Great Swiss Mountain Dog
Other names: Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Great Swiss Cattle Dog
The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is a large, strong, and handsome breed with a distinct tricolour coat. Despite its bulky frame, the Swiss Mountain dog is an agile and athletic breed. Given they were developed near mountain ranges, these dogs are not suited to the inner-city life; they need plenty of wide open space to fully express themselves. Personality wise, they're enthusiastic, highly energetic, and love making human friends. In fact, these dogs crave human affection and contact. The Greater Swiss also makes a great family pet. They're extremely loyal to their owners and are gentle and loving around small children.
Key facts about the Great Swiss Mountain Dog
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Origins and history
There are conflicting theories as to this dogs origins. Some experts believe they descended from dogs brought across Europe by the ancient Romans, while others argue that they're directly related to the wolf/dogs of the Neolithic period. Either way, the modern Swiss Mountain Dogs were developed in and around Switzerland. Although prized for their herding abilities, these dogs are so strong that they were often used to pull carts and milk wagons. Their popularity is steadily growing among domestic dog lovers, but the Swiss Mountain Dog is still more of a working animal than a household pet.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 2 - Pinscher and Schnauzer - Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs
Section 2 : Molossian type
Physical characteristics of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog
Female : Between 24 and 27 in
Male : Between 26 and 28 in
Female : Between 66 and 77 lb
Male : Between 77 and 88 lb
Tri-coloured. Silky black across the top of the head, back and hind. A large white blaze on the chest and a small white patch around the nose. Brown and reddish markings on legs, face, and chest.
Type of coat
Short, dense undercoat. Medium length topcoat.
Dark brown or a light hazel colour.
The Greater Swiss is a tri-coloured, big boned and sturdy animal. An incredibly strong dog that is much quicker than it looks, the Swiss has a large, broad skull, a deep chest, and well-balanced hindquarters. They have medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes and smallish ears that hang halfway down their heads. There is a noticeable difference between the sexes, with the males being much larger.
Good to know
The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is quite a rare breed in the UK. Any potential owners will need to contact a specialist breeder.
No dogs like being tied up, but these dogs really hate it. There also not suited for long walks on the leash as they have a natural desire to run free.
These dogs can take quite a while to mature, both physically and mentally. Don’t over-exercise them as puppies as it can damage their joint and bones. They can also display “puppyish” behaviour well into their adolescence.
They’re definitely no softies, but these big, strong dogs love human affection and contact. Classed as a "velcro" dog, which means they'll rarely leave your side, the Swiss Mountain dog thrives of giving and receiving affection. If you're looking for a new best friend, then this is probably the dog for you.
Working dogs love to play. In fact, they need to play! It helps keep their bodies and minds occupied, satisfying their instinctual desires to work, please their owners, and show off their amazing skills.
Once properly exercised, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a calm and relaxed breed. They love being active, but they seem to enjoy their “down” time just as much.
These dogs are very smart. Like most cattle and herding dogs, they’re mentally alert and very sharp. These dogs can certainly think for themselves. And if they don’t like something, they simply won’t do it! This is part of their unique personality, but it needs to be managed with the right training methods and responsible dog ownership.
A well socialised Swiss has a low prey drive. They’re comfortable around cats and other small animals, although it’s best not to leave them unsupervised. The Swiss is a very big strong dog and accidents can happen.
Fearful / wary of strangers
The Swiss is a social and friendly dog that tends to form a really strong bond with just one person. However. they will rarely show any nervousness around new people. These confident dogs just know who they like and they prefer to stick close to their favourite humans.
They can be very independent minded. However, these dogs need lots of human company. This stems from the way they were developed. Swiss mountain dogs worked closely with shepherds and farmers for hundreds of years. In other words, they were bred to live and work alongside humans.
Behaviour of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog
These dogs thrive of human company; they should never be left alone for long periods of time. Companionship is really important for all dogs, but it’s super important for these dogs. They form incredibly strong bonds with their owners, and will soon become frustrated and even depressed if their favourite people disappear for too long.
Easy to train / obedience
For an active and highly intelligent breed, the Greater Swiss Mountain dog is relatively easy to train. They'll still provide some unique challenges as they can be quite difficult to housetrain, especially during the first six months. However, with a bit of patience and commitment, even a novice dog owner can learn how to handle a swiss.
