Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog picture


The Swissy is considered both “new” and “old”. It was not recognised until 1909 in Switzerland and did not acquire full recognition into the Working Group by the American Kennel Club until 1995, and it is considered Switzerland’s oldest breed, dating back more than 2000 years to when the Romans entered this region. The Swissy had a significant influence in the development of the Rottweiler in Germany. In the US they have weight pulling competitions for Swissies as they were farming dogs and draught dogs.

In 1909, by accident, a pure specimen was exhibited at a show in Langental. The Judge, Dr. Albert Heim of Zurich, was delighted with him and called him ` an example of the almost extent Grosse Schweitzer Sennenhund’, and urged breeders to save the few remaining specimens. The dogs were then entered in the Berner category and Dr. Heim is further quoted as saying, “This dog belongs in a different category, he is too gorgeous and thoroughbred to push him aside as a poor example of a Berner”. So the the breed was recognised for definite by the SKG and entered as “Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund” in volume 12 (1909) of the Swiss Stud Book. In Berne, further examples were found which measured up to Heim’s description and were introduced systematically into pure breeding stock. In January 1912 the club for “Grosser Schweitzer Sennenhunde” was founded, which from then on took over the care and promotion of this breed. For a long period the breed remained small as it was particularly difficult to find suitable bitches. Only since 1933 could more than 50 dogs annually be entered into the SHSB (Swiss Stud Book).

The biggest population of the GSMD is in the US, then Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and some smaller European countries. Here in the UK their popularity is growing and we now have, as of 1st October 2008, KC Breed Recognition & Registrations & on Import Register.


The Swissies are a family dog and do not do kennels. A tricolour, sturdy, heavy boned and well muscled dog. In spite of his size and weight, he shows perseverance and mobility. Confident, alert, watchful and fearless in everyday situations. Good natured and devoted towards those familiar to him. Self assured with strangers.

They are a large dog and need time to grow into themselves hence they are kept lean till around 14-15 months. This breed is not built for speed so do not be thinking this dog can jog along side you because he can’t and you’ll do some serious damage to him. This dog is built for pulling and walking longer distances and to carry backpacks.

The Swissies are able and capable of doing obedience, agility, working trials, search and rescue and being Pets as Therapy, dogs. Firm handling from the start and keeping rules and boundaries in the home are a must for this breed along with socialising and regular training. They have higher chase and prey drives so they need the stimulation so do not forget this.

This breed does not cope with stress so be mindful of this. One female who was not 7 years old in the UK, suffered severe stress (lost most of her fur) and was put to sleep because no more could be done for her.


The Swissies, overall, are a healthy breed. The main disease is Epilepsy and within the breed club things will be policed and records kept as they do abroad. All adults are health screened and put through Character Tests before being bred from. Hip and Elbows are x-rayed and scored under the BVA/KC Scheme. Shoulders are x-rayed here and sent to Zurich the governing body in Switzerland for OCD assessment and OCD Free returned in most cases. Eyes are tested every year till 7 years and this again is under the BVA/KC scheme and done by a specialist. Hearts are also done but only the once and again by a specialist Cardiologist. Certificates are issued for all these health screens. Outside the UK nothing can be bred unless ED and OCD Free, Eyes Clear, Hips A or B.

Bloat is the next disease after Epilepsy and most large breeds can and do suffer with this. There is a regime which most stick to i.e. feeding then keeping calm for 1.5 – 2hours before being walked. Returning from walk no food given for 1.5-2 hours and bowls remain on the floor. A young male has already lost his life in the UK from Bloat.