Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

 

A working breed native to Switzerland, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has served Swiss farmers for centuries as a drover, herd guardian, and draft animal. Considered to be the ancestor of all other Swiss Mountain Dogs, including the Rottweiler and quite possibly the Saint Bernard, the breed was popularized for its great strength and even temper. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog remains a rare breed but its population is growing both in Europe and the United States.  This breed goes by many names and is also called the Greater Swiss Cattle Dog, the Greater Swiss Draft Dog, the Greater Swiss Cart Dog, the Swiss Mastiff, the Alpine Mastiff, the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, the Grand Bouvier Suisse, the GSMD, and the Swissy.

 

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
XX-Large 90-120 lb+
LifeSpan: 
8 to 10 Years
Trainability: 
Very Easy To Train
Energy Level: 
Medium Energy
Grooming: 
Brushing Once a Week or Less
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
House with Yard
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
Generally Good With Other Dogs
May Have Issues With Other Dogs
May Have Problems With Non-Canine Pets
Not Recommended For Homes With Small Animals
Litter Size: 
6-10 puppies
Names: 
Greater Swiss Cattle Dog, Greater Swiss Draft Dog, Greater Swiss Cart Dog, Swiss Mastiff, Alpine Mastiff, Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, Grand Bouvier Suisse, GSMD, Swissy

Height/Weight

Males: 
100-135 lbs, 25½ and 28½ inches
Females: 
80-110 lbs, 23½ and 27 inches

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very old breed, whose exact origins are unknown.  What we do know is that the breed was definitely created in Switzerland many centuries ago, and that it is closely related to, and the oldest of the four breeds of Mountain Dog (Sennenhund). The others being the Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhund), the Appenzeller Mountain Dog (Appenzeller Sennenhund), and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog (Entlebucher Sennenhund); all of which have the same colors and markings but are different sizes.  This breed was created in a time before written records were kept of dog breeding.  Additionally, it was primarily kept by farmers in remote, geographically isolated and unreachable areas, so little was said about it until the 1800’s.  Due to the lack of accurate early records and the isolated nature of its development very little is known for sure about the history of this breed.  There is even substantial debate among dog experts as to how to classify this breed.  Most place it in the Mastiff/Mollosser family, while others claim it is a Lupomollossoid, and a small but growing number of experts believe that the breed is most closely related to the Pinscher/Schnauzer family.  Part of this confusion is that it is very likely that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog very is a cross between members of all three groups.

 

Although the exact timing of place of the dog’s domestication is a matter of great dispute, almost all experts now believe that the dog was the first animal to be domesticated by man, and that the process was complete before 14,000 years ago.  Shortly thereafter, humans began to domesticate plants and other animals such as sheep and cattle.  These herds needed protection from predators such as wolves, bears, and even human bandits.  Early farmers developed a very large variety of dogs to help them do so.  It is thought that originally this breed was primarily white in color.  As agriculture spread across Europe, so did livestock guarding dogs.  These dogs would have entered the Alps with early farmers sometime before 3200 B.C.  The Alpine valleys were long considered a remote backwater, and these dogs likely would have been bred in isolation.  In recent years, some dog experts have placed a number of livestock guardian breeds which they believe are descended primarily from these ancient dogs in a unique family, the Lupomollosoids.  The most commonly included breeds are the Great Pyrenees, the Kuvasz, the Tatra Mountain Sheepdog, and the Akbash Dog.  Some dog experts place the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in this family as well, although this is not especially common as the breed appears more similar to other canine families.  It is very likely that this breed is at least partially descended from these ancient animals.

