Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Average Cost to keep/care for a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a large dog and one that's not that dissimilar to the Bernese Mountain Dog having the same charming coat colour and markings. They are known to have calm and trustworthy dispositions which is paired to a willingness to please. Today, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is still very highly prized in their native Switzerland for being a good family pet and with more breeders producing excellent examples of the breed here in the UK, these handsome large dogs are starting to find their way into the hearts and homes of many people over here and elsewhere in the world too.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is thought to be a descendant of dogs left in Switzerland by the Romans over 2000 years ago and it’s thought they have some Molosser in them. The dogs the Romans bought with them were crossed with local herding breeds and the result was a very distinct type. There are in fact four types of Sennenhund dog breeds which the Swiss classified by their coat colour and size, with one of them being the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and the Appenzeller, with all dogs being very similar looking.
However, other people believe these dogs are descendants of dogs the Phoenicians took with them when they travelled to Spain in 110 BC and that these dogs later found their way to the Swiss Alps. A third theory is that they are descendants of dogs found in Europe during the Neolithic Period of history.
Over time the breed was developed in the remote valleys of the Swiss Alps where they were used to herd and guard livestock and to pull milk wagons which they often did in pairs, but Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were also kept as watchdogs and family pets on remote farms. The breed was first recognised in their native Switzerland in 1910 when they were referred to as the Grosser Schweizer Sennehund.
In the 20th century, the breed's popularity grew throughout Europe, although these handsome dogs are still considered quite a rare breed both in their native Switzerland and elsewhere in the world. A breed club was set up in American in 1968 and later in 1995, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was accepted into the American Kennel Club and the breed is Kennel Club in the Working Dog group.
Height at the withers: Males 65 - 72 cm, Females 60 - 68 cm
Average weight: Males 60 - 70 kg, Females 50 - 60 kg
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have the same charming markings and coat colour as their Bernese Mountain Dog cousins with the one difference being their coats are shorter and therefore they require a lot less in the way of grooming. They have strong, large heads with a flat, broad skull. They have a slight furrow and stop with their muzzles being square and longer than they are deep. Their eyes are a nice almond shape, medium in size and can be a lovely hazel to dark brown in colour with dogs always having a kind, alert expression in them.
Their ears are set quite high, medium in size and nicely covered in hair being triangular in shape and they lie flat when a dog is relaxed, but they bring their ears forward when alert. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are moderately long, very strong and muscular, without any dewlap. Shoulders are strong, long, well-muscled and sloping with dogs having straight, well boned front legs.
They have well developed, broad chests and nicely developed forechests. Ribs are well laid back and slightly rounded and their backs are level and strong with dogs having well-muscled and broad loins. Their croup is broad, gently sloping and long with dogs having nicely developed first and second thighs. Feet are well arched, compact and round with very strong nails. Their tails are set level with the croup which dogs hang down when resting, but raised when on the move or alert.
When it comes to their coat, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a dense double coat with their outer coat being moderately long and the undercoat being either grey or black in colour. The accepted coat colour is as follows:
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is known to be a trustworthy, loyal and calm character that becomes totally devoted to their families. They like nothing more than to be in a home environment and are always eager and willing to learn new things which in short, means in the right hands, these handsome large dogs are easy to train. They are highly intelligent and as such they need to be given lots of mental stimulation to keep them occupied and happy.
They are confident dogs by nature and because they are always so alert to what's going on around them, they are always quick to let an owner know when there is anyone around or when something they don’t like is happening around them. With this said, because they are so self-assured, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog readily accepts being around people they don't know as long as their owners are about.
These handsome, large dogs are a great choice for first time owners, thanks to their trustworthy and kind natures, however, anyone wanting to share a home with a GSMD would need to have a large house and ideally, a very big back garden where their dogs would be able romp around in whenever they can.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is highly intelligent and they love to please which when added together means they are quick to learn new things. In the right hands and with the correct amount of socialisation from a young enough age, these charming dogs learn things quickly and they thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one attention they are given during a training session. The downside is, that a GSMD learns the bad things just as quickly which is why their training and handling has to be consistent.
Puppies need to be well socialised from a young age and this should include introducing them to as many new situations, noises, people other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. This goes a long way in helping dogs mature into well-rounded and well behaved characters no matter what situation they find themselves in.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog thrives in a family environment and are known to be very good and gentle with children of all ages. However, because they are such large dogs, care has to be taken when they are around toddlers just in case they knock a child over albeit by mistake which could end up frightening or hurting a child.
If well socialised from a young age, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog usually gets on well with other dogs. Rarely would one of them show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards another dog. If they grow up with a family cat in the home, they generally get on well together, but they might chase off a neighbour's cat if the opportunity ever arises. However, care has to be taken when they are round any smaller animals and pets, just in case.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is between 8 and 11 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, the GSMD needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a short dense, double coat, but they are considered to be low maintenance. A weekly brush is all it takes to keep their coats looking good and tangle-free. They shed throughout the year, only more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is typically necessary to keep on top of any loose and shed hair.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Although not high energy dogs, the GSMD is a highly intelligent dog and therefore they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise combined with enough mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well rounded dogs. As such they need at least 60 minutes exercise a day and more if possible.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, GSMD puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Greater Swiss Mountain puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because the GSMD is known to suffer from bloat, it is really important for them to be fed twice a day instead of giving a dog just one larger meal a day. It's also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls which makes it easier for these large dogs to eat comfortably without having to stretch their necks down to reach their food. Dogs should never be exercised just before or just after they have eaten either because this puts them more at risk of suffering from bloat.
If you are looking to buy a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, you would need to register your interest with breeders because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year and you would need to pay upwards of £500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in northern England would be £64.15 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £114.54 a month (quote as of June 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £60 - £70 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a GSMD and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1500 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog would be between £130 to £190 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree or other puppy.
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