Finding the Right Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breeder
You want a Swissy puppy but where do you begin to find the right breeder?
It may take some time to find the right breeder and even more time to wait for the right puppy, but taking your time and doing the research will be well worth it in the long run. There are many reputable and caring Swissy breeders who demonstrate a genuine care and concern for the puppies they bring into this world with their breeding practices and in qualifying potential puppy buyers to provide a lifelong, loving home for their puppies. They shoulder the weight of responsibility from the day they decide to breed two dogs to ensure the puppies have the best life possible regarding health and home.
Good breeders strive to consistently improve their lines by considering the health and temperament of the dogs they are breeding first and foremost and hold themselves to be a knowledgeable resource for those who get puppies from them throughout the life of the dog.
We have put together information we hope will help you in your search for the right breeder. The best resource of all is to get out and talk to Swissy owners. The national Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America has several regional clubs listed on its website and Lake Shore GSMD Club is one of them. Lake Shore and other regional clubs hold activities and gatherings where you can meet other Swissy owners who can share information about their breeders and experiences they have had in finding the right breeder.
Indicators of a Responsible Breeder
- Raises puppies indoors, in a central room full of all the normal noises of daily life; including washers, dryers, dishwashers, vacuums, telephones, televisions, etc. They should be happy to show you where they raise their puppies.
- Should provide you with references of owners they have sold puppies to, they should encourage you to contact them and ask as many questions as you can.
- Should make certain that you’ve spent time with large dogs, and preferably Swissys.
- Will carefully screen you as a potential owner, you should expect to go through an application and “interview” process.
- Should prove that both the sire and dam of the litter have passed health clearances (visit health page for more info) and are AKC registered.
- Will offer to be a resource for you and answer all of the questions you have about the breed and about your specific puppy.
- Will consider puppies’ personalities, energy levels, confirmation, and lineage when placing puppies; most responsible breeders consider your preferences but make the final decisions about matching based on a variety of factors.
- Do their best to socialize the puppies to new sights and sounds while the pups are still in their possession. This should include people of varying ethnicities, people in different kinds of clothing, men and women, and possibly people of varying ability. They should introduce them to different types of flooring and other safe, healthy dogs.
- Support a breeding program that improves the quality of the breed both in health and personality; responsible breeders will be up front and honest about dogs in their breeding program that have health issues and provide resources to help you deal with those problems should they arise.
- Will offer to take their puppy back at any time should you need to re-home it for any reason.
Important Questions to Ask Breeders
Avoiding these questions could be a warning sign
- Have any of your dogs ever had a seizure? Make sure to inquire about seizures as opposed to being diagnosed with epilepsy. Some breeders might have epileptic dogs who were not formally diagnosed by a vet.
- What is your reason for breeding this litter? GSMD breeders should be dedicated to the improvement of the breed through conformation, temperament, working ability, and health.
- What health problems run in this line? Beware of breeders who claim all of their dogs are in perfect health. Swissys have a variety of genetic diseases, and it is extremely rare (impossible) to find a line with absolutely no problems.
- How many litters do you produce a year? Remember that responsible breeders only breed a few times a year or less.
- Where do you raise your puppies?
- How do you work toward socializing the puppies before they are 8 weeks? The most respected breeders work hard to bring their puppies to safe events, invite clean human and animal visitors into their homes, and familiarize puppies to the sights/sounds/smells of normal household happenings.
- Can you verify both dogs’ health certificates and AKC numbers?
- Can I meet the dam and sire of the litter?
- What makes the dam and sire a good match? What do they or their accomplishments offer to the breed?
Breeder Warning Signs
- Puppies available immediately: Quality Swissys are worth the wait, and most responsible breeders only produce a few litters a year so that they can ensure they all go to good homes and have the ability to screen buyers. If puppies are available immediately, it could be a warning sign.
- Puppies under $1500: Breeding healthy Swissy puppies requires a lot of money and time for the breeder. Swissy puppies are not something you want to bargain shop for, healthy quality puppies are a big investment; those that are available for a bargain price are likely being moved quickly and without thorough health and behavioral screenings. Buyer beware.
- Puppies available without a (lengthy) application: Responsible breeders are very concerned with the potential homes of their puppies and most require you to fill out in-depth, lengthy applications. If you can acquire a puppy without an application that inquires about your lifestyle, work schedule, previous dog ownership, and more, this could be a warning sign.
- Puppies under 8 weeks: Puppies should stay with their litter for a minimum of 8 weeks before being released to a new family, this time is crucial for socialization and learning bite inhibition. Puppies that are released to families before this crucial time period is over are likely to end up with behavioral problems.
- Puppy is from a pet store: The GSMDCA has breeder regulations that prohibit breeders selling to pet stores. If a Swissy has found its way to a pet store, it is a sure bet that the breeders are operating outside the ethical guidelines set forth by our national club.