 

Between 35 and 6 B.C. the expanding Roman Empire gradually brought the Alpine region under its control.  It is claimed that they had to conquer 46 individual tribes to do so.  The war dog of the Roman Army was a breed known as the Mollossus, although the exact identity of the Mollossus is widely disputed.  Commonly identified as a Mastiff-Type dog, others believe it may have been a sheepdog, a scent hound, or even a sighthound.  Whatever the true nature of the Mollossus, it is well documented that it accompanied the Roman Army wherever it went and likely interbred with the local dogs it encountered along the path of the Roman conquest.  A number of large, guardian breeds are said to have descended from the Mollossus, and are today known as Mastiffs, Mollossers, or Dogues.  Although not always the case, such breeds are known for being of great size and having pushed in faces.  The most commonly accepted origin for the ancestry of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is that it is primarily descended from the Mollossus, although with crosses of local breeds, most likely Lupomollossoids.  This theory may be the most likely as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog seems to share the most characteristics with other members of the Mastiff family, such as the English Mastiff, the Spanish Mastiff, and the Cane Corso.

 

Eventually, the Roman Empire was overrun by Germanic tribes.  This was especially true of the region now known as Switzerland, which then became populated by German and French speakers.  German speaking farmers have long kept a number of closely related breeds known as Pinschers or Schnauzers.  These dogs were primarily tasked with the elimination of rats and other pests, but were also used as cattle drovers and protection animals.  Many of these dogs possess a black and tan or tricolor coat pattern.  It is almost certain that the German settlers in the Alps brought these dogs with them.  It is very likely that such dogs were crossed with existing local dogs.  Therefore it is highly probable that the ancestors of the Greater Swiss Mountain dog were crosses between Lupomollossoids, Mastiffs/Mollossers, and Pinschers.  This would explain the current classification confusion.

 

However the ancestors of the modern day Greater Swiss Mountain Dog came to be, they were bred in relative isolation for hundreds of years.  Although breeding was probably driven primarily by working ability, this isolation led to the dogs being rather uniform in appearance.  Many of the mountain valleys of the region are very remote and difficult to reach, even today.  Swiss farmers bred working dogs to meet their needs, and as dairy farming has long been prevalent in the region, they focused on developing a working cattle dog.  They used the ancestors of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog as cattle drovers.  These dogs drove the cattle to market.  As large dogs were better suited to this purpose, they developed a very large breed.  However, the farmers could not afford to keep such a large animal if it would only be used occasionally.  They therefore needed a multi-purpose breed which could assist them on a daily basis.  Swiss farmers did have one major need area that could be filled by a large animal.  Horses do very poorly in the rugged Alps, as they are not skilled enough mountain climbers and have difficulty finding enough grazing.  From a very early time, Swiss farmers used their large dogs to pull wagons and cars.  Unlike in many mountainous areas where the Donkey became the primary draft animal, in Switzerland it was the dog.

 

Initially, most of the Draft and Droving dogs of Switzerland were probably very close in size and appearance.  Almost all experts agree that the modern Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is very close to this original variety.  The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog became renowned across Switzerland and neighboring regions not only for its size and great strength, but also for its temperament and working ability.  Because many parts of Switzerland are quite isolated, even from neighboring regions, many different varieties of the Swiss Mountain Dog developed.  Although all of these varieties were all similar, there were differences and collectively they became known as Sennenhunds; at the time this roughly translated as the Dairy Farmers’ Dogs.  Some also called them the Metzgerhunds, or Butcher’s Dogs.  At one point there may have been dozens of unique Sennenhunds.  However, dogs which were very close to the original variety could still be found throughout Switzerland, especially in remote valleys near the city of Bern.  These dogs were almost certainly the primary ancestors of the Saint Bernard; a breed known to have been developed by the monks of the Saint Bernard Monastery.  Because they were such renowned cattle drovers, their reputation spread beyond their local communities and the Greater Swiss Mountain dog was exported to neighboring German-speaking regions.  The city of Rottweil is very close to Switzerland, and actually was a part of the Swiss Confederation for a brief period.  Most dog experts believe that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was exported to Rottweil where it played a significant part in influencing the development of the famed Rottweiler.

