- Breed group — Working group (American Kennel Club)
- Height — 23-28 inches
- Weight — 85-140 pounds
- Coat length & texture — Dense topcoat and thick undercoat
- Coat color — Topcoat of black with rust and white markings and an undercoat of dark gray, light gray, or tawny colors
- Exercise needs — Average daily exercise
- Intelligence — High
- Barking — When necessary
- Life span — 8-11 years
- Temperament — Devoted, friendly, fearless, and protective
- Hypoallergenic — No
- Origin — Switzerland
Greater Swiss mountain dog fun facts
- Greater Swiss mountain dogs are affectionately called Swissies. They were bred in Switzerland as an all-purpose farm dog, and they thrive in cold weather.
- They are one of the oldest Swiss breeds. Their ancestors played a key role in the development of the Rottweiler and St. Bernard.
- They were used to pull carts to market. In addition to their guarding, protecting, and herding livestock responsibilities, they helped with hauling too.
Greater Swiss mountain dog temperament and characteristics
The Greater Swiss mountain dog is a loyal and hardworking breed that cares strongly about its owners and is very open toward strangers. They can be strong-willed, so training them early on in one-on-one settings is recommended. Be prepared to give your Swissy plenty of attention and time playing outside—a great way to burn off excess energy!
They are larger dogs who need room to roam, so an apartment may not be the best environment for a Swissy. But, if you have the room and are looking for a guard dog, a Greater Swiss mountain dog may be a great addition to your family. They are keen watchdogs who will bark if they hear something out of the ordinary.
Common Greater Swiss mountain dog health problems
Swissies do not have any breed-specific disorders, but they do have a tendency towards certain conditions that affect many large-breed dogs.
- Urinary incontinence. Like in humans, urinary incontinence occurs when dogs can no longer control urination. There are numerous causes, including stress, various disorders, urinary infections, and gender (it’s more common in spayed dogs).
- Hip dysplasia. Large breed dogs, like the Greater Swiss mountain dog, have a predisposition to this painful joint condition.
- P2RY12-associated bleeding disorder. This bleeding disorder was first seen in Swissies and basically means that, due to a genetic defect, they may have issues with their blood not clotting.
Dr. Dwight Alleyne
Even though urinary incontinence is most common in middle to older dogs, old age alone is not necessarily the cause for urinary incontinence. Older dogs are just prone to specific causes of urinary incontinence such as spinal issues, bladder disease, and certain cancers.
Cost of caring for Greater Swiss mountain dog
While Greater Swiss mountain dogs are a healthy breed, it’s still a good idea to invest in pet health insurance to make sure that the unexpected doesn’t become unaffordable. Alternatively, pet parents with one of these hardy dogs can create a pet budget and set aside money for emergencies in a pet savings account. A pet budget also has the added benefit of making sure you can afford their food every month, and to splurge on their favorite chew toy.
History of the Greater Swiss mountain dog
This strong breed can be traced back to Julius Caesar when he brought his army over the Alps. War dogs that traveled with the Romans crossed with the existing mountain dogs in the region, resulting in the Greater Swiss mountain dog. From this breed, numerous other breeds developed, like Saint Bernards, Bernese mountain dogs, and Rottweilers.
They worked on farms and helped farmers get their goods and wares to market, but it wasn’t until 1909 that they were recognized in the Swiss Stud Book. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1995.
Caring for your Greater Swiss mountain dog
Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. No one likes to think about losing their new dog but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to the Greater Swiss mountain dog.
Swissies, despite their size, don’t need a lot of exercise. They are content with a daily walk or going for a hike. Speed isn’t their strong suit, so they may not be the best companion for a run. They do best in cooler climates, so for warm days or hot climates, limit strenuous exercise outdoors and stay safe.
Swissies have a double coat, but grooming is fairly easy. A simple brushing once a week is enough to keep their dense outer coat in good condition. It’s best not to over-bathe a Greater Swiss mountain dog and only do so as needed.
👉When bathing any dog with a double coat, it’s important to make sure both coats are completely dry!
In addition to keeping their coat shiny and clean, nail trimming is important for this working breed, along with keeping their ears clean and good dental hygiene. Forgetting these important grooming tasks can result in nail infections, ear infections, and gum disease.
Diet and nutrition
Good food is the key to keeping your Swissy happy and healthy. They are a larger breed and will need food designed for big dogs. It’s important to choose the right dog food, and to feed your dog the right proportions. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with feeding guidelines, but generally expect to feed your dog anywhere from 4 to 6 cups of dry dog food a day.
👉 It’s important to separate your dog’s food into two servings to help avoid a serious health condition called bloat.
Training your Greater Swiss mountain dog
Swissies are stubborn dogs, so a little patience (and experience) goes a long way with this breed. Consult with a professional, or study up on some tips from trainers, to get some guidance on how to train your Greater Swiss mountain dog. Typically, this dog breed responds well to treats and positive reinforcement, so keep calm and carry on with the healthy dog treats.
Breeds similar to the Greater Swiss mountain dog
Not quite sure that a Greater Swiss mountain dog is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:
- Leonberger. Gentle giants, Leonbergers come from the same area in Europe. They are a working breed and make excellent therapy dogs. Plus, they look so cuddly.
- Tibetan mastiff. Extra large, this breed looks even bigger thanks to its huge coat. But, they are excellent guardians, devoted, and highly intelligent.
- Great Pyrenees. Another dog that originated in Europe, the Great Pyrenees is incredibly fluffy — their fur was even used as yarn — and performed many of the same tasks as Swissies.
Frequently asked questions
Are Greater Swiss mountain dogs good family pets?
Yes, Swissies make great family pets. They are generally patient and gentle when it comes to small children. It is important to note, though, that they are a large dog breed so training your dog to be around young children, and not allowing young children to try to walk such a powerful dog, is important.
Do Greater Swiss mountain dogs bark a lot?
Greater Swiss mountain dogs have a low but powerful bark. They don’t tend to bark a lot, though, and typically only when they need to alert their owner to something.
What’s the difference between a Bernese mountain dog and a Greater Swiss mountain dog?
The biggest difference between these two breeds is the coat. While both have a double coat, the Bernese mountain dog has a longer coat. Both shed considerably, though, due to their thick undercoat. There are some smaller differences as well in head shape and facial markings.
Is a Greater Swiss mountain dog right for me?
While all dogs are different, typically a Swissie isn’t ideal for a first-time owner. They can be stubborn,which might be challenging for inexperienced dog owners. But, dedicated owners who are willing to train or enlist professional help can find a wonderful family dog in the Greater Swiss mountain dog.