Greater Swiss Mountain Dog


History & Origin

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is probably one of the oldest of the Swiss dog breeds. Popular belief has it they are one of the oldest offshoots of mating between local Swiss and Roman dogs in Roman times.

They are ‘sennenhund’. The sennenhund includes breeds such as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Appenzeller, Bernese Mountain Dog, and the Entelbucher. All of these breeds are the result of inbreeding local Swiss dogs with ancient Roman dogs used in the Roman army.

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is the oldest offshoot of these matings and has been around for centuries. It was only recognized as a separate breed in Switzerland in 1909, however.

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog, or Swissy as it is affectionately known, has performed many jobs during the course of its existence. It fulfilled the roles of draft dog, guard dog, war dog, butcher dog, general farm dog, and of course, great pet.

Mechanization due to the Industrial Revolution saw a decline in the breed. Very few of these dogs were left by 1900. By 1945, their numbers had dwindled to between 350-400 dogs. They were on their way to extinction.

The first Swissys landed on American shores in 1968. Due to the efforts of a few people, they flourished in their new home. In order to revive the breed in Switzerland, American Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were imported. Their numbers are steadily increasing.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Swiss Mountain Dog breed in 1995.

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A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog likes nothing more than doing something. These are not couch potatoes!

Regarded as gentle giants, this alert breed of dog are great watchdogs. They will let you know when something is wrong. They are not overly aggressive, though.

Although fun-loving, they are not easy-going. They are bold and stubborn, definitely having their own idea of how things need doing.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs thrive on human companionship. They will push against you, or prod you with a paw – anything to get your attention when they want it.

Some of these dogs get along with other animals, although the majority does not get along with smaller dogs or cats. They see them as natural prey. These dogs are best in homes with one pet only, this being, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Many are aggressive with any other dog, no matter the size.

They need an outlet for their pent-up energy. Playing with children is an ideal way to do so. This breed tends to get along well with children. Not recommended for smaller children, their size tends to knock them over, although they would not intentionally do any harm.

Your puppy will take longer to mature into an adult than most other dog breeds. This goes for their physical and mental growth. They stay at the puppy stage for many years.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a lot of dog, and by this, we do not only mean size. Do not decide on one of these puppies if you are a first-time dog owner.

greater swiss mountain dog


nutrition and feeding


The breed has a life span of ten to eleven years. Although a large dog of the mastiff type, they do not have a drooling tendency.


These dogs grow very fast. Extremely fast growth is not good for dogs that are so big. Nutrition needs gearing towards a controlled growth rate. This needs doing until your puppy is over a year old and basically physically mature. The reason is that a very fast growth rate leads to incorrect bone formation and possible illnesses later in your puppy’s life.

Most Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs do well on a commercial dog food diet. The dog food should be of a high quality, however. Many commercial dog food products contain fillers that do nothing for the dog nutritionally. They only fill him up. A good brand is one that sees to his nutritional needs while taking his age into account. Activity levels also need consideration. These dogs should never be obese. Obesity leads to heart problems, diabetes, and problems with ligaments and joints.

A raw food diet is an excellent choice for your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This diet mimics a dog’s natural diet and sees to all his nutritional needs. It includes fowl and red meat as well as fruit and vegetables he would have gotten from eating the stomach of his prey.

It has a number of benefits. These include fresh breath and clean teeth, your dog is less prone to obesity, his skin and coat are healthy, he has improved digestion, his general health improves, and his stools are smaller and less smelly. Older dogs also have fewer problems with their joints and movement, while the majority has more stamina and endurance.

Aggression is often linked to a poor diet. Common behavioral problems linked to a poor diet include excessive chewing, digging, hyperactivity, constantly jumping up, and stealing food.


A puppy, for its size, eats more than compared to an adult dog. His weight redoubles during the first two weeks of his life. Your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppy should not grow too fast. If he does, he could end up with orthopedic problems like hip dysplasia, for example. Slow and steady is the way to go.

Your puppy, when you bring it home from the breeder, should have the same diet. If you need to change his diet for some reason, do so over a period of a few days. An abrupt change in diet causes stomach upsets and vomiting. You end up with a very ill puppy!

Your Greater Swiss Mountain Puppy needs feeding three to four times a day until he is six months old. After this, two meals a day are fine. It helps prevent bloat that is common in large breed dogs with barrel chests.

If feeding your puppy commercial dog food, make sure it is age and breed appropriate. Food intended for a small breed puppy is not good for a large breed puppy. Adult dog food is for adult dogs and their needs. It, too, is not suitable for a young puppy.