 

For many centuries, the Sennenhunds were the indispensable working dogs of Swiss farmers.  The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was considered the most common Sennenhund, and most experts believe it was the most common dog in Switzerland until around 1870.  However, the breed began to fall out of favor as more and more farming machines were invented.  These machines were capable of doing most of the jobs that had formerly required the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, and smaller and more affordable breeds were capable of doing the rest.  The dog show and breed standardization craze that was affecting most of Europe, caught on slower in Switzerland.  The first breed club was not formed until 1884, and the Saint Bernard was the first breed registered.  However, there was initially little effort to standardize the working Sennenhunds of rural farmers.  Mechanization began to take the jobs of even the smaller breeds of Sennenhunds, and many varieties were beginning to disappear.

 

By the start of the 20th Century, it was thought that only three varieties still existed, the Appenzeller Mountain Dog, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog, and the Bernese Mountain Dog, and that all of these were facing extinction.  It was generally believed that the ancestral Greater Swiss Mountain Dog had become extinct.  In the first decade of the 20th Century, the famed Swiss geologist Dr. Albert Heim began efforts to save the Sennenhunds.  Dr. Heim was considered the major expert on these breeds and wanted to save them from extinction.  Efforts to save and standardize the Bernese Mountain Dog were already underway thanks to other breeders.  Dr. Heim began efforts to standardize and save the Entlebucher Mountain Dog and the Appenzeller Mountain Dog, and is widely credited with having succeeded. His primary aide in these efforts was his friend Franz Shertenlieb, himself a great fancier of Sennenhunds.  In 1908, Shertenlieb showed Heim two dogs that he believed were large, short-coated Bernese Mountain Dogs.  Heim recognized them as surviving members of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.  Heim began to locate other members of this breed, and to strongly encourage other Swiss breeders to begin programs to save them from extinction.

 

Most of the foundation stock of the modern Greater Swiss Mountain Dog came from the remote valleys around the city of Bern, although some came from other parts of Switzerland.  In recent years, there has been a growing controversy as to how rare the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog actually was.  Most believe, as Heim himself did, that the breed was on the verge of extinction.  Some believe that the breed remained relatively common in rural regions, and that it was only thought rare by dog experts who rarely traveled to the more remote valleys.  This theory’s primary proponent is Dr. Hans Raber, author of “Die Schweizer Hunderassen” (The Swiss Dogs).  Raber has also asserted that this breed was initially primarily brown, tan, or yellow, and that Heim only selected the tri-color dogs to enter into breeding programs.  Followers of the prevailing theory often claim that the other colored dogs which Raber described were actually Austrian, French, and Belgian draft dogs that had been imported into Switzerland.

 

Heim’s and Shertenlieb’s efforts to save the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog would prove successful and in 1909, the Swiss Kennel Club recognized the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog as a unique breed and entered it into its studbooks.  In 1912, the first bred club was formed.  As Switzerland did not enter into either World War I or World War II, the efforts to revitalize the Sennenhunds were not impeded.  As a result, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was spared the devastation wrought on many of the other European breeds.  Numbers began to increase slowly.  Although the country did not enter World War II, the Swiss Army was well-prepared in case of invasion by either side.  As part of their preparations, they began to train Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs as military draft animals.  They proved capable of working tirelessly in weather conditions and in terrain in which machines could not.  They also did not require fuel, advantageous for a landlocked nation which may find itself cut off from supplies.  This use increased interest in the breed and by the end of the War in Europe, there were between 350 and 400 breed members.

 

In the 1960’s, the Americans J. Frederick Hoffman and Patricia Hoffman became interested in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.  With the help of Perrin G. Rademacher, they were able to import the first Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs to the United States in 1968.  From a very early time, Americans have affectionately referred to the breed as Swissies.  Shortly thereafter, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America (GSMDCA) was formed to protect the breed.  In addition to the Hoffmans, Howard and Gretel Summons were instrumental in the club’s foundation.  In 1983, the GSMDCA held its first breed specialty.  At that time, there were 257 registered breed members in America.  As breed numbers continued to grow, the American Kennel Club (AKC) granted recognition to the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog as a member of its Miscellaneous Class in 1985.  In 1992, the United Kennel Club (UKC), a registry which is primarily devoted to working dogs but has also become a champion of rare breeds, granted full recognition to the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog as a member of the Guardian Dog Group.  That same year, the GSMDCA began to work towards full AKC recognition and in July of 1995, these efforts were successful and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog became a full member of the AKC’s Working Group.

