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Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The sweet, smart, and hard-working Swissy has a small but loyal following.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Breed Photo

Vital Stats

Dog Breed Group
Working Dogs
Height
Weight
Life Span
7 to 9 years

Breed Characteristics

  • Details

    Adaptability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Trainability

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    Health & Grooming

    based on 6 ratings
  • Details

    All-around friendliness

    based on 4 ratings
  • Details

    Exercise needs

    based on 4 ratings
  • See All Characteristic Ratings


Summary

The Greater Swiss Mountain dog breed was developed to be an all-around working dog, herding cattle, pulling carts, and standing guard. These days, the Swissy enjoys life as a family pet, but because of his working heritage, he enjoys being busy. This powerful breed excels in all sorts of dog sports, from agility to weight pulling.

Additional articles you will be interested in:

Adoption
Dog Names
Bringing Home Your Dog
Help with Training Puppies
Housetraining Puppies
Feeding a Puppy
Dog games
Teaching your dog tricks
How to take pictures of your dog

  • Overview

    The handsome, alert, and powerful Greater Swiss Mountain Dog — or Swissy, as his fans call him — is relatively unknown outside of a group of dedicated enthusiasts. But if you own one of these large, striking dogs, be prepared to turn plenty of heads. Owners of the breed are often asked, "What kind of dog is that?"

    Topping out at well over 100 pounds, the Swissy's size, paired with his deep, loud bark make him a good watchdog. But he's a gentle fellow at heart, devoted to his family and loving with kids. Although he needs room to stretch his legs — this isn't an apartment dog — he needs only a moderate amount of exercise.

    Originally bred to herd cattle, pull carts, and serve as a watchdog, the modern Swissy likes to have jobs to do. He excels in obedience, agility, and conformation competitions, and does well in drafting, weight pulling, herding, pack hiking, and versatility. The Swissy has also served as a therapy dog and search and rescue dog.

    Since he's so large when fully grown, it's important to start early with obedience training and socialization — teaching the dog to be friendly with other dogs and people. And be prepared for a long puppyhood: the Swissy is slow to mature, both physically and mentally, and can stay puppyish until he's three years old.

    While the Swissy isn't the right breed for everyone, those who are willing to love, train, and care for this large dog will enjoy wonderful companionship.

  • Highlights

    • Due to his large size, the Swissy is not suited for apartment or condo living. A home with a fenced yard is ideal.
    • The Swissy was bred to work and likes to have a job to do. Obedience training can give him the mental stimulation he needs, and is essential for handling a dog of this size.
    • Although he's generally good with kids, the Swissy is a large dog who can accidentally knock over a small child.
    • The Swissy is prone to overheating. Keep him inside in air conditioning or in front of fans when the weather's hot, and wait until it cools off to exercise him.
    • Some Swiss Mountain Dogs will chase small animals. To keep the neighbor's cat safe — as well as your dog — make sure the yard is securely fenced, and keep him on leash when you're out and about.
    • To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
  • History

    The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is considered one of Switzerland's oldest dog breeds. There are several theories as to the Swissy's origins. The most popular is that he's descended from large, Mastiff-like dogs that were brought to the Alps by invading Roman Legions.

    The Swissy's ancestors served as herding, guard, and draft dogs. At one time the Swissy is thought to have been one of the most popular breeds in Switzerland. By the 1900s however, their numbers dwindled, probably because their traditional jobs on Swiss farms were taken over by other dog breeds or machines.

    In 1908, a canine researcher named Albert Heim spotted two dogs at a Swiss Kennel Club jubilee, listed as "short-haired Bernese Mountain Dogs." Heim recognized the dogs as being large members of the Sennenhund type, a family of four breeds that includes the Swissy.

    Heim lobbied to get the dogs recognized as a separate breed and, in 1909, the Swiss Kennel Club listed the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund) in the Swiss Stud Book.

    Since then, the breed's popularity has grown slowly, but steadily. In 1968 the first Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs were brought to the U.S., and soon after, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America formed. The Swissy was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995, as a member of the Working Group.

  • Size

    Males stand 25.5 to 28.5 inches tall and weigh 105 to 140 pounds. Females stand 23.5 to 27 inches tall and weigh 85 to 110 pounds.

