Greater Swiss Mountain Temperament & Personality
Did you know that the Greater Swiss Mountain dog breed is one of those with the shortest life spans at only 8 years? This breed is beaten only by two other breeds in the short life spans list — the Irish Wolfhound and the Bernese Mountain Dog, each with just 7 years of life expectancy.
Despite having quite a short life span, you can say that the Greater Swiss Mountain breed can lead a productive life. This type of dog is known as being an all-around working dog. They can be relied on for pulling carts, standing guard, and herding cattle.
If you prefer active dogs or dogs who live and work in farms, this dog might be the perfect companion for you. Read on and learn more about the Greater Swiss Mountain.
Greater Swiss Mountain Characteristics
The Greater Swiss Mountain ranks 74th out of 195 dog breeds in popularity according to the American Kennel Club. Although this breed may not be among the most popular choices for man’s best friend, it is still in the top 38 percentile.
The Swissie belongs to the working dog group. This means that they are primarily bred to provide assistance to man. They also are among the larger dogs, plus, being naturally active and intelligent, they require appropriate exercise and socializing. Having said that, this breed may be more suitable for experienced dog owners rather than first timers.
Greater Swiss Mountain Size (Male & Female)
The Greater Swiss Mountain is not be considered very tall. However, it still belongs to the upper half percentile in terms of average dog height. Dogs may stand anywhere from 5.9 inches to a towering 43.3 inches.
Although not very tall, the Swissie still belongs to the large dog breeds. Any dog with a normal weight of over 55 pounds is placed under this class.
Greater Swiss Mountain Height (Male & Female)
The Greater Swiss Mountain stands at 25.5 – 28.5 inches for adult males and 23.5 – 27 inches for adult females. This height is taken by measuring the highest point of the shoulders down to the paw.
Greater Swiss Mountain Weight (Male & Female)
The Greater Swiss Mountain weighs 115 – 140 pounds for adult males and 85 – 110 pounds for adult females. This large dog is easily as heavy as a midsize woman.
Greater Swiss Mountain Life Span (Male & Female)
The Greater Swiss Mountain has a life expectancy of 8 – 11 years. As mentioned earlier in this article, they are among those with shorter life spans compared to other dogs. An average dog usually lives between 13 – 15 years.
Greater Swiss Mountain Personality
The Greater Swiss Mountain is an ideal family dog as it is very sociable and affectionate. It thrives on being part of the everyday dynamics of people as opposed to being left alone in a kennel.
A caveat to this breed’s temperament though is that since it is a big and confident dog with a bold personality, it is important to establish the hierarchy in the family beginning its puppy years. The dog must securely know who the leader in the group is versus what role he plays so as not to create serious problems as he matures to adult size and strength.
Other than the above hurdle, the Greater Swiss Mountain is a good choice of dog as it is dependable and faithful to its owner. They are also quick to learn as they are intelligent and alert. They are a perfect addition to an active or outdoorsy family or those who live or work in farmlands as they are willing workers, strong, and agile.
Greater Swiss Mountain Exercise
The Greater Swiss Mountain needs regular moderate exercise to keep healthy as the breed naturally abounds with high energy. Some examples of good or appropriate exercise for this breed are daily walks or hikes.
On the other hand, it is not a good idea to give, especially young Swissies, very high impact activities such as chasing after a bicycle or running a marathon with its owner as these might do harm for their still developing skeletal structures. It is best to consult your breeder and veterinarian for their recommendation before putting your dog under a regular exercise routine.
As adults, Swissies enjoy being an overall companion dog, and would love to accompany their owner on active pursuits such as backpacking, hiking, weight pulling, carting, herding and obedience trials.
Greater Swiss Mountain Training
Since the Greater Swiss Mountain is naturally sociable, there are available puppy kindergarten training classes that heightens this innate trait by exposing the dog from an early to stage to be confident around people and other dogs in various situations.
To maximize this dog’s strength and size, sending them to obedience classes to learn basic commands could also be good training. A breed of this intelligence and stamina would thrive best with a training method that is intelligent, consistent and clear; fair yet authoritative, but never harsh or mean.
