What is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog?

wiseGEEK Writing Contest

A member of the Working Group, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has been lovingly named “the poor man’s horse” in its native Switzerland. These dogs are capable of doing everything required to be the best hired hand on a farm.

Drafting is one of the most common uses for the dogs in their native land. Quick to learn to pull a wagon or cart makes them an essential asset to local farmers. As pets, the dogs can be encouraged to draft, competing against other dogs of their class or simply pulling wagons for fun and extra help around the garden.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, or Swissies, are also excellent guard dogs. They will alert their owners to the slightest changes in the environment, whether it is an intruding pest, an unwanted guest or even a misplaced garbage can. The Swissy notices everything and makes it known to everyone around him.

Another benefit to the local farmers of Switzerland is that these dogs can make great herding dogs. They are capable of keeping livestock in line while protecting them from potential predators and dangers.

This is a large dog, heavily boned with thick muscles. He is marked in a striking tri-colored formation and is large, powerful and confident. Males range from 25 to 29 inches to the shoulders while females are slightly smaller at 24 to 27 inches. The dogs typically weigh anywhere between 80 and 130 pounds. There are four Swiss Mountain Dogs; Bernese Mountain Dog, Appenzellar, Entlebucher and the Great Swiss being the largest and oldest.

Even at their large size they can do well in apartment living provided they are given enough exercise and are able to spend a lot of time with their family. The Swissy has one desire and that is to simply be a part of the family. They don’t do well as strictly outdoor dogs with minimal interaction. The best living situation for the Swissy is to be an inside dog where he can constantly keep his family under his supervision.

Several health conditions may be encountered with this breed. Hip displaysia, epilepsy, digestive disorders, distichiasis and various cancers. Bloat is a common problem with these deep chested dogs so one should limit large meals and excessive exercise directly after meals.

This short haired breed does have a thick undercoat that may require daily brushing during shedding season. However, excessive grooming is not necessary for Swissies.

Loving, eager to please, loyal, watchful and protective, the breed is a definite family dog. As they can be territorial, courageous and always alert they should be introduced to strangers slowly but if all is well and no threat remains, the Swissy usually warms up to people quickly.

This is an excellent dog for the seasoned dog owner but probably not for the first time dog owner. However, most are great with children and other family pets. Their personality boils down to one thing; they want to mesh with the family and be with them at all times. Simply, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a member of the family.

submitted by Faith Eversole