  • Personality

    The Swissy's personality is gentle, alert, and fun loving. These aren't easygoing, pushover dogs, however; they're confident canines with their own ideas, and they can be stubborn at times. Because of their bold personality, Swissy dogs do best with owners who can be kind, yet confident, leaders.

    This breed is alert and observant, always on the lookout for something amiss. That, plus his loud bark to alert you when he spies something out of the ordinary, makes him a good watchdog, though he's typically not aggressive.

    Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.

    Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.

    Like every dog, the Swissy needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Swissy puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.

    Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.

  • Health

    Swissy dogs are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Swissy dogs will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

    If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.

    In Swissy dogs, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).

    • Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
    • Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this is also a degenerative disease. It's believed to be caused by abnormal growth and development, which results in a malformed and weakened joint. The disease varies in severity: the dog could simply develop arthritis, or he could become lame. Treatment includes surgery, weight management, medical management, and anti-inflammatory medication.
    • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This orthopedic condition, caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, usually occurs in the elbows, but it has been seen in the shoulders as well. It causes a painful stiffening of the joint, to the point that the dog is unable to bend his elbow. It can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age. Overfeeding of "growth formula" puppy foods or high-protein foods may contribute to its development.
    • Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
    • Gastric Torsion: Also called bloat, this is a life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs such as the Swissy. This is especially true if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating. Bloat is more common among older dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach is distended with gas or air and then twists (torsion). The dog is unable to belch or vomit to rid himself of the excess air in the stomach, and the normal return of blood to the heart is impeded. Blood pressure drops and the dog goes into shock. Without immediate medical attention, the dog can die. Suspect bloat if your dog has a distended abdomen and is salivating excessively and retching without throwing up. He also may be restless, depressed, lethargic, and weak, with a rapid heart rate. It's important to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible if you see these signs.
    • Splenic Torsion: This condition occurs when the spleen rotates, causing it to expand and become engorged with blood. The symptoms are not always obvious, but can include vomiting, fever, pale gums, and tenderness. Splenic torsion requires immediate veterinarian care and the surgical removal of the spleen is necessary.
    • Cataracts: Cataracts cause opacity on the lens of the eye, resulting in poor vision. The dog's eye(s) will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve vision.
    • Distichiasis: This is a condition in which extra eyelashes (cilia) grow from the glands of the upper or lower eyelid. A hair follicle develops deep within the glands rather than on the skin surface. As the hair grows, it follows the duct of the gland and exits from the gland opening along the smooth surface of the eyelid margin. In many cases, these eyelashes rub on the cornea, causing irritation and tearing, and occasionally corneal abrasions.
    • Entropion: Entropion is an inward rolling of the eyelid. It usually affects the lower eyelid of both eyes, causing irritation and vision loss. It generally occurs before a dog turns a year old; surgery to correct the problem is usually held off until the dog reaches adulthood.
    • Panosteitis: Commonly called Pano, this condition causes self-limiting lameness. At about five to 12 months of age, the dog may limp on one leg, then another, then it stops. There are usually no long-term effects. Rest and restricted activity may be necessary for a while if the dog's in pain.
    • Swissy Lick: This mysterious affliction causes the dog to start franticly licking or swallowing anything in sight. The cause is unknown, although it appears to be related to severe gastrointestinal pain. It's treated with gas and acid-reducing medications. Swissy lick is more common among young dogs, but seniors can get it as well.
  • Care

    The Swissy is not suited to apartment or condo life. Because he's a large, working dog, he needs room to roam — a home with a large, securely fenced yard is ideal. You won't need to sign up for a marathon, though; he needs just a moderate amount of exercise.

    With his Swiss heritage, this breed is a natural fit for cold climates, and he loves to romp in the snow. The flips side is that he's prone to heatstroke. Don't let him exercise strenuously when it's hot; during hot spells, limit your outings to cool early mornings or evenings. During the heat of the day, keep him inside with fans or air conditioning. If he has to be outside, make sure he has shade and, of course, plenty of water.

    You'll need to take special care if you're raising a Swissy puppy. Like many large breeds, the Swissy grows rapidly between the ages of four and seven months, making them susceptible to bone disorders and injury.

