MOUNTAIN DOG GREATER SWISS
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
THE GREATER SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG
CAROL BROWN I got involved in dog shows because of a daughter who loved dogs and started her show career at age 12. Beginning as the driver to shows, I eventually began showing and breeding Vizslas and Point- ers after my daughter grew up and left home. My career evolved over the years from all breed professional handler, pet grooming shop owner/operator, handling instructor, professional ring steward, licensed show superin- tendent, to an approved AKC judge of the Sporting, Working Groups and two Herding breeds, as well as Jr. Show and BIS, to date, with additional nine breed applications pending at AKC. As a handler, I finished dogs in all seven groups; as a judge, I exhibit my love of dogs and people, and always try to help and encourage new people, especially Juniors, in the sport and dog fancy. CATHY COOPER
a Great Pyrenees, although we were only spectators at the dog shows for many years. We got into showing and breeding after becoming involved with and owning Cardigan Welsh Corgis in 1981 and then with Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs in 1995. I began judging in 2006 and have been approved for additional working and herding breeds.
1. Describe the breed in three words. CB: Color-distinctive, sturdy and agile CC: Striking, tri-colored, draft and drover. HN: Strong, agile and powerful yet gentle.
2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed CB: Workability, proportion, size, structure, type features CC: The breed must have a stable temperament. The only trait to be severely penalized in the standard is shyness or aggressiveness. The breed must also be sturdy and agile. Of course the striking tri-color black, white and red markings are a hallmark of the breed. HN: The dog presented must be a large, heavy boned and well-muscled dog who moves effortlessly with a strong, level back and speed being appropriate for a working draft dog. Words denoting strength, power and substance are used over and over in the Swissy standard. A thick body with little tuck-up, round, compact feet with well- arched toes and a thick tail with no kinks are all “must haves”, as is a strong head with a large, blunt, straight muzzle and gentle expression. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? CB: Size tends to yo-yo. CC: This breed is not an exaggerated breed. Occasionally we see dogs that are oversized or have overdone heads, but that is not a trend. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are better now than they were when you first started judging? Why or why not? CB: Definitely yes! Much better structurally and proportionally. CC: The dogs are far better than when I started judging or breeding. This breed has made great progress in 30 years
I live in Martinsville, Virginia. Dogs have always filled the majority of my life. I am first and foremost a breeder and I am very proud of my Shadetree GSMD. I owned a boarding and grooming business for 30 years but I have phased out the boarding and am cutting drasti- cally back on grooming so I have more time to spend with my dogs. I also love
to travel whether dog related or just for pleasure. I try to take at least two trips a year to new places. I have been show- ing and breeding dogs since 1981. My first breed was Rott- weilers followed by the GSMD in 1988. I have been judging since 2001. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs and Rottweilers were my initial breeds and I currently judge the Working Group and Bloodhounds. HELENE NATHANSON I live in New Jersey on seven acres outside of Lambert- ville, a quaint little river town. Most of my time is spent on activities related to dogs, whether it be reading, studying or training and competing in Rally and Obedience. In addi- tion, I love spending time with my children and grand- children. Our first breed was acquired over 50 years ago,
“STRONG, AGILE AND POWERFUL YET GENTLE.”
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greater swiss mountain dog Q & A WITH CAROL BROWN, CATHY COOPER & HELENE NATHANSON
are disqualified. (These colors also don’t have the manda- tory black nose leather). In addition, judges need only to check the bite of the Swissy; full mount examination is not necessary as we do not count teeth! Only the Berner requires full dentition. Also, often these large breeds aren’t given enough room to properly evaluate movement in the breed ring. 6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. CB: I am so proud of the breeders continuing to help their breed get progressively better. Their people are as nice as the dogs. CC: These are nice dogs and are very adaptable to most any living situation. Please do not ever reward a dog that does not have a good temperament! 7. And, for a bit of humor: What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever experienced at a dog show? CB: Since I tend to be the fashion police, one of my exhibi- tors keeps reminding me of the time I told her to go get her raincoat, even if it didn’t match her new dress! CC: So many shows, so many laughs from having a Rottwei- ler decide that the Golden next to him in the obedience ring was too beautiful to resist, losing my slip and having our help bring the wrong dog in for reserve. The list goes on and on! HN: While working with my Swissy, I tripped over his very large feet and landed forcefully on my shoulder, tearing the rotator cuff. Everyone was quite concerned for me, but I reassured them that all was well as it was only my right shoulder that was injured. The puzzled look on their faces required further explanation: I needed my left shoulder and arm to show my dog in an upcoming Spe- cialty. Surgery would have to wait until afterwards. “THESE ARE NICE DOGS AND ARE VERY ADAPTABLE TO MOST ANY LIVING SITUATION.”
