The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the oldest of all the Swiss Breeds, although not nearly as popular as its counterpart the Bernese Mountain Dog. The breed was developed in rural Europe and was bred to be the poor farmers jack of all trades. Their work load included pulling carts, droving cattle, and guarding the property. This is reflected in our current breed standard that calls for a "confident dog of sturdy appearance.. agile enough to perform all purpose farm duties." However as technology flourished, the once most popular dogs in Switzerland dwindled down to a very small breeding stock. By the twentieth century, the breed was rare. However, due to the passion and vigilance of Dr. Albert Helm the breed was kept alive. During World War II, the Breed's versatile character was demonstrated as they were used as draft dogs for the Swiss Army. In 1945, it was approximated that only 350-400 dogs were still in existence. The lovable breed was first brought to the United States in 1968 by J. Frederick and Patricia Hoffman.
As any breed does, Swissies have their fair share of health concerns. However in the hands of a responsible breeder, many risks can be mitigated. In order to protect the health and longevity of the breed, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America recommends the following health screenings below.
Once all these exams are completed and on file with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, the dog will earn their CHIC number. In order to better understand why these exams where chosen by the GSMDCA, you need to understand the health risks faced by swissies. Several health topics will be reviewed below, for a broader list with specific details are located on the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America's site.
In terms of their orthopedic health, swissies have their fair share of issues that are present throughout large breeds. These problems include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and OCDs. While all our dogs are screened for such diseases through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, that does not guarantee a healthy puppy. These diseases are multifactorial, caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Due to their large size, swissies take a long time to mature both mentally and physically. Their joints are completely developed until two years of age. Swissies should not me spayed or neutered prior to two years of age for this reason. Early spay and neuter has been linked to a variety of health conditions including dysplasia, incontinence, and cancer. It is mandatory that all Land's End Swissies be intact until two years old. Also, big part of swissy ownership is preventing your dog from injuring itself. Exercise should be moderated and adjusted to fit the dogs developmental age. Young injuries can lead to chronic problems down the road. Puppy home guidance about appropriate protocols are a critical component to mentorship. We utilize "Puppy Culture" literature to help our homes with the process.
Swissies are also at risk of developing several eye conditions. hence the requisite eye exam by a board certified ophthalmologist. While several of the conditions, such as Distichias and Entropion, are evident during development other conditions such as congenital cataract may be present without obvious signs or symptoms.
Like all large breeds with deep chests, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are prone to bloat also known as Gastric Dilation. Bloat occurs when the dogs stomach becomes engorged due to gas. Without quick intervention, the stomach can also become rotated cutting off blood flow called Gastric dilatation-volvulus or Torsion . This is a medical emergency that needs to be addressed immediately. Again bloat is thought to both have environmental and genetic factors. As swissy owners, its important that you recognize the signs and symptoms of bloat and take precautions to minimize the risk. A prophylactic procedure called Gastropexy is required to be added on to any spay/neuter procedure. This procedure will prevent torsion and make it less likely that a bloat episode will be lethal.
Recently, it has been brought to breeders attention that there has been an increase in the number of swissies that have developed bleeding issues. It has been reported that dogs are getting nose bleeds that have been unable to be controlled and bleeding out during surgery. Unfortunately, there is no obvious cause at this point. The GSMDCA is sponsoring a research project through Cornell to investigate a mutated platelet receptor, however their results don't demonstrate a clear correlation. Some breeders are opting to do the testing, while others are opting out. The decision either way can be justified.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs also have epilepsy in their gene pool. Unfortunately, there is no good genetic marker for the disease making it difficult to avoid. More information can be found on the GSMDCA about swissies and epilepsy. Its a breeders worst nightmare to be informed that one of their puppies has had a seizure. Epilepsy and health are a priority when it comes to planning breedings.
Breeding quality healthy dogs is our number one priority. WIth this being said, we can not guarantee anyone a healthy puppy. And if someone does, they are lying to you. Unfortunately, I, nor anyone else, can control genetics. The only thing we can do is take the proper precautions, through screenings and tests, while evaluating breeding stock. A lot of the aforementioned health concerns are carried through recessive genes, which unfortunately cannot be foreseen. As responsible AKC Breeders of Merit, we cannot guarantee you a healthy puppy but we can show you evidence of the parents of health screenings. All our dogs health screenings are made public on the OFA and are linked to from our webpage.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog can make a wonderful companion in the right hands. Those hands have to understand that these dogs were bred to be hardy farm dogs, that can be quite stubborn at times. With appropriate understanding of their original purpose, their temperaments are predictable and biddable. However, it is important to note that they are not the dog for everyone. Swissies require consistent training and well established boundaries. They are not tri colored labradors and are working dogs at heart. You need to be comfortable playing the dominant role in your relationship with your swissy, or they can become hard to manage. We prioritize temperament without our breeding program, as a vast majority of our puppies get placed in companion homes.
Please enjoy this article written by Jennie Chen of Roman Reign Kennels.
The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a Draft and Drover breed and should structurally appear as such. It is a striking, tri-colored, large, powerful, confident dog of sturdy appearance. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog which, in spite of its size and weight, is agile enough to perform the all-purpose farm duties of the mountainous regions of its origin.
Size, Proportion, and Substance
Height at the highest point on the shoulder is ideally:
Dogs: 25.5 to 28.5 inches
Bitches: 23.5 to 27 inches
Body length to height is approximately a 10 to 9 proportion, thus appearing slightly longer than tall. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog of sturdy appearance.
Expression is animated and gentle. The eyes are almond shaped and brown, dark brown preferred, medium sized, neither deep set nor protruding. Blue eye or eyes is a disqualification. Eyelids are close fitting and eyerims are black. The ears are medium sized, set high, triangular in shape, gently rounded at the tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base. The top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat and broad with a slight stop. The backskull and muzzle are of approximately equal length. The backskull is approximately twice the width of the muzzle. The muzzle is large, blunt and straight, not pointed and most often with a slight rise before the end. In adult dogs the nose leather is always black. The lips are clean and as a dry-mouthed breed, flews are only slightly developed. The teeth meet in a scissors bite.
Neck, Topline, and Body
The neck is of moderate length, strong, muscular and clean. The topline is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep and broad with a slight protruding breastbone. The ribs are wellsprung. Depth of chest is approximately one half the total height of the dog at the withers. Body is full with slight tuck up. The loins are broad and strong. The croup is long, broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion.
The tail is thick from root to tip, tapering slightly at the tip, reaching to the hocks, and carried down in repose. When alert and in movement, the tail may be carried higher and slightly curved upwards, but should not curl, or tilt over the back. The bones of the tail should feel straight.
The shoulders are long, sloping, strong and moderately laid back. They are flat and well-muscled.
Forelegs are straight and strong. The pasterns slope very slightly, but are not weak. Feet are round and compact with well arched toes, and turn neither in nor out. The dewclaws may or may not be present.
The thighs are broad, strong and muscular. The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks. The hocks are well let down and straight when viewed from the rear. Feet are round and compact with well arched toes, and turn neither in nor out. Dewclaws should be removed.
Topcoat is dense, approximately 1-1/4 to 2 inches in length. Undercoat must be present and may be thick and sometimes showing, almost always present at neck but may be present throughout. Color of undercoat ranges from the preferred dark gray to light gray to tawny. Total absence of undercoat is undesirable and should be penalized.
The topcoat is black. The markings are rich rust and white. Symmetry of markings is desired. On the head, rust typically appears over each eye, on each cheek and on the underside of the ears. On the body, rust appears on both sides of the forechest, on all four legs and underneath the tail. White markings appear typically on the head (blaze) and muzzle. The blaze may vary in length and width. It may be a very thin stripe or wider band. The blaze may extend just barely to the stop or may extend over the top of the skull and may meet with white patch or collar on the neck. Typically, white appears on the chest, running unbroken from the throat to the chest, as well as on all four feet and on the tip of the tail. White patches or collar on the neck is acceptable. Any color other than the “Black, Red and White” tri-colored dog described above, such as “Blue/Charcoal, Red and White” or “Red and White” is considered a disqualification. When evaluating the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, markings and other cosmetic factors should be considered of lesser importance than other aspects of type which directly affect working ability.
Good reach in front, powerful drive in rear. Movement with a level back.
Bold, faithful, willing worker. Alert and vigilant. Shyness or aggressiveness shall be severely penalized.
The foregoing is the description of the ideal Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Defects of both structure and temperament are to be judged more severely than mere lack of elegance because they reduce the animal’s capacity to work. Any fault that detracts from the above described working dog should be penalized to the extent of the deviation.
Any color other than the “Black, Red and White” tri-colored dog described above, such as “Blue/Charcoal, Red and White” or “Red and White”. Blue eye or eyes.