Greater Swiss Mountain Dog – Everything You Need To Know

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large and robust purebred working dog known for its attractive coat. Also called Swissies, they were developed in the Swiss Alps and are remarkably dependable and faithful dogs. They are the result of the native dogs mating with the large mastiff-type dogs brought to Switzerland by foreign settlers. These dogs are not greater by name but are larger by size and stand tall, almost midsize humans. These giant-sized dogs excel in canine sports, from agility to cart pulling. 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Overview

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were primarily bred as working dogs to herd cattle, pull carts, and guard. But today, they enjoy the comforts of the home and being a loving companion to their humans. The Swisses are gentle yet powerful and make loyal and affectionate family companions. As a matter of fact, among the four Swiss mountain dogs, the Greater Switzerland mountain dog is the oldest and largest breed. 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Pros And Cons

Powerful Hugely built
Perfect watchdogsBarks a lot
Easy to groomAggressive

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Basic Information

  • Name: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Origin: Switzerland
  • Group: Herding dog, Draft dog, Companion dogs
  • Size: Large
  • Height: Male: 25½ to 28½ inches; Female: 23½ to 27 inches
  • Weight: Male: 105-140 pounds; Female: 85-110 pounds
  • Coat: Double-coated, short
  • Color: Tricolor (black, red, and white)
  • Energy: High 
  • Activities: All canine sports
  • Barking Level: High
  • Shedding Level: Low to medium
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 1-18 puppies
  • Another Name: Swissy
  • Original Passtime: Herding cattle, pulling carts
  • Life Span: 10-18 years

History of Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is Switzerland’s oldest and most prominent mountain dog. Although there are several theories related to its origin, the most popular is that it came from the Mastiff-group dogs brought to the Alps by the Romans. The ancestors of the Alps region bred the dog for herding cattle, guarding, and as draft dogs. They were the most popular dogs in Switzerland, but by the 1900s, their numbers started to reduce due to industrialization. 

In 1908, a canine researcher spotted these dogs at the anniversary of the Swiss Kennel Club, listed as “short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs.” Later, he recognized the dogs as the breed belonging to the Swiss Mountain Dogs and lobbied to get the dogs recognized as separate breeds. Finally, in 1909, the Swiss Kennel Club listed the breed as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. As the breed’s popularity rose, traders brought these dogs to the U.S in 1968. The AKC recognized the breed in 1995 as a working dog.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Highlights

  • Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are large breed dogs and unsuitable for apartments. They need houses with fenced yards.
  • They are working dogs and require a lot of physical and mental stimulation to keep them fit and healthy.
  • They get along well with kids, but their size can lead to injuries.
  • Swissies tend to chase small animals and should be kept away from smaller pets like cats and rabbits.
  • They adapt to colder temperatures and need air conditioning to prevent overheating.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Personality

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are larger-sized dogs with a structured appearance. They grow to 23-28 inches and weigh about 85-140 pounds. They are double-coated with a dense upper coat and a thick undercoat. They are not hypoallergenic and shed moderately. 

The tri-color coat includes black, red, and white. Swissies are well-muscled and heavily boned, suitable for working in the farms of high mountain regions. The almond-shaped eyes are dark brown with medium-sized ears. The tail is thick and furry and tapered at the tip. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are large, powerful, and strikingly attractive, with a confident, sturdy appearance.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingLow 
Good for new ownersLow 
Sensitivity levelHigh
Tolerates being aloneMedium 
Cold toleranceHigh 
Heat toleranceLow

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Physical Features

Head: The skull is flat and broad; the eyes are almond-shaped and brown with gentle expressions; The ears are medium-sized and set high; The muzzle is large, blunt, and straight; The lips are clean and dry. Swissies have a scissors-like bite with sharp teeth.

Neck: The neck is a moderate length and is robust, muscular, and clean.

Topline: The topline is level and firm. They have deep, broad, and protruding chest bones.

Body: The body is structured and complete. The loins are broad and muscular.

Tail: The tail is thick, furred, and slightly tapered at the tip.