 

Although breed numbers are growing slowly, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog remains a rare breed, both in its native Switzerland and in the United States.  However, AKC recognition and a growing interest in giant breeds have meant this breed is experiencing an upswing in popularity.  In 2010, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog ranked 88th out of 167 total breeds in terms of AKC registrations.  This dog was bred for centuries as a working breed, and is still capable of pulling great weights.  However, very few, if any, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are currently employed as anything other than a show dog or companion animal.

 

Appearance: 

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is very similar in appearance to the other Swiss Mountain Dog breeds, especially the much-better known Bernese Mountain Dog.  What is most immediately noticeable about the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is its immense size.  Males should stand between 25½ and 28½ inches tall at the shoulder, and females should stand between 23½ and 27 inches tall at the shoulder.  Although breed standards do not call for an ideal weight, males typically weigh between 100 and 135 pounds and females typically weigh between 80 and 110 pounds.  Although very large, this breed is somewhat less thick and bulky than many other Mastiff-type breeds.  However, it is still wide-chested.  This dog was bred for power, and should be very well-muscled.  Generally well proportioned, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog should be roughly 10 inches long for every inch that it is tall.  The back of this breed is fairly straight.  The tail of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is long and thick.  When relaxed, the tail usually hangs straight down, but is carried slightly upwards when the dog is in motion.

 

The head and face of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog generally resemble those of other Mastiff-type dogs, but with considerably less exaggerated features.  This breed has a strong head, but one which should not be excessively large or clumsy.  The flat head and muzzle are roughly equal in length, and somewhat short.  The muzzle is clearly defined from the rest of the head and ends in a black nose.  This muzzle is thick and wide, and stops abruptly.  This breed has somewhat pendulous lips, but they certainly do not form jowls.  Unlike in other similar breeds, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog does not have an underbite.  The eyes of this breed are almond shaped and hazel to chestnut brown in color.  The ears of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are of medium size and triangular.  They hang close to the sides of the head when the breed is relaxed but move forwards when it is at attention.  The overall expression of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is friendly and calm.

 

The most obvious difference between the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and the Bernese Mountain Dog is the coat.  This breed has a double coat which protects it from the icy temperatures of the Alps.  The undercoat is dense and should be as dark as possible.  The outer coat is typically medium length, although it may be somewhat shorter.  Color is very important to breeders of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. Kennel clubs only accept dogs which are primarily jet black in color with rich and symmetrical markings.  This breed should have a white blaze, a white muzzle, a symmetrical white marking in the shape of an inverted cross on the chest, white feet, and a white tail tip.  There should also be glossy rust-red markings on each cheek, over each eye, on each side of the chest, under the tail, and in between the white feet and black legs.  Only dogs of this color scheme are allowed to compete in conformation events.  However, occasionally breed members will have a blue base coat and tan and white markings, and even rarer a dog that is rust-red with white markings but no black will be born.

 

Temperament: 

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was developed for a number of different tasks, and as a result displays a range of temperaments.  However, when properly-trained and socialized, this breed is generally quite stable.  This breed is known for being very even-tempered, and is definitely not prone to sudden swings of emotion.  Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are very devoted and loving with their families.  This breed is known for being extremely people-oriented and wants to be with its favorite people all of the time.  Sometimes they can be a little bit too friendly, and may jump up and paw for attention.  This can be disconcerting for guests, and even owners.  Many Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs think that they are lap dogs.  While charming and sweet, this can also be extremely uncomfortable.

 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are known to suffer from separation anxiety, which can be a major problem as a dog this size can be very loud and destructive.  Breeders have long focused on making the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog friendly and polite with strangers.  As a result, most breed members are quite welcoming to non-threatening strangers.  However, this breed does have strong guardian instincts and if not properly socialized it may become shy, timid, or even somewhat aggressive.  Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are very alert, and make excellent watchdogs.  They will let out a loud, booming bark which should be enough to deter almost any intruder.  However, this can get a little bit out of hand, and some may alert their owners every time a neighbor exits their home.  Although very large and powerful, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have very strong bite inhibition and are not generally people-aggressive which makes them poor guard dogs. This is not to say that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is in anyway devoid of courage; only that it will not go out of its way to overtly aggress a stranger entering its territory. The breed is very discerning and quite capable of picking up on someone who poses a threat to them or their family.  In such cases, this breed will stand its ground against any threat which can be extremely intimidating.

