BaxterBoo Blog
April 12, 2013

Meet the Breed: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

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  • Height: 23.5" - 28.5"
  • Weight: 130-135 pounds
  • Historical function: cart pulling, guarding and herding livestock
  • Modern function: companion, watchdog, competitive obedience
  • AKC classification: Working

Physical Characteristics:

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog, also called the Swissy or GSMD, is a large, sturdy working dog. The double coat is thick and heavy with the outer coat being about 1-1/2" - 2" long. The coat is tricolored and the markings are symmetrical. The coat has a black base with specific rust and white patterns. The ears are small, triangular, and close to the head. The eyes can be hazel or brown. The topline is level, and the chest is broad. The legs are straight and muscular.

History of the Breed:

The GSMD was probably a descendant of the Molossers (large mastiff-type dogs) from Ancient Rome that interbred with local dogs. It is the largest and oldest of the four Sennenhund (Swiss Mountain Dog) Breeds, which include the Bernese Mountain Dog, Appenzell Cattle Dog and the Entlebuch Cattle Dog.It was developed as a working farm dog in the Swiss Alps. This large, muscular dog was used for pulling carts and known as the "poor man's horse." This was a versatile breed used for working livestock, guarding and as a watchdog. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was thought to be extinct due to modern machinery taking their jobs; however, two specimens appeared at a Swiss dog show in 1908 labeled as “short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs.” The judge, Professor Albert Heim, a canine researcher and expert on the Swiss Sennenhund breeds recognized the dogs as being of the large old type and encouraged them to be recognized as a separate breed. Throughout the early 20th century, the population of GSMD in Europe grew very slowly, and it is still a rare breed both in the US and in its native Switzerland.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a willing and able working companion. This work ethic translates well into obedience training but, keep in mind, this dog develops slowly in body and mind. Therefore, patience is required. Gets along well with children and other pets. Is not dog aggressive. Makes a good watchdog but warms up to strangers quickly.

  • Best suited for: Active families that like to have a large dog participate in as many activities as possible. Does not like to be isolated. Can adapt to an apartment if adequately exercised. A small yard is sufficient.
  • Preferred living conditions: This dog prefers cooler climates. Loves being with people and having a job.

Care and Health:

  • Grooming requirements: Easy-care coat requiring regular brushing. An average shedder.
  • Exercise needs: Daily walk, making sure to have the dog heel to establish pack leadership over this large dog.
  • Life expectancy: 10-12 years.
  • Health concerns: May be prone to bloat, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, but is actually less prone to large-breed health disorders than most dogs of this size.

Breed Club Links: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America Perfect Pairings: As a working dog with a drafting history, we recommend adding a Dog Pack for your hiking buddy.

Have any stories about a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog? Please share!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Meredith on April 13 at 7:33 AM said:

Ah, a dog after our own hearts!! Mine is a Bernese Mountain Dog, a big smaller than this guy...(he's my FB Pic)...and George is everything that's said here. He's our second Berner...courtesy of our vet Daughter (Noelle)..her now ex husband didn't want him around (George has good taste). George has learned to play "Jack Russel" since our two were already here..its absolutely hilarious to find. Finally, I'm pretty disabled now, and Georgie is very kind to me!

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