Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

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Is the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog right for you?

Species group:

Other name(s): Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund; Swissy; Swissie; GSMD

The basics:
The origins of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are lost to history, but they may be linked to the ancient mastiffs brought by the invading Romans into Switzerland around two thousand years ago. Developed by Swiss farmers to work as drovers, draft dogs, and watchdogs, the powerful Swissies serve today as trackers, watchdogs, guard dogs, and cart-pullers. They even served in the Swiss Army as a draft dog during World War II, although the population had fallen to around 350-400 dogs by 1945.

Since then, they have become known worldwide for their even-temper and their desire to serve their families. By 1995, the breed was recognized in the US by the American Kennel Club, and today they are one of the top 100 purebreeds kept in America.

Because of their size and their long puppyhood, they can be a surprising amount of work for a dog with such a loving personality. Give them something fun and useful to do, such as pullling carts, to burn up some of that energy.

Appearance / health:
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a Draft and Drover breed. Striking in appearance, dogs of this breed are large, powerful, and muscular. The skull is flat and broad with a slight stop. The large, blunt muzzle is almost half the width of the back-skull. The almond-shaped eyes are dark brown in color. The triangular ears are of medium size and set high. The muscular neck is of moderate length. The deep chest has a slightly protruding breastbone. The thick tail is carried down in repose. When in action, it may be carried higher.

The Swissy has a thick undercoat that sheds heavily twice a year. Otherwise, shedding is average. Regular brushing once or twice a week is necessary to minimize shedding and keep the skin and coat healthy.

They require moderate amounts of exercise. Daily walking or similar exercise is sufficient for a maturing dog. Adult dogs may benefit from vigorous activities such as hiking or cart pulling.

Gastric torsion or bloat is a serious issue in Swissies, as with many large, deep-chested breeds. Bloat is a life-threatening condition characterized by a build up of intestinal gasses. Hip and elbow dysplasia are also common. Dysplasia is a disorder characterized by abnormal formation of joints or organs. Eye disorders may also occur in these dogs.

Behavior / temperament:
Owners may need to remember that Swissies are working dogs who require a job to do. A Swissy can be trained for weight-pulling competitions and to pull carts behind them carrying goods or even a person. They are naturally protective of their families. Swissies are confident, friendly dogs who love to spend time with their families. Most Swiss Mountain Dogs announce the presence of every individual or cars passing by their homes.

This breed is good for an experienced owner who has the time and aptitude to train and socialize them. Firm but gentle training, using positive reinforcement methods such as praise and reward, is generally more effective than physical punishment. Clicker training is an effective method of training for Swissies. Early socialization and obedience training are important with any breed, which can help to prevent unnecessary aggression or timidity.

Swissies normally do not bark much. However, they tend to bark at any different object in their environment such as a car. They have a characteristic bark that they use to draw their owner's attention.

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