The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was designed as a draft dog and was often referred to as “the poor man's horse.” They are serious dogs who still enjoy pulling carts and sleds, but have grown to be faithful family companions. They are fiercely loyal to their families and require constant companionship to be happy. Families with children may shy away from such a large dog, but the Swissy gets along well with kids of all ages. Small children should be supervised, as they can easily get knocked down by an excited Swissy, but the dog never means to harm. They are alert watchdogs, letting everyone in a three-block radius know that a stranger is approaching, but they are not aggressive guard dogs and can be trusted to be polite to house guests, once properly introduced.
The Swissy was designed to pull carts in the Swiss Alps. They are strong and rugged, and need lots of exercise, but don't require a lot of running to be happy. Several long walks will suffice, and putting a backpack on him will make him feel purposeful on strolls through the neighborhood. In winter time, hooking him up to a sled to pull kids around the yard will keep a Swissy busy for hours.
Swiss Mountain Dogs are far too large and rambunctious to live in an apartment or condominium. They need lots of space to move, and their extended puppyhood gives them a “bull in a China shop” reputation.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are a challenge to train, even for experienced owners. They are willful and independent, and training should begin as early as possible. Once this dog hits adolescence, he will behave like a typical teenager, testing your boundaries whenever possible. Consistency and strong leadership is key, but a Swissy should never be treated harshly. Training should involve a lot of treats, as this is probably the only way to motivate this headstrong animal.
Separation Anxiety is common among Swiss Mountain Dogs. They need to be with people at all times, and if left alone too long will become destructive. Proper exercise can help stave off separation anxiety, but it will not prevent it. They are therefore best suited for families with a stay at home parent or in a home where people's work schedules are not hectic.
Barking is a common behavioral complaint Swissy owners. They are alert watchdogs, but are quick to sound the alarm that they've seen or heard something. Their bark is loud, low and can be imposing. Proper socialization and training can lessen the barking problem, but will probably not stop it.
This breed experiences an extended puppyhood and can be rowdy and rambunctious well past adolescence. Potential owners should be prepared to deal with a large, bouncy, often clumsy animal for several years.