Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Dog Breed Information)

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog – The Dog of the Swiss Alps

If you are looking for a large, friendly, faithful, family dog, then the greater swiss mountain dog is what you need.   The “Swissy” is a gentle beast that is devoted to its family and loves children. 

They were initially bred as an all-round incredibly strong working dog, that would herd cattle, pull carts and of course, stand guard.  The Swissy also has worked as a therapy dog and search and rescue dog. But nowadays the Greater Swiss Mountain dog lives a great life as a family dog, although they still enjoy and need physical activity.  That being said they do extremely well in many different dog sports such as agility and weight pulling.

At A Glance

  • Breed: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Breed Group: Working
  • Temperament: Faithful, Family-Oriented, Dependable
  • D.H.T. Outdoor Ranking: -4/10 For Temperate Climates
  • Worldwide Popularity: Low
  • Breed Origin: Switzerland

General Information And Breed History

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is the largest and oldest of the Sennenhunde AKA Swiss Mountain Dog, and three others called the Appenzeller, Entlebucher, and Bernese.  Although the origin is not really known for this breed it is most likely derived from the Molossian or Mastiff which were alongside the Roman Legion during their invasion of the Alpes over 2000 years ago.

However, there is another theory that these dogs were brought over to Spain from the Phoenicians around 1100 B.C.  Whatever their origin, the breed spread all across Europe and was breed with that country’s native dog and used for farm work. 

The Swiss used them for herding and guarding cattle and pulling carts loaded with milk and cheeses. They were also used as home guard dogs and made great a great family dog. Even though they are huge dogs, they were able to maneuver in the mountains in the Swiss Alps while pulling carts.  To this day they are still quite popular in Switzerland.

1908 was the year that it was named the “Greater Swiss”.  A man named Professor A.Heim discovered this dog as a contestant in a dog show as a short-haired Bernese Mountain Dog contest. He thought this dog to be a separate breed from the Bernese due to its short hair and hence came the “Greater Swiss” name. Very slow to gain popularity the Greater Swiss entered the United States of America in 1968 and produced a litter in 1970.  The Swissy was registered as a breed in 1995 by the American Kennel Club. 

General Appearance Of The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large canine with a tricolored coat of black, brown, and white. They are immensely strong, heavy-boned, and muscular. They stand at 28 inches and weigh up to 140lbs. In spite of its size, this dog is agile enough to perform its duties in the mountains of its home country.

The Swiss Mountain puppies look just like their parent but in mini-me size!  They tend to weigh about 12-24 lbs at 8-10 weeks. The Swissy puppy loves to chew and due to their size, they are more than likely to cause more damage than let’s say little Yorkie puppy.

The Greater Swiss Mountian puppy is very well known to eat anything it can get its teeth on and can ingest things like socks and dish towels, resulting in visits to the vet or emergency surgery for intestinal blockages. 

Body

The body is full with slight tuck-up. The loins are broad and strong. The croup is long, broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion. Their neck strong muscular and clean, moderate in length.  Their skull is flat and broad and topline level. They have a deep chest that is broad and protruding. Ribs are well sprung.

  • Eyes – Medium-sized, almond-shaped
  • Ears – Set high, triangular with a rounded tip

Coat

The Great Swiss Mountain dog has a double coat with the topcoat being dense about 1- ¼ to 2 inches in length and the undercoat that is thick and sometimes seen at the neck but can also be present throughout the body. The color of the undercoat can range from dark grey to light gray to tawny.  Their topcoat is a beautiful tricolor of black, white, and brown.

Legs & Feet

Legs are straight, strong, and muscular. Great for carrying heavy loads, and pulling carts.   Their feet are round and compact with well-arched toes that neither turn in or out.

Tail & Hindquarters

Their thighs are broad, strong and muscular used for pulling carts with heavy loads of milk and cheese.  They need to have these strong legs for their jobs and working the terrain of mountains. The tail is carried down, raised when excited, but should never be curled.  Bones in the tail should feel straight.

General Statistics

  • Life Expectancy: 8-11 Years
  • Height (at the withers): 
  • Male:  25.5-28.5 
  • Female: 23.5-27 inches 
  • Male Weight: 115-140 
  • Female Weight: 85-110

Recommended Dog House Dimensions

The recommended dog house dimensions can be found on the dog house dimensions charts for 440 recognized breeds which includes this dog breed that looks like a wolf.  But to save you time, here are our dog house minimum size recommendations:

  • Door Height: 31.9 inches
  • Door Width: 20.3 inches
  • Inside Ceiling Height: 39.2 inches
  • Interior House Length: 63.8 inches
  • Interior House Width: 40.6 inches

Expected Costs

Breed Average Puppy Cost: $1,400 USD

Starter Costs: $3,500

This is our estimate for initial purchase, shots and a few things like food, a bed, leash, that sort of thing.  Basically, this will get you set up but the costs will be greater once the dog is old enough to get spayed or neutered.

Anticipated Annual Care Cost: $500 – $1,000

How The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Reacts To

Babies/Children: 

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is a family dog that gets along just fabulous with children and babies.  They are loving and gentle, and even though they are large in size they are not very boisterous so there really is no fear of accidentally knocking over smaller children, although it can happen. A puppy Greater Swiss Mountain dog, on the other hand, is very rambunctious and highly active, so having them around smaller children is not recommended.

