Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Type: Guardian Dog

Height: Females: 23.5 - 25.5 inches; Males: 25.5 - 28.5 inches.

Weight: 85 - 140 lbs.

Life Span: 10 - 12 years.

Litter Size: 4 - 8 puppies. Though there have been rumors of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs giving birth to up to 18 puppies.

Country of Origin: Switzerland

Activity: Medium

Watch-dog: High

Guard-dog: High. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are willing to protect their family with their life.


Description: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, or Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, is the largest member of the Swiss mountain dogs. There are four breeds of the Swiss mountain dogs: the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Entelbuch Mountain Dog, Apenzell Mountain Dog, and the Bernese Mountain Dog. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was nearly extinct but brough back about 100 years ago. They are your typical draft dog who love farm chores, pulling carts, sleds and children, for this is what they did in the past. They are square, evenly built dogs that have smooth fur of a tricolor pattern. They are well muscled, and can easily do the work of a horse. They are gentle and enjoy children, doing well to protect them. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs enjoy being a part of a family. They are easily groomed, do well in obedience, and are sturdy and even tempered. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have been known to be protective and caring to not only their owners but to others as well. They are peaceful, calm and happiest within the family. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs hate to be tied up, as they enjoy their home and do not roam. They are alert, faithful and highly intelligent. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs favor free space to run and are best suited to suburban or country living. Faithful and true, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is ideal for the country farm family.

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Other Names: Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Great Swiss Cattle Dog, Great Swiss Mountain Dog

Colors: Black with bright, symmetrical russet and white markings. They have white at the toes, tail tip, chest and blaze. The tan always lies between the black and white. Red tricolors do occur but are not acceptable.

Coat: Stiff, short and dense. Their double coat has a thick undercoat and short outer coat.

Temperament: Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are active, calm and friendly. They are protective of their family and territorial but never aggressive unless their human family is threatened, in which case they are willing to fight to the death. They are gentle, faithful and loyal. They like to be near the home and do not roam, and hate being chained up. They are happiest when with the family, and love to be a part of it. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are alert, highly intelligent and essentially a country dog that enjoys doing a job. They are stable, confident, and devoted.

With Children: Yes, devoted to children.

With Pets: Yes, they are not dog aggressive but they do like to chase small animals.

Special Skills: In the past, a cattle herder and cart puller. Today, a watchdog and family pet, although they still thoroughly enjoy a cart pull once in a while.

Care and Training: They need regular grooming of their coat with a bristle brush. Regular exercise is essential and plenty of wide open spaces to enjoy a free run. They do not like to be chained up. They do better in rural or suburban settings.

Learning Rate: High. Obedience - High. Problem Solving - High.

Living Environment: Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are best suited for suburban country living. They should have a yard to run about in, but should not be chained up or left outside, away from the family. The best owner for this breed would be an active, dog-experienced owner who can give it a job to do in a country living environment.

Health Issues: Hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, OCD, eye problems, and bloat. Bloat is a health issue to most dogs, being the second largest killer of dogs other than cancer, but Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can be particularly susceptible to it because of their deep chests.

History: Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs descended from the Mastiffs that once accompanied Caesar when he invaded Switzerland. These ancient dogs lived among the Romans. The old Mastiffs probably intermixed with native Swiss dogs to form the four Swiss dogs we see today. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog worked as a a general farm dog for herding and guarding. Farmers loved the Swissy because they could do the work of a horse, yet ate a lot less. They also were seen pulling carts into market, but with the invention of the automobile, their uses diminished. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were often interbred with the St. Bernard of today, possibly contributing to their genes. If a puppy from a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was born with dominating red and white, it was simply called a St. Bernard. After a while the breed diminished so much that it became a rumor, especially to Franz Schertenlieb. He had heard stories from his grandfather that dogs of this type existed in Switzerland, but he had never seen them. He decided to go on a mission to find the last of these species. So he set out and scoured farms in search of the dogs. He eventually came up with at least one of the species and in 1908 Schertenlieb exhibited the breed in the Bernese class. Dr. Albert Heim, a knowledgeable judge, knew the history of the breed and, thinking it was extinct, instantly praised the find of this rare breed--encouraging farmers and dog lovers to search out the rest of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. When Schertenlieb discovered enough of the same breed from this publicity, he began to breed them again. He succeeded in reviving the breed from probably around 7 or 8 dogs. In 1910 the breed was accepted into the Swiss registry. Continuing to breed the Greater Swiss with other dogs who possessed the same traits but did not hold a pedigree, the dogs continued in strength. The breed was also used as military dog in World War II. In 1968 the breed was brought to the United States and accepted by the AKC in 1985.

First Registered by the AKC: 1985

AKC Group: Working

Class: Herding

Registries: AKC, CKC, FCI (Group 2), UKC