 

When socialized and trained, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are known for being very good with children.  This breed not only has a strong bite inhibition, but it is also very tolerant.  Most of these dogs are also extremely gentle.  Most fanciers will tell you that Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have a special affinity for children, and absolutely love the affection and attention which they provide.  A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog under the age of three may not be the best housemate for very young children.  This is not due to any aggression or intolerance, but rather the fact that an exuberant Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppy may accidentally harm a small child during play.

 

The one area where Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs show the greatest range of temperaments is with regard to their relations with other animals.  Breeders have put an emphasis on developing a dog that is good-natured with other creatures, especially dogs.  As a result, most Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are good-natured and welcoming of other dogs, although they do not crave their company.  The average breed member adjusts well to other canine housemates, but would be equally fine being an only dog.  However, some Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs develop dog aggression issues.  This is probably not a breed trait as much as it is the result of improper socialization and training.  Unfortunately, any dog aggression is more serious in this breed than others, because of its great size and power. 

 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were developed, as cattle herders, livestock protection animals, and draft animals.  As a result, some of these dogs have very strong herding instincts; others have almost none at all.  Similarly, some Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have very high prey drives, and some have very low prey drives.  As with any breed, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can be socialized to accept cats and other animal species.  Those dogs with low herding and prey drives are likely to be exceptionally tolerant of them.  However, dogs with high herding drives may harass cats and other creatures.  A much more serious issue lies with those Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs with high prey drives.  These animals may show surprisingly high levels of animal aggression.  This can be a major problem as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is large and powerful enough to seriously injure or kill other animals with very little effort.

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very trainable breed.  They are quite intelligent and most are very willing to please.  This breed is especially well-suited to learning repetitive tasks such as pulling.  Many breed members are also quite adept at herding, and some even take to it naturally.  This breed does best when with positive reinforcement and treating, but is not overly sensitive and should be able to take reasonable correction.  However, the trainability of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is entirely dependent on an owner being firmly in control.  This breed was developed as a working dog, which would follow the commands of a strong master.  Most breed members really want someone to take charge.  Most breed members are very willing to do as their leader commands.  As this breed is relatively submissive, becoming the alpha should not be especially difficult, especially for experienced dog owners.  However, this breed is not likely to follow someone who is not in control.  Owners who do not firmly and consistently establish themselves as the boss will have a difficult time controlling their dogs.  Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are a not a breed that takes a leadership role very willingly, and only do so when it is forced upon them.  As a result, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs without a dominant leader are somewhat erratic, especially with regards to obedience.  It is definitely recommended that owners of these dogs enroll their puppies in an obedience class, as they are so powerful when full grown that even the smallest behavioral problem can be magnified.

 

One area where the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog exhibits major training difficulties is housebreaking.  This breed is very, very slow to housebreak.  It is not uncommon for six-month old puppies to be untrustworthy in the house, and this process may take even longer.  Dogs with constant access to the outside housebreak faster, but many breeders have taken to using a large litter box with wood shavings.  This breed will eventually housebreak, but it takes a great deal of time, consistency, crate training, and supervision.  This problem is greatly exaggerated by the size of this breed.  A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog accident is many times the size that of most breeds.

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has a variable activity level, not only within the breed but within each individual dog.  Most breed members have sudden bursts of tremendous energy, followed by long periods of relaxation.  This is fairly common for working Mastiff-type dogs.  It is probably fair to say that the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has average exercise requirements, but slightly greater ones than many other similar breeds.  A family with an average activity level will likely be able to meet the needs of one of these dogs without too many problems.  Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs definitely need a long, daily walk.  This breed also likes time to run around off-leash in a secure enclosure, though it doesn’t need it like some breeds.  The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is capable of working hard for long periods, but it prefers to go at a walking pace.  This breed would probably not make the best jogging companion.  This breed likes to be with its family at all times, and will have an activity level which matches theirs.  A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog would love to go on a long hike, although it doesn’t need to.  Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are generally very confident in new environments, and can be taken to most places with few problems.  However, many breed members do not like the water and would prefer to avoid beaches, rivers, and lakes.  As with any breed, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs may become destructive if unexercised, although this is not a major problem for this breed.

 

Although calm and relaxed when adults, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are very active and energetic as puppies.  This breed also takes extra time to mature, and is usually not fully physically or mentally mature until it is two or three years old.  Unfortunately, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppies cannot get the level of activity that they want.  This breed’s bones develop very slowly and if they are overly exercised at too young of an age they frequently suffer from lifelong skeletal problems.  Owners must provide young Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs with mental stimulation to make up for a lack of exercise.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has relatively low grooming requirements.  This breed should never require professional grooming, only a regular thorough brushing.  However, these dogs do shed, and they shed a great deal.  The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog sheds throughout the year and can cover carpets, furniture, and clothes with hair.  However, once or twice a year they become exceptionally heavy shedders and often leave a pile of hair wherever they lie down.  If you or a member of your family have allergies or simply hate the thought of cleaning up dog hair, this is certainly not the breed for you.  However, this breed is considered to be dry-mouthed and drools considerably less than most similar breeds.

 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are generally good-natured.  However, many do not like to have their nails trimmed, their ears cleaned, their bodies bathed, or their teeth brushed.  It is very important that owners begin these procedures from a very young age and that they introduce them carefully.  It is very, very difficult to trim the nails of an immensely powerful 130 pound dog that is resistant.

 

Health Issues: 

 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered to be considerably healthier than most other giant breeds, and tends to suffer from far fewer health problems.  However, as is the case with almost all very large dogs, their life expectancy is quite short.  Different surveys have indicated different life expectancies for the breed, but one recent one conducted by the GSMDCA indicated that it is around 6.75 years.  However, this included accidental deaths and barring accidents the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is probably more likely to live between 8 and 9 years.  It is not uncommon for breed members to reach an age of 10 or 11, but they rarely live much beyond that.

 

The most common health problem experienced by Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs is distichiasis.  This condition is found in almost 20% of breed members.  Distichiasis is caused by the presence of extra eyelashes on the eyelids.  This does not affect most dogs in any way, but causes irritation for the minority of affected dogs.  Different vets use different treatments to remove the extra eyelashes, but most methods are fairly minor surgeries.

 

The second most common health problem experienced by this breed is urinary incontinence.  Many Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs urinate involuntarily, especially while sleeping.  Although males can be affected, this condition is much more frequent in females, and 17% of all females suffer from this condition to varying degrees.  This condition is much more likely to appear in spayed females than unsprayed ones.  Allowing a female to go through at least one reproductive cycle can reduce the likelihood of her developing urinary incontinence, but it is no guarantee.

 

Almost 17% of Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs experience what are known as lick fits.  Sometimes this breed will begin licking everything in its reach.  In many dogs it appears almost manic.  Dogs in this state will also eat anything they can find, including rocks, dirt, sticks, and carpet.  They also gulp air seemingly uncontrollably.  Owners have found that this condition can be prevented by making sure the dog never has an empty stomach.  Several small meals are fed throughout the day and large treats are given in between meals.

 

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are very intolerant of the heat.  This breed was bred to live in a cold climate of Switzerland and fares poorly in the hot conditions that predominate over much of the United States.  Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs become overheated rapidly, which results in discomfort and panting.  This breed also develops potentially fatal heat stroke more rapidly and at lower temperatures than most other dogs.  This breed should not be exercised in hot temperatures, and should be provided with plenty of shade and water.  It is definitely advisably to keep this dog in air conditioning when it is inside.

 

It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed.  The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.

 

A full list of health issues experienced by the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog would have to include:

 

  
 

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