If you intend to train your Swissie by yourself, a good tip to know is that they are food-oriented. Rewarding them with treats for a job well done really works well for them. It is also not advisable to hold them back using harnesses. Since this dog is a working breed, having a harness around them signals them to pull back even harder and may even trigger tapping into their stubborn streak.
Even if it is known for being intelligent and strong, somehow, house training is not one of the strongest suits of the Greater Swiss Mountain. Although each dog is unique, this breed may generally need two weeks to understand the concept of house training but may still have some accidents down the line. Being fully and reliably house-trained may take several months for the Swissie. As with all house trainings, consistency and patience must be employed.
Greater Swiss Mountain History
The Greater Swiss Mountain dogs are descendants of the war dogs brought over by the army of Julius Caesar into the Alps. The Swiss people bred their Sennenhund or Alpine Mountain dogs with these war dogs. Out of the resulting descendants, the breed we now call the Greater Swiss Mountain emerged the largest and oldest kind; hence its name “greater”.
Since this breed was born, they were traditionally employed as farm and pasteur help, specifically with pulling meat and dairy products into the markets using dog carts.
After this period wherein the Greater Swiss Mountain was prolific, the breed eventually lost popularity. It was only in the early 1900’s that Dr. Albert Heim of Zurich, a very well-known dog expert, revived interest in the Swissie.
Come 1967, J. Frederick and Patricia Hoffman saw the Greater Swiss Mountain dog for the first time in a dog show in Frankfurt, Germany. They became interested in the breed and imported it to the United States the following year in cooperation with Perrin G. Rademacher. That was how the Swissie began its presence in America.
The Greater Swiss Mountain is closely related to the Bernese Mountain dog. The Swissie is also a component breed to the Rottweiler and Saint Bernard.
Greater Swiss Mountain Health Problems
As with both humans and dogs, maintaining overall excellent health may be achieved with the practice of basic principles such as proper diet, exercise and regular check-up. However, it would be wise for dog owners to be aware that as with all large breeds, the Greater Swiss Mountain is also prone to diseases common to their class. Some of these common diseases are:
- Gastric and splenic torsions – this condition is also known as gastric dilation – volvulus. It is also referred to in layman’s terms as simply “bloat”. This occurs when the dog’s stomach suddenly fills up with gas, then twists within the abdominal cavity, causing blood supply to be cut and the other organs to be pushed around out of its normal positions.
The exact cause of this incident is not yet determined by veterinarians. However, gastric torsion may be deadly to your dog and requires immediate medical attention.
- Heat prostration or heatstroke – Since the Greater Swiss Mountain is originally bred in the alpine regions of Switzerland and has a generally black and thick coat, it is but natural that they are more suited living in cold areas. Because of this very nature, they are prone to heatstroke if they were based in tropical or humid areas and during summer.
To avoid incidents of heatstroke, your dog must always be given ample supply of water. Walks must be scheduled in the early morning when the sun is not yet too hot or in the evening. It would also be best if they can be allowed to stay indoors or better yet in an air-conditioned room in the daytime during summers.
- Hip dysplasia – this condition refers to the abnormal formation of the coxofemoral joint. The coxofemoral joint connects the femur to the hip socket.
The signs that your Swissie may be suffering from this condition are: bunny hopping as he runs (two hind legs move together), difficulty in jumping or climbing up and down stairs and struggling to get up coming from laying down position and vice versa.
Radiographic findings that measure joint laxity is done in order to fully diagnose if your dog has this irregularity.
Fortunately for Swissies, this condition rarely becomes severe or crippling. Responsible breeders also ensure proper screening to eliminate it’s being passed on to next generation of puppies.
- Elbow dysplasia – This condition may come in different forms but for Swissies, this usually manifests as a slow and progressive degeneration of cartilage either caused by trauma or by wear and tear of use.
When severe elbow dysplasia may be observed as lameness, pain, decrease in range of motion and stiffness.
