Versatility of the Swissy

One of the benefits to owning a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is that they are versatile companions. There are many activities that you and your dog can participate in. They are working dogs and they like to work! Whether it is conformation showing, obedience work, carting, herding or therapy work - getting involved with your dog is a lot of fun and helps to build a strong relationship between you and your best friend! Training is always in important part of all events.

Conformation Showing
Weight Pulling
Pack Dog
Therapy Work

Conformation Showing of the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is in the working group. In order to show your Swissy in conformation it needs to be on a "full" registration. This is usually a Swissy that was purchased as a "show potential" dog. Conformation showing is what leads a dog to a championship. Dogs enter and compete at AKC sanctioned dog shows with the goal of attaining a total of 15 points (with two majors). When the goal is attained the dog is awarded the title of Champion. A show Swissy needs to meet and exceed the AKC standard for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. This dog will be structurally sound. 

Training and socialization are key factors in a show dog. Conformation training includes walking (gaiting) on a leash, standing for examination, and exhibiting a certain flare of animation. Conformation showing can be very rewarding for the owner/handler. Most owners enjoy handling their dogs in the ring. The dogs are clean and groomed when presented to the judge. Good grooming also ensures a healthy dog. A conformation trained dog is also a steady, well behaved dog. Many Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have become champions as their owners have learned, trained and enjoyed conformation dog showing.

When looking for a training class, look for one with a positive approach. Swissies should be happy in the ring and they love the praise and attention.

Dog shows usually require that you complete an entry form a few weeks in advance. To find out more information about dog shows in your area, contact the dog show superintendents listed below.

Web sites of dog show superintendents serving the Midwest:

Obedience with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Swissies have successfully competed in AKC obedience shows. Both males and females have earned CD and CDX titles. While few Swissies are shown in obedience it is due in part to the rarity of the breed. Their desire to please make them great candidates for obedience competition and training. Positive reinforcement methods are always recommended. Swissies enjoy rewards, even if it is only a enjoyable time spent with the owner.

There are many training classes available. When looking for a dog training class, it is best to observe a class first. Take notice of how the instructors react to the dogs and owners. Look for positive training methods. Puppy classes (aka puppy kindergarten) are excellent as long as the methods are positive and fun with an emphasis on socialization.

A Greater Swiss Mountain Dog with a limited registration can compete in AKC obedience events.

If you think you are interested in competing with your Swissy in AKC obedience events, you can obtain a
free copy of the AKC Obedience Rules and Regulations from:

American Kennel Club 
5580 Centerview Drive Ste 200
Raleigh, NC 27606-3390

Weight Pulling with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America offers Swissies weight pull titles. The first level title is obtained when a Swissy has completed 4 weight pulls, pulling 10 times their body weight, within the rules and timeline of the GSMDCA or other approved weight pull organization.

Many Swissies have a light-bulb moment when they are hooked to the cart wearing their harness. The Lake Shore club does own harnesses for members to use at pulls. Many Lake Shore members are also approved GSMDCA weight pull judges.

Additional weight pull information can be found with the International Weight Pull Association (IWPA). The IWPA has many breeds, including Swissies that can compete in the pulls.

The Lake Shore club is proud to have many weight pulling swissies that pull on carpet, rails and snow!

Many LS members have harnesses made by:

Pack Dog with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America offers titles for Swissies doing pack dog activities. 
NWPD — Novice Working Pack Dog
WPD — Working Pack Dog
WPDX — Working Pack Dog Excellent

There are many types of dog packs that can be used. Finding the proper fit may require you to measure, however most Swissies will fit into a large or x-large depending on design.

Pack hikes offer owners and dogs an opportunity to get back to nature and meet up with one another. It can be a perfect event for socializing for the dogs and owners. Hike intensity will vary with terrain, but this is a sport that most Swissys can excel in with just a little effort put towards preparation.  It is important that dogs be in good shape and work up to the distance of hikes Many clubs also offer shorter versions of the hike (which can-not be used for a title, but can still provide a fun time). Most dogs attempting to earn their pack dog titles will need to be ready to carry 20% of their body weight over a 10 mile trail.  Pack weight can be reduced through the hike by normal consumption of water and snacks carried.  Owners must be fit enough to tag along. Some clubs also offer an 8 mile back to back hike where the hike is 8 miles on two days with a camp out/overnight event!

Dog packs can be ordered many places including:

Carting with your Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Swissies were historically used to pull carts. They are a natural, providing you start with caution and train carefully. Often training required patients as the dog needs to become familiar with the cart as well as the physical conditioning that is needed. Start out slowly and make sure that the dog is enjoying the activity. A Swissy's tail should wag as he proudly pulls his cart along.

Carting is an activity Swissies and owners can enjoy. Some dogs are naturals and can be pulling within a few hours, while others may take several weeks to become comfortable. Make sure your dog is comfortable with the equipment before you attempt to have him pull. As always make sure your dog is in good physical condition before attempting to pull. It is also recommended that your Swissy be full grown and structurally sound before pulling any weight.