many thanks to the dedication of our breeders. When I started breeding we had to put parts together to try to get close to meeting the standard. Now we have many good dogs, not just parts of good dogs. HN: When I first became interested in Swissys and attended their first AKC National Specialty in Kentucky in 1995, I was impressed with their large size and great muscled substance. At subsequent large venues and at the National I judged a few years ago, there were dogs exhibited that fit that description, but it seems that at smaller, local shows today the dogs competing are smaller, more ele- gant examples. Originally breeders were breeding dogs for their drafting, working ability: a good, strong farm dog. Today’s breeders may be focusing on breeding dogs for the show ring and looking for group wins with flashy movement. I think our dogs’ health and longevity have improved over the years, although our time with them is never long enough. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? CB: That the GSMD is a smooth Berner! CC: I think that new judges spend far too much time obsess- ing about markings and size. The standard describes the ideal markings but also clearly states that defects of structure and temperament are to be judged more severely because they reduce the animal’s capacity to work. Markings should be used as a tie breaker but unless they detract so significantly from what is described in the standard they should never take precedent over sound temperament, structure and movement. Also there is a huge variation in size that is acceptable in the stan- dard. Dogs from 25 ½ " to 28 ½ " are equally correct and bitches from 23 ½ " to 27". Often new judges get hung up on bigger is better, rewarding an oversized dog while overlooking a dog that is at the bottom of the standard as too small. The dogs that are in the middle of the standard tend to be our best working dogs and more suited to their historical job than the very large dogs. HN: I would hope new judges would study our standard carefully along with the Bernese Mountain Dog standard and note the differences. Markings seem to be troublesome for some judges, often overlooking the brightly marked Swissy. Structure for good working abil- ity takes precedence over markings. Likewise, a white tip on the tail is desirable, but not necessary. Black coat color, undercoat color and agouti (banded) hair seem to cause confusion. Undercoat must be present and can be showing; the undercoat color is not a factor. The Swissy is a black dog with red and white markings. Dogs that are red and white or blue (charcoal), red and white
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JUDGING THE GREATER SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG by CATHERINE COOPER GSMD Breeder/Judge
“T he 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-pur- pose farm duties of the mountainous regions of its origin.” When judging the breed the general description should give you your overall impression of the dog. This dog originated as a working farm dog. You will quickly realize that there are a very wide range of looks or styles that adequately fit that descrip- tion. It is important to note that while this breed is one of the four varieties of Sennenhund or Swiss Cattle Dog breeds, it is a separate breed and should not be confused with its cousins the Bernese Mountain Dog or Entlebucher Cattle Dog. When evaluating size, proportion and substance the standard includes dogs from 25 ½ -28 ½ inches and bitches from 23 ½ -27 inches. Neither the upper nor lower end of these heights are preferred. Judges are reminded that they should always award the best dogs in the ring and not necessar- ily the biggest dogs. The standard uses the word “powerful” which should denote strength and power as well as size and substance. Proper evaluation of the GSMD will put great emphasis on the well-conditioned athlete and penalize the overweight and out of shape dog. A fat dog could never per- form its historic task as an all pur- pose farm dog. Such a dog is not a good specimen of the breed. This is a heavy boned, slightly longer than tall dog. The dog should be neither too leggy nor too low to the ground. The breed carries characteristics of their gender. The dogs are larger and more
massive throughout and the bitches are more feminine although never refined or weedy. This is not a “head” breed although like all breeds correct head type and expression are an important part of breed type. There is great variation in head type. The ideal GSMD head is a comparatively long head with a flat back skull and slight stop. 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. The muzzle should be of approximately equal length to the back skull, but should be blunt and not pointed. Unfortunately most muzzles that approach the correct length tend to be pointed or snipey. Retaining prop- er length and width of muzzle seems to be challenging. The lips and flews should be tight. Most of the dogs with correct width and depth of muzzle tend to be a little lippy, but a Great Dane look is not desirable. The expression should be animated and gentle with dark
brown, almond shaped eyes preferred. Incorrect eyes are very distracting from the correct headpiece. Blue eyes are a DQ. In adult dog the nose leath- er should be black. All GSMD puppies are born with pink noses and the pig- ment fills in as they age. It is not unusu- al to see puppies that still have pink spots on their noses. This should not be faulted. A good GSMD head should all flow together. There should be no sharp angles such as prominent brows and no domey skulls. The head should never appear too big or too little for the body. A common mistake when judging the breed it to award a “big head” with no regard as to whether or not it fits the standard. The standard calls for a scissors bite but with no mouth DQs. The neck should be of moder- ate length and strong and muscular. It should be clean, without dewlap. When viewed in profile the GSMD has a slight protruding prosterum. The body is full with a slight tuck up. The chest should reach the elbow. The depth of
“THIS IS NOT A ‘HEAD’ BREED
ALTHOUGH LIKE ALL BREEDS CORRECT HEAD TYPE AND EXPRESSION ARE AN IMPORTANT PART OF BREED TYPE. THERE IS GREAT VARIATION IN HEAD TYPE. THE IDEAL GSMD HEAD IS A COMPARATIVELY LONG HEAD WITH A FLAT BACK SKULL AND SLIGHT STOP.”
