Let's talk Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Life in the Swiss Alps is placid, peaceful, and full of great dog breeds, like the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This bright, merry dog is one of four similar breeds to be developed high up in the pastures where driving cattle was a daily chore that necessitated a hardy hand. These days, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog continues to win the hearts of those who relish their exceedingly gentle manner and eager-to-please work ethic - and their hallmark tri-coloured coat just adds to their appeal.

Official name: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Other names: Great Swiss Mountain Dog, Large Swiss Mountain Dog, Swiss Mountain Dog, GSMD

Origins: Switzerland

Great Swiss Mountain Dog lying down in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather? Very low
 Shedding level Medium
Suited to apartment living?  Very low
 Energy Level (high, low, medium)* High Family Pet?* 
Very high
 Compatibility with other pets Very high
Can stay alone?* Medium

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
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Illustration of Great Swiss Mountain Dog
Male
65 - 72 cm Height
52 - 63.5 kg Weight
Female
60 - 68 cm Height
38.5 - 50 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 15 months
 Adult age 15 months to 5 years
 Mature age  5 years to 8+ years
 Senior age  From 8 years

Great Swiss Mountain Dog walking through long grasses

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Get to know the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

All you need to know about the breed

Endowed with a fantastic disposition and a steadfast outlook, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a solidly built canine, both mentally and physically. Maybe it was the mutual affection that kept this dog in great stead with owners over the centuries and brought into existence the breed they are today.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is one of four Swiss breeds - along with the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, the Bernese Mountain Dog, and the Appenzeller - who are all doused in a dense double coat with the signature triumvirate of light brown, white, and black colourings. They are each, often, mistaken for each other but definitely distinct breeds.

A draft dog - one who is traditionally used for pulling carts or sleds - the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s huge strength proved an asset for the work endemic to the dairy country of the Swiss Alps. This sturdy and carefree dog was bred to herd and drive cattle along steep paths.

Their participatory manner has made the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog a welcome asset these days to the family unit. The breed is enormously affable, fantastic with kids and not really confrontational with other dogs, pets, or those they don’t know. Active and experienced families only please: Even if you’re a family of one, the size of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog requires someone who can handle his girth. A household with older children is optimal too as they could accidentally tip over a little one. Even if that does happen, chances are, they’d help the child up and nudge them on their merry way.

Close-up of Great Swiss Mountain Dog

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2 facts about Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

1. Let’s do this!

Always up for any competition, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog excels at most of them:  agility, conformation and obedience, along with drafting, weight pulling, herding, pack hiking, and versatility. It’s all part of their need to have a task. Add to that their use as a therapy and search and rescue dog and you’ve got one busy breed.

2. Take the heat off

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a breed that can be prone to overheating. An air-conditioned or cooled environment is best for this substantial dog, who is suited better for colder climes. During hot weather, avoid exercise until temperatures drop, and never, ever leave any dog in a hot car - even with the windows cracked. It can prove very dangerous and they can overheat much quicker than you think. But you knew that.

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History of the breed

Most large breeds are said to descend from the massive Molossian dog, prized in the ancient world for their size and courage. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog comes directly from these types, brought over the Alps by the Roman army of Julius Caesar. Swiss breeders used them over the centuries to develop Alpine mountain dogs, or Sennenhunds. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the “greatest”- thus their name - and oldest.

Bred to drive cattle along steep paths in remote Swiss mountains and for drafting - pulling carts - Switzerland’s cattlemen relied on surefooted breeds to haul goods to market before the industrial revolution. Their numbers dwindled at the turn of the 20th Century but canine researcher Albert Heim helped to stabilise the breed by persuading the Swiss Kennel Club to register them in the Swiss Stud Book in 1909.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America formed in 1968 simply to obtain American Kennel Club recognition, which they did in 1995.

Great Swiss Mountain Dog lying down in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

1. Ears

Medium-sized triangular ears, hanging close to head.

2. Head

Strong head but not oversised, broad with flat forehead.

3. Coat

Distinctive black, brown, and white double coat, thick, tight outer coat, dense undercoat.

4. Body

Giant body with broad strong loins.

5. Tail

Tail thick from root to tip, tapering slightly at tip.

Great Swiss Mountain Dog lying down on grass

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Great Swiss Mountain Dog running over grass

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Caring for your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Grooming the magnificent dense coat of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog while being gazed upon by that doting face is an exercise in sheer delight. The breed doesn’t require it too often though, really only a few times a year, aside from shedding season in the spring and fall when a good bath and raking of the undercoat will benefit them most. Make nail trimming part of their routine as well since large breeds can tend to incur cracks if their nails grow too long. Veterinary dentists recommend brushing teeth daily, if you can get away with it. Like any large or giant dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is likely to develop arthritis with time. Keep them slim and make sure they get regular exercise. Daily walks and frolics in the backyard are fine for this warmhearted breed. They have been known to have a stubborn streak so training the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog will need to be very firm and repetitive. To note: A harness is not recommended when it comes to walks as the dog has been bred for hauling and a harness will instinctively cause them to pull harder on the lead. The breed is very food motivated so treats can be a great aid in training and, in their eyes, great anytime! Just be sure to take snacks out of their daily meal allotment, a convenient way to give them a treat without going overboard.

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All about Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs

Switzerland gave the dog world several breeds with the same black, light brown, and white colourings, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and Bernese Mountain Dog are two of them. Known for their large size and overly pleasant temperaments, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog averages an inch (2.5cm) taller and 15 pounds (7kg) heavier. The Bernese has been used to haul goods whereas the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog more for herding. The Bernese also has a longer and heavier coat than his Swiss brethren.

As a large breed, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a lot of dog to handle for the average pet owner. Dog choice depends on many circumstances, including a breed’s energy level and one’s experience in handling them. This is a very pleasant and self-confident breed - all good traits to have in any dog - but new owners must be ready for a very muscular dog that can grow to at least 100 pounds.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/