Forequarters: The shoulders are long, sloping, and moderately laid back. They are well-muscled and flat. The forelegs are straight and strong. The feet are round and compact, and the toes are well-arched.  

Hindquarters:  The thighs are broad, strong, and athletic. Feet are round and compact with arched toes. Dewclaws should be removed. 

Coat: The coat is double-coated with a dense upper coat and a thick undercoat.

Color: The coat is tri-colored and includes black, red, and white. The top coat is primarily black. The markings are white and rusty. The white markings appear on the forechest, while the rust markings are seen on the head and muzzle.

Gait: The action is free, sturdy, and firm with well-balanced movement.

Disqualification (AKC Standards)

  • Blue eye or eyes
  • Coat colors other than “Black, Red, and White,” such as “Blue/Charcoal, Red and White” or “Red and White.”

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are large working dogs with striking appearances. Yet, despite their majestic appearance, they are dependable, loyal, and gentle. Their bold personality makes them confident, observant, and alert, making excellent watchdogs. These giant pooches bark aloud to alert their owners and are not aggressive. However, they can be stubborn at times.

Swissies do well with kids. They are generally friendly with other dogs but sometimes chase squirrels, cats, and other smaller animals. Their overall temperament includes:

  • Faithful 
  • Alert
  • Affectionate
  • Companion dogs
  • Bold
  • Observant 
  • Gentle
  • Intelligent
  • Affectionate 
  • Stubborn

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Training

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are intelligent and stubborn. Like any other dog, they need early socialization, obedience training, and puppy training classes. Swissies are active and look forward to the training sessions; activities like playing fetch and frisbee help in training regarding behavioral corrections. 

Swissie’s workout session requires patience and consistency. They are sensitive to any adverse reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They do not respond to harsh commands; hence lots of praise, cuddles, and treats can help during the training. Their activity can include the following:

Here are a few dog interactive toys and products that you can use while training:

ASOCEA Dog Extendable Teaser Wand
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Ultra Tug & Toss Dog Toy
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Dog Puzzle Toys
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Milk-Bone Soft & Chewy Dog Treats
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Blue Buffalo Health Bars
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Trainability Overview

Easy to trainHigh to medium
Prey driveMedium to high
Mouthiness tendenciesMedium
Barking and Howling tendenciesHigh to medium
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Exercise Need

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have large-sized bodies and require moderate exercise. A daily exercise routine of 30-60 minutes is ideal for keeping the dog’s mental and physical stimulation intact. Walking 2-3 times daily with running and play keeps the dog happy and healthy. We suggest avoiding harness-type training devices on Swissies as they are draft breeds, and using harnesses encourages them to pull harder. 

Swissies excel in activities like agility and flyball. They enjoy running, walking, and hiking and make great marathon partners. A proper exercise routine helps him with the following benefits:

  • Social interaction
  • Weight Control
  • Stress Relief
  • Behavioral Corrections like excessive chewing, persistent barking
  • Brain stimulation
  • Strengthening Muscles
  • Routine Toileting
  • Mental health and happiness

Here are a few puzzles and dog toys to keep your Swissies engaged:

Nina Ottosson Interactive Treat Puzzle Game Dog Toys
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TOMAHAUK Snuffle Mat for Dogs
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TRIXIE Dog Activity
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LOOBANI Dog Food Puzzle
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Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsMedium 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Grooming

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is double-coated and requires minimal grooming. They shed low and “blow-out” twice a year when the undercoat comes out. They are easy to groom, and the coat needs to be brushed 2-3 times per week. Brushing helps remove matted hair and pull out the loose fur during shedding. 

One of the essential parts of grooming is bathing which keeps the dog clean. You can bathe your dog once a week using pH-balanced shampoos; pet wipes keep his coat fresh, clean, and shiny. Frequent bathing may cause dry skin and itches. However, daily brushing helps to keep the fur from knots and tangles.

WAHL Dry Skin & Itch Relief Pet Shampoo for Dogs
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Earth Rated Dog Wipes
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Swissies are prone to collect ear wax quickly. Hence, ears should be cleaned and regularly checked as they are prone to ear problems. Cleanse their eyes. Brush their teeth daily to prevent plaque and other dental problems. Never brush their teeth with a stiff brush, as it will harm the gums and teeth. Also, make sure to use dog-friendly toothpaste.

