Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs


Breed Intro

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the largest of the four Swiss Sennenhund (mountain herdsmen) breeds.   They were developed in the mountains of Switzerland as an all around farm dog and specialize as a draft and sentry dog.

They were bred to work with their farmer, moving livestock, pulling carts around the farm and into town, delivering merchandise  such as milk and cheese to market, watching the kids and alerting to a strangers approach.  During the wars they were used by the Swiss Army to haul carts and pack supplies as well as watch camp.  After the wars, and with the advancement of transportation options, the Swissy primarily became a farm and family companion, though they maintain their working abilities to this day.  

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs
What they are.....and what that means.

by Anna Wallace

What they are . . .

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was developed in Switzerland as the multi-purpose farmer's assistant. They are a draft dog, built strong to pull heavy carts. They are a droving dog, built athletic to drive dairy cattle from field to barn, and protective of their master to keep him from being trampled. They are a working dog, able to get up and go whenever there is work to be done, but also able to relax, rest, and wait for the next task. They are a watchdog, noticing and alerting to changes in their environment. They are a family dog, possessing sound, gentle temperament suitable for all members of the family. They are a true companion, thriving on attention and consistent training. They are working dogs, demanding a relationship with their human and thriving with a job to do. They are a dog that requires socialization, guidance, and training.

What that means . . . 

Swissys are a heavy boned, athletic dog that can be prone to injury as youngsters and must be managed to help prevent that. Things such as racing up and down stairs, sliding on slick floors, rough housing and wrestling with people and other dogs, and jumping off high places are potentially dangerous for the young developing bones and cartilage of the Swissy.  That said, it is equally important for young Swissys to play, exercise and use their growing joints.  Puppies raised strictly in crates without routine exercise cannot possibly grow and form their joints correctly.  The lack of exercise is just as, if not more so, detremental to the joints of the growing Swissy.

Swissys can be quite enthusiastic and must be taught physical control to prevent accidents such as bopping you in the face, banging into you, and knocking down small children.

Swissys are physically capable of pulling 3000 pounds or more, and with this strength comes the ability to pull any person off their feet in the blink of an eye. A leash hooked around a person's wrist can not only break a wrist, but can also dislocate an elbow or shoulder!   A leash should be attached to a proper strong collar. Swissys MUST be taught to seriously respect the leash from a very young age. Pulling on lead is simply not an option for a Swissy, and they must learn that. Proper leash behavior is key to preventing serious injury.

Swissys are normally very good with children, and are often very gentle. But, they are a very large dog and must be supervised around children at all times. Any large dog has the potential to do unintended physical harm to small children by knocking them over, stepping on them, bouncing into them, etc. Swissys often have a strong herding instinct that may entice them to chase and tackle when playing. A Swissy that has learned to rough house and wrestle with teenagers and adults will not automatically know that behavior is not acceptable with younger, smaller children.

The Swissy is a constant shedder. They shed all year round, and then even worse twice a year during "shedding season". Their double coat makes for a lot of dog hair on your carpet, your couch, your clothes and in your kitchen.

Considered a dry mouth breed, most Swissys do not drool. However, they are by no means a clean or tidy dog. Swissys often love to get dirty, love to slosh their water out of the bowl, will often head for the nearest mud puddle, and love to track whatever they can onto the clean bedspread in your room! If you like a tidy household, you will have your work cut out for you.

Swissys can be very hard to housetrain. It is not at all unusual to have a 7 month old puppy that still just doesn't get it! Patience and diligence and a routine schedule is what it takes with a Swissy.

Swissys bark, bay, and baroo. Though they most often are not bad barkers, they are true alert barkers and they will bark at anything new, and anything going on. They will tell you when the neighbors are home, when a dog walks by, etc. They can also bark to get attention.  Your Swissy should be taught "quiet" from the beginning of your relationship.

The Swissy does not need a large yard. The typical suburban yard is adequate for most Swissys. They do not like to be left alone for long periods and prefer to be with people. Whether inside or outside, they really like to simply be with you. To stay fit, Swissys need to get out for a good walk on a daily basis. They can tend to be lazy and a couch potato if allowed, but good body conditioning and good muscle tone is essential as the Swissy develops and as the Swissy matures. Excessive exercise is not good for developing bones and cartilage, but neither is inactivity or carrying extra pounds, so a middle ground must be kept in exercising the youngster.  Proper physical conditioning is key to good health during adulthood and on into maturity.

Proper socialization is extremely important for the Swissy. They must be introduced to all types of experiences and all kids of people. A good rule of thumb with a young Swissy is to meet at least three new people in their own environment every week, and to go to people events or places at least twice a week. Young Swissys need to experience many new places. Petsmart is great, but more experiences are necessary as places like Petsmart become familiar territory very quickly. New experiences such as other stores, ball games, church picnics, etc help keep your Swissy confident and outgoing.

Training is a must. Any dog as large as a Swissy can be a dangerous dog if not trained properly. They must be taught proper behavior in different situations. They must be taught proper etiquette around other dogs. They must be taught not to chase small animals such as small dogs or cats. They must be taught basic manners such as don't jump up, and don't knock people down, when play behavior is appropriate and when it is not.

Breeders, I am flattered so many of you like my written word enough to put it on your own websites.   However, if you know your breed, you should be able to write your own description of the breed without much effort.  It actually benefits the puppy buyer to read various opinions on what our breed is really like.   Please do not copy my material.   Pasting this article to your personal website without asking permission is of poor moral character.   Pasting this article to your personal website without even giving me credit for writing it is plagiarism.  (I should not have to tell you this!)

From Our Puppy Families

Interested in one of our puppies?
Please download and fill out this pdf application.

Download "Liberty Run Swissy Application.pdf"

We are currently taking applications and filling out our wait list.
 Our GSMD puppies are $3500/limited registration, no showing, no breeding, or $4800/full registration with some breeding restrictions.

Check below for puppies!


Our current litter (Sept '23)  is ready to go!   Males and Females available.  Contact us for specific details.   


Prost is a healthy girl who is 2 years old and looking for a great family where she can be their happy pet.  Leash trained, crate trained, happy girl who gets along well with other dogs.   Not for breeding.   $2000


Marty is a healthy girl who is 4 years old and looking for a great family where she can be their happy pet.  Leash trained, crate trained, happy girl who gets along well with other dogs.   Not for breeding.   $1500.  Champion Liberty Run-Cambio Back To the Future


Birdie is a healthy girl who is 2 years old and looking for a great family where she can be their happy pet.  Leash trained, crate trained, happy girl who gets along well with other dogs.   Not for show/breeding.   $2000.  


Stoli is an up and coming girl available for show/breeding/full registration.  $3500.  Lots of potential for this girl.
Liberty Run's
Sire: CH Liberty Run's Lend Me Your Ear "Michael" OFA Excellent
Dam: Roman Reign Mai Thai "Mai Thai" OFA Fair, CHIC


Ducky is an up and coming girl available for show/breeding/full registration.  $3500.   Lots of potential for this girl. 
Liberty Run's Duck Duck Goose.
Sire: CH Huckleberry Von Forrest, AKA "Blaze" OFA Excellent
Dam: CH Liberty Run-Cambio Top Gun  "Goose" OFA Good, CHIC

Michael (retiring)

Michael is one of our stud dogs who is ready to retire.   He is not yet neutered but will not be placed as a stud dog.   Michael is big and bold and sweet as they come, but can be a handful. He needs a confident owner who will insist on some manners as he learns to be a housedog.  Michael gets along well with other big dogs, male and female.   Adoption fee $500

Liberty Run Stud Dogs

Our boys are fully health tested and available for stud to approved bitches.   Inquire for details. 