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“THE TAIL IS FAIRLY HEAVY, REACHING TO THE HOCKS, PENDULOUS IN REPOSE. WHEN ALERT AND WHEN MOVING THE TAIL IS CARRIED AT THE LEVEL OF THE BACK OR HIGHER, AND MAY BE SLIGHTLY CURVED UPWARD BUT SHOULD NOT CURL OR TILT OVER THE BACK.”
chest should be half the total height of the dog at the withers. The topline is level from withers to croup with the croup smoothly rounded to the tail insertion. The tail is fairly heavy, reach- ing to the hocks, pendulous in repose. When alert and when moving the tail is carried at the level of the back or high- er, and may be slightly curved upward but should not curl or tilt over the back. A gay tail is undesirable. A tucked tail is an indication of temperament and as temperament is the only trait to be severely penalized a dog with a tucked tail should not be rewarded on that day. The bones of the tail should feel straight. You must run your hand down the tail to determine if this is a fact. Kinks are not always visible to the eye. The GSMD is moderately angled front and rear. Balance is the most important attribute. They have well let down hocks. The feet are round and compact with well arched toes. Splayed feet or cat feet are unde-
sirable. Dewclaws in the rear should be removed. Front dewclaws are optional. The GSMD has a double coat. The topcoat is dense and varies in length from 1 ¼ " to 2". That is the length of coat found on the neck and possibly on the rear. The length of coat on the head and legs is much shorter. Undercoat must be present and may be showing. It varies in color from the preferred dark gray to tawny often with a variation in color on a single dog. It is usually lightest around the neck and dark- est throughout the body. The best place to check for undercoat is on the shoulder, neck or thigh. Some GSMD have an agouti coat with band- ed hairs. As long as this does not detract from the “striking tri-colored” appearance of the breed it should not be faulted. Blue and red GSMDs are DQed. These are obvious as the blue is the color of a Weimaraner and the red is the color of a St. Bernard. These DQs are not referring to a red tinge in
the coat or agouti hairs or undercoat visible through the black topcoat. The GSMD standard goes to exten- sive length in describing the tri-colored black, white and rich rust markings that are characteristic of all of the Sen- nenhunds. Unlike their Sennenhund cousins white patches or white collars on the neck are permitted. Symmetry of markings is desired but if a judge is agonizing over markings that would mean that there is a ring full of excep- tional dogs to judge. Markings are considered cosmetic and should be considered of lesser importance than temperament, structure and movement. Markings that detract from the striking tri-colored dog would be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Proper GSMD movement is nei- ther exaggerated nor cumbersome. They should move with good reach and powerful drive. The back should remain level. On the down and back the front and rear legs tend to converge. The GSMD is a bold, faithful, will- ing worker. They should never display vicious behavior nor should they be shy. The only traits to be severely penalized are shyness or aggressiveness. Judges are admonished to severely penalize these behaviors in their ring. In summary, when judging the GSMD, judges are asked to look for the large, powerful, confident dog which is most suited to its draft and drover duties. Once again, size alone is not an attribute. The dogs should be well con- ditioned. Temperament is extremely important and incorrect temperament should be severely penalized. Markings are of lesser importance and in most cases should be used as a tie-breaker. Any other fault that detracts from the described working dog should be penal- ized to the extent of the deviation.
“UNDERCOAT MUST BE PRESENT AND MAY BE SHOWING. IT VARIES IN COLOR FROM THE PREFERRED DARK GRAY TO TAWNY OFTEN WITH A VARIATION IN COLOR ON A SINGLE DOG. IT IS USUALLY LIGHTEST AROUND THE NECK AND DARKEST THROUGHOUT THE BODY.”