Vet’s Best Enzymatic Dog Toothpaste
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Arm & Hammer for Pets Tartar Control Kit for Dogs
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Virbac EPIOTIC Advanced Ear Cleanser
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OPULA Dog Eye Wipes
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Also, trim their nails as a part of everyday grooming needs. Their toenails must be checked once a week as longer nails may harm and injure the dog. You can trim the toenails with a commercial dog nail trimmer or with the help of a vet or professional groomer.

Dudi Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmers
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Pet Union Professional Dog Grooming Kit
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Grooming Overview

Easy to groomHigh
Drooling tendenciesLow 
Amount of sheddingLow

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Health

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are healthy and active dogs. Yet, it’s always wise to know the diseases affecting these puppies. 

Health Overview

General healthLow
Weight gain tendenciesHigh to medium

Patellar Luxation: It is also known as “slipped stifles,” which is caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not correctly bounded. This leads to lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, like a hop or a skip. This condition is caused by birth, although the misalignment or subluxation occurs much later. In addition, the rubbing caused by patellar luxation leads to arthritis. There are four patellar luxation grades, ranging from phase I, an occasional luxation causing unstable lameness in the joint, to grade IV, where the turning of the tibia is heavy, and you cannot realign the patella manually. This gives your dog a bow-legged appearance. Uphill grades of patellar luxation may require surgery.

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is outwardly a painful disease that occurs when the bones of the back legs do not fit properly in the joints. While some dogs will exhibit symptoms, the majority of canines will not. Hip dysplasia is primarily genetic, although other causes, such as accidents, excessive weight gain, and inappropriate training, can also cause it. Even though this disease is fatal, therapies range from medicine to hip replacement surgery. This condition causes defects or damage to the hip bones and joints and worsens without treatment. To avoid this problem, avoid breeding dogs with hip dysplasia parentage and get annual examinations.

Other Causes of Hip Dysplasia: 

  • Injuries 
  • Excessive weight gain 
  • Wrong exercises 

Symptoms of hip dysplasia in dogs include:

  • Reduced activity and movements
  • Reluctance to rise, jump, run, or climb
  • Lameness in the hind limbs
  • Reducing thigh muscle mass
  • Swaying, “bunny hopping” gait
  • Grating in the joint during movement

Heart Disease: Heart Diseases might cause abnormal heart murmurs and heart rhythm. You can diagnose this condition through an X-ray, an ECG, or an echocardiogram. Treatment depends on the cause and ranges from medication, dental care, and weight control. 

Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia occurs when the elbow joint bones don’t align properly. This misalignment causes abnormal pressure at the joint, leading to chronic rubbing and being prone to severe osteoarthritis. Symptoms include: 

  • Mild to moderate pain  
  • Lameness in the forelimbs  

Although the symptoms begin to show as early as four months, some dogs will not show these signs until later in life. Further, the disorder may also injure the elbows, which are heavily affected. 

Osteochondrosis Dessicans is an inflammatory condition that occurs due to the cartilage’s abnormal development, leading to its separation from the underlying bone. Although it most prominently affects the shoulder, it may be prevalent at the elbow, hip, or knee.

Symptoms of OCD:

  • Limping in the affected leg 
  • Extremely painful when the affected leg is manipulated
  • Swollen or warm joint

Treatment generally involves following a strict rest schedule, medications, supplements, and surgery, if necessary.

Gastric Torsion: Bloat, commonly known as gastric torsion or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a potentially fatal condition when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and twists. It is more common in deep-chested breeds.

Cataract: As in humans, canine cataracts are characterized by cloudy spots on the eye lens that can grow gradually. Cataracts may develop at any age and often don’t damage vision, although in some cases cause vision loss. A board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist certifies the breeding dogs after testing them free of hereditary eye disease before breeding. Usually, you can remove cataracts surgically with good results. 

