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Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed… Everything That You Need to Know at a Glance!

Probably one of the first things you’ll notice about a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is just how BIG he is. Because, let’s face it, these guys are massive. They’re one of the most giant dog breeds in the world! This is one reason why these guys were so popular back when they were first created. You see, back in the day, these massive working dogs were capable of performing all sorts of manual labor tasks, such as:

  • Carrying or pulling loads (AKA draft dogs),
  • Herding livestock,

And functioning as excellent guard dogs as well.

But these days…

These massive guys are more typically used for what they are best suited for, being a wonderful family pet! But just because we here at IndulgeYourPet are huge fans of these guys doesn’t automatically mean they will be the “right” dog for you. This is why, in this article, we hope to shed some light on what it might be like to own one of these magnificent animals so that if you’re ever lucky enough to have an opportunity to make one of them your own, you’ll know if that’s going to be a good option or not!

So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Fast Facts

Country of Origin: Switzerland

Original Purpose:  Draft dog, “farm hand” and guardian

Height: 23.5 to 28.5 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 85 to 140 pounds

Average Lifespan: 8-11 years

Alternative Names or Nicknames:  Great Swiss Mountain Dog, Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund or Swissy

Dog Breed Classification:  Working group

Origin of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered the oldest and largest of the four varieties of Swiss Mountain Dogs that we still have today. The other four are the:

  • Appenzeller,
  • Entlebucher,
  • And the Bernese.

And when we say old, we mean old! It is believed that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the direct descendent of Roman war dogs that accompanied the Roman soldiers when they invaded Switzerland over 2000 years ago.

These “war dogs”…

They were giant Mastiffs, which inevitably crossbred with the local dog population during that time, ultimately leading to the development of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog that we all know and love today. However, it wasn’t until the late 1800s, when a professor named Alfred Heim began studying all of the Swiss mountain dogs as a whole, that folks started considering each breed that we know today as a unique and individual species. And Heim’s work is credited for ultimately having the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog become its special breed.

Ironically, even though the Greater Swiss Mountain dog had proved himself a worthy companion animal for nearly 2000 years, their numbers began to decline sharply by the early 20th century as Switzerland had become an industrialized country, and Swiss farmers used machines rather than working dogs for farm work.


Around this time, these guys finally made it to the United States, where they were well received. This ultimately led to them being “officially” recognized as an independent breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1995.

Physical Characteristics

The Swissy is a large breed, so large that the Swissy Breed Standard states that it’s perfectly acceptable for these guys to reach up to 28.5 inches in shoulder height and weigh up to 140 pounds! But it’s not just the size and weight of this dog that makes it so BIG. They’re also highly muscular and have a thick black outer coat and a thicker inner coat that makes them look even more significant than they are!

But don’t get us wrong, just because we keep dwelling on the size of these guys, make no mistake about it, they’re also quite handsome as well.   Their “rust” and white markings on their bodies make their coats “bounce”!

Comparisons breeds

For those familiar with this breed, it’s often helpful to point out several species that somewhat resemble these guys so you can get a “feel” for what they may look like. While many folks may disagree with comparing a Swiss Mountain Dog with several breeds we’re about to mention, we have had folks tell us it’s helpful, We have had folks mistake a Swissy for one of the following breeds, so please forgive us for comparing them to the following:

And the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.

Temperament and Personality

One thing that almost always surprises folks who meet a well-behaved Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is how sweet these guys are. It’s fair to say that these guys have a very gentle soul. And even though they are notorious for remaining very “puppy-like” for the first 4 to 5 years of their life, they never really seem to get too rowdy. It’s almost like they’re born calm.

Born calm…

But ready to play! Play with you, your kids, and even other four-legged family members you may already have living with you! That is, of course, if you provide them with plenty of obedience training as a puppy and be sure to offer them plenty of opportunities to interact with other dogs and other animals as a puppy.

The excellent news is…

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is intelligent and wants to make you, his owner, happy. These are two great traits to have in a dog you want to train. If you’re willing to do the work, you will be rewarded significantly because these guys are great students and easy to prepare. Unfortunately, if you don’t put in the time and work with one of these guys, what you end up with is a huge dog that misbehaves. And this is when owning a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog becomes a real chore….  A chore you created for yourself!

Potential Health Concerns

The Swissy dogs are among the healthiest dog breeds in the world. After all, they come from the Swiss Mountains, where the air is pure and fresh and the environment pristine and clean.

But there are some health conditions they are known to suffer from. Health conditions such as:

While this may seem like a long list, it should be pointed out that many of these conditions are health risks all large dog breeds suffer from and aren’t necessarily just “Swissy” health concerns. This is a good thing, but it also stresses that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what type of dog you adopt. There are always medical issues or accidents that can arise.

For this reason…

We here at IndulgeYourPet also recommend that any new pet owner take a moment and see what it might cost for you to purchase a pet insurance policy for your new animal.

Now, will a pet insurance policy be suitable for everyone?

No, probably not. But until you fully understand what these policies “will” and “won’t” cover and how much these pet insurance policies cost, how will you know if one might be right for you?

For more information on who we feel currently offers the “best” pet insurance policies out there, we would encourage you to check out our Best Pet Insurance Policies article.

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