Questions to consider before getting a puppy

Show Quality or Companion?

Whether a Liberty Run puppy is sold as show quality or as a companion, every puppy produced at Liberty Run is an AKC Registered Puppy. 

Both show puppies and companion puppies come from the same litter, the same parents, and the same genetic potential.

Liberty Run evaluates each litter in comparison to the AKC breed standard and selects only a few puppies to be sold as show quality and to carry on the Liberty Run bloodlines.  Most litters have several puppies that could easily be considered show puppies, but only the very best are selected.  Liberty Run does not sell entire litters as show quality, even though every puppy in the litter might have potential to finish a Championship title.  All but a very select few are sold as companions on limited registration.  Liberty Run offers most companion puppies the opportunity to be upgraded to show quality should the owner desire the puppy to be reevaluated for showing in conformation or for breeding.

Most of the time, there are very subtle differences between puppies graded as show quality and puppies graded as companions.  Rarely is there a major difference.  Occasionally a puppy is born with the wrong coat color which automatically disqualifies them from the show ring and requires placement as a Companion puppy.  Companion puppies are certainly not second class citizens and make absolutely wonderful family pets.

Full Registration or Limited Registration?

Every puppy produced at Liberty Run is an AKC Registered Puppy.  When puppies go to their new homes, they are sold on either Full or Limited Registration.  The only difference between the two types of registration is whether or not the dog is eligible to be used for breeding and showing in conformation.  Puppies purchased as show puppies or as breeding stock are sold on Full Registration. Puppies purchased for any other purpose are sold on Limited Registration.  Most Liberty Run puppies are given the option of an upgrade from Limited Registration to Full Registration if the owner decides they want to show their dog and the dog demonstrates qualities that will succeed in the show ring. 

If you don't intend to show or breed your dog, there is no reason to have Full Registration on your puppy, dogs with limited registration can be shown in any event except conformation.   Full Registration does not affect the quality of the puppy, it simply designates the purpose for the puppy.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Male or Female?

If you already have a dog and are considering adding another to your family, most trainers would recommend that your new dog be of the opposite sex to lessen the potential for the competition and conflicts associated with same-sex pairings.  In some breeds, opposite sex pairings are essential for maintaining peace in the home.  In other breeds, same-sex pairings do very well.  In Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, I would not hesitate to put two females together in the same home and I know of many families able to easily maintain two mild mannered males together, especially if neutered.  I personally would be concerned about the potential conflict if attempting to maintain two intact stud dogs together in perfect harmony and would not recommend it.   Ultimately, it is the new owner's decision as to which gender of Greater Swiss Mountain Dog to add to the home.

In general:
•Male dogs tend to be “lovable slobs” and “good ol’ boys”
•Male dogs tend to be more outgoing, more vigorously affectionate, more “in your face”
•Male dogs tend to be more stable and reliable in mood and less prone to emotional swings
•Young Male dogs tend to be clumsy and silly and prone to acting like oversized kids.
•Male dogs mean well and are easy to love
•Female dogs tend to be more subtle than males and tend to be affectionate on their own terms.  They’ll request or demand petting, then reassert their independence by walking away when they have had enough.
•Female dogs tend to be quicker to learn and are not as easily distracted during training sessions.
•Female dogs are less likely to be openly defiant or to engage in blunt power struggles or dominance challenges, yet they can be clever, passively resistant and manipulative about getting their own way.
•Female dogs are prone to mood swings and emotional theatrics.
•Female dogs are experts at “The Dirty Look” and “The Sulk”

Male Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are typically slower to mature and require a strong, steady hand along with patience through their juvenile stages.
•Male Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs require hormones to achieve their distinctly masculine look.  I recommend neutering between 15 and 18 months of age and strongly discourage earlier sterilization.  Neutering does not solve behavoir problems, training does.
•Male Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs average between 110 and 135 lbs and range from 25 ½ and 28 ½ inches tall at the shoulder, though it is possible to see some that are a bit smaller and some that are a bit larger.  The size they are as a puppy gives no indication of their mature size.  They are considerably taller if you were to measure to the top of their head.  Certainly, most male Swissys can easily reach the tops of tables and kitchen counters.
•Female Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are typically faster to mature and quicker to housetrain (though bladder control is still much slower to acheive than other breeds), but no young Swissy should be left unattended without being safely confined to a crate.
•Female Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are distinctly feminine in appearance when compared to males.
•Female Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs average between 85 and 105 lbs and range from 23 1/2 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder, though they too can be smaller or larger.  They too will remove food from kitchen counters.
•Female Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs should go through a heat cycle before they are spayed and should not be spayed before the age of 15 months and are 100% housetrained.  Urinary incontinence is a serious potential issue in the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog and no Swissy female should be spayed early.  The incidence of mammary tumors is very low in Swissys, but the incidence of urinary incontinence is high compared to other breeds.  Waiting to spay far outweighs drastically improves the odds of avoiding urinary incontinence as the Female Swissy matures.

Is it the Right Time to Add a Puppy to the Family?

Whether or not it is the right time for you to add a puppy to your family is a question that no one can answer as honestly as yourself.

One of the top reasons families give up a dog is due to the addition of a child to the family.  If you are currently growing a family, please think long and hard before adding a puppy to the list of responsibilities.

Puppies are a lot of work and require a tremendous time involvement.  To mature into a healthy, stable family companion, a puppy needs a high level of socialization, a steady training routine, and constant supervision.

If you are thinking of starting a family in the future, it must be a priority to fully train your puppy before starting a family.  It is unrealistic for most pregnant women to train a puppy during their pregnancy.  It is unrealistic for the husband to believe they are going to do all of the training while the wife is pregnant because all members of the household are going to be involved in the training process.

Training is a process that must start when the puppy is very young.  Puppies that miss early guidance are always behind in their development and do not mature to be the most stable adults.  Waiting to train or socialize until after the puppy is an adult is detremental and simply unfair to the puppy.

Before adding a puppy to your home, consider the answers to the following questions.

Are you stable in your location? Are you prepared to move with your dog if you move during the dog's lifetime?

Renting a home is not always easy when you own a large dog (or certain breeds of dogs).  If you own a dog and you are forced to move, it is your responsibility to find a new home that enables you to keep your dog.

Are you prepared to dedicate large amounts of time to training and socializing a puppy?

The first several months are a crutial time period for a puppy.  Time lost at the beginning of a puppy's life is a crutial developmental stage lost, and it cannot be regained.  While training can happen at any age, socialization and mental development cannot.  ALL DOGS MUST BE TRAINED AND IT IS THE OWNERS RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE SURE THE FAMILY PET IS TRAINED.  Liberty Run can start you out with a wonderful puppy, but it is your responsibility to develop that puppy into its full potential.

Are you financially prepared to handle the veterinary demands of owning a dog, knowing that emergency care is not only realistic, but also potentially expensive?