Entropion: Entropion is when the eyelid rolls inward, irritating the eyeball from eyelashes rubbing on the surface. In critical cases, entropion can cause a corneal ulcer. The treatment for this disease is surgical.

Distichiasis:  An additional row of eyelashes grows on the eye’s oil gland and protrudes along the edge of the eyelid, causing eye irritation. This is treated by a surgery called cryoepilation, in which the excess eyelashes are frozen with liquid nitrogen and then removed.

Panosteitis: Panosteitis is a painful condition that occurs during the phase of growth. This condition is characterized by painful inflammation of your dog’s developing bones. It is prevalent amongst male, large-breed dogs. Some of the signs include

  •  Lameness
  •  A decrease in appetite and activity.

This disease stops when your pup stops growing. Hence, treatment often involves the administration of painkillers until your pup’s growth ceases.

Obesity: Swissies are prone to obesity, exacerbating hip and elbow dysplasia. This disorder negatively hits a dog’s health and durability. Obese canines exhibit an increased risk of heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes, joint problems, and hypertension. 

Epilepsy: This is the most prevalent neurological disease in canines, concerning about 0.75 percent of the population. Epilepsy is a broad name for disorders characterized by repeated, uncontrollable seizures caused by a brain defect.

Eye Diseases: Swissy can be prone to these eye diseases:  

  • Corneal damage 
  • Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) 
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis) 
  • Eyelid mass 
  • Cataracts 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Cherry eye 
  • Entropion 

Spay or Neuter: In spaying, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are operated on. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Recommended Tests for Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

  • X-Rays 
  • CT Scan 
  • Eye Examination 
  • Blood Test
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Shoulder Evaluation
  • Vet-certified proof of genetic testing

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Diet and Nutrition

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs need high-quality food and should eat 4 to 5 cups of meals every day. Each puppy is distinctive, and the correct amount and quality of food depend on age, weight, activity level, health, and more. You can split the food into two 2 cups daily. However, they are prone to obesity, so overfeeding must be avoided. 

Swissy pups can be given dry food, wet food, or both. Ensure the diet contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, chondroitin, and glucosamine with fruits and vegetables that provide carbohydrate energy. Never hesitate to consult a vet to meet your pup’s dietary requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

Rachael Ray Nutrish Dry Dog Food
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Pedigree Adult Dry Dog Food
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Purina ONE Adult Canned Wet Dog Food
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Pedigree Cuts Canned Wet Dog Food
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Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Living Condition

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs love to be around their humans, follow them all day and night and are not suitable for living in apartments. They need bigger homes with bigger yards. They love outdoor activities like walking, running, playing, hunting, and visiting dog parks. They have surprising energy levels and love to chase squirrels and small animals endlessly. The place should be adequately fenced when allowed in a backyard to prevent them from wandering off.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs do well with other canines. They suit homes with smaller kids and strangers with early socialization. However, they are sensitive and prone to destructive behavior when left alone. Swissies are made for colder temperatures and do not tolerate hot weather conditions. So, avoid outdoor activities in hot weather to prevent overheating and skin rashes. They enjoy companionship, playtime, training, praise, and cuddles.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club recognition

  • AKC – American Kennel Club
  • UKC – United Kennel Club
  • GSMDCA- Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America

Did You Know?

  • Swissies came from Alps war dogs brought by Julius Caesar’s army. 
  • The Greater Swiss Mountain dog is the newly identified AKC breed that ranks 137 on the list.
  • The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the oldest and largest of the four breeds of Sennenhunde or Swiss Mountain Dogs. Appenzeller, Entlebucher, and Bernese are the other three breeds.

Adding a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog  to Your Family

Things to Remember Before Adding Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs to Your Family

Getting Swissies from a reputable breeder is best to prevent unavoidable circumstances like health disorders and provide you with vaccination certificates. It is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure her health and happiness. Always remember the following red flags to avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills.

  • Puppies are available around the year.
  • We recommend you visit the puppy and his parents and get health clearance and vaccination certificates, to avoid purchasing a weaker puppy.

Cost of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The cost of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog ranges from $1500 and $3500.

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