Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Guide

Working Dog Breeds

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This is a strong draft breed. It is large and powerful, slightly longer than tall. Its movement displays good reach and drive. Its double coat consists of a thick undercoat and dense outer coat, about 1 to 1¾ inches long. Its expression is gentle and animated.

The Greater Swiss mountain dog is a sensitive, loyal and extremely devoted family companion. It is calm and easygoing, very gentle with children as well as other pets. It is territorial, alert, bold and vigilant.


FAMILY livestock dog, mastiff (draft/cattle)

AREA OF ORIGIN Switzerland

DATE OF ORIGIN ancient times

ORIGINAL FUNCTION draft dog, guardian


AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 25.5-28.5 Weight: 105-140

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 23.5-27 Weight: 85-110

OTHER NAME grosser Schweizer sennenhund, Great Swiss cattle dog

Energy level Low energy

Exercise needs Medium

Playfullness Not very playful

Affection level Moderately affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Shy

Ease of training Hard to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Moderately protective

Grooming needs Low maintenance

Cold tolerance High tolerance

Heat tolerance Low tolerance

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As befitting of a dog with working roots, this breed likes the outdoors, especially in cold weather. It needs daily exercise, either a good long walk or vigorous romp. It especially enjoys pulling. It can live outside in temperate to cool climates but would prefer to be with its family. When indoors, it needs plenty of room to stretch out. Its coat needs brushing once weekly, more often when shedding.
• Major concerns: CHD, gastric torsion, elbow dysplasia
• Minor concerns: panosteitis, OCD, distichiasis, entropion
• Occasionally seen: ectropion
• Suggested tests: hip, elbow, (eye)
• Life span: 10 – 12 years
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The Greater Swiss mountain dog is the oldest and largest of four varieties of sennenhunde, or Swiss mountain dogs; the other three are the Appenzeller, Entlebucher and Bernese. The breeds share a common heritage, probably derived from the mastiff or Molossian dogs of the Romans. These dogs were most likely introduced when the Romans crossed through Switzerland. Another theory is that the Phoenicians brought them to Spain around 1100 B.C. Whatever their origin, they spread over Europe and interbred with native dogs, eventually developing along independent lines in isolated communities. They shared the same work ethic, dividing their duties between acting as guardian of livestock and home, herder and draft dog. Many came to be known as metzgerhunde, or "butcher's dogs." Until the late 1800s, all these dogs, which share a common coat color pattern, were generally assumed to be of one breed or type. Only when professor Alfred Heim endeavored to study the native Swiss mountain breeds seriously did he discern consistent differences that allowed them to be categorized as four distinct breeds. The year 1908 can be regarded as the birth date of the Greater Swiss; in this year Heim spotted a magnificent shorthaired dog entered in a Bernese mountain dog contest. He considered the dog a separate breed, and dubbed it the Greater Swiss because of its resemblance to the sturdy Swiss butcher's dogs he had also seen. The breed grew very slowly in popularity, additionally thwarted by the two World Wars. Only in 1968 did the Greater Swiss come to America, with the first litter being born in 1970. In 1985 the breed was admitted into the AKC miscellaneous class, achieving full recognition in 1995.
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