It is easy to predict the normal yearly costs of owning a dog, vaccinations and yearly examinations, heartworm prevention, flea and tick prevention, food, toys, training classes and training equipment, but it is impossible to predict the potential emergencies that may arrise.  Dogs may develop ongoing medical needs, or suffer from emergencies such as bloat, break a leg, get hit by a car, etc.  Accidents happen, emergencies occur and as a dog owner, you must be prepared for the unexpected.

Are all members of the family ready for a puppy?

Family units must act as a unit with the best interests of the entire family in mind.  If one member of the family is not ready, the family is not ready to add a puppy to the home.

Is every member of the family participating in the decision making process?

It may be appropriate to surprise young children, but it certainly is not appropriate to surprise an adult with a new puppy.  Every adult in the home must have full knowledge of a puppy being added to the family.  The responsibility for training and socializing the puppy falls on every adult in the home and one member of the family does not have the right to thrust that responsibility on an unsuspecting family member.  At Liberty Run, we require communication with every adult in the household and will not place "surprise" puppies.

Do you have a fenced yard?

Having a fenced in yard is not an absolute requirement for getting a Liberty Run puppy as we recognize there are some city developments that disallow fencing.  However, there are strong advangages to having a fenced yard.  Dogs have to eliminate, and that means they must eliminate several times a day, and in all kinds of inclement weather.  Without a fenced yard, you must be dedicated to physically taking the dog out to eliminate, no matter what the weather is doing outside.  At 2 in the morning, it is certainly simpler to open the door to the fenced backyard than to find your snow boots and parka and accompany the dog outdoors on a leash.

Have you researched and actually met the breed you are adding to your home?

This may seem like a silly question, but it is one you must consider.  The number of people inquiring about a breed they have never met and know nothing about is incredible.  You do an extreme injustice to a dog if you bring it into your home and then decide it is too big, too active, too hairy, sheds too much, or is the wrong color.  These are real reasons people give up dogs, yet are all characteristics that can easily be determined about a breed long before you make the decision to add it to your family.  Before adding a dog to your home, you need to learn about the breed.


Health Information

The majority of Swissys that reach old age die between 8 and 10 years of age, though there is an occasional GSMD that has lived to be 14.  A common saying is 3 years a young dog, 3 years a good dog, 3 years an old dog, and added time is a gift from God.  The most common causes of death are GDV, Splenic Torsion, Epilepsy, and Cancer, with the incidence increasing as age increases.  All in all, for a giant breed dog, although health conditions do occur, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are a generally healthy breed.

Two Life-Threatening Emergency Conditions Swissy Owners MUST Know About
Bloat/Torsion/GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)
Gastric Dilation is the distension of the stomach (bloat) while Gastric Volvulus is when the stomach twists on its axis (torsion). A dog can bloat without torsion.  Torsion can happen with or without spleen involvement. And, because of our issues with splenic torsion, the stomach can torsion without signs of bloat.  In any case, both Bloat and Torsion are a LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY! Time is of extreme importance and first priority with a dog demonstrating symptoms of bloat or torsion is to GET TO THE VET.  Do NOT delay!  For bloat or torsion, the vet’s first priority will be to stabilize the dog and deflate the stomach.  Radiographs are most likely going to be taken and in the case of torsion, emergency surgery is a priority to untwist the stomach.  Unfortunately, about 33% of cases corrected by surgery die, with 50% of deaths occurring the day of surgery and 25% within the next four days. In cases of GDV, death of the gastric wall tissue, rupture of the stomach, infection and sepsis are the most common causes of death after surgery. 

Research suggests the primary causes of GDV are large breed size and a deep chest (which certainly fits the description of the Swissy), overeating, rapid eating, single daily meals, high water consumption, exercise after eating, processed foods with high grain or soy content, stress, genetic predisposition, delayed gastric emptying time, and increasing age.

GDV is common in the Swissy.  There is no way around that fact.  Because of their structural build, tendency to eat fast and drink a lot of water, there are simply some factors you cannot control.  Control those that you can.  Feed your Swissy two or three smaller meals as opposed to one large one.  Feed a quality diet without soy and with meat as the most prominent ingredients.  Limit the amount of water consumed at one time and do not exercise your dog within 30 minutes before a meal or at minimum one hour after.  Socialize your puppy so they learn to handle stressful situations.  The most current research indicates the common practice of elevating the food bowl actually increases the incidence of GDV by a 300% margin and is no longer recommended.  Strongly consider gastropexy surgery where the stomach is attached to either a rib or the abdominal wall preventing torsion.  I highly recommend every Swissy have a gastropexy performed when it is spayed or neutered. 

Splenic Torsion
Unfortunately, all information about splenic torsion is anecdotal and there has not been any real research to determine the causes of splenic torsion because in the general dog population, splenic torsion is extremely rare.  So rare, that most veterinarians have never, and will never see a case of splenic torsion in their entire career.  However, splenic torsion is NOT rare in Swissys.  One clinic on the East coast that has records of 80-100 Swissys in a 7 year time span recorded over a 19% incidence of splenic torsion in the breed.  During that same 7 years, no other dog of ANY other breed was presented to the clinic with splenic torsion.  This very rare disease is NOT rare in Swissys.  Unfortunately, because this disease is so rare in the general dog population, when you present your sick Swissy to the vet, splenic torsion will often not even cross their mind. It is up to the Swissy owner to MAKE SURE your vet listens and realizes this condition MUST be considered and to check for the problem.  Splenic torsion is a LIFE THREATENING EMERGENCY.  If the spleen twists away from the stomach, the spleen can actually twist 4 to 5 times.  If the spleen twists towards the stomach, the stomach may be twisted along with the spleen, causing a double whammy for your dog.

So, how do you recognize splenic torsion and know to take your dog to the vet?  Well, it isn’t always easy.  Symptoms can be chronic (occurring over a long period of time) or symptoms can cause acute distress.  In the case of chronic symptoms you can see pale mucous membranes, possible intermittent nausea and vomiting, lick fits, or basically a dog that just doesn’t act right.  You may not be able to put your finger on it, but you, as the owner, know your dog just doesn’t feel good.  The dog may be lethargic or he may have a stilted walk/gait, but still be alert and responsive, vibrant and goofy when examined.   In the case of acute symptoms, you may see a sudden onset of collapse, urgent incessant nausea and vomiting, very pale mucous membranes, painful or rigid (though not distended) abdomen.  Upon blood evaluation, a PCV of less than 30 is common (normal is 37-55).  Even in this acute stage, these dogs generally walk (or bound) into the vet’s office, and though the owner is distraught, the vet sees a dog that does not present as in a crisis.  This is where the owner must step in and remind the vet of our commonality of splenic torsion.  With immediate treatment for shock, a blood evaluation should be done along with radiographs and/or ultrasound of the abdomen, and the vet should prepare for emergency exploratory surgery.  If caught in time, dogs recover well from surgery.

I certainly don’t recommend a state of panic and an emergency trip to the vet every time your dog vomits, as all dogs vomit on occasion, but pay attention to your dog.  If you are observant and practical, you will know when your dog is sick and needs to see the vet.  Likewise if you have a medical situation and your vet cannot pinpoint a reason for your dog’s illness, seriously consider checking your dog’s spleen.  Because we don’t know the causes, there really are no preventative measures you can take.  Follow basic suggestions for preventing GDV and most of all, be observant and pay attention to your dog.