Elbow dysplasia may be diagnosed through radiographs done on the dog’s elbow. Fortunately for Swissies and similar to hip dysplasia, they are rarely severe for this breed.
- OCD of the shoulder – this condition is caused by the abnormal thickening of the articular cartilage that eventually leads to fissures and cracks. OCD usually manifests in Swissies as early as 4 months old to as late as 14 months.
OCD of the shoulder is usually observed as intermittent lameness and is also diagnosed through a radiograph.
Mild shoulder OCD may be treated through several weeks of rest combined with administration of MSM, Adequan, Vitamin C, Glucosamine, and Chondroitin. More severe cases may need surgery, which involves scraping then smoothening of the thickened cartilage.
- Distichiasis (extra eyelashes)
- Licky fits – this is a symptom exhibited by Swissies when they are experiencing discomfort due to acid reflux or other gastrointestinal discomfort
Aside from above diseases common in large breed dogs, the Greater Swiss Mountain is also not immune to these diseases present in the general canine population:
- Eye abnormalities
Aside from all of the above, as mentioned in the previous section about the bit of challenge on house training, dog owners must be aware that the difficulty may be stemming from this breed’s being more prone to urinary incontinence.
How to Care for Greater Swiss Mountain
Although the Greater Swiss Mountain is one of the breeds with short life spans, they are generally healthy and hardy with proper care. Aside from the right nutrition, exercise and grooming, the National Breed Club recommends that the following tests be run on your Swissie as preventive measure:
- Hip evaluation
- Elbow evaluation
- Shoulder evaluation
- Opthalmologist evaluation
Nutrition and Feeding for Greater Swiss Mountain
The Greater Swiss Mountain can subsist on a variety of diet. They may be fed solely dry food or kibbles, raw food or a combination of both. Proper portioning and frequency must just be observed so as to ensure that your dog is not overfed. Overfeeding can lead to a number of digestive problems.
Coat Color and Grooming
The Greater Swiss Mountain’s coat is thick and has mixed markings of black, red/ rust and white. The white coat is usually on the head and muzzle and referred to as the “blaze”. The blaze gives this breed its signature sweet yet majestic expression.
The Swissie’s dense coat is made up of two parts: a top coat that can be 1 to 1 and 3/4 inches long and a finer undercoat.
Below are the registration codes for the different color combinations a Greater Swiss Mountain may come in:
|Color Combination||Registration Code|
|Black, White and Red |
|Black, White and Tan||260|
|Red and White||146|
The dog’s beautiful and lush coat is quite easy to maintain. It just requires once to twice a week bathing and brushing. It may require more attention, however, during some seasons as the undercoat may go through shedding.
The Swissie requires very minimal or low maintenance grooming. Aside from the occasional bathing and brushing mentioned above, their undercoat will benefit from being blown twice a year. Other than that, the usual care same as with all other dog breeds apply such as regular nail trimming and ear and teeth cleaning.
Children and Other Pets
The Greater Swiss Mountain is generally good with kids, especially if the kids also treat the dog with proper care and respect. If a family plans to live with a Swissie and to better improve the dog’s interaction with children, it is best that the dog has been accustomed to living with youngsters since he is young himself.
Even if it is uncharacteristic for this dog breed to intentionally harm children, it would be smart to still err on the side of caution and not leave small children unsupervised with a large dog. Large dogs may also accidentally knock over small children without even realizing it.
As for other pets or other dog breeds, the Swissie is also quite tolerant of them and will rarely be aggressive. This breed may even be comfortable with non-threatening strangers.
If you are interested to reach out to unloved and abused Greater Swiss Mountain dogs, here are some of the groups you may get in touch with:
- Greater Swiss Mt. Dog Rescue Foundation – this group is a non-profit and run by volunteers organization founded by the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America in February 2009. This organization’s goal, as their name suggests, is to rescue and re-home ill-treated Swissies. The team’s scope of responsibilities do not just end with adoption. They also have a group of experts who can assist and answer questions about the rescued dog’s background as raised by their new dog-parents.
