Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013
Calm and steady, yet bold and athletic, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog doesn't need hours of hard running, but he definitely needs regular moderate exercise. Pulling a cart or sled is a productive outlet for his energy, especially when children are involved. (However, don't expect him to be a babysitter!)
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs thrive on your companionship, though their determination to jump up into your face, shove their body against your leg, or slap a massive paw into your lap can be disconcerting.
This vigilant watchdog will sound off in a loud, deep voice to announce visitors -- or simply to let you know that your neighbor has stepped outdoors. Most Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are friendly with guests, but some are more wary, and some are shy, spooky, or aggressive. Early and ongoing socialization is essential to develop a stable Swissy.
Some Swissys are peaceful with other animals, while others have a high prey drive and do not get along with small animals such as cats, while still others are downright aggressive with strange dogs.
Obedience training should start at three months old and include praise and food. Heeling is imperative: These powerful dogs can literally pull you off your feet. During adolescence, their hormones will kick in and they will start to test his owner, who must respond with assertive, consistent leadership.
Slower to mature (both physically and mentally) than many other breeds, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog remains playfully puppy-like for many years. This sounds delightful, but can wear away your patience when that "puppy" weighs over 100 pounds! For example, you must control the tendency of this breed to mouth your hands. Similarly, he may try to ingest everything in his path, from sticks to gravel.
Frankly, with all of his special needs, the Greater Swiss is often "too much dog" for the average household.
If you want a dog who...
- Is giant, robust, and powerful
- Has a short easy-care coat
- Prefers that his exercise take the form of carting or sledding or weight-pulling, rather than hard running
- Makes a vigilant watchdog, but is usually dependable with people
A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- A huge dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
- A heavy dog who wants to sit on your feet and lean his weight against your leg
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
- Destructiveness when bored or left alone too much
- Aggression or fearfulness toward strangers when not socialized enough
- Potential aggression toward other animals
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Excessive barking
- Possible slobbering
- A short lifespan
- Waiting lists and a high price tag
A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
If I was considering a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. Adult Swissies need more exercise to keep them in shape, but not in hot or humid weather for fear of overheating. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds.
Since you have to minimize their exercise, young Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can be very rambunctious. They will romp with uncoordinated gawkiness all over your house. You need to substitute extra quantities of companionship and supervision. Otherwise, left alone, young Swissies become bored and destructive -- and their powerful jaws can literally destroy your living room.
- Providing enough socialization. Many Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have protective instincts toward strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, which could lead to biting. Some Swissies go in the opposite direction -- without enough socialization, they become fearful of strangers, which can lead to defensive biting.
- Animal aggression. Some Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Some have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
- The strong temperament. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are not Golden Retrievers. They have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. Some Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
- Barking. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs should NEVER be left outside in your yard, unsupervised. Their booming barks will have your neighbors calling the cops to report the nuisance -- or quietly letting your Swissy out of his yard so he'll wander away.
- Slobbering. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are not supposed to be droolers, but those with loose jowls will do so when food is present. And most Swissies are messy drinkers who slobber water everywhere.
- Serious health problems. The lifespan of a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is short and an alarming number are crippled by bone and joint diseases and/or succumb to cancer in middle age.
- Finding one and paying the price. In the United States, only about 500 new Greater Swiss Mountain Dog puppies are registered each year. (Compare that to over 60,000 new Golden Retriever puppies!) And many breeders are charging $1500 or more for a Swissy.
To learn more about training Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Greater Swiss Mountain Dog...
When you're acquiring a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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