How to get started;

  • Select a well fitting harness. Always measure and order per the suppliers instruction.
  • Show the harness to your dog and slowly put it on the dog, praising him the entire time. Do this several times per day. Praise and reward! Always make it fun.
  • When your Swissy is comfortable and enjoys the harness, leave it on for slightly longer time periods.  Always making sure he is happy and steady.
  • When he is comfortable wearing the harness, go for a walk with the cart.  However, you pull the cart
  • Do not hook the dog up to the cart yet.  As you pull the cart the dog learns what noise to expect from the cart. You might need an assistant for this part.
  • When your dog is happy wearing the harness and does not mind the sound of the cart, then he is ready to pull the cart.
  • Always have your Swissy on a leash when you start as some will be more cautious and require more encouragement. Remember to reward and be positive. Before using the cart, hook the dog up to a lighter load such as milk jug filled with water. This way the dog learns to feel the weight behind him and knows it is ok to pull it around.
  • Make sure that the dog is always aware of what you are doing and where you are located. The dog will need to get used to the feel of the pressure on the harness as if he is pulling the cart. Sometimes it is helpful for a helper to be behind the dog, holding the ends of the harness straps so the dog gets used to the idea of weight and pull behind him.
  • Introduce your dog to the shafts. These are the poles that run alongside the dog and connect to the cart. Try to do this first without the cart so the dog can get used to the shafts and the feel they have on his sides. Walk the dog with the harness on, and be sure the dog is in complete control. Have a helper walk along the other side of the dog with the shaft. Slowly allow the shaft to touch the dog, gently bumping and applying pressure to the dog's sides where the shaft will rest. Reward the dog and encourage him. Walk a straight line. Don't attempt corners or cures right away, as there is more pressure with these motions and the dog will not be ready for this until he has mastered straight lines. Praising as you go, remember, they need to know the shaft will not hurt them.
    When the dog is comfortable with the shafts and remains happy you may introduce the cart. The dog should remember the noise and fun you had before with your walks where you pulled the cart. When you feel your dog is ready, hook up the cart to the shafts and dog, always keeping the dog on a leash.
  • Have the dog stand and let your helper bring the cart forward, driving it up behind the dog, so that your dog is between the shafts. Before you actually hook the shafts on to the dog, walk along while your helper holds the shafts and pulls the cart, gently bumping the dog on both sides. At this point if the dog shows any fear, instruct your helper to stop, while you walk the dog out of the shafts and cart. Try again another day.
  • When your dog is happy and steady in all the above steps, then you may hitch the dog to the cart. Placing the shafts in the loops of the harness and attaching the traces. Have your helper stand next to the cart with one hand on the shaft, ready to release the dog should any fear develop. Remember this is to be a fun event for you and your dog. If he does not enjoy it, don't rush him.
    When the cart is hitched up, have the dog pull forward. Stay in a straight line as he will have to learn the corners. Praise as you go. Keep the first attempts short and fun. Gradually add distance and corners and curves to your course. It takes time and patients to train a Swissy to cart. Basic obedience commands can be added as you get going. Have fun and always make sure your Swissy is also having fun!.

Carting can be fun! 

The equipment and proper sizing is very important to the comfort and safety of your dog. You can contact any of the outfitters listed below:

Therapy Work with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Many people use their Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs as therapy dogs. A Swissy as a therapy dog provides short-term emotional support. Opportunities exist for sharing your dog with others, including visiting hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, retirement homes, mental health centers and schools. It is in these settings that a Swissy can really shine. The use of dogs in therapy is becoming more popular as the benefits to patients, students and residence are noticed.

Not all dogs are able to do therapy work. Basic training and socialization are a must. While many people take their dogs on an informal, individual basis to these institutions, there are definite advantages to being certified. A certified therapy dog is a trained and tested dog.

For a dog to become a certified therapy dog it will have been tested and evaluated by a third party. The certifying organizations also provide insurance for you when you visit an institution. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is a very large dog that may accidentally knock over a small child or step on an elderly person's foot. Many institutions will no longer allow canine visits without proof of such insurances. This is especially true of any government run institution.

There are two different certification agencies. To become certified with either TDI or Delta Dog, you and your dog must pass a test given by a Certified Evaluator of the organization you select. The test is an adaptation of the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test. Most of it is basic obedience and manners that includes: walk on loose lead, sit and down on command, stay, come when called, reaction to another dog, reaction to sudden noise and movement, sit politely for petting, accept grooming and supervised isolation. At various points in the test, wheelchairs, canes, crutches and walkers will be introduced. These are all things a therapy dog will encounter in it's work. For Delta Dog certification, the handler must also pass a written test, questions based on a handbook provided by Delta.

When a dog passes the testing they become a certified therapy dog. However, a dog that passes the testing, but never provides the service is not a therapy dog. Both organizations stress that Therapy Dog or Pet Partner is not a title. A true therapy dog is a working dog, visiting institutions and providing emotional support.

For more information, contact:

Herding with the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

Many Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs have a natural instinct to herd livestock. The dogs with this instinct love to work and move the livestock. Herding can be fun and rewarding to do with your dog. Often times people do not have livestock readily available so they must consult a herding instructor or farmer that will allow the dog to work the stock. Some of the stock that the dogs can herd include sheep, geese, ducks, goats and in some cases cattle.

There are both tests and trials that Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can compete in to earn titles and demonstrate their accomplishments and skills. The AHBA (American Herding Breed Association) offers different levels of tests for beginner herders. There are also many stock associations across the country offering tests and trials.

Historically the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was used to assist the farmer on the farm with chores. Many times this included the herding of the livestock. The Swissy is a natural drover.

For more information, contact: