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All About Swissies


Swissies are naturally a very, confident, friendly dog. They are happiest when spending time with their families. They should be not be fearful or aggressive. Proper socialization from an early age is very important. Most Swissy pups are very active but as adults they are generally calm dogs who require a moderate amount of exercise.


Generally, Swissies are easy to train, but you must be patient with them. Firm but gentle training with positive reinforcement methods. Do not use physical punishment or heavy corrections. Swissies can be stubborn at times, but for the most part, just want to please their owner. They really thrive on attention and praise.


Swissies are the largest of the four Swiss Sennenhund. Females weigh between 80-110lbs, and stand 23-27 inches tall. Males weigh between 105-145 lbs, they stand 25-28 inches at the shoulder. This is just a guideline, dogs will differ, depending on size and structure. Swissies are slow maturers and usually do not reach their full size until they are about 2 or 3 years old.

General Appearance

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 well-sprung. 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.



Computer images of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are provided through the courtesy of the AKC Judging Research and Development Department.



The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered the oldest of the Swiss breeds and was instrumental in the early development of both the St. Bernard and the Rottweiler. There are several theories regarding the ancient origins of the Swiss Sennenhund breeds. The most popular theory states the dogs are descended from the Mollasian, a large Mastiff-type dog that accompanied the Roman Legions on their invasion of the Alps in the 1st century B.C. However, a second theory holds that the Phoenicians (c. 1100 B.C.) brought a large breed of dog with them to settlements in Spain, and that these dogs later migrated eastward to influence the development of the Spanish Mastiff, Great Pyrenees, Dogue de Bordeaux, and eventually the large Swiss breeds. Yet a third possibility is that a large breed was indigenous to central Europe as far back as the Neolithic period. Whether or not a large breed was already in existence at the time of the Roman invasion of the Alpine regions, it seems clear that the Roman dogs would have been bred with these dogs. As a result, several breeds, including the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, St. Bernard, and Bernese Mountain Dog, are largely descended from the Roman Mollasian.

Early History in Europe

The early ancestors of the Swissy were used by farmers, herdsmen, and merchants in central Europe. Selective breeding was more commonly based on the dog's ability to perform a particular function, such as pulling loads or guarding, rather than on any acknowledged breed standard. Consequently, a group of dogs bred to perform a certain function took the name of that activity, such as Viehhunde, or cattle dog. By the 19th century, the ancestors of the modern Swissy were widely used in central Europe by farmers, and tradesmen, and were often referred to as, Metzgerhunde, or "Butcher's Dogs". They were large, muscular dogs, some with tri-colored markings, though red/white and black/tan coloring were also prevalent. At one time these dogs were believed to have been among the most popular dogs in Switzerland. However, by 1900 their numbers had severely dwindled. This decrease in numbers is possibly due to the increasing availability of mechanized transport as an alternative to the traditional use of the Swissy as a draft dog.

The Contributions of Albert Heim

At the 1908 jubilee dog show, held to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Schweizerische Kynologische Gesellschaft (Swiss Kennel Club or SKG), two entries were described as "short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs". In attendance at this event, was Professor Albert Heim, a canine researcher and distinguished expert on the Swiss Sennenhund breeds. Professor Heim recognized these dogs to be members of the large Sennenhund type, and pressed for their recognition as a separate breed. The following year, the SKG listed the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog) in the Swiss Stud Book.

Development in the 20th Century and Establishment in the U.S.A

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. During WWII the breed was used by the Swiss Army as a draft dog and by 1945 it is believed there were approximately 350-400 dogs in existence. In 1968, J. Frederick and Patricia Hoffman, with the help of Perrin G. Rademacher, imported the first Swissys to the US. Subsequently, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America was formed, with the assistance of Howard and Gretel Summons. Since that time the Club has promoted careful, selective breeding to gradually increase the strength and popularity of the breed. In 1983, the Club held the first GSMDCA National Specialty and the club registry contained 257 dogs. In 1985, the breed was granted entrance to the AKC Miscellaneous Group. In 1992, the GSMDCA started to work toward full AKC recognition. In July 1995, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was officially granted full recognition in the AKC Working Group. 

(Taken from

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