Appenzell Cattle Dog (Appenzeller Sennenhund)

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black or havana brown with reddish-brown and white markings
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Pros Cons

  • faithful and loving

  • alert watcher and undaunted guardian

  • needs very basic maintenance

  • very suspicious to strangers

  • substantial exercise requirements

  • chases other animals


The Appenzell Cattle Dog is a multifunctional farm dog developed in Switzerland somewhere in XIX century. Throughout its history it was charged with wide range of tasks including cattle herding and driving, carts pulling and guarding its masters and their households from perpetrators. This breed is attributed to the group of four kindred Swiss Mountain Dogs but it’s still the least well-known among them outside its homeland.


The Appenzell Cattle Dog was invented in the two Swiss cantons, which is also referred as Appenzellerland and was one of dozens of separate varieties of Sennenhunds. However canines from that area were much more like Spitz in appearance than like Sennenhund. Actually it’s commonly thought that the breed was created by crossing various Sennenhunds with Celtic or Germanic Spitzen. It’s also considered among the first dogs of this type that received the status of a unique canine variety. Its official appearance in the historical records dates back to 1853 when it was minutely described in a text called “Tierleben der Alpenwelt” (Animal Life in the Alps).

For numerous centuries the Appenzell Sennenhund performed various task for dairy farmers across Appenzellerland. In fact the breed’s name roughly means «Dairy Farmer’s Dog». The dog was obliged to drive herds of cattle from the outlying rural regions to more densely-populated centres where animals were sold or slaughtered. Since horses didn’t do well in the cliffy alpine terrain the breeds’ members also accepted a duty of transportation goods across the farm and back and forth to the market. The distant country areas in which this dog was bred were teemed with perilous wild animals and human criminals so rural farmers had to trust their pets with guarding of their homes from such kind of threats. Consequently the Appenzell Sennenhund acquired strong protective drive and reputation of an extremely useful and versatile working dog.

Up until the end of the XIX century the Appenzell Cattle Dog thrived in its primary role of a cattle drover and herder in the remote corners of Switzerland. At the dawn of the XX century civilisation finally penetrated in these areas and farmers began to increasingly use modern ways of transportation. As the breed lost much of its value, few of farmers could afford the expenses of keeping a dog at all. Over time the dogs’ population dwindled to the very low level although it had never been endangered with complete disappearance.

The first standard of the Appenzell Sennenhund was drawn up in 1914. During the XX century the breed spread across Switzerland where it gained lots of fanciers who greatly contributed in its promotion. Although its specimens can be found in European countries it remains hardly known outside its native land. Nonetheless the dog was recognised by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1993 and was accepted into the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service Program in 2007. Most of today’s Appenzell Sennenhunds serve as a companion dogs as well as compete with invariable success in such canine sports as agility, obedience and weight pulling.


The description of the Appenzell Cattle Dog should include such words as industrious, unflinchingly loyal and people-oriented. Separation anxiety tends to become an issue for this breed so make sure to include your pet in as many family events as possible. It’s not uncommon for this dog to develop especially tender attachment to only one family member although it will always fiercely defend its entire human pack. As with any other canine this breed needs early socialisation to make a well-mannered pet. In this case it will be quite alright with older kids. It’s worth to mention though that this dog is probably too rambunctious to interact with small children without proper supervision.

The Appenzell Sennenhund usually exhibits a great deal of wariness in the presence of strangers. Because of its powerful territorial instinct this sort of aloofness may quickly turn into an outright hostility if the dog believes that a newcomer poses threat for its domain or special people. However the correctly socialised member will behave itself politely with guests in your house. Its natural attentiveness makes this dog a wonderful watcher. It’s also well-prepared to lay down its life for its family and commonly becomes a great guard dog.

In general the Appenzell Sennenhund is amicable with other dogs and welcomes a chance to acquire one or several permanent companions among other canines. As far as it concerns other species of animals this dog will relentlessly chase them once tempted. Although it shouldn’t be trusted around homeless creatures it usually co-exists peacefully with familiar home cats and other types of pets.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

· canine hip dysplasia;

· elbow dysplasia;

· eye problems;

· gastric torsion;

· demodex mange;

· haemolytic anemia;

· epilepsy.


The grooming of the Appenzell Cattle Dog is rather an easy task. Weekly brushing is necessary for keeping the dog’s coat in an optimal condition. Bathe your pet only occasionally and with vet-approved shampoo.

The rest maintenance is rather trivial and consists of regular nail trimming and teeth brushing. The owner should also periodically examine the ears of the Appenzell Cattle Dog for such indications of infection or irritation as redness or unpleasant odour.

Be mindful that this breed tends to shed all year around but this process intensifies greatly when the seasons change. Thorough and more frequent brushing will be useful in reducing the amount of loose hair on your carpets, furniture and clothing.


The Appenzell Cattle Dog is a disciplinable and sagacious dog whose training requires average amount of time and efforts. Up until recently this dog has been bred predominantly for working purpose so it loves having a job to do. It performs at the highest level at various canine trials such as obedience and agility contests.

Majority of these dogs crave to make its master happy and make attentive and quick learners. Nonetheless some of its specimens have propensity for stubbornness and therefore their training should be approached with much more patience and good humour. It’s recommended to reinforce the dog’s motivation with reward in the form of its favourite food and generous praise.


Being a working dog through and through, the Appenzell Sennenhund is very demanding when it comes to the level of its physical activity. This spirited and tough dog needs at least an hour of energetic exercise every single day. A simple walk will be insufficient to satisfy its craving for motion so it will probably make a poor housemate for an apartment dweller. The best living condition for this dog is a country house with spacious but safely fenced yard.

Thanks to its incredible hardiness the Appenzell Cattle Dog is an excellent choice for fans of long and strenuous walking tours through the highlands or the snow. Remember that without sizeable amount of physical stimulation this dog is very likely to fall into such nasty habits as unreasonable barking, destructiveness and hyperactivity indoors.