Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

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Life span

11 Years


72 Kg


Working Dogs

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Overview

The Great Swiss Mountain Dog (Deutsch: Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund) or Swissy is a large multipurpose working breed used by the Senn dairymen of the Swiss Alps for herding cattle, as a guard dog, and as a carting dog used to pull milk carts to and from cheese factories. The Great Swiss Mountain Dog often works in pairs and is the largest of the four Swiss herding breeds and the heaviest in build. It is described as self-assured, alert, watchful, even-tempered and confident with strangers. Its physical appearance denotes a masculine and heavy-boned dog with a tri-colour coat and distinct markings in different parts of the body. An imposing character with a strong, large, muscular neck and broad chest, the Great Swiss Mountain Dog is the perfect all-around dog for the Swiss Alps. The weather-resistant double coat is made of dense, outer coat of medium length with grey or black undercoat. The average height of a male Swissy is 65 – 72cm while a female stand between 60 – 68cm from paws to shoulder.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Characteristics

Size InformationIntelligence
  • 3
Size InformationExercise Needs
  • 3
Size InformationDogs Health
  • 2
Size InformationChild Friendly
  • 5
Size InformationApartment
  • 1
Size InformationShedding
  • 3
Size InformationGrooming Needs
  • 5
Size InformationBarking
  • 4
Size InformationAlone
  • 3
Size InformationTrainability
  • 3
Size InformationEnergy Levels
  • 5
Size InformationDog friendly
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History & Origin

The exact origin of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog is unknown but there are several theories that try to trace more or less how this great dog came to be. There is a theory (and the most popular) that states that the Swissy is a product of the Molosser brought by Roman soldiers to the Swiss Alps more than two millennia ago. Another theory suggests that the Phoenician traders brought a large breed of dog to Spain which migrated eastward and influenced the local dogs of the Senn among others. What is certain is that the Great Swiss Mountain Dog is a result of crossing the native farm dogs of the Senn with a large foreign Mastiff-type dog. The early ancestors of the Swissy were cart-pulling dogs used by dairymen in their farms and as guardians of cattle and properties. When modernization reached the Swiss Alps, the population of the Great Swiss Mountain Dog dwindled down to near extinction. It was through the efforts of a geology professor and breed expert named Albert Heim that breeders started to take notice of the breed and began a modest effort to bring back the population to a healthy level. In 1909, the Swiss Kennel Club recognised the Swissy as a distinct breed while the Kennel Club only accepted the breed onto the Import Breed Register in 2008 with the interim breed standard published in 2010.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament

This Great Swiss Mountain Dog or Swissy is a large, extremely robust dog with strong hind legs that are ideal for pulling carts traditional loaded with dairy products from cheese farms. As a household companion, it is a loyal and affectionate breed that thrives on family companionship. It will not do well in a kennel environment but it will do best in a home that can offer the dog a lot of love and attention. It is an alert and vigilant breed and it has a natural instinct to guard and protect both its family and the property, which makes it an excellent guard dog. It is territorial but is generally not aggressive unless threatened. It is one of the slow maturing dog breeds, reaching full adulthood only at the age of 3 years.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Training

The Great Swiss Mountain Dog is an intelligent breed and is always eager to learn. It has a territorial instinct and a natural protective attitude which makes training as a guard dog fairly easy. It will bark at any noise or at intruders but is generally not a noisy barker. It is a wonderful family member but it requires a lot of obedience training and socialisation.


The Swissy moults and requires regular grooming. Brushing with a firm bristle brush on a daily basis will help keep the coat healthy and shedding to a minimal. It is a light shedder but the thick undercoat is shed twice a year, usually every seasonal change, in which case it needs more frequent attention. It does not drool or slobber like other large dogs because it is a dry mouth breed. The soft coat is not oily which means that it does not have a doggy odour like other breeds.


Typical of any large breed, the Great Swiss Mountain Dog is prone to a few health predispositions. Among them are hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, certain eye diseases, and gastric torsion or bloating. Bloating is a serious concern among large breeds and is the number two cause of deaths among dogs after cancer. To avoid bloating, do not expose the breed to strenuous physical activities like exercise at least 40 minutes to one hour after a meal.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Exercise Needs

It is a true working breed that must be kept active with regular exercise, typically up to one hour per day of walking or jogging. It will do best in a large house with an equally large garden where it can romp freely up to an hour. It will thrive in a home with plenty of wide open spaces to enjoy a free run.

Children and other pets

The Great Swiss Mountain Dog loves human companionship and is naturally loving of children. However, adult supervision is necessary when the dog is around young children because the large size and lively nature of the Swissy can easily knock a small child down unintentionally. It is generally not dog-aggressive but it will chase small animals from time to time.