They might look like big barkers, but these guys are surprisingly quiet. That being said, they're definitely much more vocal during their first few years, although they almost always calm down as they start to mature.
Tendency to run away
As long as they're getting the exercise they need, these dogs won't run away. A well exercised Swiss is a calm, relaxed animal.
Like all dogs, any long periods of frustration and boredom will lead to bad behaviour, which can include becoming destructive around the home. These dogs get bored quickly and will soon feel lonely without enough human company. The Swiss is a big and very strong dog that will become very difficult to handle if it turns destructive.
Greedy / Gluttony
These dogs will only be greedy if you let them. So go easy on the doggy treats and don’t give in to their puppy dog eyes.These dogs are smart. If they know what tricks work on you, they’ll keep on doing them.
The Swiss is a first-class watch dog. It’s what they did for a living for thousands of years. They're alert, watchful, and extremely protective. They’ll quickly sense anything they don’t like the look of and soon let you know about it.
Many large working breeds can be too much "dog" for the first time owner. They can be difficult to train, and the novice dog handler is at risk of being overwhelmed by these dominant animals. However, the Swiss is a much calmer dog that tends to understand its place in the pack much quicker than other working breeds. That being said, they still require a firm, but affectionate hand.
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Great Swiss Mountain Dog in a flat
If you live in a flat or a small house, then it’s time to start looking into some other dogs. A flat is simply not the right environment for a Swiss. They’ll quickly become bored, frustrated, and their mental health will begin to deteriorate.
Need for exercise / Sporty
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog needs about an hour of exercise every day. A short walk to start off the day is fine, but they will require some more vigorous activity in the afternoon or early evening. It’s important that you don’t over-exercise them as puppies. Any extra stress on their developing bones and joints can create health problems later in life.
Travelling / easy to transport
These big dogs can make awkward travel companions. They’re certainly relaxed enough, but they're also too big to remain comfortable in confined spaces like the back of a car. The shorter journeys should be OK, but longer trips will need to be planned out very carefully. And they're way too big to travel with most commercial airline companies.
Great Swiss Mountain Dog and cats
The Swiss Mountain Dog has a relatively low prey drive, especially for a natural working breed. This means they're quite receptive to making some cats friends, although it's still best to introduce them as early as possible.
Great Swiss Mountain Dog and dogs
These guys generally get on well with other dogs. But the Swiss Mountain dogs loyalty towards its humans can sometimes tip over into jealousy, and even more so if they haven't been fully socialised. An adult Swiss may need some time to adapt if a new dog enters the family home.
Great Swiss Mountain Dog and children
The Swiss loves children. They adopt a gentle and loving disposition around young children and become very protective over toddlers and babies.
Great Swiss Mountain Dog and the elderly
These dogs make great companions for senior citizens. They enjoy company and are generally very relaxed. And providing you enjoy countryside walks, their exercise needs are very manageable.
A purebred Greater Swiss Mountain puppy will cost between £860 - £1,280.
They can be quite hard to find, especially in the UK, meaning you may have to pay much more. You’ll need to budget around £70 a month per food and the average insurance policy will cost another £60-100 every month.
Their medium length coats require no more than a weekly brush. But they do shed heavily during spring.
The Swiss Mountain Breed is not prone to hair loss.
Nutrition of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog
These working dogs need 4-5 cups of high quality dog food split into two meals. They also need access to fresh drinking water.
Health of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog
The average lifespan for the Swiss Mountain dog is between 9-11 years.
Strong / robust
The Swiss Mountain dog is not the biggest of the big dogs, but they’re certainly one of the strongest. Their naturally muscular bodies means they’re tough, robust, and capable of looking after themselves.
These dogs were not made for the heat, although they do shed a lot as the temperatures start to rise. The average British summer won’t bother them too much, but keep them inside the shade during our rare periods of hot weather.
These herding dogs deal with the cold extremely well. In fact, it’s what they were designed for. They have thick, double layered coats that keep in the warm, while the outer coat protects them from wind and rain.
Tendency to put on weight
They’re not prone to obesity or weight gain. But it’s still important to restrict their food intake. Obesity can put even more strain on a big dogs joints, leading to painful medical conditions like osteoarthritis.