The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog: Everything You Need to Know

If you are looking for a dog breed that is loyal, affectionate, and energetic, look no further than the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This beloved dog has been around for centuries and has won the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.

In this article, we will delve into the history and origin of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, its physical characteristics, temperament, and health issues to help you decide if it is the right dog breed for you.

History and Origin of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Ancestors of the Breed

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s ancestors date back to a time when Roman armies marched across Europe. These armies brought with them large dogs that were used as war dogs, guardians, and to move supplies across the Alps. 

These dogs were highly valued for their strength, intelligence, and loyalty and mixed with local dogs, giving birth to four breeds of Sennenhunds (Alpine Swiss dogs): 

  • Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog)
  • Berner Sennenhund (Bernese Mountain Dog)
  • Appenzeller Sennenhund (Appenzeller Mountain Dog)
  • Entlebucher Sennenhund (Entlebucher Mountain Dog)

Development in Switzerland

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was developed in Switzerland in the 19th century. Swiss farmers and breeders recognized the value of the breed and worked to improve its characteristics.

They crossed the dogs with other breeds to create a larger, stronger dog that could handle the rugged terrain of the Swiss Alps. Despite its popularity in Switzerland, the breed almost went extinct in the early 20th century.

The rise of industrialization and the decline of agriculture meant that there was less need for working dogs, and many breeds suffered as a result. However, a group of dedicated breeders worked tirelessly to save the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog from extinction.

Recognition and Popularity

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995, and it has been steadily gaining popularity ever since. Today, it is widely considered one of the best family dogs, thanks to its loyal and affectionate nature.

The breed is also celebrated for its versatility. It excels in a variety of activities, including obedience, agility, and tracking. It is also a great hiking and camping companion, thanks to its love of the outdoors and its ability to handle rough terrain.

Physical Characteristics and Appearance

Size and Weight

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very large breed. Males typically weigh between 115 and 140 pounds and stand between 25.5 and 28.5 inches tall at the shoulder. Females weigh 85 to 100 pounds and are 23.7 to 27 inches tall. 

Despite their large size, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are surprisingly agile and graceful. They are able to navigate rocky terrain and steep inclines with ease, making them excellent hiking companions.

Coat and Colors

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a short, dense coat that is black with rust and white markings. This distinctive coat is easy to care for and provides the breed with protection from the cold weather.

The coat is also water-resistant, which makes it perfect for dogs that love to swim. However, their coat sheds heavily twice a year, so regular grooming is necessary to keep their coat healthy and shiny.

Distinctive Features

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is instantly recognizable thanks to its large size and distinctive coat. It also has a striking “smile” due to the shape of its mouth, which gives a friendly and approachable appearance.

Other distinctive features include its large head, broad chest, and sturdy legs that are perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. These dogs also have a calm and confident demeanor, which makes them excellent watchdogs.

Temperament and Personality Traits

Despite their size, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are gentle and love to be around people. They are great with children and other pets, hence being an excellent addition to any family. They are also intelligent and easy to train, which makes them perfect for first-time dog owners.

Affection and Loyalty

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog craves human attention and affection. It loves to be around its owners and will follow them around the house wherever they go. 

Breed members are very loyal and protective of their families, making them great family pets. However, it is important to note that their protective nature can sometimes lead to them being wary of strangers. 

Intelligence and Trainability

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a highly intelligent breed that is easy to train. They are quick learners and are eager to please their owners. However, they can be stubborn at times, so it is important to use positive reinforcement and consistent training methods.

Training should begin at a young age to establish good behavior and prevent any potential behavioral problems. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs respond well to firm but gentle training methods and thrive on positive reinforcement.

Energy Levels and Exercise Needs

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog requires plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy. It is very energetic and needs daily walks and play sessions to burn off its energy. This breed is especially well-suited for outdoor activities like hiking and swimming.

They are also known to be great running partners and can keep up with even the most active of owners. However, they are prone to joint problems, so it is important to not over-exercise them or engage in high-impact activities until they are fully grown.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

Because of its size, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is prone to several joint problems, including conditions affecting the hips, elbows, and shoulders. Proper exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can help with these issues. 

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

To keep your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog healthy and happy, it is important to provide preventative care and take your dog for regular checkups with a veterinarian. 

Expected Lifespan

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a fairly long lifespan compared to other large breeds, typically living between 8 and 11 years. With proper care and attention, however, many breed members have been known to reach their teenage years.


In conclusion, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a wonderful breed that is known for its loyalty, affection, and energy. It is protective yet gentle and knows how to behave around kids and other pets. 

Whether you are looking for a hiking companion or a loyal family pet, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a breed that is sure to win your heart. Just ensure that you find a reputable breeder. 

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