The Greater Swiss Mt. Dog Rescue Foundation is the only rescue organization recognized and affiliated with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America. If you wish to help the foundation, this may be done in the form of donating, volunteering, adopting a Swissie or giving them leads to dogs that need rescuing.
If you want to get in touch with this organization, you may reach them through email address: [email protected] or through their website: gsmdrescue.org.
- Rescue Me! Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Rescue – this non-profit organization was founded in 1999 by Jeff Gold. You may help out this foundation by adopting Swissies, finding a home for one or by making donations.
This group may be reached through their Facebook page or their website http://swissmountaindog.rescueme.org/
If you are looking to bond with people who share the same love for the Greater Swiss Mountain breed or perhaps swap some care tips and anecdotes with them, here are some breed organizations you can join:
- Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America – Formed in 1968, this group aims to protect and uphold the rights and protection of the breed through supporting veterinary research and finding good homes for abandoned Swissies. The club also promotes good quality breeding. They also hold matches and other dog events to showcase the natural strengths of the breed. Furthermore, they encourage the formation of independent local organizations to reach out to as many areas wherever there is a good number of Swissie lovers.
If you are interested to become a full member, a fee of $25 per year will charged for individual membership and $35 for the dual household membership (two members from the same family/ household). Other pre-requisites are of course, owning a Greater Swiss Mountain dog, being a U.S. resident or citizen and being 18 years old and above. A new full member must also be sponsored by at least two existing members.
Members who do not meet all above requirements may still join as associate members. Associate members do not have voting rights nor can they hold positions in the organization, but they will also not be required to have sponsors. Fees for a year are: $25 for those who are within the U.S., $45 for those from Canada and $60 for all those from all other countries.
Benefits to being a member include receiving the quarterly publication SENNtinel and E-SENNtinel, eligibility to join the events and competitions, inclusion/ access to the breeders classified directory and participation to the committees promoting betterment of the welfare of the breed, among other things.
Those interested may reach out to membership chair Alison Burns through PO box 321 Larkspur, CO 80118 or email address: [email protected] Their website is gsmdca.org.
- Golden Gate Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club – This dog club established in 1998 is for Swissie owners residing in North and South California. They are also recognized by GSMDCA and American Kennel Club.
More About This Breed
Did you know that in Switzerland, the Greater Swiss Mountain dog is known as Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund? Below are some more bits of interesting and useful information about the breed:
- The Greater Swiss Mountain usually only barks out of necessity and are actually quieter compared to other guard dogs.
Although the Swissie was bred and developed way back from the time of Julius Caesar, it was only in 1995 that this breed was recognized and registered with the American Kennel Club.
- If you are planning to breed your Swissie or are planning to buy a puppy, it is good to get the services of legit breeders as listed in classified directory listings of breed organizations. These breeders are accredited because they adhere to the breed standards, pedigree, and are committed to uphold the betterment and welfare of the Greater Swiss Mountain. Dog lines from reputable breeders are guaranteed to maintain the natural traits and working abilities that the breed is known for.
- Responsible breeders of the Greater Swiss Mountain tap health registries to ensure that their lines are free from genetic abnormalities. They also are not just in the business for sheer profit. They carefully review the background of the potential owner or family before placing the dog and maintain an active role in monitoring it throughout its lifetime.
- If you do not intend to breed your Greater Swiss Mountain, spaying is a good course of action to take. Spaying actually eliminates the risk of some health concerns related to the dog’s reproductive system to even occur. A spayed dog is even easier to train and manage. Lastly, spaying your pet will ensure that you will not contribute to the vast number of unwanted dogs who just end up being abandoned then euthanized.
- When a Greater Swiss Mountain reproduces, their litter size can go up to as high 18!
It is our fervent hope that this article has been very informative and helpful for you whether you are a new pet owner looking to learn more about the breed of your dog or if you are still in the process of selection if the Swissie is the right dog for you. We also hope that the information shared on rescue groups and breed organizations will lead you to heighten your love for the Greater Swiss Mountain beyond just caring for your own pet.