Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT ARE THEY LIKE WITH CHILDREN?
Most GSMD’s adore children. They can become protective towards them and they also may try to herd them which is all part of the natural nature of Swissies. With this in mind it is a good idea to have an area in the home where the puppy/dog can be placed on its own when required to teach it that it does not always have to look after the children. A utility room, kitchen or maybe a penned area is perfect. Please note: No dog should ever be left unsupervised with children, especially toddlers or exuberant older children.
Overall the GSMD is a good family dog and becomes firm friends and even playmates with the children of the house. However, children should always be taught to behave appropriately with all animals and, particularly whilst the dog is still a puppy, care should be taken to give the dog respite from attentions of small children as it needs plenty of rest and a child free resting area should be strictly maintained.
HOW MUCH DO THEY EAT?
Generally not nearly as much as some people think. GSMD’s are classed as a large to giant breed. Whilst growing puppies do need a good quality diet for the first few years of their life, as the dog reaches maturity its nutritional needs are not so great and more harm than good will be done by overfeeding.
Specific advice cannot be given as to which diet is best. Each individual dog will need varying amounts as just like people all dogs are unique and lifestyle and exercise will play a part. The rule has to be to follow the guidelines for any particular food but most of all take advice from your breeder or another experienced owner if you are not sure. Weigh your Swissy regularly so that you are aware of your dog’s weight in order to accurately assess feeding from directions given by manufacturers but remember to take into account whether your dog is over or underweight and adjust accordingly.. Many people have their own preferences but most Swissies will eat all that you give them and can easily become overweight if allowed so some strictness can be required. An overweight Swissy is not an attractive sight and the consequences on general health and joints can be very serious. A fully grown adult male should weight somewhere between 60 – 65kgs and a fully grown female should weight somewhere between 50 – 60kgs.
It is important that dogs, especially young puppies, are not given excessive supplements. Most modern complete feeds are scientifically researched to have correct amounts of vitamins, minerals etc. Serious harm can be done to the young growing dog by over nourishment.
Many people feed their own dietary combinations, usually based on more natural based regimes, but this can need experienced judgment and it is a fact that many Swissies do very well on modern complete foods. It is important that you find a settled diet for your dog and, if introducing changes, you do this gradually.
Most owners feed their Swissies two small meals a day instead of one large one which can help to reduce the chances of developing gastric torsion or bloat, however this does NOT guarantee bloat will never affect your dog as food is only one factor. Bloat is a very serious problem of trapped gases in the digestive tract causing twisting and expansion of the gut. This is not only an extremely painful condition but can be fatal within a few hours if not recognised and urgent veterinary surgery is required if the dog is to have a chance of survival. If ever you are worried your dog may have bloat you need to contact your vet immediately whatever the time, tomorrow morning will be too late. Most animals can suffer from this condition and it is by no means restricted to Swissies. To further reduce the risk of gastric torsion exercise should not be taken immediately (an hour) before or after (within 2 hours) feeding.
DO THEY GET ON WITH OTHER ANIMALS AND PETS?
GSMD’s origins are as Swiss farm dogs so it is normally inherent in their nature to be very tolerant of other friendly animals. Any dog will be curious about cats and other domestic animals it comes across but a rush to investigate, especially from a puppy, should not be interpreted as aggression. Swissies generally are very ambivalent to other animals having a natural curiosity but not exhibiting any hostility. Many live very happily with cats, other dogs and farm animals, even rabbits and guinea pigs, when introduced from a young puppy.
Often Swissies will have a high prey drive and some have been known to chase sheep, deer etc. and the usual common sense controls over any dog should be enforced whenever appropriate. Unless your dog is 100% trustworthy around animals always keep on a lead when around livestock especially sheep and lambs. Many Swissies will chase any animal that runs but leave alone any animal that stands its ground, including cats. They can be taught from a young age not to chase by teaching the ‘leave it’ command.
ARE THEY GOOD "HOUSE" DOGS?