The Swissy is also a herding dog, so their herding instincts may come about when around smaller children.  Teaching them herding children is not acceptable. They are smart dogs and will learn quickly.

Other Dogs:   

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is not normally shy or aggressive towards other dogs and is pretty accepting of them and enjoys their company if they have been socialized early with other dogs. Not to say that older dogs can’t get along with other dogs. You may need to spend extra time with slow introductions. 

Cats

GWMDs are accepting of most animals, but cats they like to chase due to their high prey drive.   If you get a puppy then early socialization with other dogs and animals is very important. If you adopt an adult then you will have to be patient with these two.  Slowly introduce them and remember to never leave them alone together unsupervised.

Other Animals:

As already mentioned, the Swiss Mountain is normally accepting of other animals, but due to their high-prey drive, a smaller pet may be chased by the Swissy.  Just like the cat, slowly introduce them and never leave them alone unsupervised, or leave the animal in harm’s way for example if you have a guinea pig, do not leave the cage on the floor where it can easily be accessed by the dog. It should be in a room with the door closed.  Just to be on the safe side. 

Care Requirements For the Swiss Mountain Dog

Exercise 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a dog with working roots. So their exercise should feel like hard work for them.  Dog sports is recommended for this breed because you can find working activities like weight-pulling and agility. Also, a long hike in the woods would satisfy this dog

 This dog loves the outdoors but more so in the winter because they love the cold.  They do not do well in warm climates. If you live in a warm climate area then just a good hike in the shaded woods would be fine.    Always make sure that there is water available for your dog.

Grooming & Coat Info

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have a double coat and lose their undercoat twice a year.  They need a good bath and blow-out during the shedding season, along with a thorough brushing with a shedding or rake tool.  Besides the shedding season, an occasional bath with air-drying is fine. Nails should be trimmed frequently to keep them short and neat because long nails can be uncomfortable for your dog and interfere with walking.

Health & Nutrition

GSMDs do not have any breed-specific health issues and are generally a healthy dog.  However, there are health issues that large dog breeds can suffer from.

Urinary incontinence

This dog can suffer from urinary incontinence, but this happens usually at night time when they are sleeping not all day long.

Eyelash issues

This is where they grow extra eyelashes on their eyelids. These extra hairs can irritate the dog’s eye.  You can visit a vet and they can freeze the affected follicles or use electrocautery.

Licking Fits 

The dog can go on a lick fit, where it has to lick everything in its path including floors and walls and they will also eat anything they get their teeth on, which could lead to vet visits.  This is a sign of severe gastro discomfort. Making sure the dog’s stomach is never empty by giving it smaller and more frequent meals can prevent this from happening. Having treats on hand is never a bad idea as well.  

Bloat

This is a life-threatening health issue that is prone to all large dog breeds.  The stomach fills with air and then twists on its self.  it cuts off the esophagus, and blood supply to the heart is lessened causing low blood pressure as well as other cardiac problems; the dog can go into shock and die.  This will require emergency surgery. All dog owners should be educated in bloat and know what to do if it occurs. 

Rage Syndrome


Uncommon, but have been reported with this breed- Sudden Onset Aggression (SOA).

The GSMD can do well on high-quality dog food that is raw, dry, or wet. They are not really picky when it comes to food.  Make sure to follow the portions because this breed is prone to obesity and overfeeding can lead to digestive problems and loose stools, yuk!

If you are going to feed your dog human food, make sure you know what is safe and what isn’t.  If you are not sure to contact your veterinarian
raining

Obedience training and socialization should start at an early age for this breed.  They mature slower than other dogs breeds and won’t reach maturity until about 2 years old.  They take a while to get used to house training, about two weeks after being in their new home, but you should count on at least two months before they are fully house trained.

Short and repetitive training sessions with treats, of course, go a long way with this breed. A Swiss Mountain Dog can get very motivated if food is involved.

After training as a treat bring this dog to the woods for a game of fetch or a hike. Here they can really stretch and run freely. After their romp in the woods, this family dog will be happy to lay down for a nap.

Recommended Book:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog A Good Family Dog?

Yes, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very good family dog. They love children and are very gentle around them. A true family dog that enjoys time with the family. Also very affectionate and make great guard dogs.

Does The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Shed?

This dog sheds twice a year, and both times they lose their entire undercoat. During the shedding season, this dog will need to be brushed with a rake or shedding tool daily and given frequent baths to get rid of dead hair and to keep most hair off your floors and furniture. Keeping a vacuum on hand during this time is wise. Other than the shedding season, this dog only needs weekly brushing and occasional baths.

Do Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs Bark A lot?

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a very loud and long bark. However, they are not known to bark excessively, but they will let you know by barking if they feel the need to alert you.

Are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs Aggressive?

No, this canine is not an aggressive dog. They are very friendly and make good family dogs, and are good around other people and animals.

Bibliography

  1. Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds – D. Caroline Coile Ph. D.
  2. American Kennel Club – https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/greater-swiss-mountain-dog/
  3. Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Swiss_Mountain_Dog
  4. Canadian Kennel Club – https://www.ckc.ca/en/Choosing-a-Dog/Choosing-a-Breed/Working-Dogs/Greater-Swiss-Mountain-Dog
  5. The Kennel Club UK – https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/display.aspx?id=5238

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