Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Swiss Mountain Dogs: Appenzeller, Entlebucher, Bernese, and Greater Swiss

Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Appenzeller Sennenhunde


Greater Swiss

There are four members of the Swiss mountain dog family.
The smallest is the Entlebucher, with a tail that is sometimes docked; the slightly larger, medium sized breed is the Appenzeller, with a tail that often curls;  the Bernese Mountain Dog is a large breed with longer fur, while the largest member of the family is the short coated Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.

The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a working farm dog - a cattle drover, moving cattle from one field to another in the Swiss Alps.

Like most dogs developed to work with livestock, this is an energetic, thinking dog. You can expect an Entlebucher to be loyal to family, suspicious of strangers, good with other animals and capable of independence. In countries which still allow docking, tails may or may not be docked.

Athletic, intelligent, working dogs the slightly larger Appenzeller is a livestock guardian.

There is some variation in temperaments among different bloodlines but overall this is a breed that needs regular interaction. Left to their own they can become too independent and aloof. They are also more likely to bond with one person more than others, however, they are still agreeable family dogs.

The Bernese developed as a general purpose farm dog. This breed is expected to be good natured and self assured.

 This is a great family dog, good with children and other animals. As with many larger breeds, it takes time for a Bernese to mature both emotionally and physically. They need to be socialized while young and respond well to positive training methods.

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog has been used as a general purpose working dog who could pull wagons and carry loads in the mountainous Alps.

It is said that this big breed takes a little while to be reliably housebroken, yet this is a breed that is eager to please his family. Like the other members of the Swiss Mountain family, this largest member is devoted to his people, good with other animals and should be trained and socialized from a young age.


There are breed rescues which can assist in finding members of this family, particularly the Bernese Mountain Dog which is the most popular of the four breeds outside their homeland.


The Appenzeller has a breed club that is now keeping their breed registry with the American Kennel Club as they develop sufficient numbers in North America to become AKC registered and eligible for AKC shows.


The Entlebucher was recognized by the AKC in 2011. The Bernese and Greater Swiss have been known outside Switzerland for longer.

Greater Swiss

The Greater Swiss remains an uncommon breed; in 2012 they ranked 81 out of 175 of the AKC recognized breeds. The Bernese in comparison, ranked 33. The Entlebucher in just their second year as an AKC recognized breed ranked 157 - (well ahead of the  North American bred American Fox Hound - #172).

If one is interested in a trainable, family oriented dog that does well with other animals, will bark at strangers without being overly aggressive, is suitable for cart pulling or agility, then the Swiss Mountain Dog family may well have a member ready to join your family.

It helps of course, if one appreciates a dog's coat in the tri-colored black, white, and brown that is signature in all four Swiss breeds  :-)
 With their warm eyes and smiles, these are engaging breeds of dogs, with big hearts and willing temperaments...variation in color obviously wasn't necessary.


  1. beautiful dogs but the short life span of the berner breaks my heart

    urban hounds

    1. That's interesting - the few I've known personally have had average life spans for a large breed, however, a friend recently lost hers far too young. I didn't realize that had become common for the breed. :( Sad.

    2. Agreed! The most gorgeous dogs on the planet with a heartbreakingly short life span. I lost two Berners at 10. My boy is now getting close to 11. I told him he needs to break all the records!

  2. Really appreciate knowing the differences between these breeds. A longtime friend of mine is a Swissy breeder (B is from Switzerland and very active on the national level. The Discovery channel did a piece on her several years ago). I've accompanied her to shows as a spare handler, as well as helped her at home with learning the cart (draft horse experience is helpful!) Having been around these dogs for years... I LOVE them and would definitely agree that they are terrific family dogs. Happy to GO and happy to veg. Once in awhile there'll be a red and white pup in a litter.

    1. Cool - you've got an in with the Swiss :-) I think these are fantastic dogs. The red are pretty uncommon - I think that's a sign that the breeders are focused on temperament and confirmation, not getting carried away focusing on color.

    2. Agree about the color and breeder focus. The red are very, very rare.

    3. So far, I think I've only seen pictures - I don't recall meeting a red in person. And I've been known to frequent dog places....