The information found on this page will assist you in learning more about
the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
The Breed Standards (AKC and FCI), History and Breed Study documents include useful information about the GSMD which should be particularly helpful to breeders, owners (especially those who plan to show/breed) and to judges who are seeking the requisite GSMD breed education during their AKC approval process.
The Breed Study document was produced by me and the GSMDCA Judges Education Committee when I was Chair of said Committee, and approved by the GSMDCA Board at the time for use at GSMDCA Specialties and AKC Breed Study Seminars. It is no longer being used by the Club but remains a comprehensive educational tool for those seeking to learn more about the GSMD Breed and interpretation of the Standard.
Federacion Cynologique Internacional (FCI)
Standard #58 - Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund
(Everywhere except the USA)
UTILIZATION Originally watch - and draught dog. Nowadays also companion, guard- and family dog.
FCI CLASSIFICATION Group 2: Pinscher and Schnauzer type;Molossian type; Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs.
Section 3: Swiss Mountain and Cattle Dogs
GENERAL APPEARANCE A tri-colour, sturdy, heavy boned and well muscled dog. In spite of its size and weight, he presents endurance and agility. The difference between the sexes is distinctly obvious.
SIZE Height at withers for males : 65 - 72 cm
Height at withers for bitches: 60 - 68 cm
IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS Body length(measured from the point of the shoulders to the point of the buttock) to height at withers = 10:9
Depth of chest to height at withers = 1:2
Length of skull to length of muzzle = 1:1
Width of skull to width of muzzle = 2:1
HEAD Strong corresponding to the body, but not heavy. Dogs stronger in head than bitches.
Cranial Region: Skull: Flat and broad. The frontal furrow beginning at the stop gradually runs toward the top. Stop: Hardly pronounced
Facial Region: Nose: Black ; Muzzle: Strong, longer than its depth. Must not be pointed, seen either from above or in profile. Nasal bridge straight, without furrow ; Lips: Barely developed, well fitting. Black pigmentation. Not pendulous ; Jaw/Teeth: Strong jaws; complete, strong and regular scissor bite. The absence of two teeth (premolar 1 and/or premolar 2) is tolerated. Absence of the molars 3 (M3) is not taken into account. Eyes: Almond-shaped, of medium size, neither deep set nor protruding. Hazel to chestnut brown, with alert friendly expression. Lids close-fitting. Eye rims dark.
Ears: Of medium size, triangular and set on fairly high. In repose hanging flat and close to the cheeks, but raised forward when attentive. Well covered with hair, both inside and outside.
NECK Strong, muscular, rather thick-set. Without dewlap
BODY Slightly longer than its height at the withers.Back: Moderately long, strong and straight. Loins: Broad and well muscled. Croup; Long and broad. Gently sloping. Never higher than the withers or abruptly slanting.
Chest: Strong, broad, reaching to the elbows. Seen in cross section, the ribcage is roundish oval shaped, neither flat nor barrel-shaped. Forechest well developed. Belly and underline: Belly and flanks barely tucked up.
TAIL Set on harmoniously following the croup, fairly heavy and reaching to the hocks. Pendulous in repose; when alert and in movement carried higher and slightly curved upwards, but never curled or tilted over the back.
LIMBS Forequarters: Straight and parallel when seen from the front set rather broad. Shoulders: Shoulder blade long, strong ,well laid back,close-fitting to the body and well muscled, forming a not too obtuse angle with the upper arm.
Forearm: Heavy boned and straight. Pasterns: Firm, seen from the front in straight line with the forearm: seen from the side almost vertical.
HINDQUARTERS Straight and not too close when seen from the back. Metarsus and fee turning neither in nor out. Dewclaws must be removed except in countries where their removal is forbidden by law.
Upper thigh: Fairly long, broad, strong and well muscled. Stifle: Forming a distinctly obtuse angle. Lower thigh: Fairly long Hock: Straight and well angulated
FEET Strong pointing straight ahead, with well-knit, well arched toes and strong nails.
COAT/ HAIR: Double coat consisting of thick, outer coat of medium length and dense undercoat. The latter as dark grey or black as possible. Short outer coat permissable if there is undercoat.
COLOUR: Typically tricolor. Main color black with symmetrical, reddish-brown (tan) markings and clean white markings. The reddish-brown color is situated between the black and white markings on the cheeks, above the eyes, on the inside of the ears, on both sides of the fore chest, on all four legs and underneath the tail. The white markings are on the head (blaze and muzzle), running down unbroken from the throat to the chest, also on the feet and the tip of the tail. Between the blaze and reddish-brown markings above the eyes, a band of black should remain. A white patch on the neck or a white collar around the neck are tolerated.
