The Greater Swiss Mountain dog breed was developed to be an all-around working dog, herding cattle, pulling carts, and standing guard. These days, the Swissy enjoys life as a family pet, but because of his working heritage, he enjoys being busy. This powerful breed excels in all sorts of dog sports, from agility to weight pulling.
Illustration courtesy of the Swedish Kennel Club
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The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was bred for draft work, livestock management and as a farm sentinel. By the late 19th century it was assumed the breed had died out, as other breeds or machines took over their work. They were rediscovered, however, in the early 1900s.
“Greater” than what? Well, standing as high as 28.5 inches and weighing as much as a midsize human, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog might easily be greater than you. Swissies are immensely strong, yet agile enough to move a flock across the sloping foot of a mountain. The coat is a striking tricolor—black, red, and white. The head and muzzle typically have a white marking (the “blaze”), setting off a sweet expression. Several big mountain-dog breeds are described as “majestic,” but Swissies practically invented the word.
Owners should be patient with house training; dogs may grasp the concept in a few weeks, but it can take many months for them to become reliable. Daily exercise is necessary, but should be moderate due to their large size and dark, thick coat, which can cause them to overheat in high temperatures. It is important for a GSMD to have regular exercise. Given the dog’s substantial size, structure and body type, however, moderation is definitely called for. Intense, high-impact activities —like chasing after a bicycle—are definitely a bad idea for a breed such as this, and owners should be especially cautious that young dogs with rapidly developing skeletal structures are not overworked or overexerted. Be sure to discuss appropriate exercise levels for your growing Swissy with your breeder and your veterinarian. As multi-purpose working dogs, Swissies thrive on having a job to do. There are many different activities that GSMDs may enjoy with their owners when they are sufficiently mature, including hiking, carting, obedience trials, herding, weight pulling, and backpacking. It is essential that GSMD puppies receive extensive socialization, allowing them to be comfortable and confident in a wide variety of situations.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs on Embark
Explore some Embark dogs that share Greater Swiss Mountain Dog ancestry.