Optional Arrangements With Breeders
Some breeders want to add to their breeding line but don’t have space to keep all of the dogs they may want to potentially breed. It takes two years before a breeder knows for sure whether a dog is a good candidate for breeding and adding to their line. Some breeders offer a co-ownership option which means the dog is co-owned by you and the breeder. It is important to understand this is a business arrangement and most breeders that offer this option have a written agreement in place. We strongly suggest you talk to others who have made these agreements with their breeders to get a full understanding of how co-owning works successfully and the commitment you are making to possibly breed the dog. You can meet Swissy owners who have this agreement in many of the Swissy clubs and on social media.
Adopting an Older Swissy
By now you’ve most likely done your homework and found that raising a Swissy puppy can be a lot of work. If raising a small puppy isn’t for you, you may want to consider adopting an older Swissy. Two of the most popular ways people do this is 1.) Adopting through Swissy Rescue or 2.) Getting a dog from a breeder that is either re-homing the dog due to a situation that didn’t work out or wanting a home for a dog that is no longer breeding. Both rescue and breeder re-homing situations require an application/qualifying process as if you were adopting a puppy.
Is The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Right for You?
Written by Karen Conant
You've probably heard all of the great attributes of these striking, loyal companions, but please consider the following facts when deciding whether the GSMD is the right breed for you:
Properly raising a Swissy takes time. Does your job and lifestyle allow for the commitment to properly raise and train a working dog? Read on and then determine whether or not a Swissy matches your lifestyle.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are a large breed and require space. They also require moderate activity and regular exercise. A true working breed, the Swissy is most content when he has a job or purpose. Swissys are not lazy, lay--around-the-house dogs.
Swissys are most content in the company of their families. They are not well suited to kenneling and confinement away from the activities of the household. Though capable of withstanding the elements, the Swissy's nature is best suited to being a family member and house companion. Swissys are alert and vigilant. This means that they will bark at neighbors, guests, and just about anything going on in the neighborhood! They have a natural protective instinct to guard home and family.
Most Swissys like the company of children, but NO large dog should be left unattended with young children. Due to the Swissy's robust size and active nature, they can easily topple children unintentionally.
Swissys have several major health problems to consider. In addition to the common orthopedic ailments of large breeds, such as OCD and hip dysplasia, the GSMD is afflicted by a very serious condition known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus, or "bloat". This is a life-threatening medical emergency that is all too common in our breed. Epilepsy is another very serious health concern. All of these conditions can be costly to treat and manage.
Swissys are strong dogs! They are powerful in physical strength and strong-willed and can often be a challenge to leash train. Swissys love to pull. Keep in mind that children (and for that matter some adults!) may have a difficult time walking a Swissy throughout the neighborhood. Because many Swissys have a well developed prey drive, they require a fenced yard for safe containment. A neighbor's cat or unsuspecting squirrel can become the target of chase!
Swissy temperaments vary but are overall quite complex due to their working dog nature and development. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs are NOT a good choice for inexperienced or first time dog owners. In the hands of an experienced owner, the Swissy can be a wonderful family companion. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were originally bred as draft and guard dogs. Like many working breeds, the Swissy has a tendency for dominant temperaments and behaviors. In addition, Swissys tend to be "social climbers". Practicing effective pack leadership is necessary to prevent dominant behaviors from becoming problematic. Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs must learn their place in the family social hierarchy. This takes time, effort and a good dose of patience.
GSMDs require diligent socialization at an early age. This means meeting many new people and being introduced to many new situations. Socializing a Swissy is a commitment not to be taken lightly. Some GSMDs may exhibit dog aggression, particularly intra-sex aggression in intact animals.
Swissys are slow maturing both mentally and physically. Because of orthopedic concerns related to large breed dogs, great care must be taken to prevent injury during growth stages. Despite their sturdy build, the breed is, in effect, quite fragile during these growth periods. The Swissy is not a breed that can sustain unlimited exercise or activities such as jogging at a young age.
Swissys shed!!! A common misconception is that the short coat of the GSMD sheds very little, and nothing could be further from the truth. The Swissy has a thick undercoat which sheds continually throughout the year and requires regular grooming.
If you are interested in breeding, you should know that the GSMD is prone to whelping difficulties and often require cesarean sections. They are not easy to breed!
Finally, Swissys need TRAINING! Prepare to devote the time and energy to ensure your dog has all of the "tools" it needs to become a good citizen.
This article may be reprinted in it's entirety - anywhere, anyplace and anytime - in an effort to educate the public about the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
Swissy Insider Tips and Testimonials
Come to club events! My husband and I spent a year hanging out with Swissys and their humans at club events before our puppy arrived. We really got to know what it was like having all these big dogs around before ours grew up – this is really the best advice I can give. Plus we had a bunch of trusted friends to call when we had embarrassing puppy questions!
A breeder should know the breed, it's history and health concerns. They should be the buyers' resource. A Swissy is not the dog for everyone. While they can be great family dogs, they do require a commitment to training and upkeep. Your breeder should be honest with you and be open to your questions. Most buyers are looking for a family companion to enter their household. Your breeder is a source of referrals, recommendations, training tips, and nutrition advice. You should feel comfortable asking questions and they should be freely and honestly answered. Most breeders breed with a purpose, (often times to keep a puppy for their own future), It is a heartbreak for them when a health issue arises. They should want to know what happens to the puppies they produce - good or bad. With the rising costs of veterinary care, breeders should discuss health concerns, what is guaranteed and options for pet insurance.
