Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
I first met a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
(in German Großer Schweizer Sennenhund
, in English it is also called GSMD
), well, in the Swiss Alps. I was with an international group of friends (Swiss included) and, when I saw it, I remained speechless: it was the very copy of a Saint Bernard, but coated in black.
I asked what dog was that and the Swiss friends told me it was "just a normal dog". I asked: "Is this a Saint Bernard?" and they said "I guess". Only when I said that Beethoven, the famous movie star Saint Bernard, was white and red, they seemed to notice the difference. What a beautiful thing: to see, for the first time, the dog in its very habitat, among its own people, who consider such a special beauty "just a normal dog" !
The swissy is a majestic black dog for the majestic white mountains of Switzerland.
Height: Dogs: 25.5-28.5 inches (64-72cm). Bitches 23.5-27 inches (60-67.5 cm)
Weight: 105-140 pounds (50-63 kg)
Temperament: The Greater Swiss mountain dog is a bold, sturdy, faithful and willing worker, neither shy, nor aggressive, but vigilant and agile. Even if it is large, calm, powerful and heavy boned, it moves with a surprising agility.
Meant to help with farm duties in the mountains, the GSMD is a cart puller and drover and a watch dog.
In spite of its size, the it has a gentle nature, being good with children and family. As any working dog, it has a great sense of responsibility, but, in spite of that, in its soul the Greater Swiss mountain dog will be a puppy forever.
Protective with its territory and family, the swissy needs to be introduced to the accepted/desirable newcomers. This way, it will warm up and treat them in a friendly manner.
Health: As any all-purpose dog, of course health is the most important. It is generally a healthy breed, because only the most healthy survived.
But, as any breed with a restricted genetic pool, the greater Swiss mountain dog may be prone to hereditary diseases, like epilepsy (they say that in every pedigree of the GSMD you'll find a dog suffering from that), hip or elbow dysplasia. Other ailments are abnormal growth of eyelashes, bloating, spleen torsion, urinary incontinence (specially females).
Maintenance/Grooming: The swissy has a double coat, for the cold weather in the mountains. The topcoat is dense, and the undercoat is thick as well.
They shed heavily in the spring, when they change the undercoat in its totality. But, in spite of that, its grooming proves to be easy: an occasionally rubber brushing will do.
Training: The greater Swiss mountain dog is intelligent and powerful. Like every strong dog, obedience training and socialization is important from an early age. It does best with a firm, experienced and gentle trainer. Its keenness to please make things easier, this is why harsh punishment won't do the trick.
The Swissy grows and matures slowly, so you can benefit of their eagerness to play and to learn new things for 2-3 years. House training the puppies might take longer (7-9 months).
Breeding, puppies: The puppies might be a silvery grey, but their color darkens with the age. It is not recommended to feed the pups with high caloric food, to increase their growth rate, because this might generate health problems later.
Varieties: The coat of the greater Swiss mountain dog is generally tri-colored: black on the back, head and upper limbs with white markings on the tip of the tail, forehead, chest and toes and rusty in between (over the eyes, on the distal limbs, on the cheeks). The varieties are not too different, but some dogs might have the topcoat dark blue or dark grey (dusty).
Famous dogs: The Greater Swiss is a secluded breed, a good friend and working companion, but never on the first page of the newspapers.
For Greater Swiss Mountain Dog pictures, click here.