About the Breed
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were originally draft (meaning they pulled a cart) and droving (meaning they herded cattle) breed from the Swiss Alps. They were an all purpose farm dog that helped with guarding the farm, herding the animals and hauling things where they needed to go. They also provided the farmers with companionship. They still retain these characteristics, although I am fairly sure they are glad for a sofa over a barn.
They are one of the four Swiss Sennehund (tri-color farm dog) breeds, and are the largest. They are affectionate and bold. They do not have as much herding instinct as Entlebuchers but do still give chase. They are guardians but should never be aggressive.
They get along well with almost all people and animals but do require consistent training- they are not dominant but will try to get their way. Obedience classes, patience and consistency are a must. They can take a while to learn a new skill including housebreaking. It will take even longer to train them out of something they were bred to do such as pulling and chasing.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are ultimate companions- they are snugglers, huggable and want to be with you at all times. They will get you out walking to enjoy the day but do not need so much exercise that you won't be able to keep up. They will happily take the kids to school with you or help in the garden. They are not overly interested in chewing up your house but they do love to eat. They are fairly easy reliable dogs overall. This is fully due to diligent good breeders and does not apply to dogs that are from puppy mills or backyard breeders not associated with the GSMDCA. There have been temperament incidents in the US with GSMD and it is our top priority to never have that happen to you. GSMD cost a lot of money but they are worth every penny- do not try to obtain one for a lower cost thinking that you will have the same dog.
Why I have Swissies
I compete in conformation, obedience, rally, agility, drafting and barn hunt with my dogs although their most important role is companion. Our dogs basically do everything with us-- sleep (better than a weighted blanket), go for walks (personal trainers), go to work (they donate blood when needed and give hugs), watch TV, whatever we are doing they are. They help me recover from the stress of the world and I enjoy their joie de vivre. I have had many dogs in my lifetime and have known thousands, but I am quite pleased to be owned by quality Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. They are not prone to anxiety, they get along with other animals and people, and they are always making me laugh. They are fun to train and do activities with, and love going places.
There is wonderful information on the AKC website as well as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America website
This article has some great info too:
Is a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Right for You? Written by Karen Conant
You've probably heard all of the great attributes of these striking, loyal companions, but please consider the following facts when deciding whether the GSMD is the right breed for you:
Properly raising a Swissy takes time. Does your job and lifestyle allow for the commitment to properly raise and train a working dog? Read on and then determine whether or not a Swissy matches your lifestyle.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are a large breed and require space. They also require moderate activity and regular exercise. A true working breed, the Swissy is most content when he has a job or purpose.
Swissys are most content in the company of their families. They are not well suited to kenneling and confinement away from the activities of the household. Though capable of withstanding the elements, the Swissy's nature is best suited to being a family member and house companion.
Swissys are alert and vigilant. This means that they will bark at neighbors, guests, and just about anything going on in the neighborhood! They have a natural protective instinct to guard home and family.
Most Swissys like the company of children, but NO large dog should be left unattended with young children. Due to the Swissy's robust size and active nature, they can easily topple children unintentionally.
Swissys have several major health problems to consider. In addition to the common orthopedic ailments of large breeds, such as OCD and hip dysplasia, the GSMD is afflicted by a very serious condition known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus, or "bloat". Epilepsy is another very serious health concern. All of these conditions can be costly to treat and manage.
Swissys are strong dogs! They are powerful in physical strength and strong-willed and can often be a challenge to leash train. Swissys love to pull. Keep in mind that children (and for that matter some adults!) may have a difficult time walking a Swissy throughout the neighborhood.
Because many Swissys have a well developed prey drive, they require a fenced yard for safe containment. A neighbor's cat or unsuspecting squirrel can become the target of chase!
Swissy temperaments vary but are overall quite complex due to their working dog nature and development. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are NOT a good choice for inexperienced or first time dog owners. In the hands of an experienced owner, the Swissy can be a wonderful family companion.
GSMDs require diligent socialization at an early age. This means meeting many new people and being introduced to many new situations. Socializing a Swissy is a commitment not to be taken lightly. Some GSMDs may exhibit dog aggression, particularly intra-sex aggression in intact animals.
Swissys are slow maturing both mentally and physically. Because of orthopedic concerns related to large breed dogs, great care must be taken to prevent injury during growth stages. Despite their sturdy build, the breed is, in effect, quite fragile during these growth periods. The Swissy is not a breed that can sustain unlimited exercise or activities such as jogging at a young age.
Swissys shed!!! A common misconception is that the short coat of the GSMD sheds very little, and nothing could be further from the truth. The Swissy has a thick undercoat which sheds continually throughout the year and requires regular grooming.
If you are interested in breeding, you should know that the GSMD is prone to whelping difficulties and often require cesarean sections. They are not easy to breed!
Finally, Swissys need TRAINING! Prepare to devote the time and energy to ensure your dog has all of the "tools" it needs to become a good citizen.