Breeders should provide a copy of the contract prior to you picking up your puppy. It is important to fully understand what will be expected of you. The contract is also a very clear picture of the responsibility a breeder takes for the puppies they produce. Will the breeder be available to you? Will they take the puppy back should this arrangement not work out? Every good breeder will try to convey to the new family the importance of a lifetime commitment to the puppy. Every good breeder has a lifetime commitment to the puppies they produce.
AKC Breeder of Merit
Brush Creek Farm Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs
Be PATIENT! We waited over a year for our dog, and it was well worth it. Spend the pre-puppy time shadowing training sites, going to dog shows, stock piling Nature’s Miracle, and researching!
Talk to as many breeders and Swissy owners as you can before making a final decision and ask your breeder for references of other Swissy owners that have their puppies. You want to have a breeder you can call at 3:00 AM if you need to and they are there for you. And ask your breeder if they have other breeders that would provide a reference for them. Breeders who are in touch with and in good standing with other breeders is always a good sign.
Swissy Owner & Exhibitor
Go to a local dog show and meet the breed, other owners, and breeders.
A couple key questions to ask any/every breeder:
1. What health issues are known in your lines/pedigrees (male and female) - if the breeder tells you that there are no known problems, they either are lying or not knowledgeable. There are issues in every pedigree and the breeder should be both knowledgeable AND willing to divulge this information.
2. Ask if you can meet them/their dogs. If they aren't willing to spend time with you and allow you access to their dogs, this is a major concern.
3. Ask for "puppy people" references, call/email them for info on how accessible/informative/helpful the breeder was when they had challenges with their pup.
Ellen Bergfeld PhD
When our family decided that a Swissy was the dog for our family, we went online and found the nearest club, Lake Shore. We discovered that they were having a weight pull and we went up to King's Kennels to meet the breed and see them in action. We met the president of the Club, and told her of our interest in getting a puppy and asked if she knew of any upcoming litters. We were put in touch with a breeder in Kentucky and started corresponding with her.
Many phone calls and photos were exchanged as well as submitting an application. We were picked to be new puppy parents! I'll never forget the day we went to pick Kodi up. We pulled up to their house and two HUGE Swissies came bounding around the corner and came up to both sides of the car barking!
Subsequent pups have all come from friends that are breeders and one is a re-home.
Swissy Owner & Exhibitor
Breeding Swissies can be heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. A quality breeder wants to do everything possible to produce the best Swissy – not just a show dog - but a great family dog that will have health, temperament and longevity. Good breeders share their homes with these loveable dogs and are honest and upfront about what they produce and any issues that have happened. Knowing the pedigrees and background of what you are breeding is top priority. Quality breeders want to be the resource for the Swissy owner – even when something negative happens. We want to know if your dog comes down with epilepsy (or some other health issue) and while we cannot wave a magical want to cure it, we can listen and offer support. Future breeding decisions can also be altered with this knowledge. Diversifying gene pools, producing healthy, long living, socialized Swissies are top priorities for me.
AKC Breeder of Merit
As a new GSMD owner, I had wanted it all, find a pup instantly, have the pick of the litter, have it close to home…..well it was not to be. Had I done that, I would have had a nightmare on my hands. I ended up having to wait for the perfect puppy, traveling over 8 hours to pick her up and she was preselected for me. All I can say is THANK YOU. I never would have been able to select out such a perfect addition to our family.
A few years ago, I saw a Swissy at a local park - and feel in love. To me this dog was everything a dog should be. It wanted to be with the owners, watching them with love - and was perfect. From there, I started to research. Social Media can be great in this regard, Swissy owners seem to love to take photos and post them. Seeing what these dogs can do was wonderful to help me come to decisions on what I wanted to do with my dog. I quickly found the Lake Shore club and started to follow them on FaceBook, their website and events. Attending their events, helped me connect with people and see some different styles. I saw huge and smaller Swissies. Trying to decide if I wanted a male or female was one of the harder decisions, as they both seem about equal in every way. I found a breeder that was perfect for us, although I had to wait about 4-5 months before my puppy was born and ready to move in. Breeders tend to pre-select the dog for you based on temperaments and what I desired my dog to be like. She asked me many questions to help find me the perfect pup. I got to visit the litter a few times - once they were old enough to have visitors. My breeder helped me locate a vet and answered all my questions. The best advice I can give to potential buyers is to be patient, and talk to as many people as you can. Meet the breed in person!
These dogs are not as smart as labs or other breeds, but they are 100% committed to their owners and families. Be prepared that housebreaking can take longer, and no matter how you try - they love to get up on furniture and be by the family. They are capable of taking a full side of the bed, so be prepared. And once you have one, you will want a second.