Probably one of the first things that you’re going to notice about a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is just how BIG he is. Because let’s face it, these guys are massive. In fact, they’re actually one of the biggest dog breeds in the world!
One of the reasons 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 which is being a wonderful family pet!
But just because…
We here at IndulgeYourPet happen to be huge fans of these guys doesn’t automatically mean that they are going to be the “right” kind of 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 in existence today.
The other four are the:
- And the Bernese.
And when we say…
Old, we mean old! Because it is believed that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is actually the direct descendent of Roman war dogs that accompanied the Roman soldiers when the invaded Switzerland over 2000 years ago.
These “war dogs”…
Were actually giant Mastiffs, which inevitably crossbred with the local dog population during that time which ultimately lead to the development of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog that we all know and love today.
That said however…
It wasn’t until the late 1800’s when a professor by the name of Alfred Heim began studying all of the Swiss mountain dogs as a whole did folks actually begin considering each breed that we know today as unique and individual breeds. And it is Heim’s work that is credited for ultimately having the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog becoming its own unique breed.
Despite the fact that the Greater Swiss Mountain dog had proved himself a worthy companion animal for nearly 2000 years, their numbers began to declined sharply by the early 20th century as Switzerland had become an industrialized country by then and Swiss farmers used machines rather than working dogs for farm work.
Right around this same time, these guys finally made it to the United States where they were well received which ultimately led to them being “officially” recognized as an independent breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1995.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Physical Characteristics
Clearly, the Swissy is a large breed so large in fact 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 extremely muscular and have a thick black outer coat that and a thicker inner coat that makes them look even larger than they actually are!
But don’t get us wrong…
Just because we keep dwelling on the size of these guys, make no mistake about it, their also quite handsome as well. Particularly with their “rust” and white marking on their bodies which really make their coats “bounce”!
Now for those who are super familiar with this breed, it’s often helpful to point out several breeds that somewhat resemble these guys so you can get a “feel” for what they may look like. And while many folks may disagree with comparing a Swiss Mountain Dog with several of the breeds that we’re about to mention, we have had folks tell us it’s helpful and we have had folks mistaken a Swissy for one of the following breeds so please forgive us for comparing them to the following:
- Bernese Mountain Dog,
- Alaskan Malamute,
- Great Pyrenees,
- Bull Terrier,
And the Entlebucher Mountain Dog.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament and Personality
One thing that almost always surprises folks who meet a well behaved Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is just how sweet these guys are. In fact, its fair to say that these guys have a very gentle soul.
And even though…
The are notorious for remaining very “puppy like” for the first 4 to 5 years of their life, they never really seem to get to rambunctious. It’s almost like they’re born calm.
But ready to play! Play with you, play with your kids and even play with other four-legged family members you may already have living with you!
That is of course…
If you do provide him or her with plenty of obedience training as a puppy and be sure to provide him or her with plenty of opportunities to interact with other dogs and other animals as a puppy.
Now the good news is…
That the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a really smart dog, that really wants to make you his owner happy. Which just happen to be two great traits to have in a dog that you want to train. This is why, if you’re willing to put in the work, you’re going to be rewarded greatly because these guys make great students and are really easy to train.
If you don’t put in the time and work with one of these guys, what you end up with is a really large dog that acts inappropriate. And this is when owning a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog becomes a real chore…. A chore you created for yourself!
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Health Issues
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:
- Hip Dysplasia,
- Elbow Dysplasia,
- Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD),
- Patellar Luxation,
- Gastric Torsion,
- Splenic Torsion,
- And a unique condition called Swissy Lick.
This may seem like a really long list, it should be pointed out that many of these conditions are simply health risks all large dog breeds suffer from and aren’t necessarily just a “Swissy” health concern.
A good thing, but it also stresses the point that at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what type of dog you end up adopting 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 right 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.