Common Swissy Issues
Urinary Incontinence (in females)
Urinary Incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. Leakage can vary from minor to quite severe.  You may notice that the floor may be wet where the dog has been lying and she may be damp as well.  She may suffer from continuous leakage or she may go days or weeks in between episodes.  It may happen once a week or several times a day.  Urinary Incontinence in young females is generally due to the immature development of the urinary sphincter that usually resolves as the puppy matures.  Urinary Incontinence in older females is generally due to a lack of estrogen and a weak urinary sphincter.  Drug therapy is the most common treatment and is normally quite effective. 

It is imperative that you do not spay your female GSMD before she is a minimum of 12 months old.  GSMD that are spayed at any early age seem to have a great tendency towards incontinence.  It is preferable to wait until she has gone through a heat cycle.  I realize that there will be some inconvenience related to letting her go through a heat cycle, but GSMD that have gone through a heat cycle seem to be much less prone to incontinence than those who have not.  Many “pet” vets will try to convince you that it is in your puppy’s best interest to spay earlier.  It is true that dogs that go through a heat cycle have a slightly increased risk of mammary tumors (maybe 5%).  It is also true that a Swissy spayed at a young age may be as much as 40% more likely to develop incontinence.  It is up to you to weigh the risk.  It is not your vet who will be living with a 100 lb dog that leaks urine.  The truth be known, most vets want to spay at an early age because it is much easier surgery.  You need to stand your ground on this issue.

Males are not affected with the incontinence issue, but you may want to wait until your male is 12 months or older as well.  Males that are neutered earlier tend towards excessive long bone growth and tend to end up slightly “bitchy” looking.  Swissys are very slow maturing and waiting until a year old does not have any ill effects.

Idiopathic Epilepsy
Idiopathic Epilepsy is basically the term for seizures of unknown cause.  Epilepsy occurs in all breeds of dogs, purebred and mixbred alike, and Swissys are no exception.   Estimated to occur in 6% of Swissys, epilepsy simply happens too often.  Epilepsy is believed to have a genetic link, but there is no genetic test that allows us to test for it.  Breeders diligently remove any affected dogs from their breeding programs, but unfortunately, dogs that do not show symptoms can still pass on affected genes.  The first signs of epilepsy generally show up between 1 and 5 years of age and symptoms generally worsen as the dog ages.  Epilepsy in Swissys can be difficult to control through medication.  Every Swissy owner should be familiar with the symptoms of seizures and learn what to do if a seizure should occur.  Epilepsy is characterized by seizures, but not all seizures are epilepsy.  Seizures can occur in response to various triggers, even as a possible drug reaction.  Any dog that seizures should be examined by a veterinarian.

Lick Fits
“Lick Fit” is a term Swissy enthusiasts use to describe the frantic licking Swissys can be prone to.  This phenomenon has been reported to hit roughly 17% of the breed.  When in the middle of a Lick Fit, the dog will lick anything they can (carpet, floors, walls) and will eat anything they can find (grass, leaves, dirt, carpet) and will gulp air and swallow constantly.  Their actions make it obvious they are in severe gastrointestinal discomfort.  Many Swissy owners speculate as to the causes, theorizing about acid reflux or gas buildup in the stomach.   Most agree that the easiest way to solve the problem is to induce vomiting with a few teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide given by mouth, followed by a slice or two of bread and a couple Gas-X capsules once the vomiting stops.  Lick Fits are most common in young Swissys, but any age can be affected.  Many owners are able to prevent lick fits by ensuring the dog never has an empty stomach, using more frequent, smaller meals as opposed to one large one and feeding large dog biscuits as between meal snacks.

Entropian & Distichiasis
The two most common eye issues Swissys are faced with are Entropian and Distichiasis, with non-symptomatic Distichiasis being the most common issue Swissys face.  Dogs that appear to be “squinting” should be examined by a veterinarian.  While there are many vets well qualified to handle both of these problems, other vets choose to refer these cases to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist.  Entropian (found in about 3% of the breed) is the rolling in of the eyelids, which causes the eyelashes to irritate the eye.  Entropian is a condition that most often requires surgery to fix, but once fixed causes no future issues for the dog.  Entropian is not a common issue in the Swissy, but is occasionally seen.  Thankfully it is simple to fix and is not an ongoing issue.  Distichiasis (reported at 19% in the breed) can be nothing to worry about, or it can be a bit trickier.  In the vast majority of cases, Distichiasis is non-symptomatic and never causes an issue for the dog.  Distichiasis is the presence of extra eyelashes along the eyelid and should not be confused with entropian.  The distichia (extra eyelashes) can be seen along the eyelid, but occasionally a magnifying lens is needed to see them.  Sometimes extra eyelashes grow in such a manner that they irritate the eye.  Unfortunately, symptomatic cases do require attention from a vet.  Treatment will vary from vet to vet, some choosing to freeze the affected hair follicles, and others choosing to use electrocautery.  Regardless of the treatment, symptomatic distichiasis can cause major eye irritation if not attended to.

Just as humans are sometimes affected by allergies, dogs can also be affected by allergies.  While the majority of dogs do not have issues with allergies, dogs that are affected can be quite miserable.  As people, we can be affected by just about anything, and unfortunately, so can our dogs.  The most common symptoms of canine allergies are red/irritated/watery eyes, itching and scratching, and ear infections, but can also include vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Ear infections are not common in Swissys and are most often caused by an underlying allergen.   The best treatment for allergies is to boost the immune system as much as possible and to avoid known allergens.  Feeding a high quality diet, using a conservative vaccine protocol, and keeping the dog in good physical conditioning are probably the best methods towards keeping your dog as healthy as possible.

Food Allergy/Food Intolerance
Food Allergy and Food Intolerance have also been reported in Swissys. Food allergies are true allergies and show the characteristic symptoms of itching and skin problems. Food intolerances can result in diarrhea or vomiting and do not create a typical allergic response. Food intolerances would be similar to people that get diarrhea or an upset stomach from eating spicy or fried foods. Fortunately, both food intolerances and allergies can be eliminated with a diet free from offending agents.  It can be difficult to diagnose food allergy/food intolerance issues, but they should be suspected in dogs that have recurrent ear problems (particularly yeast infections), very young dog with moderate or severe skin problems, a dog that suffers from allergies year-round or if the symptoms begin in the winter, or a dog that is very itchy but does not respond to antihistamines.  Unfortunately blood tests for food allergies are simply not accurate and the only way to diagnose food allergy is with an elimination diet under the supervision of your veterinarian. 

Cancer can occur in any dog at any age.  Thankfully, as a whole, Swissys are not commonly affected by cancer at young ages.  Most often, cancer strikes a Swissy in their older years.  Cancer is a common cause of death in the older dog.  Osteosarcoma (bone cancer) has been seen in Swissys, though is not what I would consider common.  Probably the most common cancer in older Swissys is lymphosarcoma.  Hereditary aspects of lymphosarcoma in the dog have not been established.  A dog that seems to be not quite what he used to be or one that starts losing weight without explanation should be examined by a veterinarian.  Routine blood screenings as your Swissy ages is a good idea.

Irritable Bowel Disease
The Causes of IBD are relatively unknown.  IBD is a chronic, ongoing disease with symptoms including diarrhea and/or vomiting, weight loss, increased frequency of defecation with less and less volume, increased mucous in the stool with or without the presence of blood.  The only definitive way to diagnose inflammatory bowel disease is through a biopsy that demonstrates increased numbers of inflammatory cells in the intestinal wall.  The first step in diagnosing IBD is to rule out other possible causes under the treatment of a veterinarian.  IBD can be difficult to distinguish from food allergy/intolerance.  Dogs with IBD can be managed, but not cured. 