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GREATER SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG
T he Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (GSMD) is the largest, and thought to be the oldest of the four Swiss breeds that are collectively known as Sennenhunds. Besides the GSMD these breeds include the AKC recognized Bernese Mountain Dog and Entlebuch- er Mountain Dog and the lesser known Appenzeller Cattle Dog. Sennenhund translates to mean “dog of the senne”. The Swiss senne is an alpine herdsman or shepherd. In Switzerland the breed is known as the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund meaning “big dog of the alpine herdsman.” The other three Sen- nenhunds were named according to the canton or region in Switzerland where they originated. The Sennenhunds are all characterized by their striking tricolor coat of black with white and rich rust markings. The GSMD and BMD were both historically used as draft and drover breeds. They assisted with the farm chores and then pulled the milk and other farm produce to market in their carts. This earned them the nickname of “the poor man’s horse”. Their ancestors belong to a group of dogs known as Metzgerhund or butcher dogs. The Entlebucher and Appenzeller were both used as true cattle herding dogs and worked with the senne to move the cattle from the valleys where they wintered to the alpine pastures during the summer months. Quoting the AKC standard, “The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a draft and drover breed and should structurally appear as such. It is a strik- ing, tri-colored, large, powerful, confident dog of
by MARY JO RASMUSSEN
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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 ori- gin.” This general description should give an overall impression of the dog. As described above, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs originated as a work- ing farm dog. You will quickly realize that there are a very wide range of looks or styles that adequately fit that description. When judging the GSMD, judges are asked to look for the large, powerful, confident dog which is most suited to its draft and drover duties. Size alone is not an attribute. Proper evaluation of the GSMD will put great emphasis on the
well-conditioned athlete and penalize the overweight and out-of-shape dog. A fat dog could never perform its his- toric task as an all purpose farm dog. Such a dog is not a good specimen of the breed. Markings are of lesser impor- tance and in most cases should be used as a tie-breaker. This is not a “head” breed although, like all breeds, correct head type and expression are an important part of breed type. There is great variation in head type. The ideal GSMD head is a comparatively long head with a flat back skull and slight stop. 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. The muzzle should be
“...LOOK FOR THE LARGE, POWERFUL, CONFIDENT DOG...”
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of approximately equal length to the back skull, but should be blunt and not pointed. Unfortunately most muz- zles that approach the correct length tend to be pointed or snipey. Retain- ing proper length and width of muzzle seems to be challenging. The lips and flews should be tight. Most of the dogs with correct width and depth of muz- zle tend to be a little lippy, but a Great Dane look is not desirable. The expres- sion should be animated and gentle with dark brown, almond shaped eyes preferred. Incorrect eyes are very dis- tracting from the correct headpiece. Blue eyes are a DQ. In adult dog the nose leather should be black. All GSMD puppies are born with pink noses and the pigment fills in as they age. It is not unusual to “GSMD BREEDERS AND OWNERS ARE VERY ACTIVE IN PRESERVING THE WORKING HERITAGE OF THE BREED.”
see puppies that still have pink spots on their noses. This should not be faulted. A good GSMD head should flow together. There should be no sharp angles such as prominent brows and no domey skulls. The head should never appear too big or too little for the body. A common mistake when judging the breed is to award a “big head” with no regard as to wheth- er or not it fits the standard. The stan- dard calls for a scissors bite but with no mouth DQs. The GSMD is a slightly longer than tall breed. Length of leg equals depth of body. They move with a level topline and the tail should not tilt or curl over the back. The ideal markings of black with a white blaze, chest, feet and tail tip offset by the rich rust are described
in the standard, but are of lesser impor- tance than structure and temperament which directly affect the working ability of the breed. The only trait to be severely penalized is shyness or aggres- siveness. Lack of undercoat is to be penalized and all other faults are to be penalized to the extent of the deviation from the ideal described in the AKC Standard. GSMD breeders and owners are very active in preserving the working heritage of the breed. GSMD compete at draft trials, herding tests, weight pulls, pack dog hikes as well as at rally, obedience, agility and track- ing trials. They have been used as search and rescue dogs and as therapy dogs. As you can see, this is a breed of many talents.
