The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is best for experienced pet parents who can give them homes with a lot of space (translation: big backyards!) and will include them in every aspect of their active lives.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Traits
What makes the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog? Let's find out how they stack up.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament
You can think of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, with their large size and endearingly social personalities, as big friendly giants. They generally love meeting new people and have outgoing personalities. That social tendency also means they don’t enjoy being left alone without their families for long and are very fond of snuggling.
One well-loved trait of this breed is their ability to bond strongly with their families. They particularly enjoy spending time with children, although parents need to be vigilant as Swissies can be very enthusiastic and forget their size when playing—toppling younger children in the process! Proper training and socialization will help them learn self-control and manners around smaller or more fragile members of your family.
They can get along well with cats as long as they’re properly introduced. Swissies have an impressive herding drive and a complimentary prey drive, so teaching puppies how to properly interact with other pets is on the list of life lessons for your new friend.
They can have a slight stubborn streak (like most of us, let’s be honest), which means they need patient and calm parents to balance them out. You’ll need to be confident in your abilities in guiding the pup to channel the dog’s powerful playfulness in the right direction using positive training techniques. Translation: Reward their good behavior with praise, toys and of course, treats. (It’s really all about the treats.)
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are watchdogs but not guard dogs. They’re rarely aggressive, and biting is not generally a problem. They may sound the alarm with plenty of deep, throaty barking when a stranger approaches your home, but most strangers will be greeted with friendliness once they cross the threshold. Swissies enjoy keeping an eye on the neighborhood and will tell you about anything out of the ordinary with a bark or two.
How to Care for a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Good news: Taking care of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Their coats are low-maintenance (though they do shed a bit), so you won’t be spending lots of time or money on grooming. Instead, plan to work in dedicated sessions each day for socializing, exercising and training these high-energy pups.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Health
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have a life expectancy of 8 to 11 years, and they suffer from fewer complaints than many other large-breed dogs. It’s a good idea to get familiar with the health problems that affect this breed, so you can work with your vet to keep your dog as healthy as possible. Always ask breeders for the results of your dog’s health tests, and if you’re adopting from a shelter, request a copy of the vet wellness exam.
- Orthopedic Problems: As with many large breeds, Swissies can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia as well as osteochondritis (OCD). Dysplasia is caused when the joint isn’t formed properly, causing the dog pain. OCD is an inflammatory condition caused when the affected cartilage of a joint separates from the bone. Limping can be a symptom of dysplasia and OCD. Dysplasia can be treated with weight management, physical therapy and surgery. OCD can be treated through exercise restriction or surgery, depending on the severity.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: As with many deep-chested breeds, bloat, or gastric torsion, can be an issue for the Swissy. Symptoms include a swollen abdomen, non-productive retching, drooling, restlessness and abdominal pain. You can help prevent bloat by feeding your dog smaller meals throughout the day with a slow feeding bowl and avoiding strenuous exercise for an hour before and after meals. Splenic torsion can occur when the blood supply to the spleen twists on itself. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, vomiting and severe weight loss. Both conditions are life-threatening and need immediate veterinary intervention.
- Urinary Incontinence: When it comes to potty troubles, the inability to “hold it” can affect puppies as well as spayed adult females. Medications are often used to treat the condition.
- Eye Problems: Swissies can suffer from slow-growing cataracts, distichia and entropion. Distichia involves extra eyelashes growing in the incorrect position, often scratching the eye and can be treated with medicated eye drops. Entropion is when the eyelid folds inwards and can be treated with surgery. Both can cause corneal irritation and damage.
- Epilepsy: This disorder causes seizures, and though the cause is unknown, many experts believe that it may be inherited. Seizures first show up between 1 to 5 years old and, depending on the severity, some symptoms can be managed with medication.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog History
The exact origin of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is unclear, but they’re believed to be descendants of the war dogs used by Roman Legions during their invasion of the Alps. Swissies belong to a group of dogs known as “Sennenhunds,” and in their native Switzerland are known as Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund or Grand Bouvier Suisse. The other breeds within the Sennenhund group include the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Appenzeller, and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.
Up to the early 1800s, the Swissy was used by Alpine dairy farmers who found it cheaper to train dogs to pull carts instead of horses. This breed worked hard as draft dogs and hauled carts filled with dairy and meat to local markets. Swissies were also used as a general farm dog, watched over cattle and were good-natured and loyal family companions.
By the late 1800s, automation and mechanization meant the breed wasn’t needed for work, and their population decreased dramatically. In an attempt to preserve the breed, the Swiss Kennel Club recognized the dog in 1910. The first dogs were brought to the USA in 1968, and the American Kennel Club recognized the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in 1995, and they’re a member of the Working group (the dogs bred with a job to do). Currently, they’re No. 76 out of the 197 breeds recognized by the AKC.
If you’re looking for the best place to find Swissy puppies, the American Kennel Club keeps a list of reputable breeders, as does the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America. A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppy costs anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. For that price, you’re likely getting a pup who’s been screened for health and temperament issues and may come with pedigree papers. You can also adopt a Swissy, either from a rescue organization that focuses specifically on this breed, like the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Rescue Foundation, or from your local animal shelter.
Do Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs shed?
Swiss Mountain Dogs shed heavily twice a year, when they blow their undercoat. At those times, you’ll need to use a deshedding tool every day to help keep shedding under control. For the rest of the year, the breed is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to their grooming needs.
Do Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs drool?
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are not known for drooling. Swissies are a dry-mouthed breed, so they naturally drool very little. They may drool a small amount while they’re waiting for you to serve up their yummy dinner, but they’re certainly not a slobbery type of dog!
Are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs aggressive?
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are not known for being aggressive; rather, they’re known for their kind yet confident nature. They typically have a great temperament, although, as with any breed, there may be exceptions if a dog has been mistreated or improperly socialized. Swissies are verbally protective of their homes and families (translation: they bark) and are usually friendly around strangers.
Are Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs good pets?
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs make great pets! The loyal and sociable temperament of the Swissy makes them a great choice. They’re enthusiastic and energetic with a good sense of adventure, so they suit active and experienced pet parents and are gentle with children. In their exuberance, they have been known to accidentally knock over small kids, so be sure to supervise playtimes with babies and toddlers.
How long do Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs live?
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs live about 8 to 11 years. With proper care, nutrition, exercise and regular vet visits, you can help your Swissy live a long and happy life.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are affectionate and enthusiastic pups who adore nothing more than hanging out with their families. Their strong work ethic means they love to be kept busy, whether that’s watching over their households or learning a new skill like cart pulling or obedience. Once you’ve opened your home and heart to a Swissy, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one of these charismatic and bold pups.