Bone Issues in Swissys
Canine Hip Dysplasia
Dysplasia is the word used when describing a joint that is “malformed”.  Degree from normal will vary for each case of Dysplasia.  Hip Dysplasia is certainly the most well known dysplasia that we deal with in dogs.  All breeds can be affected by hip dysplasia, and certainly, Swissys are no exception.  Before breeding, all breeding stock should be evaluated for hip dysplasia.  This is done by x-ray, and hip dysplasia cannot be detected in any other manner.  Once x-rays of a dog’s hips are taken, they should be sent to an evaluator, the most commonly known evaluator being the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).  OFA has a team of experts each individually evaluate the x-rays and a consensus rating is then assigned to the dog.  OFA ratings are either Normal (Excellent, Good, or Fair), Borderline, or Dysplastic (Mild, Moderate, or Severe).  Dogs that rate Borderline should be re x-rayed and then reevaluated at a later date.  While about 18% of Swissys are affected with hip dysplasia, thankfully the vast majority of dysplastic dogs are rated as Mildly Dysplastic.  Most often, a mildly dysplastic dog does not have any ongoing issues and goes through life without pain or discomfort.  The biggest aid for a dysplastic dog is to keep the dog in good physical condition; being sure they get plenty of exercise and are not allowed to be overweight.  Breeders focus breeding programs on dogs with Normal rated hips.  Unfortunately, even Normal rated parents can produce dysplastic puppies.  The odds are smaller, but it can indeed still occur.  Because there are no genetic tests available (only phenotypic tests such as x-rays), we cannot detect which dogs may carry deleterious genes, we can only eliminate the dogs that appear to be abnormal, and thus we cannot completely eliminate the genes that cause the problem.  Being overweight or receiving too much or not enough exercise have been demonstrated to make hip dysplasia worse.  Puppies should be kept lean and well muscled (but not over exercised) through their growth periods.

Canine Elbow Dysplasia
The elbow is another joint where we see issues with dysplasia.  The major issues with elbows include FCP (fragmented coronoid process), UAP (ununified anconeal process) and DJD (degenerative joint disease).  The form of elbow dysplasia that affects Swissys most often is DJD, and affects the Swissy as a slow, and sometimes progressive, form of cartilage degeneration usually cause by trauma or abnormal wear on the joint.   Elbow dysplasia is evaluated by OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of America) and falls into a grade system of Normal, Grade 1, Grade 2, or Grade 3.  The vast majority of Swissys are either rated normal or Grade 1.  They have never displayed any clinical signs, have no pain, no stiffness, and are not affected by decreased range of motion and are not lame.  The serious forms of elbow dysplasia, including FCP, UAP, or severe DJD can indeed cause discomfort for the dog, but thankfully we do not often see these problems.  At this point in time, a genetic predisposition cannot be established for DJD, and with that, opinions vary when it comes to breeding decisions.  The general consensus is to primarily breed Normal rated Swissys and breed quality individuals that rate Grade 1 to a Normal rated partner.  Grade 2 or 3, or dogs rated with FCP or UAP are not bred.

OCD (Osteochondrosis Dessicans)
OCD is most common in the shoulder joint, though it does occasionally appear in other joints such as the elbow or the hock.  Some say that OCD is actually the most common joint issue Swissys are faced with.  The good news about OCD is that most affected dogs undergo surgery and recover 100%.  OCD occurs during the fastest growth period of the puppy when the puppy tends to shoot up in height.  The critical time is between 5 months and 9 months of age.  OCD occurs when a piece of cartilage tears in the joint.  If the tear is a small partial tear, the dog has a chance at healing itself with cage rest and very limited exercise.  If the tear is complete or large, surgery is most likely going to be required.  OCD has been demonstrated to be hereditary and dogs with OCD should not be used in breeding programs.  The best prevention for OCD is to be cautious during the critical time (5 to 9 months) and to limit rough play, slipping on slick surfaces or jumping down from high surfaces thus causing impact, and to keep the puppy well exercised, in good muscle condition, and in good weight.  Lean is always better than heavy.  Caution does not mean the dog should not participate in normal everyday activities or be kept from going up or down stairs in a controlled manner.

Panosteitis (reported in roughly 5% of the breed), often called Pano, is a noninfectious degenerative disease of the bone marrow that affects young, fast growing dogs.  Because it is self-limiting, meaning it resolves itself, there has not been a lot of research into the causes of Pano.   The symptoms of Pano include acute symptoms of lameness which often shifts from leg to leg.  Limping can be accompanied by fever, depression and loss of appetite.  The illness lasts a few days, but the limping often continues for two to three weeks.  After it clears in one leg, it may then develop in another. Pano generally affects puppies between 5 and 12 months old and symptoms almost always resolve themselves by the age of 2 years.  Pano is painful, but generally controllable with anti-inflammatory drugs, rest and limited exercises.  There are no long term affects from Pano.

Patellar Luxation
Though much more common in smaller dogs, Patellar Luxation occasionally occurs in Swissys.  Patellar Luxation occurs when the groove the patella (knee cap) sits in is not quite deep enough to hold the bone in place, thus causing the ligaments to pull the patella to the side of the knee, or by loose ligaments or a misalignment of the tendons in the knee.  This condition is almost always hereditary.  The condition is painful when the knee slips out of place.  Patella luxation is simple to diagnose at any veterinarian.  Most often no treatment is required, but severe cases may require surgery.


Breed History

History Of The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Author, Hans Raber
1971     Chaper 6 (Revised)

(This is a translation into English from this Swiss dog book’s Chapter 6 which dealt with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.)


We have no written information about the Grosse Schwiezer Sennenhunde prior to 1907. He simply did not exist as a breed. Even later, until 1913, written mention is only to be found in reports by exhibition judges. They were mostly written by Prof. Dr. A. Heim, who has the credit of giving "social status" to the Sennenhunde, i.e., to have them introduced into official dog breeding. Strebel in his standard work describes the Appenzeller and mentions the Entlebucher as a local variety. He seems to know nothing about the Grosse Schwiezer and the Berner. Heim and Dr. Kunzli are sure that the Grosse Schwiezer was the most widely kept dog in the mountain areas of Switzerland between 1860 and 1870. By the end of the century he is supposed to have disappeared.

I doubt that. If this dog was commonly kept around 1870, it is unbelievable that only 30 years later you could only find him in remote valleys in the Bern area. A well known and working dog cannot disappear in such a short time, especially not if he had all the good qualities he is credited with. Furthermore, this dog was not limited to Switzerland. He also was known in southern Germany, where today the Rottweiler is his noble successor, and in other areas.

Of course, there was not systematic breeding there, nor elsewhere. It is hard to imagine that the farmer would take his bitch in season to a specially selected male. This was left to chance. From the litter--GSSH have up to 18 puppies--those who were likeable and looked suitable were chosen. If a dog later proved to be unsuitable he was butchered and eaten without misgivings. Because of the strict selection and the fact that the puppies were normally kept in the neighbor-hood, there was a fair stability in resemblance and character. The practical use dictated the appearance. The dog had to have an impressive size, he had to stand bad weather gladly, be of steady temperament, and not eat too much. Because the ideal cow had to look husky, the farmer’s ideal of beauty was bigness. Thus the big, massive looking, heavy dog was preferred to the slim looking dog.

