AKC Dog Breeds: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

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Working  Group
Height: 25-29 inches   Weight: 85-140 pounds  Color: black, white, and rust

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a Draft and Drover breed and should structurally appear as such. It is a striking, tri-colored, large, powerful, confident dog of sturdy appearance. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog which, in spite of its size and weight, is agile enough to perform the all-purpose farm duties of the mountainous regions of its origin. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog originated in the Swiss Alps' farms and villages. It is considered to be the largest of the four Sennenhund Breeds. The Sennenhund breeds are said to be descendants of the Roman Mastiff. They were brought to the area more than 2000 years ago. The Greater Swiss Mountain dog has a natural ability for drafting which gave him the nickname "the poor man's horse." The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog have also contributed to the origin of the Saint Bernard. The popularity of the Saint Bernard led to the decline in popularity of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This decline in popularity actually almost led to extinction. Dr. Albert Heim, an authority of the Sennenhund breeds rediscovered the Great Swiss Mountain Dog in 1908 while he was judging a dog show. He encouraged breeding of this dog and the response was strong. The breed was brought over to the United States in 1967. They still remain fairly rare even in Switzerland.  The breed was registered with the AKC in 1995.

General Appearance
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large, strong, muscular, draft dog. The body is slightly longer than it is tall. The front legs are straight and strong with rounded, compact feet. The chest is broad and deep, and the breastbone extends slightly ahead of the legs. The head is large with a broad, flat skull and slight stop. The skull should be approximately the same length as the muzzle and the teeth must meet in a scissors bite. The color of the eyes may vary from hazel to chestnut. Their expression is attentive and intelligent. The muzzle is blunt, and the nose and lips must always be black. The pendant, medium-sized ears are triangular. The long tail reaches to the hocks. GSMD has a beautiful tri-color double coat (black with rich rust and white markings). The outer coat is no longer than 2 inches (5cm.), and lined with a dense undercoat. Rust markings include a spot over each eye, rust on the cheeks, and on either side of the chest. Symmetrical markings are preferred. The tip of the tail, a blaze on the muzzle and a large marking on the chest are white. A white collar or patches on the neck are permitted.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a sociable, active, yet calm and dignified dog, and loves being part of the family. These dogs are fiercely loyal and protective of their family, and make good watchdogs. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is well suited to family life, but does need plenty of room to exercise. He can be stubborn and determined, and is best suited to those with some experience of dog ownership. With a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog you will have a loyal and loving family pet that is devoted to his loved ones, and is eager to please. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is an intelligent breed and is a quick learner. However, he can be difficult to housebreak, and tends to try and eat just about anything, edible or not. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog gets along well with children, and is both devoted to them and protective of them. However, the giant size of the breed may make life difficult of you have very small children in the household. If you have pets then early socialization is important - some Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs will get along well with other pets, but others may chase smaller animals.


The maintenance of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered to be low to moderate. They are known to be moderate shedders. Shedding will increase during the two shedding seasons. Weekly brushing is recommended for the majority of the year; however increased brushing will be necessary during shedding seasons. A wire bristle brush is recommended for brushing of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

Health Problems and Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is around 8-10 years, and there are various health problems and disorders that are linked to the breed. This includes bloat and torsion, OCD, HD, thyroid problems, spleen problems, digestive problems, and eyelid disorders.

Activity Level
The exercise needs of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered to be low to moderate. They do require daily exercise and although a walk a day is sufficient, a run or an activity like cart pulling that adds a little more vigor is beneficial. The "more is better" rule definitely applies. The more exercise the dog receives the healthier and happier the dog will be. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog does not fair well in warm, hot, and humid weather. They adjust well to cooler weather and can be quite content outside in cooler weather.


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