A GUIDE TO OWNING A GREAT SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG
By S M Brailey
Taking your puppy home
Your puppy will be ready to go to its new home at approximately 8 weeks. Please arrange to visit your own vet within the 1st week for the puppy to receive its inoculation. At this stage it is a good idea to get your vet to give the puppy a general health check.
During this stage the puppy needs time to adjust to its new surroundings. It may whine or scratch when left on its own. Try leaving it for short periods only and gradually increase the length of time left. Sometimes a hot water bottle will help to settle a puppy. A crate can be used to give the puppy its own space. Encourage the puppy to sleep in the crate with the door open, if possible. This is especially important when there are small children in the house or other dogs or cats. Remember that puppies need a lot of sleep. Try not to leave a puppy in a crate for long periods as it will soon get bored and resent it.
The puppies exercise must be limited in the first year. Regular gentle exercise should be given with no excessive running, particularly on concrete, no up or down hills or stairs and no jumping in or out of cars. This is necessary to protect the fast growing young bones from stress or trauma. After the growing period (approx 1 year) the dog will need regular daily moderate exercise.
Please observe strict diet guidelines. Do not allow the puppy to become overweight. Titbits should be avoided apart from bones to encourage strong teeth and gums. Titbits may be used for training purposes but be careful that they are not fattening. (Fresh chicken is ideal). The puppy will be on 4 meals per day when it first arrives. This can be reduced to three in a couple of weeks and then two meals per day by 6 months. We recommend feeding two meals per day for life as two small meals are better than 1 large meal and can help to avoid bloat which is a life threatening disease. Always feed from the ground, not raised, as again, this can help to avoid bloat. Avoid excessive exercise for 1 hour before and after feeding. Be careful not to feed a diet with too much protein as this can cause the puppy to grow too quickly and can lead to problems with joints. Use a good quality food with about 26% protein whilst the puppy is growing. Some large breed puppy meals have too much protein and should be avoided. Always seek advice if unsure.
Swissies can suffer from food aggression. We advise that you practise taking the puppies food away gently from a very early age. Another good idea is to add more food to the bowl whilst the puppy is eating so that the puppy sees it as a bonus not a threat. Do not use it as punishment but rather make it part of the training and try to make it fun. If the puppy shows any sign of aggression be very firm with it. Never smack a puppy but scold it with your voice. If necessary give it a pinch with your fingers to mimic what its mother would do.
Place some paper close to the door for any accidents that will surely occur. The puppies usually toilet on waking so try to get them outside as quickly as possible. They usually defecate within ½ hour after a feed, so again, put them outside and praise them when they are good. Try to ignore any accidents and hopefully the puppy will be house trained in a few months. Use an odour cleaner to take the smell away from any accidents, as leaving the smell will encourage them to use the same spot.
This is the most important aspect of being a good Swissy owner. Swissies are very intelligent and love to learn. It is extremely important that they are trained correctly from a very early age. This will set the foundations for the rest of the dog's life. We thoroughly advise taking the puppy to puppy classes. This is an excellent way not only to train the puppy, but also, equally as important, to socialise the puppy. Swissies love other dogs and they need to meet as many as possible. Failure to socialise the puppy leads to an extremely boisterous dog, often completely out of control, when they do meet other dogs later in life. A well trained dog is a pleasure to own, whereas an un-trained dog , due to its size and strength, can become a dangerous liability. You can find details of local classes from your vets or pet shops, or the internet. Remember if you wish to show your puppy it is a good idea to take the puppy to ringcraft lessons. Here the puppies are taught to stand, run and allow the judge to examine them.
Swissies are bred to pull. They are extremely strong and if allowed to pull on the lead will be uncontrollable by the time they are fully grown. Use a short, sharp pull to correct the young dog every time it attempts to pull. It will soon learn that this is uncomfortable and stop pulling. If this does not work try using a headcollar. We would not advise using a harness as this will just encourage the dog to pull even harder.
Don't be fooled by the short coat. Swissies moult heavily. They have a thick undercoat which is shed twice a year. The rest of the year they still moult on a daily basis. Regular grooming can help reduce the amount of hair in the house. Your Swissy will also love the attention.
Showing your Swissy
GSMD's can be shown in Import classes at Championship and Open shows where Import classes are scheduled. In a few years, once the numbers increase and they transfer to the full register, they will be able to be shown in their own classes. They can, of course, be shown in companion shows and novelty classes which can be found at most local dog shows.
Breeding your Swissy
As this breed is so new to the UK all breeders must be aware that breeding is to be strictly controlled. Ideally bitches should travel abroad to be mated to bring in new blood. (This will require the dog/bitch to hold a Pets passport). This rule is to stop repeated matings with the same blood lines, thus ensuring healthy future generations. No bitch can be bred from until it has passed all the necessary health tests. This also applies to males. Please also be aware that breeding Swissies is not for the faint hearted or the in-experienced. They are extremely difficult not only to get into pup, but to whelp successfully and produce live puppies. So far in this country the mortality rate is currently 50%.
Good points about Swissies
Swissies make excellent family dogs and are very loving and loyal. They adore the company of adults and children. They are very protective of their family and property. They like to live as part of the family, not in kennels. They love water so be careful if near rivers or streams as they will most likely end up in them. (Also be extremely vigilant with swimming pools). They are fairly energetic and thrive on work. In their native home of Switzerland they are used for carting, herding and search and rescue. Pulling any form of weight should not take place until after 2 years of age.
Swissies make excellent guard dogs and bark when confronted by strangers. They are not aggressive. Even when barking at strangers they are usually wagging their tail! They get on well with most other dogs and animals.
Bad points about Swissies
As previously mentioned they do moult. They can be boisterous and can easily un-intentionally knock young children over. They can be dominant. To avoid this they need firm handling so they know who is boss from a very early age. When reaching adolescent they can become strong willed and often ignore their owners. Most Swissies go through this stage so please be patience and firm and they will eventually grow out of it. You may find you have to keep them on the lead in public for a while.
If you encounter any bad behaviour do not let it get out of hand. Seek professional advice at the earliest opportunity. Swissies are so intelligent that if you give them an inch they will take a mile.
Some Swissies are great chewers and have been known to cause a lot of damage to household items and furniture. To avoid this be careful what toys you give to puppies, i.e. if you give them shoes and slippers to chew do not blame them when they chew your best ones. This also applies to baby toys. Try to make sure someone is at home with them most of the day, particularly in the first few months. The use of a crate is ideal to stop any unwelcome behaviour, but please be careful not to rely on it too much as the puppy will get very unhappy and bored if left too long.
These notes are for general guidance only, based on our experience with Swissies. If you have any questions always feel free to ask and we will help in any way we can. Also if you have any experiences that you can share with others please tell us about them. This is such a new breed that we all need to pool our experiences together.