The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the largest of four types of Swiss Mountain Dog. This breed was developed from the giant Roman Mastiff breeds in the Swiss Alps as a working dog, trained to do drafting, pulling and guarding tasks. His work on farms once earned him the nickname “the poor man’s horse”. It is also possible that this breed contributed to the development of the Saint Bernard.
The breed became almost extinct in industrial times but has since made a comeback. However these dogs are still relatively rare around the world.
– This is a large dog, being 60-72cms tall and around 60kg in weight, with a deep rather ‘booming’ bark. He is strong and muscular in build, having been developed for heavy work.
– The double coat of this breed has three colours of black, white and red. Coming from a cool climate the undercoat is dense and thick. The coat does shed but not excessively so.
– In temperament this breed is known to be happy-natured, kind, loving, sensitive, loyal, keen to please and very social, being devoted to his family and warming to visitors. He has quite a strong personality, is protective of children and likes to play with them. However with his large size he could inadvertently hurt a small child so it is very important to supervise their play.
– The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s need for exercise is moderate, and a daily walk should suffice. On walks he needs to learn to ‘heel’ as his instinct is to pull. He loves to be active but mostly in shorter bursts with rests in between. He also benefits from having a purpose and a job to do. It is important to note that his preference is for a cool climate and he is prone to heatstroke and needs to be allowed to rest in a cool spot on a hot day.
– While intelligent, he is average in his learning ability and may be a little slow to house-train. He can also be slow to mature, taking maybe two or three years. It’s important to have some patience when training him. Given his large size it’s also important to begin training while he is young and is of more manageable height and weight.
– This breed can live quite happily with other pets. With other dogs he can be boisterous and can occasionally become aggressive. Swiss Mountain Dogs can usually live peacefully with cats but there are some that enjoy chasing them!
– This is not a high-maintenance dog in terms of care and grooming. His coat is average in shedding and needs a regular brush, and an occasional bath helps keep him clean.
– Having a strong personality means that he must know his place in the hierarchy or ‘pack’. For this reason obedience training is highly important for this dog. He is happiest when he has a strong master he can trust and follow. Knowing where he fits in also reduces his stress levels.
– This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, epilepsy and a condition known as distichiasis, which is the development of extra eyelashes. As mentioned above he is prone to heatstroke and should not be over-exercised, especially in hot weather. Life expectancy is about 10 or 11 years.
– The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a strong herding instinct and may even try to round up his family! He makes an excellent watchdog with his deep bark, which can sound a little intimidating to unwanted intruders. As well as making a great family pet he can also be a good working dog for herding, pulling carts and tracking.