Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

"The Gentle Giant"

Photo of Greater Swiss Mountain Dog


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a long history dating back to the Roman Empire's glory days, when Roman legions brought along their large Mastiff -like dogs as they invaded the Alps. Those dogs mated with indigenous dogs to produce the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and other Swiss herding breeds such as the Bernese Mountain Dog. In addition, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is believed to be a progenitor of the Rottweiler and the Saint Bernard. Although the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has been in Europe for many centuries, the breed did not reach American shores until the late 1960s. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1983 as a member of the Miscellaneous Group, and achieved full recognition in the Working Group in 1995. In 2006, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog ranked 97th out of 154 breeds registered to the American Kennel Club.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a big sweetie-pie; despite his large size, he likes to cuddle with his people and may even think that he's a lap dog. He's generally placid and eager to please. However, he's no Casper Milquetoast: the AKC breed standard proclaims this dog to be “a bold, faithful and willing worker.” This boldness requires that a Swissy's people exhibit confidence and consistency when dealing with him. Because the dog was bred to perform many tasks, he may not seem to be as quick on the uptake as his more focused canine brethren, but he's more than willing to give a task his all.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog looks like a big, short-haired Bernese Mountain Dog (or, conversely, the Berner looks like a small, long-haired Swissy). These dogs are very large, ranging in height from 23.5 to 28.5 inches, and weigh between 90 and 130 pounds. Their short, double coats are tri-colored: black and white with tan patches.


Like all dogs, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog should receive socialization and training beginning in puppyhood. Consistent, positive training that continues throughout the dog's life will help him to live up to his full potential. Those who wish to engage in canine sports with their dogs will find the Swissy to exhibit considerable talent for weight-pulling and carting. He may be slower than most to grasp the principles of housetraining; a crate and a consistent feeding and potty schedule will shorten his learning curve.

Grooming & Care

The dog's coat stays healthy and shiny with regular brushing, which also helps to limit the shedding that occurs twice a year. Weekly ear cleanings and pedicures, plus periodic baths, will keep this dog looking his very best. Because the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was bred in the cool Swiss Alps, he does not tolerate heat well. Care must be taken during even mild weather to limit exercise to the coolest times of day. During heat waves, the best place for a Swissy is inside an air-conditioned house.

Health Concerns

Like all purebred dogs, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a few genetic health issues. The most common are elbow and hip dysplasia, bloat, eye abnormalities, and hypothyroidism. Dogs intended for breeding should receive OFA and CERF screenings before they embark upon parenthood.

Famous Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

A Swissy named Oscar The Grouch made the front page of the Wall Street Journal as he prepared to compete at Westminster.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 3
Schedule 34
Home 9
Children 48
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 61
Challenges Needs an assertive owner and a job to do
Height 23 to 29 inches
Weight 90 to 135 pounds
Life 10 to 11 years
Home Alone 20
With Kids 87
With Strangers 91
Availability 23

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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