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HISTORY OF THE GREATER SWISS MOUNTAIN DOG By Anna Wallace
T he ancestors of the mod- ern day Greater Swiss Mountain Dog are inter- woven in the history of Switzerland. Easier to keep and more purpose- ful than the horse in mountain terrain, these dogs were critical in the daily life of the working man, helping with the chores and workload of the butchers, cattlemen, manual workers and farmers. Drafting, droving, guarding and working alongside their master were their primary purpose. Th ough breed- ing programs did not really exist at the time, work duties selected for a big, heavy dog with a sturdy appearance, calm, steady tempera- ment, bold and confident, yet non-aggressive and non-hunting. Coat length was largely immaterial, though the shorter weather resis- tant coat with heavy undercoat seemed to hold preference. Dogs had to be able to do the work of the day while able to be main- tained on relatively little food, primarily left- overs from the family table. Dogs that did not make the grade in terms of temperament or working ability were typically butchered and added to the soup pot. Color in the working dog was primarily immaterial, typically red, yellow, or black and tan, all with or without white markings, though there did seem to develop a preference for red and white dogs in the late 1800s, likely due to the growing world notice of the Saint Bernard. Before the late 1800s, the breed was a “type” rather than a breed. As the red/white St. Bernard type preference developed in the cities, the black-tri colored dogs were typically left in the hands of the farmers and herdsmen, thus forming the foundation of the Bernese Mountain Dog where the long coat with its truer, more striking col- ors came into favor. Long coat bred to long coat produces long coated puppies, thus the foundation for developing a breed. 1908 brought the 25th anniversary show of the Swiss Kennel Club where Franz Schertenleib, a well-known Berner breeder,
brought a heavy bodied, short coated “Ber- nese” to the show. He had seen this dog in a remote area and bought him as an oddity, and brought him to the show to see what well respected judge, Professor Albert Heim would say about this “short-haired Berner.” Any other judge might have dismissed this dog as undesirable for breeding, or perhaps even the development of long and short coated Bernese, but Professor Heim remem- bered seeing such dogs in the 1860s and declared him a marvelous example of the old-type Sennenhund breed, and with that started a country wide search for other dogs of the type to save them from extinction. Th e search brought fourth 21 examples of the breed and the “Grosser Schweitzer Sen- nenhund” (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog) was developed as an individual breed. Only 7 of those first 21 dogs registered are found in the pedigrees of the modern GSMD. Common issues seen in the development of the breed were the lack of clear colors and the di ffi culty finding quality bitches. Bitches tended to be too “fine” and the color of undercoat (typically tending from light gray to yellow) tended to “muddy” the black coloring, detracting from the striking black-tri color preference. For many years long haired puppies would appear in breed- ings, a trait which is still occasionally seen today. Th e use of local studs and chance breedings rather than a strategical plan hampered development. Indeed the GSMD of the 1970s could be traced back to tight inbreeding in very few generations. Cross- breeding to Berners in the 1950s resulted in short haired puppies with clearer colors with darker undercoat and deeper red color, but also produced poor gait, bad bites and ner- vousness and shyness which then turned the focus back toward purebred stock and away from crossbred “improvement.” Development of the breed proceeded forward with an e ff ort toward standard- ization. Preference selected for a harmoni- ous combination of height, power, agility,
strong muscles and solid structure. Broad, thick body with little abdomen tuck-up and a “cow-dog” head, with a flatter top skull to distinctly distinguish away from the rounder head of the Saint Bernard, and a preference for a tight eyelid, slight stop and away from heavy hanging lips. Short coat was to be rough and weather resistant, more rough than smooth, often lacking luster. In the words of M. Magron, “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 at the time being, we have six weekdays and but one Sunday.” Th e original dogs ranged from 23 ½ "-28" and bitches from 21.2"-26.2" with weights for males from 83-143 lbs and females from 81.4-138 lbs. It’s said that females were typi- cally as heavy as the males due to being lon- ger in body and heavier in pelvis. General ratio of length to height of the original dogs was 10:9. In 1971, males seldom reached 27" and females seldom reached 25.8". Development of the breed was quite slow with several setbacks in war torn Europe, and in 1967, there were only 46 GSMD reg- istered with the Swiss club. In 1968, Patricia and Frederick Ho ff man of Indiana brought the first GSMD to the United States, and the first 20 years of development in the US was primarily done by Dr. Howard and Mrs. Gretel Summons under the kennel name Sennenhof. Th e Greater Swiss Moun- tain Dog Club of America was formed in 1971, the registry started, and the breed has quite literally taken o ff since that time. Th e GSMD gained full recognition in the AKC working group in 1995. Th e development of the GSMD in the United States has been steady and while they have modest recognition in group level competition, the quality of the breed as a whole continues to improve. Th eir striking appearance, suitability as a great family pet and general good health has endeared them with a popularity that continues to grow.
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