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Norwich Bulletin - 2/24/2008

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Ever wish you could have an oversized puppy forever? A really, really, big, oversized puppy? Well, that's what you get with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog; big, silly, lovable companions.

They are not independent type canines, as they love to be around their humans and think they are lap dogs. Many will try to get in your lap as soon as you say hello, and you'd better have a big lap! They will also nudge your elbow for attention, lean up against you and let you know they are with you, and anything else to get your attention.

This breed also seems to be born with a watchful eye, and are keenly aware of their surroundings, even as a puppy. They will alert you to every little thing that happens, whether it is to inform you there is a new couch in the living room, a dinner guest who tried to use your bathroom, or someone attempting to break into your home. They will tell you everything and that can take a bit getting used to.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the largest and oldest of the four native Swiss breeds and one of two that are recognized by the American Kennel Club. In fact, many people will say they contributed to the development of both the Saint Bernard and the Rottweiler.

They were once called the poor Swiss farmer's horse, because they were used to pull carts and wagons and drove the livestock to market. Powerful and well-muscled, they still pull carts, but now it is for a Swiss competition, along with weight pulling, herding, packing, search and rescue and therapy work. Definitely a dog who needs to be kept busy and feel useful.

This dog can easily be over 150 pounds when full grown and has the distinction of once serving as a draft dog for the Swiss Army in World War II. There is no limit to what these dogs will do for their owners with their loyal soul and large heart.

The dogs first arrived in the United States in 1968 and were recognized by the AKC in 1995. The standard calls for a black bodied dog, with rust colored legs, cheeks and thumbprints above the eyes, as well as on both sides of the chest, on all four legs and underneath the tail. The muzzle, paws, chest and the tip of the tail are white.

This is not a dog for the faint of heart. In fact, there are a lot of rescues because people are attracted to the adorable, striking Swiss Mountain Dog puppy, without ever taking the time to really learn the important facts regarding the breed and if they will fit into their family.

The pecking order must be established right from the start and the Swissie (as they are fondly referred to by their owners), but understand that the humans are the alph in the household. Otherwise they will run all over you. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog National breed club ( recommends weekly obedience classes for the first two years and daily socialization and low impact exercise daily as a permanent commitment.

Owners need to remember that the three pound puppy they brought home will turn into a 100 pound puppy in less than a year, and you need to have a handle on what they can and cannot be allowed to do.

They are mouth dogs, enjoying chewing and they are quick to grab your arm to lead you along. They will also eat pretty much anything and they enjoy games like “unravel the toilet paper and make confetti” or “eat the dirty socks.” Couch cushions are also a favorite (are you getting the picture here)?

Because of their puppy like nature with their size, this is not a good match for fragile elderly people or very small children. Not that they would ever purposely hurt any family member, but their sheer size and exhuberance could cause unintentional bodily harm.

When buying a puppy of this breed you must find out if the pup's eyes have been examined and cleared by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, for distichiasis, entopion, and extropion.

Also, if you have cats or other small animals as pets, find out what kind of prey and herding drive the dogs in the breeder's lines tend to display. Some of the lines tend to herd or even kill small prey, although most of them will ignore small pets if raised together with them.

Also, check out the parents and see if they are more social and outgoing or protective and always on the alert. For a pet, especially if you have other animals and kids coming and going, you want the big, happy, lovable type.

They are stunning dogs and in the right home they are incredible companion aniamsl, but you need to be sure that you are the right home.

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