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The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Country of Origin

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (also known as the ‘Great Swiss Cattle Dog’, ‘Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund’, ‘Large Swiss Mountain Dog’, or simply ‘GSMD’) is the largest and most ancient mountain dog from Switzerland. Like many breeds, its origins are uncertain, but it likely descended from Roman Mastiffs crossed with sheepdogs during the Roman invasion of Switzerland in the first century B.C. Another theory is that they arrived earlier with Phoenicians and were crossed with indigenous breeds. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog survived for centuries as a draft dog, farm dog, and butcher’s dog. They were not considered a distinct breed from the Bernese Mountain Dog until the 1890’s when Professor Albert Heim recognized them as distinct, dubbed them the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and promoted their development. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog arrived in America in the late 1960’s, achieving full recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1995. It is believed to be an ancestor of the Saint Bernard and Rottweiler.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a shoulder height of 58-74 cm (23-29 in) and weighs 59-61 kg (130-135 lbs). It is a large, agile dog with a flat, broad skull, dark eyes and nose, triangular ears, scissors bite, and defined stop (point at which the muzzle meets the forehead). Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have low hanging, thick tails, deep chests, and round feet. Males are larger than females, but both are very strong. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is slightly longer than it is tall (a ratio of about ten to nine).


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is distinguished by its highly recognizable tri-color pattern. It has a solid black body, legs, head and ears, rust or tan colored cheeks and calves, and white chest, muzzle (with a stripe running up to the forehead), toes, and tail tip. The only variation in pattern is the amount of white; a ‘Swiss Cross’ shape of white on the chest (as seen from the front sitting position) is ideal. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has an outer coat which is about 5 cm (2 in) in length, and a dense undercoat on the neck or the entire body. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs shed twice a year; they are an average shedder.


Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are eager to work, friendly, intelligent, reliable, and protective. They are attentive and calm, known for their sociability and obedience. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog barks infrequently and makes a great watchdog. It requires frequent human companionship. A common expression is that ‘All dogs are great, but the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is greater’. Actually, that’s not a common expression, but it should be.


Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are great with children and protective of their loved ones. They get along well with cats and other household pets provided proper socialization has taken place. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog will announce unfamiliar visitors with a hearty barking and watch them carefully. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are dominant towards one another.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog requires weekly grooming with a brush and comb, more often when shedding. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have an average lifespan of 10-12 years. They are susceptible to bloat (which can be prevented by spacing meals throughout the day and avoiding exercise immediately after meals), distichia (extra eyelashes on the eyelid which can scratch the cornea if not properly treated), and hip dysplasia.

Training: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog must be handled with a loving, consistent approach and on an even keel. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is an eager learner and is very responsive to its trainer’s voice. Training must be consistent but not severe, allowing the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog to develop a clear understanding of what is allowed and what is not.

Activity: The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog greatly enjoys taking part in various dog sporting activities. It is a very diligent worker which enjoys herding and long walks, pack hikes, and most especially pulling. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs enjoy cold weather and love to run and play off the leash whenever possible. Avoid strenuously exercising the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog when young, as it needs all of its energy to build strong bones and joints and put on weight.

Good Dog Magazine, has written permission from the authors of to use this information on our website. The information has not been changed or altered in any way. Images: Shutterstock

By | 2018-08-27T21:44:48+00:00 August 27th, 2018|Categories: Read your Breed|0 Comments

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