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Breed Profile: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog


Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed Photo By KIKKUZZO88 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons




The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a native of Switzerland and the oldest of the Swiss breeds. It is believed that its ancestors were Roman Mollasians -- large Mastiff-type dogs brought to the Swiss Alps more than 2,000 years ago. Known for centuries as hard-working farm dogs, they kept watch over property, drove small herds of cattle, and hauled carts. They were also the farmers' loyal and valued companions. Over time, modern forms of transportation decreased the need for draft dogs, and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog became less prevalent by the start of the 20th century.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog played a role in the development of the Saint Bernard and the Rottweiler. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were used by the Swiss Army during World War II as draft dogs. Interest in this breed outside of Switzerland was slow, yet steady. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog eventually arrived in the United States in 1968. The breed was not officially recognized by the AKC until 1995.


Weight: 80-130 pounds
Height: 23.5 to 28.5 inches at the shoulder


Tri-color (black with red and white markings)

Health Problems:

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

About the Breed:

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, often called the "Swissy," is a large-boned, muscular and powerful canine with a good-natured personality. This breed's happy-go-lucky attitude, loyalty and intelligence make it a most worthwhile companion that tends to get along well with just about anyone.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a short, dense outer coat and a soft undercoat coat. The grooming requirements of this breed consist mainly of regular brushing and occasional bathing. The Swissy can be a heavy shedder, especially in the Spring and Autumn, but this can be minimized with daily hair brushing and the use of a shedding tool like the Furminator.

Like all dogs, proper training and socialization is important for the Swissy. As intelligent and attentive dogs, training should not be especially difficult. These dogs are attentive to their owners, confident and smart. Due to the Swissy's large size, careful attention should be placed upon prevention of jumping, leaning and leash-pulling. Remember this dog was bred to pull heavy carts, so leash pulling will come naturally. Therefore, it is essential to train your Swissy how to walk on a loose leash.

Most adult Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have moderate energy levels, but they can adapt to the energy level of their family members. Puppies can be rambunctious, much like any breed of puppy. Routine exercise is essential to keep this breed fit and stimulated. However, do not overdo it. Too much vigorous exercise can interfere with the healthy growth of puppies. In addition, the Swissy is prone to overheating in warmer temperatures. A steady, long walk once or twice a day should be sufficient for most, though most can tolerate a bit more.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a confident, friendly and gentle temperament. This breed typically gets along quite well with children. However, the breed might not always realize its size, so be cautious at first. With regard to other pets, know that the herding instincts and prey drive of the breed might lead some to chase small animals. Socialization and training may minimize this, but use caution until you know how your Swissy acts around small animals. The Swissy has a natural instinct to protect people, but is not prone to aggressive behavior. These dogs are very alert and make great watchdogs, but they are not true guard dogs. Perhaps the only real negative aspect of this breed is its rather short life expectancy (about 7-9 years) which is common in very large dogs. Overall, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog makes a wonderful, loving companion that is sure to bring joy to any household.

If you are looking for a giant dog that is friendly, loyal and affectionate, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog could be the one for you. As with any breed, if you think the Swissy is right for you, be sure to do plenty of research before obtaining one. Talk to other Greater Swiss Mountain Dog owners, reputable breeders and rescue groups to learn more.

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