Frequently Asked Questions-
1. What is the typical temperament of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (GSMD)?
They are big goofballs- extremely affectionate and attached to their humans. They genuinely want to please you but can be hard headed at times. They are not prone to anxiety and as long as they are well socialized they can get along well in most any situation. Our dogs are selected and raised to have the best temperaments possible.
2. Do they get along with children?
Yes, they typically love people of all sizes but they are large dogs and can easily knock a child over. As with everything, training and socialization is key. They are bred to pull carts so pulling on the leash can be a problem for children.
3. What are the best things about Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs as a breed?
I love the affection they show to me. I have loved many dogs in my life, but Poppy stole my heart with the amount she loves me back. They are fairly easy in general, not too smart, not too dumb, not too much energy, not too little, always ready to do something fun. Personally, I also think they are just the most beautiful things in the world. They don’t pay attention to things outside or guard quite as well as some dogs we have had, but I am also not worried that they will bite someone. They are intimidating just by size alone.
4. What are the worst things?
They shed a fair amount, and they like to eat all sorts of things on the farm and then fart. They are a bit too energetic with new people and are strong on the leash. They like to chase cats and chickens and need to be trained not to.
5. What health problems are they prone to?
In general, they are fairly healthy but there are some major health risks. Bloat is a possibility in all large dogs, and Swissies are more prone to splenic torsion than some others as well. They are also prone to back and spinal issues especially as they age. Epilepsy and orthopedic issues do occur. Their life span is about 10 years, about the same as similarly sized dogs but shorter than we would like. The clubs have been working hard to track and decrease the health risks. See Health pages
6. How do they compare to other breeds?
If you have not met a Swissy, I encourage you to do so before you decide if this is the right dog for you. They are great dogs but not for everyone. They are similar to Bernese, although they are not quite as laid back. They are also slightly healthier. They are great companions like Labs are but more hard-headed and require a bit more training. The herding type dogs (including Entlebuchers) generally have much more energy and need to be given jobs compared to the GSMD who is happy to have a lazy day. They are not as good guardians as the bully/mastiff breeds, but I do not ever really worry about them getting in fights. Please note, these are purely personal observations. I love every one of these dog breeds, as well as shelter dogs!
7. How can I justify purchasing a dog when there are so many in shelters?
This is a complicated question. I have worked with shelters and have euthanized many dogs. There are wonderful dogs that die in shelters, but very many shelter and rescue dogs come with baggage. They are more prone to anxiety and behavioral issues. There are many bully breeds and hounds but less choice. I think the beautiful thing about purebred dogs is the predictability. Yes, every dog is an individual, but there is a framework of behaviors, health concerns and appearance. Acquiring a puppy from a quality breeder (see next question) lets you know that they have had the absolute best start in life and are prepared to be the best companion.
Personally, I think that humans are a bit too judgmental with each other. I do not believe that everyone needs to rescue a dog, although I appreciate the people who do. I do not believe that everyone needs to foster or adopt a child, although I appreciate the people who do. It does not make you a better person to have a rescue dog vs. a purebred. I have had many shelter dogs and we have one now, they have mostly been wonderful but there is not the same predictability. The nice thing about buying a purebred dog from a quality breeder is that you can relax a little- you know what your dog is going to be and that he will work with your lifestyle. If you are interested in rescue dogs, I can direct you to some wonderful organizations that I support.
8. How do I know if it is a quality breeder and why does that matter?
I have been a veterinarian much longer than a dog breeder and the general opinion of breeders is very low. This is because there are relatively few good breeders compared to the backyard or puppy mill breeders. Good breeders are much more than puppy pimps- they take considerable effort to provide you with the best companion possible. Good breeders follow the standards of the national club, in this case GSMDCA, and raise each litter in their homes with TLC. They wait until dogs have had all their health clearances and have been approved by multiple judges to be breeding quality (this is what a conformation championship is) before breeding. They select parents with the best possible temperaments and health. They import dogs from other countries and ship semen across the country to decrease inbreeding. They talk to other breeders and compare notes on best practices. They stay next to the whelping box for weeks caring for each little baby. They socialize the puppies to different objects, noises and scenarios before they go into their new homes. They put in much more effort than they get paid for. This results in the best outcomes for the puppies. Good breeders never sell puppies to pet stores or without personal contact, and require applications and interviews from puppy parents. Many have a waiting list and it is heartbreaking to need a dog in your life and have to wait, but it will be worth it. Quite fortunately, most GSMD breeders are excellent.
9. What is the typical cost of a GSMD?
Most breeders charge between $2500 and 3500 for puppies. This is a considerable amount of money but they are expensive dogs to produce puppies from. It costs large amounts of money before a female can be bred between entry fees to shows, health certifications, progesterone testing and stud fees. The puppy adoption fee also covers the neonatal care, puppy raising, socialization and temperament evaluations. Good breeders are available for consultation for the life of the dog, and I am no exception. My advice may be to contact your veterinarian, but I am available to help Swallowfield puppies at any time. I can help you evaluate health concerns, which will save you money and stress in the long run.
10. Why are your puppies better than other quality breeders?
They are really not. There are multiple quality GSMD breeders who have similarly wonderful dogs. Ours are raised in our home and farm and have plenty of fresh air and love. You will have access to me for veterinary advice for the life of your dog, although you will need to have a family veterinarian that provides the care. You own your dog and are free to make decisions about them (we do not do much co-owning), but will need to have permission before breeding. If you cannot keep your dog for any reason, I will take him back from you at any time, no questions asked. My puppies are absolutely better than some "puppy mill" or cheaper breeders that do not health test or raise pups with temperament in mind. There is a good Facebook page "Finding a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog" that discusses how to find a good breeder.
11. What will I need to do to prepare for a puppy?
You will need a crate, time and patience. It is helpful to take a week or two off of work when you first bring your puppy home. Swissies often take a long time to potty train, but consistency and careful observation is important. Puppies are not able to hold their urine for more than about 3-4 hours until they are 6 months old. They need to be monitored very closely, corrected when appropriate and praised for good behavior. The hardest thing is correcting adorable naughty behavior. It is cute when the puppy paws at you for attention and bites your face and jumps on you but you need to be strong and start good behavior early. There are some decent puppy raising books, but it is also important to find a good puppy class as well as an obedience class for the adolescent dog.
12. Can I pick the puppy out?
This is a hard one for new puppy owners, but for the most part it is better to let the breeder pick which puppy is best for your family. There are several reasons for this. Swissy markings are all fairly similar but it is hard to not want the one with the dot on her head or splotch on his chest. Even puppies in the same litter have slightly different temperaments and behaviors. It is very helpful to tell the breeder what you want out of your puppy (for example, do you want to show conformation, do agility or therapy dog work) and then during the 7 week temperament tests, we can select the one that fits your family best. Everyone who visits a litter of puppies will fall in love with the boldest, most outgoing puppy but that one will probably not be the best fit for a family with young children who does not want the dog jumping on them and needing consistent discipline. There are occasionally puppies born that are not show quality by coat color alone (blue/red instead of black color, white over an eye or blue eye), if you would be interested in one of these puppies, please let us know.
Showtime Photography, baby Betsy at the 2017 GSMDCA National Specialty