A raw food diet for a puppy could contain some yogurt, cottage cheese, and raw eggs. Cooked carrots and sweet potato are also great as if brown rice that helps their digestion. Remember to make sure all food is in small, puppy bite sized pieces.

Keep a bowl of fresh water handy at all times. Dogs of this breed easily become dehydrated in warmer weather or warmer climates.

coat and grooming


Size and Coat

A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is large and sturdily built. Males stand between 65cm and 72 cm (measured from the withers to the ground) and weigh between 60kg and 70kg. The slightly smaller females stand between 60cm and 68cm and weight between fifty and sixty kilograms.

This strong, powerful body, covered in a thick double coat of fur, has a soft, dense undercoat topped by a furry outercoat. Their coat is tricolor. It is black with white and rust markings.

Their medium sized, pointed ears hang forwards while their long straight legs end in round, compact paws. A tail that is thicker at the base and tapers off towards the tip adds the finishing touch to a powerful dog that is gentle in nature.


Your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s coat is easy to take care of. His coat is short so brushing is easy to do. It needs weekly brushing to get rid of any dust or loose hairs. Shedding can be a problem. His shedding increases when the seasons change. More frequent grooming is needed during this time. This is a clean breed and only need occasional bathing. Frequent bathing also strips his hair of its oils.

When bathing, use a good quality dog shampoo. Cheaper brands tend to cause skin problems like itching or eczema and dry out your dog’s fur and skin.

Active Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs seldom need their nails trimmed. They file down naturally. Less active dogs or puppies need a regular trimming. Long nails tear and cause a dog much pain. Dog owners who do not want to trim their nails themselves need to take them to a doggy parlor or veterinarian. The job is done in no time and does not cost a lot of money.

A damp cotton wool ball is great for cleaning their ears. Any discharge or discoloration is a sign of an ear infection. This is painful. Take your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup and treatment.



Exercise, Energy, and Activities

Establishing yourself as the alpha is crucial with this dog breed. They need to know who the boss is.

These dogs need moderate exercise. They do not have to go on long walks or take part in strenuous activities to stay in good condition. A little sweat now and then does not do any harm, though!

Never allow your puppy to over-exert himself while he is growing.  Too much strenuous activity as a puppy causes health problems. These include tendon, muscle, and joint injuries.

The breed needs a lot of space. A large, fenced backyard is ideal. They tend to go after prey, i.e. the neighbor’s cats, for example, so keeping them enclosed is a good idea. These dogs need their walks and proper socialization.

Your puppy will grow up to love hikes. A family with an active lifestyle is essential. They also do well in a number of different sports. These include tracking, herding, and drafting. Additionally, they make great animal-assisted therapy dogs. They are also wonderful for search and rescue if properly trained.

Training and Sleep/Rest

House training might take a while, so be patient. A puppy cannot control its bowel or bladder movements at first. It is something he learns as he gets older. He is also a little machine. What goes in soon comes out. If you keep this in mind, potty training is easier.

Frequently take your puppy to his potty area. The best times are fifteen minutes after a meal (that is how fast his digestive system works), first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and at 30 minutes to one-hour interval throughout the day. He needs to go less often and can hold it for longer periods as he grows older and learns better control of his bladder and bowels.

Puppies might be very active, but they sleep a lot. Up to twenty hours a day is normal. They are growing babies. All babies grow while they sleep. Do not worry about it. It is perfectly normal.



Health Issues

All breeds are susceptible to certain health problems. Buying a puppy from a reputable breeder is very important. He or she can tell you all about the breed as well as your dog’s possible health concerns.

The breed is susceptible to hip dysplasia and a few minor health concerns. These include gastric torsion (bloat), distichiasis, shoulder Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD), and splenic torsion.

Although hip dysplasia is often genetic, it is also the result of too much activity and joint injuries while a puppy. Bloat is common in large breed dogs with deep, barrel chests. The stomach fills with gas and turns on itself. It is a life-threatening condition.

Distichiasis is an eyelash disorder. The eyelash grows from an abnormal position on the eyelid. It could cause irritation to the eye.

Shoulder Osteochondrosis Dissecans or OCD is a cartilage disease affecting the joints. It is very painful. A small surgical procedure can remedy the problem.

Splenic torsion is when the spleen twists on itself. It usually occurs together with gastric torsion although not always. Medical treatment is necessary.

To Sum Up

A gentle giant, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is not everybody’s cup of tea. He is an independent thinker that, although intelligent, some find difficult to train. They are not for the elderly or for those living in smaller homes. They need their space.

Nonetheless, a dog that fits well into a family living, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is not a dog for the first time puppy owner.

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