Great Swiss Mountain Dogs, otherwise known as "Swissy's", were traditionally work dogs used for farming. The oldest of the Swiss breeds, the Swissy were especially good at cart pulling and other chores requiring a great pulling capacity. The Swissy ancestors were selectively bred based on their ability to perform specific acts such as guarding or pulling, and they were commonly used as draft animals or as cattle dogs. Thus the modern Great Swiss Mountain Dog was born, and the breed has been refined and developed ever since!
In the past, many Great Swiss Mountain Dogs and their ancestors were an integral part of farm life. Used as cattle and sheep dogs as herding animals, as well as to guard herds, many of the same characteristics that make them such great companion animals and family dogs made them great at their tasks as work animals. They were quick to defend their herds and their territory then, and they are loyal and loving in family, work, therapeutic, and rescue settings as well.
The Great Swiss Mountain Dog, though bred to drive cattle and work as draft animals, were also bred for a protective and loving temperament. They are incredibly agile, swift, and easily trainable. They have done tremendously well in competition, not only in the areas of weight pulling, flyball, tracking, search and rescue, and therapy. With further selective breeding and a keen attention to training and techniques, this breed is sure to be recognized for its excellence in spite of the fact that there are relatively few of this breed in existence.
Today, many Great Swiss Mountain Dogs and their owners enjoy carting trials, competitions, and demonstrations. Great Swiss Mountain Dogs are also gaining popularity as rescue animals and for use as therapy dogs in hospital settings. The friendly intelligence of Swissy's make them particularly good at the calm, disciplined nature required for such work. The same physical characteristics that made the Great Swiss Mountain Dogs so good as farm animals and cart dogs make them particularly useful as rescue animals where their ability to pull people to safety is one of their greatest assets.
In the past, the Great Swiss Mountain Dog led a busy life, and their role was extremely important. They helped to move herds of cattle, sheep, and other animals when they needed to be relocated. One of their main uses was in dairy cattle and herding them to be milked. That herding did not signal the end of their day. After that task, they were often hitched to a cart to take the day's products to the market, and often even provided transportation for their masters on the way home.
Today, Great Swiss Mountain dogs often use the skills that earn prizes in draft competitions in much more practical ways by hauling produce, aiding in yard work, gardening, and providing rides and entertainment to kids in neighborhood fun, celebrations, and parades.