The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog – affectionately called “Swissy” – is a robust dog from the working group. The way he even holds himself suggests pride and strength. He is an all-around working dog and tries his paw at many different activities.
There is some controversy over where the Swissy originated. Some think that he was bred from the large, powerful dogs that the Roman Legions had, while others think that the Phoenicians had some large dogs that they brought to Spain with them that later developed into the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog that we have today.
The Swissy stands at about 23-28 inches and weighs approximately 100-155 pounds. Yes, that is a very big dog!
GSMDs need little grooming other than a weekly brushing to keep shedding at the minimum. Yes, they do shed as they have double coats, so keep a vacuum handy!
The Swissy might not be the best idea for you if you like to have a calm household or have very small children. Swissy puppies love to run, jump, snap, etc, as all young dogs do. As puppies, they grow very fast and easily break things on accident. Also, they could easily knock over a child and inadvertently hurt them.
Though some Swissys can adjust to outdoor living, this dog is a “people” dog. In other words, he loves to be near his people and do whatever they are doing. Please don’t leave your Swissy outside alone all day! He will be miserable and develop bad habits such as digging, chewing, barking, and even being aggressive from lack of contact with people.
If you choose to get a GSMD, be aware of the responsibility you are taking on. You will have to handle a dog who is far more powerful than you. If he chose to, your Swissy could drag you into the street and into oncoming traffic! These dogs are also renowned for their guarding instincts. They will watch your yard and house and tell you if someone is coming. However, if properly raised, they should be reluctant to bite or attack unless they think it is very serious. Therefore, in order to teach your dog to be cautious of biting/attacking innocent people, YOU HAVE TO SOCIALIZE HIM/HER. Get him around as many different people, places, situations, and animals as possible. If frightened by something new, this powerful dog could cause a whole lot of terrible damage. It’s your responsibility to make sure you get your Swissy socialized. Please don’t put this off!! If you do, you will end up with a huge dog you can’t control or take out in public. You will have to make sure that your Swissy does not grow up aggressive. I heartily recommend that you enroll your GSMD in puppy and, later, dog obedience classes. This way, he will be in a different situation and around other people and dogs. If you ever see aggression in your dog, consult a professional dog trainer right away.
From the minute you put a leash on your Swissy puppy, you CANNOT let him pull. If you let him do this, he will pull you on the sidewalk, jerk the leash out of your hands, and run into a possibly dangerous situation. He is EXTREMELY strong and can easily do this. Yes, right now you are much, much more powerful than your little pup, but very soon he will be more strong than you. Please read my post The Days of Being Dragged Down the Street Are Over! to help you start teaching him not to pull. If you already have a grownup Swissy who pulls, consult a professional dog trainer.
Swissys are highly adaptable with exercising. Usually, when you’re tired, they’re tired. However, this doesn’t mean that the GSMD can’t participate in dog sports. He just wants to be with you, so he will be more than happy to accompany you on this exciting adventure. Remember that, even though this dog isn’t big on exercising, you still need to get him moving. If he lays around all day, he will eventually get fat. So, with that said, make sure you take your Swissy on daily walks/runs and that you play games like fetch that will get him moving.
GSMDs excel in many different dog sports. They are good at herding, agility, obedience, drafting, conformation, rally, and tracking. Because these dogs love to pull, they are also excellent at weight pulling.
The Swissy is only supposed to be black with tan and white markings. Other colors, which still appear, such as pure white or rust, are deemed unqualified by the various kennel clubs.
The Swissy has to be trained if you want a good, obedient dog. Basic commands such as sit, lay down, and come will keep this large, powerful dog under control. Though this dog can be a bit stubborn, they can learn with time and patience. Again, I recommend that you enroll your puppy/dog in an obedience class where a professional can show you how to teach your dog. Always make sure the trainer only uses positive methods with absolutely no yelling, hitting, or snapping the leash as punishment.
Sometimes, you will hear something in the news about a large dog attacking someone. This can be very frightening when you think of a 100+ pound dog biting you! However, these attacks are not the dog’s fault. It’s the owner’s. The owner probably didn’t socialize the dog or train him in basic obedience. Or, even worse, the owner encouraged aggression, thinking that it would mold the dog into the perfect guard. It didn’t. The dog attacked an innocent person. NEVER encourage aggression in your Swissy. Even when he is only a little puppy, correct biting and nipping. Think of it this way: Do I want the behavior in this 9 pound puppy in a 100+ pound dog? Be a responsible dog owner and take the time to teach your GSMD what is right.
The Swissy is usually very good with children, though he will sometimes tip them over by accident because of his large size. However, no dog, no matter how sweet, should be left alone with children. Kids will pull on tails, ears, and try to ride dogs, much to their disgust! Dogs can only tolerate so much. Don’t expect your dog to be an angel and take any child’s persistent pokes and tugs. Explain to your children that they must never tease, hit, or yell at their new dog.
GSMDs are loved for their adaptability and jovial attitude towards life. They’re loyal, fun, and really don’t realize just how large they are. They would love to be up on your lap, playing lapdog!