breed thought to be extinct. This sparked efforts to revive the breed, leading to the Swiss Kennel Club officially recognizing the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in 1910.

Fast forward to the mid-1960s, when the first Swissies made their way to America. It took a while for the breed to catch on, but by 1995, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, marking a significant milestone in the breed’s history. Today, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is ranked 83rd on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dog breeds in the US.

The journey of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a testament to the breed’s resilience and the dedication of those who love them. From the rugged Swiss Alps to the heart of American families, the Swissy’s tale is one of triumph, survival, and enduring appeal.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in the US is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America (GSMDCA). The GSMDCA was founded in 1968 with the express purpose of obtaining recognition from the American Kennel Club, a goal achieved in 1995. You can find more information about the club, its activities, and membership on their official website.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

greater swiss mountain dog puppy lying on the floor
Photo: htclark/Getty Images

Acquiring

So, you’re considering bringing a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog into your life? That’s exciting! But remember, these gentle giants require time, patience, and love. Prepare for lots of exercise, training, and cuddles!

If you choose to buy, ensure you go through a reputable breeder. Research, ask questions, and insist on seeing health clearances for the parents. Remember, a good breeder wants the best for their pups and won’t shy away from your queries.

Better yet, consider rescue! There are many Swissies out there who would love a second chance at a forever home. The American Kennel Club and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America can provide resources to help you find rescue organizations.

Whether you buy or rescue, remember that bringing a Swissy into your life is a long-term commitment. But the rewards — loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love — are immeasurable.

FAQs

Why are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs so rare?

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are considered a rare breed primarily due to their near extinction in the early 20th century. Efforts to revive the breed have been successful, but they’re still not as numerous as some other breeds.

Are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs good pets?

Absolutely! Swissies are known for their friendly, gentle nature. They’re great with children and other pets, making them excellent family dogs. However, they do require regular exercise and mental stimulation.

How expensive are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs?

The cost of a Swissy can vary widely, depending on the breeder and lineage of the puppy. On average, you might expect to pay between $1500 and $3000. Remember, the initial cost is just the beginning; be prepared for ongoing costs like food, vet care, and grooming.

Is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog a giant breed?

No, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered a large breed, not a giant breed. Adult Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs typically stand between 23.5 to 28.5 inches (60 to 72 cm) at the shoulder and weigh around 85 to 140 pounds (38 to 64 kg) for males, and 65 to 110 pounds (29 to 50 kg) for females.

How much exercise does a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog need?

Swissies are an active and energetic breed that requires regular exercise. Generally, 20-45 minutes of exercise each day should be enough.

How long does a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog live?

The average lifespan of a Swissy is around 8-11 years. This can be influenced by various factors including diet, exercise, and regular veterinary care.

Are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs easy to train?

Swissies are intelligent and generally eager to please, which can make training easier. However, they can sometimes show a stubborn streak. Consistent, positive reinforcement training methods work best with this breed.

Table of Contents