Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed Guide

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, heavy boned, and muscular breed. These dogs have short, dense coats that come in black with symmetrical white and rust-colored markings. The topcoat can be up to 2 inches in length, and the undercoat is thick, gray, and is sometimes showing. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have brown, almond-shaped eyes and triangular-shaped ears that are set high. They measure in size from 23.5 to 28.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 85 to 140 pounds.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are protective, bold, and vigilant, and they especially like spending time outdoors in cold weather. This breed requires daily exercise to remain healthy and happy.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are social animals that enjoy being part of a family. They do well in most living environments, including apartments, provided they are given plenty of opportunities for exercise. They get along well with children, and their awareness of strangers and environmental changes makes them excellent watchdogs.

In the breed's native Switzerland, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is called the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, a name that means "large dog of the Alpine pastures."

As a working dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog enjoys having a task to complete and likes to spend time carting, hiking, herding, weight pulling, backpacking, and in obedience trials. These dogs are sensitive and devoted to their human families, and they get along very well with children and other pets.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are protective, bold, and vigilant, and they especially like spending time outdoors in cold weather. This breed requires daily exercise to remain healthy and happy. This exercise can come in the form of long walks, free play, or vigorous romps in a securely fenced yard. In warmer climates, care must be taken not to overheat the breed; these dogs overheat quickly in high temperatures due to their thick, dark coats and large size.

Although they are a friendly and social breed, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can be standoffish with unfamiliar people. They also tend to bark at odd or new smells and sounds. These traits make them effective watchdogs, but their preferred role is as a beloved member of the family.

A generally healthy breed, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are known to be at increased risk for a few health problems that can negatively affect length or quality of life. Congenital hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, epilepsy, OCD, and certain eye conditions, such as distichiasis, entropion, and ectropion, are more common in these dogs than in some other breeds. Certain orthopedic problems, including panosteitis and osteochondritis dissecans of the shoulder, are other possible threats to health.

One major health concern in this breed is overheating. Greater Mountain Swiss Dogs don't handle heat or humidity well, and therefore should not exercise outdoors during high temperatures. When these dogs must be outside, they need plenty of access to shade and cool drinking water, and they should be evaluated periodically for signs of heatstroke.

With routine veterinary care, weight management, timely vaccinations, proper nutrition, and regular exercise, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can live up to 9 years.

As puppies, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs tend to be rambunctious, mouthy, and extremely active. Because of this, they might not be the best choice for families with young children. They also mature more slowly than many other breeds and take a long time to housetrain. Consistent potty times, lots of supervision, and plenty of patience can speed up the potty training process and make things go more smoothly. Unfortunately, no amount of training can hurry along the maturity of these dogs.

Training should begin very early in life to prevent many behavioral problems common in this breed. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, including praise, play, and food rewards. With sufficient training and socialization, these dogs grow into calm and devoted family members with few behavioral issues.

One issue that needs to be addressed during training and requires consideration throughout life is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog's tendency to chew everything within sight. While this usually only results in damage to shoes, toys, remotes, and furniture, it can occasional lead to potentially life-threatening intestinal blockages. Any dog showing signs of potential blockage, such as vomiting (especially after meals), weight loss, weakness, loss of appetite, or diarrhea, requires immediate veterinary attention. Training can minimize chewing, but it will likely never stop it completely.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have minimal grooming needs. Their coats need brushing once or twice a week, although daily brushing may be necessary during shedding season. A rubber curry brush or hound glove will safely and comfortably remove dead and loose hair and distribute skin oils throughout the coat to keep it shiny and healthy. Shedding is generally heaviest during the spring and fall, but some shedding occurs year-round. A shedding blade will take care of additional loose hair.

These dogs don't need bathing very often, and they aren't known for heavy drooling (like many other mastiff-type dogs). If the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog decides to roll around in something sticky or harmful, a quick bath with a pH-balanced canine shampoo should clean the coat without drying the skin.

The nails need trimming every few weeks and the ears should be checked about once weekly for excess wax accumulation. If signs of infection, such as odor, redness, or discharge, are present, a veterinarian should be called in to consult. The breed's teeth need brushing daily to keep tartar buildup away and prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were developed in remote areas of Switzerland, where they were used for draft work, to manage livestock, and as farm sentinels. The breed mostly died out by the 1900s, as machines and other dog breeds increasingly began performing their duties. However, during the early 1900s, the breed was rediscovered and efforts to increase their numbers began.

The breed was likely derived from the Roman Mastiff and introduced when the Romans traveled through Switzerland. Other theories of their origin exist, however, and it is unknown exactly where the breed came from. Over time, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs interbred with native dogs all over Europe and developed independently in isolated countries throughout the region.

The breed's numbers dropped with the introduction 19th-century technology, but breeders have been working to increase the number of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs ever since. In the United States, these dogs are primarily kept as companion animals.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog breed in 1995.