GSMD’s are happiest when living in the home with their family. They do not enjoy kennel life as they just want to be with people. They are generally wary of strangers and will bark to let you know someone is around, but very accepting of friends and family who they all love, equally. They are classed more of as an alert dog than a guard dog. Although they may bark when they first have something to be excited about most Swissies will quickly settle down again. They are not generally constant barkers.
They do shed almost constantly with heavy moults twice a year. Regular brushing during these periods will greatly reduce the amount of hair indoors.
Their sheer presence of a decent sized dog, coupled with a very loud bark is often enough to deter a stranger from entering.
HOW MUCH DO THEY COST?
You should expect to pay between £1500 – £2000. One does sometimes hear of a few puppies being advertised or sold for much more but generally these seem to be from breeders (and usually dogs) that few people have heard of and so we can make no comment as to the general quality of the puppies or the “after sales” and advice you may receive. Frequently reputable breeders will supply the dog with a limited insurance and indeed the ABS requires breeders to supply insurance. In recent years the legal requirements on breeders have changed and the new Animal Welfare Act from October 2018 only increases their legal responsibilities.
Many overseas breeders advertise their puppies at significantly lower prices just for a quick sale, but by the time you factor in the cost of transport they end up no cheaper, in fact often they can be more expensive. Whilst some of these puppies are healthy there are significant numbers of buyers who have serious issues and end up spending more on vet’s fees as well as potentially rehoming the dog who has problems as it is not so easy to return an imported dog to the breeder. .
Whilst a first impression may be that breeders must make lots of money, proper breeding is a complicated business and should not be taken lightly. Health tests, stud fees and expenses, expected and unexpected veterinary bills and high costs of quality diets can combine to make litter rearing a financially costly affair not to mention the demands on time and energy in rearing a litter. Breeding and selling dogs should not be undertaken lightly and the responsibility to new owners and the puppies does not come easily to some people. The legal implications if the dog develops any problems are also something a serious breeder will have considered.
Sometimes a breeder may have larger costs to recover, maybe the cost of importing a dog and may decide to charge a little more than the usual rate. A few breeders may decide to charge more for puppies from very well-known successful show dogs which cost money to campaign or charge higher stud fees. Very few breeders will charge less for pet quality as opposed to show quality dogs although sometimes obvious faults, such as blue eyes or badly mismarked may be sold at a reduced price. One reason for this is that it can be very difficult to tell with certainty at the age when the puppies are sold how they will develop and many breeders take the view that all their puppies are pets first and foremost and any show potential is just a bonus. As they should be viewed as excluding the dog from breeding many breeders will give a reduction in price for an obvious, but otherwise generally harmless, fault such as badly mismarked. Your breeder should always be willing to give advice and feeding instructions and always be available for follow up assistance. Good breeders will gladly answer your awkward questions, as well as asking you a few, and if you are not happy with any response then the advice has to be to walk away and take further advice from elsewhere. Often your breeder will require you to take your puppy to your vet within a few days to have a complete check up to confirm that your puppy has been supplied in a good healthy state.
Lastly, one important fact to remember when assessing price is that paying a higher price is absolutely no guarantee of a better quality puppy. In fact a higher than average price may indicate that the breeder’s motives may be about money rather than improving the breed. Ask the breeder what he/she does for the breed and their reasons for breeding as well as the obvious questions regarding any health tests and character assessment on both parents and the results. Always ask to see copies of health tests.
WHICH IS BEST - A DOG OR A BITCH?
This is a very common question amongst those who have decided to buy their first GSMD. The answer is very much a personal issue but there are some factors you may wish to consider. Most people would agree that the dogs can be that little bit more impressive in appearance but on the other hand some will prefer a pretty bitch. Obviously if you want to breed you need a bitch, but if you don’t want to breed then to avoid the inconvenience of seasons then many people would recommend spaying bitches at some stage whereas some would say get a dog in the first place if you don’t want to cope with seasons. Bitches should not be spayed until at least 2 years old when fully mature. Also remember approximately 25% of all spayed bitches, of any breed, develop incontinence after spaying. This is something vets will not warn you of. Similarly if neutering a dog wait until he is over 2 years old and fully mature. Early spaying/neutering leads to tall, leggy under-developed adults. Once spayed/neutered they will be prone to put on weight.
In terms of temperament I have always found the dogs and bitches very faithful. An obvious difference is size (and weight), there is quite a range from the largest dog to the smaller bitches and the latter may fit into your house and car more easily. See breed standard for average sizes.
Some might have experienced a “problem” dog which has improved after castration but this drastic course of action often makes no difference and should not be considered a routine cure all. Usually these kind of problems can be best avoided by recognising the need for good behavioural training early on in life especially as Swissies are a powerful dog. Most Swissies are easy going and very biddable but, like all breeds, there are a few which can become dominant and contrary to what some will tell you, this can just as easily be a dog or a bitch. First time owners of this type of dog may need good support or problems can quickly develop, training from an early age is essential.
Back to the original question I’m afraid the only advice that can be given is to meet and get to know as many examples of each as you can and make your own mind up. As previously make sure you see dogs and bitches in domestic environment not just at a show to judge them in the context in which you will have to live with them. Many owners will be happy to welcome you into their home to meet their dogs and discuss their experiences of the breed.
ARE THEY EASY TO TRAIN?
GSMD’s are generally easy to train so long as it is done correctly on a reward basis. The main reason for this is that most Swissies are very responsive to treats and titbits etc and once they have “learnt to learn” rapid progress can be made. On an everyday life front this can easily translate into learning acceptable behaviour and basic commands as long as YOU take the trouble to learn how to do it correctly.
WHERE CAN I SEE SOME GREAT SWISS MOUNTAIN DOGS?
The obvious answer is at a show or other club event but it is always recommended that you also try to see Swissies in a domestic environment before deciding to take one into your home. The lovely dog you saw in a show may look very different when putting his chin on your dinner table or blocking out the television. The club should be able to provide you with names of owners in your area who will be willing to let you meet their dogs and ask more questions.
Club events are available from this web site and General Championship show dates can be obtained from the Kennel Club. (For this you need to know that GSMD’s are members of the Working Group as these shows spread over several days and you need to attend on the correct day).
It is worth noting that the contacts you make at this stage may well be important later in helping you find a puppy if you do subsequently decide to own a Swissy.
WHAT ARE THE COMMON AILMENTS AND HOW LONG DO GSMD’s LIVE?
The GSMD is considered a relatively healthy breed. There are currently no notifiable health conditions within the breed. That said it is recommended that all breeding stock should be health tested for Hips (HD), Elbows (ED), Shoulders (OCD) and an eye test every 3 years. A Character Assessment should also be undertaken before breeding to ensure a sound temperament. As with all large/giant breeds they can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia and OCD of the shoulder is prevalent in some lines. A few have distichiasis and entropion and some may have cataracts although these conditions are quite rare within the breed. All lines have epilepsy in their history and there is no such thing as a clean line. Epilepsy can crop up in any line but breeders should ensure they know their lines and the epilepsy is as far back as possible with no doubling up in pedigrees where it is known to have occurred. Bloat is another condition that affects all deep chested dogs and the Swissy is no exception.
The average lifespan of a GSMD is 9-10 years. Many make double digits and some have lived to 13 years old.
Please see the health section of this site where many of the issues are dealt with in more detail. In the meantime your best advice is to ask as many breeders and owners as you can and evaluate their replies against all the others. If you have a GSMD then we would ask you to contribute to the various health schemes that are run by the club from time to time, usually through the Great Swiss Mountain Dog Breed Health Co-ordinator.
HOW DO I FIND A BREEDER AND A PUPPY?
There are currently only a small number of GSMD breeders in the UK. You can find a list on the Puppies page. The Kennel Club hold a list of all the UK Assured Breeders. Once you have met the breed and spoken to as many owners and breeders as possible it is best to put your name on a waiting list for a puppy. At times there are not many puppies to be found. Often your best hope will be a good contact you have made during your enquiries, sometimes the club may be able to help but often breeders have more puppy buyers on a waiting list than they have puppies to sell. The wait for a puppy may be a few months to a year or more so patience is required.
However, do not despair. Sometimes breeders may deliberately take the discouraging approach when you first contact them but are willing to let you see the puppies. This may be to assess you and your family as potential owners before promising you a puppy. Remember most breeders main objective is to place the puppies in the best possible homes so even if they don’t have a puppy for you this time you may be first in line next time or they may be able to recommend you to someone else.
Established and reputable breeders rarely need to advertise puppies. Beware of any puppies for sale in publications such as the local “Free Advert” type of paper or on the internet, particularly Facebook. Whilst we cannot comment here on any specific people these are not normally the place to find puppies from reputable breeders who, in GSMD’s at least, will usually have more than enough buyers via word of mouth or contacts from club events and shows or passed on via enquiries to clubs or other breeders. Whilst this situation may change from time to time it is relatively rare to see GSMD puppies advertised anywhere so buyer beware and it is recommended that you make your own contacts. There seems to be more and more breeders with no real interest in the breed beyond how much they can get for their puppies. Horror stories from people who have purchased puppies from these types of breeders are becoming more and more common so please beware. Ask any prospective puppy seller about the health of your puppy’s relatives, not just hip and elbow scores. Often this information will be offered but if the breeder has difficulty answering your questions then it is probably something they haven’t considered. If you aren’t happy for any reason then walk away.
Important: Do not part with any money before the puppies are born and a puppy has been allocated toyou
HOW IMPORTANT ARE MARKINGS?
Markings are sometimes taken out of context by beginners. People worry that the tan on their puppy’s cheek may not be exactly symmetrical or they have a little more white on one foot than another or there is no white tip on the tail etc. Exact comment on these matters is an individual matter of degree and whilst it is true that absolutely perfect markings would be aspired to by all of us, most breeders and judges would say that as long as the markings are basically correct there are far more important structural and temperament issues to concentrate on. Having said that we would not want to loose the beautiful tri-coloured markings which are a big part of the breed’s attraction and so more seriously mismarked dogs should not be bred from. However mismarked dogs can still have a full and normal life and can be found in displays pulling carts and working in other areas and can sometimes be obtained more cheaply from breeders because they should not be bred from.
Puppies sometimes have small pink patches around their lips and noses, these will normally disappear as the dog grows and as a general rule the white areas on your puppy will shrink a little as he or she grows, if you haven’t noticed compare photos of a dog when mature and as a puppy. Sometimes a clear faced puppy will develop freckles as it matures but again these are nothing to worry about.
Blue eyes are a fault in the show ring and should not be bred from. However a blue eye is nothing to worry about regarding the health of the pet puppy.
WHAT ACTIVITIES CAN I DO WITH MY GREAT SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG?
One of the attractions of GSMD is their versatility. One of the first things you will do with your first Swissy is draw a crowd when you take him/her out. You will soon learn that Swissies are people magnets and most of them know it and delight in the attention!
As they are generally very willing to please, especially for a treat, Swissies can be easy to train for all manner of tasks. At the club fun events you will see “pet” owners trying carting, agility, obedience, showing and having great fun in the novelty events. Most of these dogs will only try this on the one day of the year and the Swissy adaptability is clearly demonstrated. For the more serious Swissies can successfully enjoy competing in obedience, agility (but best to restrict some of the apparatus due to their weight), Rally-O, Tracking, Herding, Canicross and hiking with back packs. .
Basically as long as they are with you they will try anything for you.
WHY DO I NEED INSURANCE?
Most breeders, and the club, would usually recommend that you take out veterinary and third party insurance for your dog. Most reputable breeders will supply your puppy with a few weeks (typically 6) insurance arranged with the option to extend this for a year. It may be obvious that any veterinary requirements could be expensive and this cover is self-explanatory but third party liability does not always occur to people. With the best fencing and procedures in the world accidents can happen and your dog could escape and wander onto the road causing an accident for which you as the owner could be liable for damages. Everyone is aware of the increasingly litigious society in which we now live and your dog could merely run up, bark and frighten someone in the park and potentially leave you with problems. Fortunately these incidents are rare but they ARE happening and adequate insurance is a common sense part of modern dog ownership in our increasingly litigious society. So, if you do only take out a cheap policy make sure you at least have decent 3rd party cover.
Insurance itself is a very variable commodity. Many of the supermarket chains offer good value pet insurance as well as the larger insurance companies and their specialist subsidiaries. Sometimes large differences in premium may be noticed but you should always check the small print of the cover being offered. Like many other areas dog insurance is, generally speaking, a competitive market and large differences in price should always be investigated thoroughly. For example a cheaper cover may only permit veterinary claims up to a certain amount or only one claim for any single condition or you can only claim for a year for any one problem. Others may have larger limits and allow ongoing conditions to be treated for life. Sometimes premiums become higher for older dogs or certain conditions for certain breeds may be loaded or have larger excesses or even be excluded completely from cover. Basically it is a competitive market place and overall you usually get what you pay for.
WHY HAS THE BREEDER ENDORSED MY REGISTRATION?
All reputable breeders in the UK will endorse your registration with “not to be bred from”. This means that any puppies from your dog cannot be registered at the Kennel Club. This restriction can be lifted at a later stage and may be subject to you obtaining a satisfactory hip and/or elbow score or just the breeder satisfying themselves that the dog has developed to a sufficient quality to be bred from. This is a common option taken and is usually explained and eventually lifted once the breeder is happy with the dog.
Sometimes you may obtain your puppy under what are known as “breeder’s terms” this usually means the breeder may be entitled to a free puppy back if you mate your bitch and/or insist on choosing a stud dog and/or you being obliged to mate your bitch even if you decide not to etc. If any kind of future entitlement or control is mentioned this need not be a bad thing but you must be very clear exactly what your obligations will be and get something written down and signed by both parties.
Another endorsement usually taken up is “Not for export”. This is also nothing to worry about but means that the dog cannot be sold on and exported (or at least it cannot be reregistered with any other overseas Kennel Club). This is done because in the past there have been problems with people deceiving breeders by buying GSMD under the pretence of wanting a family dog but once taken the dog has been immediately sold on to a third party and soon found to be exported to an undesirable country. Some years ago this problem was addressed by the club resulting in rule 23 which basically says that persons exporting to certain countries will be liable to expulsion from the club. If you are genuinely buying a family pet or even (hopefully) a breeding dog or bitch this endorsement is nothing to concern you and consequently most breeders would not anticipate removing this restriction and the club would recommend any breeder applying it to all general puppy sales.
The important thing in every case is to be clear with your breeder about any restrictions or endorsements and know about any strings attached to your purchase. If there are endorsements then make sure you know what you have to do to get them lifted if you might want to breed. Some breeders may say they do not expect to lift any restrictions which is fine as long as they make this clear and you understand and accept this.
WHAT ARE THE HIP AND ELBOW SCHEMES?
Like many other breeds GSMD’s can suffer from conditions causing mild or severe lameness and pain originating from problems in the hip or elbow region. Often the presence of these conditions can be detected by X-ray of the dog once it is of a certain age. After the dog is over 12 months of age your vet can take X-rays of hips (1 X -Ray) and elbows (3 X Rays of each) and these are sent off to the BVA/KC (British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club) where they will be assessed by a panel and given a score to give an idea of the presence of Hip Dysplasia (HD) or Elbow Dysplasia (ED). The scoring system for each is completely different.
A score is given for each hip between 0 (perfect hip) and 53 (practically no hip joint). These are sometimes expressed by owners as 2 scores right hip first (e.g. 10:4) or sometimes as one total score (e.g. 14). Basically the lower the score the better the hips have been rated the breed average being around 8-9. Opinions vary greatly as to how much emphasis to give to these scores but most would agree that all breeding stock should be hip scored and depending on the score some level of consideration given to selection of a mate.
Elbow scores are between 0 (best) and 3 (worst) and only the score for the worst elbow is given. The BVA/KC recommendation is that only dogs with a score of 1 or 0 are bred from. Virtually all British GSMD’s will be hip and Elbow scored. Bad hips and elbows are presumed to be hereditary but many breeders believe environmental and dietary factors in the very young puppy have a significant role to play.
In many other countries certain levels of hip and elbow scores have to be achieved before a dog may even be considered for breeding. This can mean that an otherwise “perfect” dog may be excluded from passing on its qualities of temperament and construction etc because it has a single, not necessarily too serious, fault. Many British breeders would feel that this strict approach can give an over emphasis onto selection for these traits and sometimes produces dogs which have good hip and elbow scores but do not look like good typey GSMD’s.
In Britain breeders are free to make their own decisions of what characteristics they wish to concentrate on when selecting breeding stock and hips and elbows can be kept in proportion, There have been dogs with very low scores who have had clinical problems and dogs with very high scores who have been symptom free and had full active lives. Parents with very low scores have produced high scoring offspring and vice versa. A dog may have a low score but this does not mean it has a good elbow and shoulder structure. All these cases illustrate that specific scores should not be over-emphasised and an overall view of parents, grand-parents and siblings may be of much greater value.
Whatever your opinion you should ask any prospective supplier of your puppy if the parents have been scored and what consideration they have given to hips and elbows in their bitch and choice of stud dog. In summary scores should be considered but taken into consideration with the rest of the dog’s qualities and temperament should always be at the top of the priorities. The club’s code of ethics recommends scoring under both schemes and asks that consideration is given to improve mild cases but that serious cases are excluded from breeding programmes
HOW IMPORTANT IS A HERNIA?
Typically the query is something like “….my new puppy has a hernia and the breeder says it doesn’t matter but my vet says I’ll have to have her operated on “. The fact is a few GSMD’s do have small umbilical hernias from birth. Again opinions as to why are varied, hereditary, pot luck, caused by the bitch pulling instead of biting the cord and lots of other reasons. Whatever the cause it is a fact that lots of owners, sometimes in discussion with their veterinary surgeon do not have them operated on. Some vets are very keen to operate and whilst the degree of the hernia may be a factor I have known some dogs with a very large hernia have completely trouble free lives. Whilst the club cannot recommend that you contradict your vet, if the hernia is causing no problem then ask him or her if an operation is really necessary or even ask for a second opinion. As always, take advice from your breeder or other experienced GSMD owners as well and make your own mind up.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO THEY NEED?
A very common question and again common sense plays a part in the answer. Any dog will be able to walk and exercise for longer if it is accustomed to it. Dogs, like people, require regular exercise to stay properly fit. You have to build up gradually and maintain the required level. You cannot neglect your dog 90% of the time and then expect him/her to just be able to go long walks on holidays once a year or when you suddenly feel like it. Remember, whilst you are shopping or working away from home and maintaining at least some condition your dog is left idle at home. Like all dogs GSMD’s love their walks and make good companions. Possibly because of their heavy boned build Swissies running around energetically can become tired quite quickly whereas a well-conditioned dog should be capable of walking for miles and miles. In their traditional working life they were watch dogs keeping an eye over the flocks and accompanying the Swiss farmers around at walking pace or pulling carts at a sedate rate.
If you wish a dog to run for miles alongside your horse or bicycle then a GSMD is not the dog for you. They are simply too heavily built to have that kind of high performance mobility. However a properly exercised adult will have no problems keeping up with most people on normal activities and walks.
The above applies to the adult dog but care has to be taken with the growing dogs. GSMD’s are not totally skeletally mature until around 2 years old, (this is why in some countries they have to be 2 before they can be hip scored), and care has to be taken not to strain the joints of the young dog. Some young puppies can have more enthusiasm than sense and can easily damage themselves through lack of rest. Puppies do need exercise to develop properly though and common sense has to come into play in assessing your young dog and finding a balance between rest and play. Sometimes walks need to be mostly on the lead because 2 minutes twisting around off the lead can do more damage to your puppies joints, especially in play with older dogs, than an hours walking. Your breeder or an experienced owner should be able to help you assess things for your dog.
Sometimes growing puppies go through growth periods when they become tired especially quickly or may have a strain which recurs before disappearing. Whilst any serious obviously painful or persistent limps should always be taken to the vet, many milder forms of lameness will improve with a short restricted spell with little or no free running and short and steady lead walking.
WHY DO I NEED TO SOCIALISE MY DOG?
Sometimes people are puzzled when breeders tell them to socialise their new dog. This means giving the dog experience of all that you will expect it to cope with in later life. Things like the car, traffic, children, crowds, other dogs etc. If you keep your dog away from these things during his formative “youth” when he is programmed to be curious and learn things, you cannot complain if he becomes wary of them when he is older and thrown in at the deep end. Dogs are programmed to be wary of new experiences but this natural wariness can be much more easily overcome when the dog is young than when it has been allowed to become engrained in the character of the older dog.
This is not to say you can just expose a young dog to things and automatically expect him/her to cope and accept things. Every dog is different and whilst some will just accept anything they encounter if you have a more cautious type then you will have to work a little harder to make all the new experiences in life a positive and happy memory. Dog behaviourists and trainers make much of their living putting right problems in older dogs originating from this vitally important development period. For example if your young dog is wary of strangers then have some of his favourite treats available whenever he meets anyone new, ask them to give him food before the encounter becomes an issue. If he doesn’t like traffic when out walking distract him with treats for a short period of exposure. If he doesn’t like the car, just put him in for a very short time, (maybe just moments to start with), don’t even go anywhere, and reward him inside the car before he gets out gradually increasing the time. Feeding him or her in the car is another possibility to engrain a positive experience to replace the apprehension. Most of these “cures” are variations on a few themes and the correct management of the young dog can save much unnecessary frustration later in life.
The VITAL first step you must take though in ensuring your dog has a good temperament is to check out the characters of the parents. Temperament can be highly hereditary so it is important to give yourself a good chance from the beginning. Poor temperament is one of the common things ‘poorer breeders’ will compromise on because the warning signs can be easy to excuse to less experienced enquirers. Be extremely cautious of accepting any excuses for poor temperament of either the puppies or the parents and if you have any suspicions at all walk away and take advice. Always see the mother and any breeder who will not let you see the mother, again walk away. Often the father is not living with the breeder so this is more difficult but you could arrange to go and meet the father if he resides in the UK.
The VITAL second step is to make sure the puppies have been raised during the first few months in a household environment. This means they will be accustomed to household noises and smells. Some unscrupulous people raise the puppies in sheds or other outhouses where they never see or hear or smell anything other than each other with the result that everyday things can induce great fear when they get to your house. Sometimes puppies are raised like this but brought into houses for viewing and sales so as always if you have any doubts at all do not commit to buying and walk away to take advice.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
There are many GSMD sites on the internet, some club sites and some individual owner’s sites. Like everything else on the internet the content and worth of advice will vary and you have to judge it for yourself. There is one book on Greater Swiss Mountain Dog by Nikki Moustaki available from the internet.
You can join The Great Swiss Mountain Dog Club and receive Newsletters. Whilst it is important to read as much as you can the best experience is directly meeting the dogs and talking to their owners. This can be via local contacts made through enquiries or by visiting club events or general dog shows. Crufts at the N.E.C. in March is the most famous show and whilst there will be a few GSMD’s present in the Discover Dogs section on every day and people to talk about the breed you need to attend on the day that the Working Group is being shown to see around 30+ GSMD’s. There are another 26 several day Championship shows around the country throughout the year where there will be a small number of GSMD’s there on Working Group Day. The Club holds an Open show once a year which is well worth attending. So there are lots of opportunities to see real GSMD’s and “interrogate” their owners.
Q&A's kindly reproduced with permission from the Bernese Mountain Dog Club site.