The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large and heavy-boned dog breed which is also called the “Swissy”. It is an enthusiastic dog that loves people so much. It was developed to be an all-around working dog, herding cattle, pulling carts, and standing guard. But today, they are now considered as family pets and they excel in different dog sports like agility and weight pulling. Let us know more about the history and characteristics of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
History of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is known to be one of the oldest among the Swiss breeds. It was involved during the early development of the St. Bernard and the Rottweiler. There are different theories about the ancient origins of the Swiss Sennenhund breeds but the most popular one states that the dogs were descended from the Mollasian, which was a large Mastiff-type dog that accompanied the Roman Legions when they invaded the Alpsin in the 1st century B.C.
However, based on the second theory, the Phoenicians (1100 B.C.) brought with them a large breed of dog to settlements in Spain and these dogs later migrated eastward to influence the development of large Swiss breeds such as the Spanish Mastiff, Dogue de Bordeaux, and Great Pyrenees.
Another possibility was that a large breed was indigenous to central Europe far back as the Neolithic period. But whether or not a large breed existed during the Roman invasion of the Alpine regions, it is somewhat clear that the Roman dogs would have been bred with them. It then resulted to several breeds including the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, St. Bernard, and Bernese Mountain Dog and most of them descended from the Roman Mollasian.
In central Europe, the early ancestors of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were used by farmers, herdsmen, and merchants. They were used to pull loads and guard. In the 19th century, the ancestors of the modern Greater Swiss Mountain Dog were widely used in central Europe by farmers and tradesmen and they were usually called Metzgerhunde, or “Butcher’s Dogs”. They became one of the most popular dogs in Switzerland. However, by the 1900’s, their numbers decreased because of the increasing availability of mechanized transport as an alternative to the traditional use of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs as draft dogs.
In 1908, Albert Heim, a canine researcher, spotted two dogs at a Swiss Kennel Club jubilee which are listed as “short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs”. The researcher recognized the dogs as being large members of the Sennenhund type, which is a family of four breeds including the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. He lobbied to get the dogs recognized as a separate breed. The Swiss Kennel Club listed the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in the Swiss Stud Book in 1909.
After that, its popularity grew slowly but steadily. The first Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was brought to the United States in 1968, and later on, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America was established. In 1995, it was recognized by the American Kennel Club as a member of the Working Group.
Characteristics of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Average size: 1 foot and 11 inches to 2 feet and 4 inches
Average weight: 85 to 140 pounds
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a working dog breed that can live from 7 to 9 years. Males can grow from 25.5 to 28.5 inches tall and can weigh 105 to 140 pounds. Females on the other hand, can grow from 23.5 to 27 inches tall and can weigh from 85 to 110 pounds. The breed has a denser outer coat and a thick undercoat. It has a distinct color, with a black outer coat and rust and white markings on the face and body.
It has a gentle, alert, and fun loving personality, but not it is not an easygoing, pushover dog. In fact, they are confident canines that have their own ideas, meaning, they are also stubborn at times. They have a bold personality and they do best with owners who are kind but confident leaders. The breed is also alert and observant and it is always on the lookout. It can also bark loudly, which can alert you whenever they see something out of the ordinary. This means that they are great watchdogs, however, they are not that aggressive.
Caring for a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Since the Swissy is a large, working dog, it is not suited to live in apartments and condominiums. It’s because it needs room to roam around. Therefore, a home with a large and securely fenced yard is ideal for them. And even though they are large dogs, they only need moderate amount of exercise.
They also do great in cold climates, in fact, they love to romp in the snow. However, they are prone to heatstroke. So, do not let them do exercise when it’s hot and limit your outings to cool early mornings or evenings. It’s better to keep them inside with fans or air conditioning during the heat of the day. Always make sure that he has shade when he’s outside, and let him drink a lot of water.
For Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, grooming is not complicated because their short coats are easy to care for and they are naturally clean. You can simply brush them once or twice a week and bathe them when needed using a mild shampoo. You should also brush their teeth and trim their nails to keep them looking fresh and clean.
When feeding them, the recommended daily amount is 4 to 5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals. Make sure that you do not feed them too much because large breed puppies like the Swissy are prone to orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia. The amount of food you should give must depend on your pet’s age, size, build, activity level, and metabolism.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is another great breed you can keep at home as a pet and as a guard dog. They are also great to take with you on adventures such as hiking, backpacking, and herding because of their strong characteristics.