top of page

Great Swiss Mountain Dog General Description: 


The Great Swiss Mountain Dog, (also known as Greater),or Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, is the largest of the Swiss mountain dogs. The other 3 breeds that complete the Swiss Mountain dogs are: Entelbucher Mountain Dog, Appenzell Mountain Dog, and the Bernese Mountain Dog. The Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are a working draft dog who thrive on farm chores, guarding and herding animals, pulling carts and sledges, as this is what they were originally bred for. They are square, evenly built dogs that have smooth fur of a tricolour pattern. They are well muscled, and can easily do the work of a horse. They are gentle and protective of children.  Great Swiss Mountain Dogs enjoy being part of a family. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs have been known to be protective and caring to, not only their owners, but to others as well. They are peaceful, calm and happiest within the family. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs hate to be tied up, as they enjoy their home and do not roam. They are easily groomed, do well in obedience, and are sturdy and even tempered. They are alert, faithful and highly intelligent. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs favour free space to run and are best suited to suburban or country living. Faithful and true, the Great Swiss Mountain Dog is ideal for the country living family.


Other Names: Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Great Swiss Cattle Dog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog


Type:  Working Dog


Height: Females: 23½-26¾ inches (60-68cms); Males: 25½-28¼ inches (65-72cms)


Weight: 85 - 140 lbs.  (38 - 63 kilos)


Colours: Black with bright, symmetrical russet and white markings. They have white at the toes, tail tip, chest and blaze. The tan always lies between the black and white. Red and blue colours do occur but are not acceptable for breeding or in the show ring.


Coat: Short and dense. Their double coat has a thick undercoat and short outer coat.


Temperament: Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are active, calm and friendly. They are protective of their family and territorial but never aggressive unless their human family is threatened, in which case they are willing to fight to the death. They are gentle, faithful and loyal. They like to be near the home and do not roam, and hate being chained up. They are happiest when with the family, and love to be a part of it. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are alert, highly intelligent and essentially a country dog that enjoys doing a job. They are stable, confident, and devoted.


Good with Children: Yes, devoted to children.


Good with Pets: Yes, they are not normally dog aggressive but they do like to chase small animals.


Special Skills: In the past, a cattle herder and cart puller. Today, a watchdog and family pet, although they are still happy to pull a cart once in a while.


Watch-dog: They make an excellent watch dog and bark at any noise.  They do not generally bark constantly.


Guard-dog:  Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are willing to protect their family with their life.


Care: Swissies need regular grooming of their coat with a bristle brush. They shed on a daily basis with the thick undercoat being shed twice a year. They are considered a dry mouth breed and as such do not drool.  Their coats are soft and not oily which means they do not smell as much as some breeds.


Learning Rate: Obedience - High.   Problem Solving - High.  Training - High


Activity: Medium. Regular exercise is essential and plenty of wide open spaces to enjoy a free run. They do better in rural or suburban settings.


Living Environment: Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are best suited for suburban country living. They should have a garden to run about in and should not be chained up or left outside, away from the family. The best owner for this breed would be an active family, or dog-experienced owners who can give it a job to do in a country living environment.


Health Issues: Hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, OCD, eye problems, and bloat. Bloat is a health issue to most dogs, being the second largest killer of dogs other than cancer, but Great Swiss Mountain Dogs can be particularly susceptible to it because of their deep chests.  See more under Health Issues.


Life Span: 10 - 12 years.


Litter Size:  Average 4 - 8 puppies.


Country of Origin: Switzerland


History: Great Swiss Mountain Dogs descended from the Mastiffs that once accompanied Caesar when he invaded Switzerland. These ancient dogs lived among the Romans. The old Mastiffs probably intermixed with native Swiss dogs to form the four Swiss dogs we see today. The Great Swiss Mountain Dog worked as a  general farm dog for herding and guarding. Farmers loved the Swissy because they could do the work of a horse, yet ate a lot less. They were also seen pulling carts into market, but with the invention of the automobile, their uses diminished. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs were often interbred with the St. Bernard of today, possibly contributing to their genes. If a puppy from a Great Swiss Mountain Dog was born with dominating red and white, it was simply called a St. Bernard. After a while the breed diminished so much that it became a rumour, especially to Franz Schertenlieb. He had heard stories from his grandfather that dogs of this type existed in Switzerland, but he had never seen them. He decided to go on a mission to find the last of these species. So he set out and scoured farms in search of the dogs. He eventually came up with at least one of the species and in 1908 Schertenlieb exhibited the breed in the Bernese class. Dr. Albert Heim, a knowledgeable judge, knew the history of the breed and, thinking it was extinct, instantly praised the find of this rare breed--encouraging farmers and dog lovers to search out the rest of the Great Swiss Mountain Dogs. When Schertenlieb discovered enough of the same breed from this publicity, he began to breed them again. He succeeded in reviving the breed from probably around 7 or 8 dogs. In 1910 the breed was accepted into the Swiss registry. Continuing to breed the Great Swiss with other dogs who possessed the same traits but did not hold a pedigree, the dogs continued in strength. The breed was also used as military dog in World War II. Numbers are still low in their native country of Switzerland where breeding is carefully controlled. The UK Kennel Club accepted the breed onto the Import Breed register in October 2008.  The Interim Breed standard was accepted and published in April 2010.  The gene pool in the UK is very small.  Only careful, selective breedings are encouraged to ensure the future health and welfare of this breed.

bottom of page