    Keep your Swissy pup on a high-quality, low-calorie diet that keeps him from growing too fast. Don't let him run and play on hard surfaces such a pavement, do a lot of jumping, or pull weights until he is at least two years old and his joints are fully formed. Normal play on grass is fine, and so are puppy agility classes.

    Like all dogs, the Swissy needs to be socialized — taught to be friendly to other dogs and people — beginning in puppyhood. Puppy kindergarten and obedience classes are a great way to socialize your Swissy and teach him good canine manners.

    Now, as for housetraining: while every dog is different, Swissy fans say that the breed generally takes to housetraining slowly. The reason isn't exactly clear. But if you use crates and stick to a good housetraining routine, your Swissy will grasp the general concept of housetraining within a week or two of arriving at his new home. But don't count on him to be completely reliable in the house until many months later.

  • Feeding

    Recommended daily amount: 4 to 5 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.

    Large-breed puppies such as the Swissy need slow, sustained growth to help prevent orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia. Raise them on a diet designed for large-breed dogs or food for adult dogs. Whatever diet you choose shouldn't overemphasize protein, fat, and calorie levels: 22 to 24 percent protein and 12 to 15 percent fat is recommended.

    NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.

    Keep your Swissy in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.

    First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.

    For more on feeding your Swissy, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.

  • Coat, Color and Grooming

    The Swissy has a dense outer coat, about one to two inches in length, and a thick undercoat. The breed sheds minimally most of the time, with the exception of twice-yearly "blow-outs," when the undercoat comes out. The color is distinct, with a black outer coat and rust and white markings on the face and body.

    Grooming a Swissy isn't terribly complicated — the short coat is easy to care for and the breed is naturally clean. Brushing once or twice a week, plus a bath as needed (usually every month or so) with a mild dog shampoo is enough to keep the Swissy looking sharp.

    Brush your Swissy's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.

    Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.

    His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.

    Begin accustoming your Swissy to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.

    As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.

  • Children and other pets

    The Swissy enjoys the attention and company of youngsters if he's given plenty of exposure to them beginning in puppyhood, and the kids are taught to treat the dog with care and respect. However, young children should never be left unsupervised with any dog. Even if the Swissy means well, this is a large, strong dog, and a Swissy can easily knock over a small child by accident.

    As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.

    The good-natured Swissy generally enjoys the company of other dogs and loves to play rough and rambunctious. This is especially true if he has been properly socialized with other dogs at an early age. As in any breed, dogs of the same sex who haven't been spayed or neutered may not tolerate each another.

    Swissy dogs vary in their prey drive: some will chase squirrels, cats, and other small animals, and some won't. As with any dog, you'll have a better shot at peace among the family pets if you expose your Swissy to other animals beginning at an early age, and are careful about the introductions.

  • Rescue Groups

    The Swissy is often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Swissy dogs in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Swissy rescue.

  • Breed Organizations

  • All Breed Characteristics

  • Adaptability

    Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments

  • Trainability

    Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed

  • Health & Grooming

    Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home

  • All-around friendliness

    Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans

  • Exercise needs

    Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity

  • Sometimes

    Adapt well to apartment living

    Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.

  • Very

    Affectionate with family

    Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.

  • Moderate

    Amount of shedding

    If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.

  • Very

    Dog friendly

    Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.

  • High

    Drooling potential

    Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.

  • Extremely

    Easy to groom

    Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.

  • Very

    Easy to train

    Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.

  • Moderate

    Energy level

    High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.

  • Moderate

    Exercise needs

    Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.

  • Sometimes

    Friendly toward strangers

    Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.

  • Fairly good

    General health

    Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.

  • Usually

    Good for novice owners

    Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.

  • Medium

    Intelligence

    Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.

  • High

    Intensity

    A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.

  • Very

    Kid friendly

    Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.

    **All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.

  • Medium

    Potential for mouthiness

    Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.

  • Moderate

    Potential for playfulness

    Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.

  • High

    Potential for weight gain

    Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.

  • High

    Prey drive

    Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.

  • Moderate

    Sensitivity level

    Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.

  • Extra Large

    Size

    Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.

  • Moderate

    Tendency to bark or howl

    Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?

  • Not particularly well

    Tolerates being alone

    Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.

  • Quite well

    Tolerates cold weather

    Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.

  • Not so well

    Tolerates hot weather

    Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.

  • Moderate

    Wanderlust potential

    Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.

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