We don’t know how much attention was given to colors. We suppose that the evenly marked dog or the tri-colored dog was preferred over the irregularly marked dog.

Heim says that the big butcher dogs ("Metzgerhund") disappeared when foreign dogs were imported. I ask myself what farmer of the Bernese area, Emmenthal, Schwartzenburg, or Oberland would get a foreign dog, especially if it cost money! Something must be wrong here. The dog could not have disappeared by 1900. What kind of dog then did the farmer use in 1900? Heim does not give us an answer. He only mentions mongrels. But what else were the Sennenhunde about 1860 but mongrels? It requires a planned breeding program to produce a large number of tri-color symmetrically marked dogs. By 1900 the tri-colored dogs were rare. The were possible more common earlier, and in the second half of the century the red-white variety was preferred because of the then fashionable St. Bernard and his unmistakable markings. Thus, many a red-white farm dog was "promoted" to St. Bernard. (I am reminded of the saying, We have more of this (stuff, food, etc.) than red dogs.")

This development was--unconsciously perhaps--promoted by the start of scientific breeding. Dr. Kunzli sometimes had more than seventy St. Bernard's boarding with farmers in the Toggenburg area. No wonder that the red-white type became more prevalent than the tri-color, especially since the black color did not dominate in inheritance.

Heim saw many GSSH that looked typical in appearance, but were black and tan, black and white, totally brown, red or yellow and brown with yellow and white markings. He said: "in all breeds of Swiss Sennenhunde litters occur with yellow puppies without black among the normal colored puppies. One finds this especially in the Grossen." We are sure that around 1900 there was still a variety of colors, especially light colorings with irregular white markings (St. Bernard's). Maurer (cited in Scheitlin) states that in the Langental area they had many black dogs with white markings, used for pulling.

It is not clear why Heim did not see the connection between St. Bernard's and Sennenhunde. It is possible that he did not with to see it. He was convinced that Sennenhunde were separate breeds. Obviously he was too much impressed by coloring and marking. The asymmetrical markings of the St. Bernard occur only in a late stage of dissolution of the coat color. The symmetrical head markings persist through generations; the black trim does not exclude a close relationship.

Thus, I think that the dogs were present in 1900 as cart-dogs for peddlers and people going to market, watch dogs for farmers, and drover’s dog for butchers, but they were rarely tri-colored. Depending on what their owners wanted, the dogs were interpreted as either this or that breed. Dr. Straumann called them Bernards, Heim named them Sennenhunde, and both were correct. Because red is recessive to black, it was easy to breed a red coat or red markings of the St. Bernard as a part of the standard. If there was red, it was always purebred, and because black dominates over yellow and brown, it was easy to breed quickly a large number of tri-colored litters by one single tri-colored stud dog with red bitches. However, those animals were not pure as concerns the inheritance of their coloring. These experiments showed quick results even with great genetic knowledge.

The merits of Heim, Schertenleib and others are not lessened: those men were needed to establish the fact that single breeds could be selected from the medley of farm and butcher dogs. It is above all the merit of Heim to define clear aims for breeding which quickly led to fine results.

Heim regards the GSSH as the oldest type, from which were derived all other Swiss dogs. He may be right as regards the St. Bernard and the Berner. They are offspring of the great Alpine dog. The Berner may also have a trace of old farm Spitzhund.

The origin of the GSSH is historically dark. This is not the place to discuss the Molosser history as done by Keller, Kramer and von Hagen. The Swiss themselves cannot be clearly defined as belonging exclusively to one of the European tribes, as they are inhabitants of a typical country of transit. Likewise the Sennenhunde may be the result of the original farm dogs being bred to passing dogs of warriors and travelers. From the end of the "Mallander Zuge" in 1515 to the Napoleonic wars, the remote valleys of Switzerland were more or less apart from world history. Here certain specific breeds of dogs were created by inbreeding (puppies were given to neighbors and family members) and primitive selection. Until 1908 this could, of course, not be called pure breeding.

Thus the Rottweiler of that time looked somewhat like a GSSH. He had white markings instead of the modern black-and-tan. The squarer appearance, lower height, and the different shape of head, as well as a shorter tail, are the result of selective breeding.

The Great Butcher Dog, "grosse Metzgerhund" as he was called, the "canis familiaris laniarius," was common all over Europe in the 18th and 19th century. Everywhere the dogs had short, rough coats, and nearly all were brown, yellow or black with white and brown markings. Lons’ description of the northern and central German butcher dog also fits the Sennenhunde at the beginning of pure breeding. Similarly, this applies to the Austrian butcher dog of Linz, and the French and Belgian Matin. Everywhere the dogs could have been bred towards a uniform breed. It is the merit of Heim and Schertenleib to have selected one variation of the butcher dog--possible the most beautiful--and started it on the road to a pure breed.

Beginning of the pedigree breeding:

In 1908 the GSSH appeared for the first time in public. At a show in Langenthal, Franz Schertenleib of the Rothohe near Burgdorf, great breeder of the Berner, showed an extraordinarily strong, but short-haired "Berner Sennenhund." He had seen this dog at Schonentannen, between Schwarzenburg and Grunigel, and bought him as an oddity. He was eager to hear what the Langenthal judge, Prof. Heim, would say about this "shorthaired Berner."

This "Bello vom Schlossgut," as Schertenleib called him, was beautifully marked, 67 cm high, sturdy, and with obviously pretty colors. And now chance came along and changed the fate of a dog. Every other judge would have dismissed the dog from the show ring as too short-haired, therefore not of value for breeding. But not Prof. Heim. His knowledgeable first look saw at once the possibility of a new breed of Sennenhunde. He remembered having seen similar dogs in the 1860’s in Braunwalk, in Klosterli on the Zurichberg, and in the Klon valley. He said to Schertenleib, "The dog belongs in a different category; he is too gorgeous and thoroughbred to push him aside as a poor example of a Berner. He is an example of the old-time, almost extinct, butcher dog." Heim wrote in his judge’s notes: "Bello is a marvelous, old Sennen (Butcher) hund of the large, almost extinct breed. Had he been entered under "other breeds" I would have recognized him as grossen Sennenhund and awarded him first prize with pleasure. Since he was entered among the Durrbachs, I cannot give this interesting dog more than second prize. This dog is out of place here."

Spontaneously, Heim gave him the name "Grosse Schweizer Sennenhund" and thus dismissed the first representative of a newly named breed from the ring. This was one of the great hours of the Swiss cytology. Had there been a different judge in the ring at Langenthal, there might not be a GSSH today. Perhaps he would have disappeared. Perhaps we would have--like the St. Bernards--a short-haired and a long-haired Berner Sennenhunde. Heim asked the Sennenhunde fanciers to be on the lookout for this fourth type of Swiss Sennenhunde, in order to save them from extinction.

Heim wrote the first standard based on "Bello," and Schertenleib started to search for other members of the new breed. He found, among others, two short-haired bitches and so the basis for breeding began.

Naturally, these first dogs may not have had the deep black coat that we try to get today. Heim, speaking of the otherwise highly praised "Barri vom Herzogenbuchsee," called his colors "somewhat weak." Schertenleib had found this Barri, who became one of the mainstays of the GSSH, also in the Burrbach area. Heim described him as a strong dog, 65 cm at the shoulder, and with strikingly strong legs. He was stockier than a St. Bernard, had also a smaller head on a short, massive neck. The tail was of middle length and carried horizontally. The dog was of coarse appearance, but very agile and lively.

The first Grosse Schweizer Sennenhunde seem on the whole to have been stockier and rougher than the modern dogs; the skulls were wider than desirable today and showed a marked stop. But from the beginning, a dog was wanted with a "cow-dog" type of skull, with a flat forehead, in distinct contrast to the St. Bernard. Judging from old pictures, the coloring was bad. The black coat was mixed with yellow wool at the neck, flanks and rear. The markings were pale-yellow and the distribution not symmetrical. If there are breeders nowadays who tell you the yellow wool is a sure sign of a robust dog, he tries to make a virtue out of a fault that is difficult to get rid of, but nevertheless not pretty. The warning must be given. If the GSSH is less popular today than the Berner, it may well be attributed to the clear, distinct colors of the Berner.

As we learn from Heim’s judging notes, initially males were of better quality than females. Good females were hard to find. Mostly they were too small and delicately built, presumably from frequent crosses between Durrbachlers and Appenzellers.

M. Magron wrote about the history of breeding in 1952 in the magazine "Schweizer Hundesport" for the 40th anniversary of the Klub fur Grosse Schweizer Sennehunde: "The first Grosse registered in the SHSB were Bello 3965 and Nero 3966, both under the name vom Schlossgut, the kennel name of Schertenleib." The studs were there, but the difficulty of finding bitches hampered the breeding for many a year.

The real father of the breed was the above-mentioned Barri v. Herzogenbuchsee 4520, who belonged to Otto Imhof in Herzogenbuchsee. From the first matings with Anni v. Schlossgut (not registered) and Flora v. Schlossgut 4522 came Hektor v. Born 5640 and Belline v. Herzogenbuchsee 5645. From this small basis came today’s pure breed. Only seven of the first 21 dogs registered in the SHSB are shown in the pedigree of the modern GSSH; possibly quite a number of the "foundlings" were never used for breeding. Of the dogs exhibited in Bern in 1921, not one was registered in the SHSB.

Dogs without exact pedigree were registered until 1936. In some cases, they might have been Berners with short hair. There have been a number of generations in which long-haired puppies appeared; even today they have not totally disappeared.

What is true for the Bernard seems to apply also to the GSSH: short-haired Grosse Schweizer may produce long-haired "Berner Sennen" and vice versa.

Until 1936 "foundlings" were used once in awhile, but always mated to registered dogs. Maurer (cited by Scheitlin) bought an eight month old male of unknown descent in 1920 at a dog market and exhibited him in 1922 in Langenthal. Heim gave this "Nero" (Maurer) the note "very good," and the dog was registered 14378 in the SHSB. Among his offspring were yellow animals with black mask; possibly one of Nero’s close relatives was a St. Bernard. In spite of this, his son Bello v. Steinenberg 22935, out of Pela v. Born 12228, became one of the most valuable studs.

Arno v. Fryberg 29413 was the son of Bello and Lina von der Sandgrube 14401. This magnificent dog was sent to Mr. E. Maurer, the expert breeder in Langenthal. He mated Arno to many good bitches. Arno was the most important stud-dog of his time. His heritage was continued in his sons Prinz v. Hinterfeld 35232 and Giro v. Fryberg 46146, and especially by his daughter Bethli v. Hinterfeld 35235, foundation of the Hohlinden Kennel. Bethli’s son, Badi v. Hohlinden 57264, had great type and substance. Badi’s offspring, Arco and Arno v. Fuchsgutli 78951/2, as well as young Arno and Alex v. Fryberg 86846/7 were desirable studs; as were Peter v. Diepoldsauwalk 91706, his son Cello v. Hackbrett 44 (probably Austrian number) , and his grandson Alex vers la Chapelle 24108. Giro’s son Juno v. Hetzenberg 59387 started an important branch of the breed. His son was Badi v. Klum 71516, whose sons Arno and Bruno v. Kulm 87561/2, were important studs.

Arno v. Haberenbad 94275, Bello v. Haberenbad 96018, and Barry v. d. Bruckenweid 1456 (sic) go back to them, as did the important male of the 1950’s Cuno v. Hofacker 15511. Cuno sired Falk and Fliga v. Fryberg (no numbers given) and Miggu v. Falliwald 13893, who sired Cita v. Barndisberg 39496. From this line came the splendid bitch Cita v. Haberenbad 98118.

In Oberaargau the breed gained in importance, largely through the well-know v. Fryberg kennel (G. Lanz, Roggwil BE) who sold dogs to other parts of the country and the neighboring cantons of Aargau and Solothurn. The lines of Roland (Schertenleib) 7355 and Bari v. Born did less well.

These dogs’ bloodlines survived only in the female line, mainly in Hella v. Hetzenberg 50623 and Hella v. Falliwald 74689. The male offspring were sold outside the main breeding area, and thus they were lost for breeding. This shows how important it is for rural dogs to have good studs in the immediate area. The farmer never finds the time to make a long journey to the stud when his bitch is in season. He also is not really convinced of the importance of good stud service; litters do not mean business to him. So he just takes his bitch to the nearest male. If fate smiles, something good might come of it. But frequently there are bad setbacks. This is particularly devastating to a breed like the GSSH with such a small breeding base. Chancy breeding can destroy the results of several generations of hard work and planning, and even make the future doubtful.

If the bloodlines of today’s GSSH are traced backwards for eight or ten generations, there is considerable decrease of ancestors. This shows how close the inbreeding has been. But in spite of this inbreeding, there are hardly any disadvantages. This proves that the conformity of a breed can be achieved by inbreeding. a must, however, is to start with absolutely healthy animals which are close to the desired standard. Undoubtedly this was the case for the GSSH. Selection during the centuries had created a robust dog; the intended use had already determined the type.

Though we cannot really speak of degeneration, here and there one hears the wish that a breeding could be broadened. This could only be done by crossbreeding with a closely related breed like the Berner Sennenhund, the Rottweiler, or the St. Bernard. The Rottweiler and the Berner do not seem suitable to me. Even today, the shoulder height as described in the GSSH standard is not always reached. Crossbreeding with Rottweiler or Berner would result in an additional loss of height. The Rottweiler might also give the square appearance and different head shape which are not wanted for the GSSH.

Grosse Schweizer and Berner were crossbred in 1956. Berner male Dursli v. d. Holzmuhle 58222 was mated to Grosse Schweizer bitch Berna v. Birchacker 46843. On May 29, six short coated puppies with pretty colors and good markings were born.

In 1957 we had two litters from the crossbred male Durs v. Birchacker 70088. Dams were the litter sisters Dilla and Dina v. Grindlen 46197/8. Later on, crossbred bitches were also used. The crossbred puppies were always bred to registered GSSH. There was never a long-haired puppy. Some had somewhat longer hair, slightly waved on the back.

The crossbreeding resulted in improvement of the color. The red had become more intensive. First it looked as if the black coat, without grey or yellow wool, might prevail. However, one must say that the bitch Berna v. Birchacker already had dark undercoat.

Crossbreeding did not result in improvement of the build. On the contrary, the crossbred puppies showed poor gait and some bad bites. Furthermore, the temperament was badly affected. Nervous behavior and shyness replaced the quiet dignity of the GSSH. Well-known breeders stopped using the crossbred lines and concentrated on purebred stock.

Today the infuence of the crossbreeding should have disappeared. Regarded from today’s point of view, the crossbreeding was rather a failure.

The third possibility is offered in the short-haired Bernard. He would bring back the desired height and the build would not be negatively influenced. The somewhat heavier skull would be not problem: it could be eliminated within three generations. The red color, however, would be hard to eliminate. Dominated by the black color, it would be recessive for generations--but this is the case anyway. Thus not too much could be spoilt by trying. There would be a disadvantage, however, if spotted Bernards were used. One could only use a dog with a red coat, symmetrical head markings, and as short as possible white socks. It should not be too difficult to find such a dog with a relatively light and flat head.

(The Club was founded in 1912 and pages 140-141 deal with the Club and its ups and downs. In 1967 only 43 dogs were registered. The author fears damage to the breed because of the limited stock, especially since there is not much stock available from other countries.)

Character and problems of breeding

The GSSH is not really popular because of his appearance, but he is sought after for his excellent character. He is an independent dog who usually shows a noticeable dislike of being shut in or tied up. He wants to move about freely, but seldom becomes a roamer. You cannot really call him a non-hunting dog. Again and again you meet GSSH that have strong hunting instincts. If properly trained, the searching instinct can be utilized in Schutzhund training, rescue or avalanche dog.

His natural protective instincts are always praised. Two examples are quoted from "Schweizer Hundesport" by an unknown writer: "Nero seems to know the character of people. The first person he ever attacked was a mason that tried to cheat me out of 100 francs. But otherwise he is friendly with servants, visitors and repairmen, and we enjoy his amiable character.

Last year I was filling wine bottles with the help of a young man. By 3 A.M. we had not only worked, but "tasted" once in a while. Thus the young man was not too steady on his feet. With a lantern, I showed the young man on his way. But when I turned back home, Nero was not following me. I called and whistled in vain. Next morning at six, Nero was back. Later, the young man came and told me that he had stumbled into a small brook. Nero had pulled him out of the water and had seen him safely home. He had taken Nero into his room for the rest of the night. When he opened the door next morning, Nero immediately walked out and went straight home."

The second example also shows the dogs’ independence:

"Because of lack of space we had to lodge a young visiting lady in the nearby village about 4 km. away. At night Nero served as escort: without a lead he accompanied the young lady safely home. There was traffic on the road, but Nero never strayed from her side until she had reached her destination. An hour after the departure, he was home again."

From the breeder’s point of view there is desire to improve the breed. The GSSH is a relatively young breed and not frequently bred. My reference is Moritz Magron, one of the most knowledgeable fanciers.

The build should harmoniously combine height, power and agility. We try for a sturdy appearance with stamina and agility for a working dog. Like all Senenhundes, Grosse Schweizer are somewhat stocky. Strong muscles and solid structure remind us of the draught dog heritage. Too much or too little substance are unwanted variations of the ideal. We should be reasonably tolerant as regards height.

Scheitlin measured males ranging from 59 to 70 cm, females 56 cm to 65.5 cm. The required standard of 67.5 cm for males and 64.5 cm for females is seldom reached today.

This proves what all judges complain about of late: the GSSH is of decreasing height. We had complaints of this sort also in the twenties. In 1926, a judge lamented that females were too small. The body length is 66 to 77 cm for males 66 to 75 for females. The GSSH is somewhat long and bitches are relatively longer than the males. Breeders prefer long bitches to square ones. The relation between length and shoulder height should be 10:9.

Scheitlin describes the body as barrel shaped. The abdomen is not tucked up. The farmer’s ideal of beauty here is based on cattle. Common faults are a soft back and too much height in the rear. Scheitlin measured the rear to be usually 2 cm higher than the shoulder. The dog higher at the withers looks better than one with an over-built rear.

The weight of males is between 38 and 65 kg; bitches 37 to 63 kg. There is a wide variation (Scheitlin). In spite of their smaller size, bitches weigh almost as much as males because of their length of body and pelvis.

The breeders of GSSH worry about the gait, as do breeders of the Bernard. The heavy rear causes a short, stilt-like walk. If the rear dew claws are not removed, the walk looks "mowing." both are ugly and hamper the movement of the dog. The Grosse Schweizer walks heavily anyway and reminds you of an immature puppy. The body sways heavily. Daily walking may help a bad-moving dog. Heim described the dog at the turn of the century as more agile and lively. There is a relation between head and body. We do not wish the brachycephalic head of the St. Bernard, but want the original "cow-dog" skull. The Rottweiler head is also undesirable. Too heavy, round heads usually cause a crooked jaw, resulting in the unwanted overbite. We cannot tolerate overbite in the interest of maintaining the elongated head. Not desirable also are the open, so-call "St. Bernard eyes" and heavy hanging lips.

Color and markings should be of secondary importance for the working dog. But the tri-color is so closely associated with the "Schweizer Sennenhund" that the breeder cannot neglect them. Of course, the breeder of short-haired Sennehunde faces greater difficulties than the breeder of the long-haired Berner or the St. Bernard.

The outer coat consits of coarse, 3 to 5 cm long hair; the undercoat has fine curly or wavy wool. The outer coat covers the wool-like shingles, thus protecting the dog from wetness. The undercoat retains air and insulates against heat and cold. A good outer coat keeps rainwater away from the skin for several hours and the dog can swim without getting the skin wet. No doubt, the short rough coat is a better protection in any kind of weather than the long hair. If the outer coat is very strong, the dog’s coat seems to lack luster. If the outer coat is fine and shiney, more likely than not the undercoat is missing. The dogs then are more smooth than rough coated. We want the dog with a weatherproof coat and plenty of underwool.

As M. Magron puts it rightly:

"It may be less beautiful than the sparkling long coat of the Berner Sennenhund. But the GSSH is a dog for the weekdays, not for Sunday. And for the time being, we have six weekdays and but one Sunday."

The problem for the breeder is the fact that he wants the undercoat, but that this undercoat is unluckily not black, but grey-blue to yellow. Especially in his winter coat the dog appears less black, rather dirty yellow-black. The "weak" color , as Heim has called, may well be the reason that the GSSH is not widely know and used as he should be because of his excellent qualities.

If some breeders want to make the yellow wool part of the standard, they are digging the grave of the GSSH. The goal is the retaining of the underwool, but dark grey, not yellow that contrasts with the outer black coat. This is difficult because of the markings, but not impossible. Others have done it. Let us hope that the Grosse Schweizer can overcome this hurdle.


Notable Liberty Run Swissys

Some of our dogs from our 20+ years in the breed.  Some of these live with us, some with others, and some have gone on to the bridge.

Contact Liberty Run:

Liberty Run's dedication to producing quality puppies means that puppies will not always be available.  Applications are kept on file and puppies are placed according to suitability of match with the applicant.  Deposits are not accepted until we actually have a puppy to match with your family.  Puppies are placed after they turn 8 weeks of age.  

Companion puppies are sold on non-breeding contracts with limited registration.   Contract requires obtaining health clearances prior to change of registration to allow breeding. 

Inquiries are always welcome.

Liberty Run is located just north of Oklahoma City, OK.
Contact Anna Wallace Here