History of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed
Likely descending from the Mastiffs that protected Caesar during his invasion of Switzerland, the Greater Swiss mountain dog was generally considered a farm dog, used for guarding and herding. It is believed that this breed is the oldest and largest of the four Sennenhund breeds which include: the Appenzell Cattle dog, the Entlebuch Cattle dog, and the Bernese mountain dog – all of whom descended from the Roman Mastiff. The Greater Swiss mountain dog was nicknamed “the poor man’s horse” because of its natural ability to draft. The Greater Swiss mountain dog lost popularity after the introduction of the St. Bernard to the point of almost becoming extinct. However, a dog show judge named Dr. Albert Heim rediscovered this rare breed in 1909 and encouraged the development of breeding programs. After some time, the Greater Swiss mountain dog became re-established. It was in the late 1960s that this dog was first introduced to America. While this breed is still quite rare, even in its homeland of Switzerland, it is now recognized by the American Kennel Club; and it is known for its abilities of tracking, guarding, and carting.
Size and Appearance of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed
Powerful and large, the Greater Swiss mountain dog is slightly longer than it is tall. Its sturdy appearance is due to its heavy bone structure and well-muscled physique. The front legs are strong and straight while the thighs are broad and muscular. The compact, rounded feet have well-arched toes. The neck has a clean line and is of moderate length. The almond-shaped eyes are typically brown and communicate a gentle, animated expression. The medium-size triangular ears, set high on the head, are rounded gently at the end, and when relaxed, hang in close proximity to the head. When the dog is alert, the ears rise at the base and are brought forward. The flat, broad skull features a large muzzle that is blunt and straight. The nose is almost always black in adult dogs. The tail, carried down when relaxed and higher when alert, is thick and tapers slightly at the end. The gait of this breed is powerful with good reach in the front. The topcoat, usually 1 ¼ -2 inches long, is dense, and the undercoat can be thick and visible. The base color of the coat is black and markings include rust-colored spots above each eye, on both cheeks, and on either side of the chest. White markings are found as a blaze on the muzzle, a large patch on the chest, and tipping on the tail.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament
Protective yet gentle in nature, the Greater Swiss mountain dog loves its family and is considered a good watchdog. It is very good with children and gets along well with other family pets, although it may need to be taught not to chase. It may be apprehensive with strangers until it knows the person is accepted by the family. This breed stays a puppy for quite a long time – sometimes taking two to three years to reach mental and physical maturity. The Greater Swiss mountain dog constantly wants to be around people. It is a loyal, affectionate addition to the family.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Recommended Maintenance
A bristle brush is recommended for grooming the coat of the Greater Swiss mountain dog. Typically brushing once a week is sufficient, but more frequent brushing may be required when the dog is shedding. This breed in considered to be an average shedder. Country living is best for the Greater Swiss mountain dog, because it enjoys being outdoors. But apartment living is fine if a small yard is available and regular exercise is provided. Daily exercise such as a long walk or vigorous play is essential to the well-being of this breed.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Health
Life span: 10 – 12 years
Major concerns: CHD, gastric torsion, elbow dysplasia
Minor concerns: panosteitis, OCD, distichiasis, entropion
Occasionally seen: ectropion
Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye