Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund)

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black with reddish-brown markings and white markings
very large
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons

  • devoted and loving

  • gentle and patient with children

  • fits perfectly for guarding and watching job

  • needs minimal grooming

  • may be very noisy

  • intense seasonal shedder

  • dominant

  • unadvisable for keeping in an apartment


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund) is a large all-purpose working breed that originated in Switzerland quite a few centuries ago. The cattle driving and herding, carts pulling and guarding farmers’ houses and families were part of the duties of this audacious, loyal and hard-working dog. Currently it predominantly plays the role of a lovable family companion although it’s very successful in all kinds of dog sports.


The ancient ancestors of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog arrived to the distant regions of Switzerland with Roman subjugators. They gradually assimilated with local canine population, which led to appearance of multiple varieties of so-called Sennenhunds. Four of them survived to the present day and the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund is the largest and the most powerful of these Swiss native breeds. The dog was proficient at handling livestock, including herding and guarding its subordinated domestic animals. This caused its enormous popularity with cattle-breeders and butchers.

In fact «Sennenhund» is loosely translated as «dog of the Alpine herdsmen». Nonetheless its responsibilities weren’t just brought to livestock management as this dog was widely used to draw carts loaded with dairy products and other wares to markets and cheese works. Local farmers also relied on their four-legged assistants to guard their premises from wolves and other unwanted guests.

By the end of XIX century in Switzerland traditional ways of transportation were mostly replaced by more fast and reliable modern alternatives so the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog had lost much of its appeal in the role of a herder and cart drafter. This invariably led to dramatic decrease in its population. The breed would have faced a very sad fate of a complete demise if it hadn’t been for a Professor Albert Heim from Zurich, a famous Swiss dog expert of those times. He and Franz Shertenleib put forth valiant efforts in order to collect the best remaining specimens of the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund and launched a special breeding program. Thanks to their selfless labour the dog received formal recognition of the Swiss Kennel Club in 1910.

The Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund made its way to the United States in the middle of the XX century after a few American canine fans observed it on a dog show in Frankfurt, Germany. Since then its number in this country slowly but continuously grew. The American Kennel Club (AKC) fully recognised the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog in 1995.

Modern breed member is largely spared from its initial duties although it surely preserves much of it working drive and stamina. Nonetheless the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund has a chance to demonstrate its numerous talents in all sorts of canine trials, especially obedience, weight pulling and carting.


For the most part of its history the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was bred exclusively as a working animal and still enjoys fine reputation in this role. Nonetheless today it was decisively re-qualified to a lovable companion dog that stands out for its deep-rooted loyalty and close attachment to its human family. It loves spending time in the company of exuberant kids and always treats them with essential care. However as the breed member may knock down a toddler inadvertently in the heat of a game it won’t make the best pet for families with very small children.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog tends to feel a burning desire to defend its masters and territory from any sort of threats, including ill-intended strangers. So it comes as no surprise that this dog is extremely reserved and standoffish around unfamiliar people. However unmotivated human aggressiveness is rather non-typical for this dog so once correctly socialised it will be moderately friendly with guests in your house. This dog is always quick to notify its masters about any suspicious change in its surroundings, which makes it a very reliable watcher and, unfortunately, an obnoxious barker. In most cases the intimidating appearance and menacing barking are more than enough to scare off any unwelcomed guest but the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund has both willingness and courage for immediate confrontation if the situation calls for it.

The breed is averagely accepting of other canines. On the whole it does best in a single-dog homestead although it gets on perfectly well with other dogs of the opposite sex. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog usually takes hostile stand as far as it concerns homeless creatures, especially cats. Nonetheless it’s rather well-behaved with familiar domestic pets, although it may chase in attempt to herd them like cattle.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

· bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus);

· epilepsy;

· elbow dysplasia;

· canine hip dysplasia.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is an easy-to-groom breed. Weekly brushing is usually more than enough to keep its sleek and short coat in a perfect condition. Being a seasonal shedder this dog will need more frequent and thorough brushing in spring and fall.

The rest is rather basic maintenance, which is composed of periodic nail clipping and teeth brushing. Check the dog’s ears occasionally for accumulated dirt or earwax and clean them as necessary. The dog won’t become an optimal pet for an allergic sufferer as it replaces its entire coat once or twice a year.


The training of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is usually complicated by its dominant personality. Despite its quick-wittedness it doesn’t like following orders and tends to rely on its own judgments as to what is more appropriate in any given situation. That’s why even a skilled trainer will find it difficult to teach this dog basic tricks, not mention some advanced techniques.

For adequate results the training of the breed member should be grounded on principles of consistency and repetitiveness. Make sure to stimulate the interest of your pet with its favourite food and kind words. Harsh discipline doesn’t work with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog that reacts to it by acting even more wilfully and disobediently.


The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a powerful and athletic dog that demands a great deal of physical activity on a daily basis. However couple of long and brisk walks per day are quite enough to keep this dog fit and happy. In winter it will be absolutely elated if allowed to pull a sled with familiar kids on board.

This breed is much too big and boisterous to be kept in a small apartment and does much better in the countryside where it has plentiful space to move. Of course the dog of such size and strength must be released off-leash only in a safely enclosed area. Be aware that the under exercised Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund usually exhibits numerous behavioural deviations, including hyperactivity indoors, uncontrollable barking and even unpredictable aggressiveness.