Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, also know as a Swissy, originated in Switzerland as a versatile working dog doing herding, carting, and guard dog duty. The breed came close to extinction when machines took away several of its ancestral duties, but Dr. Albert Heim, of Zurich, was instrumental in building enthusiasm for saving the breed.
A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog breed stands between 23.5 and 28.5 inches tall and weighs between 90 and 150 pounds. The head is broad, and the muzzle is large and blunt. The eyes are almond-shaped and dark. The ears are dropped. The body is strong and muscular, and the tail reaches to the hocks. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog coat is double, with a thick undercoat and a dense 2-inch outer coat.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are tricolored: black with white and rust markings. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s coat sheds, so twice weekly brushing is needed to keep it under control. In the spring and fall, when shedding is at its worst, daily brushing may be needed.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppies are active and playful, and although some Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs retain that sense of play when they grow up, they can also be quite serious. They are not overly active but still need regular exercise. A long, brisk walk morning and evening and a chance to play will make most Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs happy. Early and continued socialization and training is recommended for all Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs.
The training should be structured, fair, and firm yet fun. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs also do well in many canine sports, including carting, weight pulling, search and rescue, tracking, and agility. In puppyhood, housetraining can be a challenge and requires patience. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a working dog and needs an owner who will do things with him.
This dog needs to feel needed, yet also needs an owner who will be his leader. He is great with kids as long as he has been well socialized with them and the kids treat him with respect. He is not always good with strange dogs. Health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, and epilepsy.
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Calm and steady, yet bold and athletic, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog doesn’t need hours of hard running, but he definitely needs regular moderate exercise. Pulling a cart or sled is a productive outlet for his energy, especially when children are involved. (However, don’t expect him to be a babysitter!)
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs thrive on your companionship, though their determination to jump up into your face, shove their body against your leg, or slap a massive paw into your lap can be disconcerting.
This vigilant watchdog will sound off in a loud, deep voice to announce visitors — or simply to let you know that your neighbor has stepped outdoors. Most Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are friendly with guests, but some are more wary, and some are shy, spooky, or aggressive. Early and ongoing socialization is essential to develop a stable Swissy.
Some Swissys are peaceful with other animals, while others have a high prey drive and do not get along with small animals such as cats, while still others are downright aggressive with strange dogs.
Obedience training should start at three months old and include praise and food. Heeling is imperative: These powerful dogs can literally pull you off your feet. During adolescence, their hormones will kick in and they will start to test his owner, who must respond with assertive, consistent leadership.
Slower to mature (both physically and mentally) than many other breeds, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog remains playfully puppy-like for many years. This sounds delightful, but can wear away your patience when that “puppy” weighs over 100 pounds! For example, you must control the tendency of this breed to mouth your hands. Similarly, he may try to ingest everything in his path, from sticks to gravel.
Frankly, with all of his special needs, the Greater Swiss is often “too much dog” for the average household.