Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Breed Group: Working
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, or Swissie as his admirers sometimes call him, like his Bernese Mountain Dog cousin can make an excellent family dog with a number of caveats. Well socialized dogs love their family but tend to be more reserved with strangers than is the Bernese. Even though not as playful as their cousin, their gentle nature gives them the same exceptional tolerance for children of any age. They need less exercise then the Bernese but are still happy to take part in almost any family activity, especially with youngsters. They’ll happily go for a hike, pull kids in a cart, or curl up at your feet. They thrive on companionship with their family but ignore them and they will become unhappy. Most get along reasonably with other pets but some are aggressive towards other dogs and some have a high prey drive. A Swiss Mountain Dog is not nearly as active either inside or out as his better known Bernese relative, nor are they as inclined to bark excessively. But with their steady disposition, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is vigilantly watchful and certainly not afraid to use his booming voice to let you know when he thinks something is amiss. As if their size wasn’t enough of a deterrent, they are also moderately protective but not usually aggressive.
The very large Swiss Mountain Dog has quite a striking appearance. A sturdy, tri-colored dog, they are heavy boned and muscular. Full grown males average between 25.5 and 28.5 inches tall with females slightly smaller averaging between 23 and 27 inches in height. Weight can vary from 85 to 110 pounds with females at the lower end of the range. Their coat is between 1-1/4 and 2 inches in length and dense. A rubber or good hard bristle brush will help keep shedding to under control. Regular bathing is not needed; a regular wipe down normally suffices for this easy-to-groom dog. They are known for their ability to withstand frigid climates but do poorly in heat.
With their large size and reticence toward strangers, socialization is more important for Greater Swiss Mountain Dog than for many other breeds. Strong socialization should also make him more accepting of dogs and reduce his prey drive. In addition to socialization, obedience training is a must. Without it, the slow-to-mature Swissie can easily pull you off your feet when out for a walk, or knock you down with his puppy-like exuberance when jumping up. Remaining in the puppy stage for two or three years, they take patience to housebreak which frequently takes a year or more. Control his tendency to mouth your hands by always having plenty of toys available. As they start to mature, expect them to test your dominance. This test must be met with assertive, confident, consistent leadership. Do not indulge them. A Swiss Mountain Dog is not a good choice for an inexperienced dog owner.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Almost 1 in 5 Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs suffer from Hip Dysplasia and just over 1 in 10 are affected by Elbow Dysplasia. While not on the list of the two dozen breeds most susceptible, owners of any deep-chested dog should be familiar with Bloat. Entropion, Ectropion, and Distichiasis, all of which affect their eyelids are sometimes seen and OCD, and Panosteitis are both painful joint diseases that affect the breed. It is especially important for these dogs to have the amount of jumping and exercise limited to prevent undue stress on their bones until finished growing at about two years of age. A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog typically lives 10-12 years.
Ranked by the American Kennel Club 97th in popularity, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog remains somewhat of a rare breed in the US with consistently fewer than 1,000 registered per year.
Some believe the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog descended from the Mollasian, a Mastiff-type Roman war dog. Others believe the breed came with the Phoenicians when they settled Spain. In any case, They are the oldest of the Swiss breeds, instrumental in developing both the Rottweiler and St. Bernard. Used extensively for their drafting (weight pulling) abilities on farms, they were sometimes referred to as the “poor Swiss farmer’s horse.” The breed earned their their daily keep by helping to herd the dairy cows for milking. The dogs were then hitched to wagons or carts to transport the milk to market. At the end of the day, they would pull their master back home. To complete his day, he would serve as the household guardian. However, in the late 1800’s the breed was in decline. By the turn of the 20th Century the breed was thought to have been extinct, when, in 1908, Dr. Albert Heim, a self-proclaimed Swiss Mountain Dog aficionado, found a working pair of the dogs competing in a Swiss dog show. He persuaded the owners and members of the areas’ Kennel Club to institute a breeding program to reintroduce the breed. During WWII it is believed the breed dwindled to between 350-400 dogs worldwide. The first dogs came to the U.S. in 1968 and they were fully recognized by the AKC in 1995.
The National (US) Parent Breed Club is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America.