GAIT/MOVEMENT In all gaits, balanced movement with good reach. Free stride reaching well out in front with good drive from the hindquarters. At the trot, coming and going,legs moving forward in a straight line.
BEHAVIOUR/TEMPERAMENT Self-confident, alert, watchful and fearless in everyday situations. Good-natured and devoted towards people familiar to him. Self-assured with strangers. Medium temperament.
FAULTS Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog. : Unreliable behavior ; Absence of any teeth other than 2 PM1 and/or PM2 (PreMolar 1 or 2) The M3 are not taken into account; Level bite
Light eyes. Lids not close fitting. Coat: Visible yellow -brownish or light grey undercoat. Colour and markings not clear Mismarking: Absence of white markings on the head: Blaze too wide ; White markings on muzzle reaching distinctly beyond the corners of the mouth ; White pasterns or hocks "boots" reaching beyond the pastern joints or hock joints : Noticeably assymetrical markings
ELIMINATING FAULTS :
Serious faults in temperament (fear, aggressiveness)
Over - or under - shot mouth, wry mouth.
One or two blue eyes (wall eye)
Short coat without undercoat
Other than tricolor coat
Main color other than black.
Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioral abnormalities shall be disqualified
NB : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
American Kennel Club (AKC)
Breed Standard for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
(used only in USA)
GENERAL APPEARANCE The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a Draft and Drover breed and should structurally appear as such. It is a striking, tri-colored, large, powerful, confident dog of sturdy appearance. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog which , in spite of its size and weight, is agile enough to perform the all-purpose farm duties of the mountainous regions of its origin.
SIZE, PROPORTION, and SUBSTANCE Height at the highest point on the shoulder is ideally: Dogs: 25.5 to 28.5 inches; Bitches: 23.5 to 27 inches
Body length to height is approximately a 10 to 9 proportion, thus appearing slightly longer than tall. It is a heavy boned and well muscled dog of sturdy appearance.
HEAD Expression is animated and gentle. The eyes are almond shaped and brown, dark brown preferred, medium sized, neither deep set nor protruding. Blue eye or eyes is a disqualification. Eyelids are close-fitting and eyerims are black. The ears are medium sized, set high triangular in shape, gently rounded at the tip, and hang close to the head when in repose. When alert, the ears are brought forward and raised at the base. The top of the ear is level with the top of the skull. The skull is flat and broad with a slight stop. The back skull and muzzle are of approximately equal length. the back skull is approximately twice the width of the muzzle. The muzzle is large, blunt and straight, not pointed and most often with a slight rise before the end. In adult dogs the nose leather is always black. The lips are clean and as a dry-mouthed breed, flews are only slightly developed. The teeth meet in a scissors bit.
NECK, TOPLINE , and BODY The neck os of moderate length, strong, muscular and clean. The top line is level from the withers to the croup. The chest is deep and broad with a slight protruding breastbone. The ribs are well sprung. Depth of chest is approximately one half the total height of the dog at the withers. Body is full with slight tuck up. The loins are broad and strong. The croup is long, broad and smoothly rounded to the tail insertion. The tail is thick from root to tip, tapering slightly at the tip, reaching to the hocks, and carried down in repose. When alert and in movement, the tail may be carried higher and slightly curved upwards, but should not curl, or tilt over the back. The bones of the tail should feel straight.
FOREQUARTERS The shoulders are long, sloping, strong and moderately laid back. They are flat and well-muscled. Forelegs are straight and strong. The pasterns slope very slightly, but are not weak. Feet are round and compact with well arched toes, and turn neither in nor out. The dewclaws may or may not be present.
HINDQUARTERS The thighs are broad,strong and muscular. The stifles are moderately bent and taper smoothly into the hocks. the hocks are well let down and straight when viewed from the rear.Feet are round and compact with well arched toes,and turn neither in nor out. Dewclaws should be removed.
COAT Topcoat is dense , approximately 1-1/4 to 2 inches in length. Undercoat must be present and may be thick and sometimes showing, almost always present at neck but may be present throughout. Color of undercoat ranges from the preferred dark gray to light gray to tawny. Total absence of undercoat is undesirable and should be penalized.
COLOR The topcoat is black. The markings are rich rust and white. Symmetry of markings is desired. On the head, rust typically appears over each eye, on each cheek and on the underside of the ears. On the body, rust appears on both sides of the fore chest, on all four legs and underneath the tail. White markings appear typically on the head (blaze) and muzzle. the blaze may vary in length and width. It may be a very thin stripe or wider band. The blaze may extend just barely to the stop or may extend over the top of the skull and may meet with white patch or collar on the neck. Typically, white appears on the chest, running unbroken from the throat to the chest, as well as on all four feet and on the tip of the tail. White patches or collar on the neck is acceptable. Any color other than the "Black, Red and White" tri-colored dog described above, such as "Blue/Charcoal, Red and White" or "Red and White" is considered a disqualification. When evaluating the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, markings and other cosmetic features should be considered of lesser importance than other aspects of type which directly affect working ability.
GAIT Good reach in front, powerful drive in rear. Movement with a level back.
TEMPERAMENT Bold, faithful, willing worker. Alert and vigilant. Shyness or aggressiveness shall be severely penalized.
SUMMARY The foregoing is a description of the ideal Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. Defects of both structure and temperament are to be judged more severely than mere lack of elegance because they reduce the animal's capacity to work. Any fault that detracts from the above described working dog should be penalized to the extent of the deviation.
DISQUALIFICATIONS Any color other than the "Black, Red and White" tri-colored dog described above, such as "Blue/Charcoal, Red and White" or "Red and White". Blue eye or eyes.
A Reminder : Why We Have a Breed Standard by Lori Price
When discussing breed "type", I think it is crucial we don't lose sight of the history and original standard for the breed in its country of origin. There is a tendency for Americans to change breeds once they come into this country, evidence being the many breeds here in the USA which, after a certain period of time, have changed so radically they barely resemble the breed in the country of origin. (ex. Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, various Retrievers).
Once upon a time, dog shows were events where breeders would take their prospective breeding stock to be judged on its suitability for the work for which it was bred. Standards were established by breed clubs in the country of origin as guidelines for breeders to follow so they would effectively perpetuate the breed's proper type, hence its ability to efficiently perform a specific type of work.
In America, dog shows have been beauty contests for the dogs as well as arenas for the raging egos of their owners. In Europe, dogs are still judged as WORKING dogs. Their conformation is judged on suitability for the work for which the breed was originally intended. I think it is particularly important to keep in mind that relatively few owners/breeders (of Swissies) in the USA are at present training or using their dogs for the all-purpose farm work for which they were originally bred : droving, carting, packing, etc.
Many breeders are furthermore reluctant to acknowledge the breeds natural tendency to be "guardy" -- protective of its property and people. It would be prudent to keep in mind the words of the standard -- the breed should be "alert and vigilant". Owning and producing winning show dogs have become the priorities of many breeders. Consider this fact: Its important to recognize that although everyone loves to win at dog shows, stacking a dog and gaiting it around a small ring a couple of times is NOT a true test to prove that its conformation and temperament are suited to the real working arena! Therefore, many dogs varying in structure and temperament are winning in the Breed ring and getting titles. We all have our own opinions of what we feel the "ideal" Swissy would resemble if we could wave a magic wand. However the correct conformation, and temperament is directly related to the type of work these dogs were bred to do. If there are a lot of individual dogs that vary in appearance, it doesnt mean they are legitimate "types". The fact is they may be "typos"!
If Breeder A produces dogs that appear different from those of Breeder B, it only means that the individual dogs vary at different ways and degrees from the standard. It is not a reason to justify every variation as legitimate. Such is the reason why an official "standard" was written -- so breeders would have a common guideline to follow. This was intended to keep breeders on a specific track -- to prevent straying from "kennel blindness".
Both the original (FCI) and revised (AKC) standards state that the Swissy "is a draft <and drover> reed and should structurally appear as such." We need to remember that these dogs were used during the war and on farms, primarily for pulling and carrying substantial loads as well as working with livestock, specifically cattle. In order to do this kind of work, the dog should ideally have substantial bone and muscle -- be a conditioned athlete with a sound temperament. The 10-9 body length-to-height ratio is important in order for a dog to pull substantial weight efficiently. It needs to have sufficient rear angulation and a relatively low center of gravity.
Lastly I present what I feel is a good comparison. Consider the Clydesdale. These tri-colored draft horses have been successfully bred for ages and are best known at the present time from the Budweiser hitch. There are other large horses out there that are bay with white blaze and "socks" (tri-colored) but may also look in some ways like a Thoroughbred or a Quarter Horse -- lighter boned with different structure, not ideally suited for draft work. Those horses would not be considered "types" of Clydesdale.
No matter how closely or distantly our own dogs fit the Standard, the are all "perfect" to us, their owners! There is no such thing as the "ideal" dog mainly because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. However, if we as breeders would recognize and accept weaknesses in our own breeding programs and strengths in others' , we could work together through the exchange of both positive and negative feedback, when necessary to perpetuate this wonderful breed.
Lets not let our "Swissies" become Greater American Mountain Dogs!