Have you ever heard of the Swiss Shepherd? This beautiful dog is closely related to the German Shepherd, though he is often described as being more laid back and relaxed.
Highly intelligent, fiercely devoted and fond of children, the Swiss Shepherd makes an excellent companion to the right family or owner.
Is the Swiss Shepherd the perfect dog for you? Let’s find out.
The Swiss Shepherd At A Glance
The Swiss Shepherd is commonly mistaken for the White German Shepherd.
Other Names: The White Swiss Shepherd, WSS, The Berger Blanc Suisse
Height: 22 to 26 Inches
Weight: 55 to 88 Pounds
Coat Type: Thick, Double-Coated, Shedding
Coat Colors: White
Temperament: Intelligent, Gentle, Mellow
Best Suited For: Flexible Families, Experienced Dog Owners
Lifespan: 12 to 14 Years
Health Issues: Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, Degenerative Myelopathy, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Degenerative Spinal Stenosis, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat)
Clubs That Recognize The Swiss Shepherd:
- The White Swiss Shepherd Club of America (WSSCA)
- The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI)
- The International All breed Canine Association (IABCA)
- The International Canine Kennel Club (ICKC)
- The American Rare Breed Association (ARBA)
- The United Kennel Club (UKC)
The Swiss Shepherd Origin – A Unique History
White Swiss Shepherds hail from Switzerland, though they are related to many other working Shepherd breeds.
The White Swiss Shepherd is often confused for the White German Shepherd. While the two do have similar origins and may even be considered cousins in the canine kingdom, they are not one in the same.
That said, we wouldn’t have the Swiss Shepherd if it weren’t for the German Shepherd, and their origins are relatively identical up until around the 1950’s.
It began in Germany, at a time when enthusiastic breeders fond of white coated German Shepherds began breeding the color into litters. The process was fairly well documented, and these white shepherds quickly built a loyal fanbase.
However, in 1956 the German Shepherd’s Parent Club announced that white German Shepherds should be considered inferior to other colored German Shepherds. This led to white German Shepherds being disqualified for show, and many clubs quickly dropped this color as part of their breed standard.
Still, white German Shepherds had already made a name for themselves, and quietly those who were fond of them continued with their quest in breeding them.
Eventually, these stunning white Shepherds were imported to Switzerland, where in 1967, a breeder and white German Shepherd enthusiast named Agatha Burch took it upon herself to continue breeding this color.
For generations, she worked solely on breeding select German Shepherds with the white coated gene. Eventually, this breeding program was named the Swiss White German Shepherd Dog Society, which later became solidified as the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).
The dogs that resulted from this society have been aptly named White Swiss Shepherds. Though closely related to German Shepherds, they are no longer considered to be the same breed and have since gone on to be recognized by the United Kennel Club in October 2017.
Today, the White Swiss Shepherd, or Swiss Shepherd for short, is known for making a playful, work-oriented, and mild-mannered companion to experienced dog owners.
Highly intelligent, the Swiss Shepherd is also often employed as a search and rescue dog, police dog and service dog.
Swiss Shepherd Temperament- Is This A Good Family Dog?
Swiss Shepherds are family oriented and considered to be more mild-mannered than other Shepherd types.
Like their German Shepherd cousins, Swiss Shepherds are renowned for their incredible intelligence, fierce loyalty and strong work-ethic. They make wonderful herding dogs if raised on farms or ranches, but can also be ideal companion dogs to the right family.
Unlike the German Shepherd, who can be a bit more high-maintenance when it comes to behavioral issues and anxiety, the Swiss Shepherd is laid back, relaxed and less high-strung.
This makes him a great combination of work and fun, and he can get along well with children and other pets.
However, novice dog owners may find themselves overwhelmed with this dog’s level of intelligence and energy. This is a breed that requires consistent care, exercise, mental stimulation and training.
It should also be noted that the Swiss Shepherd can be aloof and wary of strangers, especially if he is not properly raised. Protective of his family and home, it is incredibly important to ensure the Swiss Shepherd is trained and socialized at an early age to prevent potentially territorial or aggressive tendencies with outsiders.
Potential owners should also bear in mind that the Swiss Shepherd, while clever and responsive, can become destructive without proper exercise and mental stimulation.
Keep reading to learn more.
The Swiss Shepherd Training and Socialization Requirements
Like most working breeds, the Swiss Shepherd requires plenty of routine training and socialization.
Part of being a responsible pet parent is taking the time to research and understand the particular breed you have decided to invest in.
When it comes to the white Swiss Shepherd, potential owners should prepare for a highly intelligent, active, playful and work-oriented breed. While many people think that clever dogs are easier to train and raise, the truth is actually a bit more complicated.
Very clever working dogs like the Swiss Shepherd may be more prone to suffering from anxiety, stress, boredom, and destructive behaviors if their exercise needs and mental stimulation needs are not met.
Training and Socialization are also equally important to this breed. Let’s take this time to cover some of the Swiss Shepherds overall needs when it comes to basic daily care.
Like all dogs, the white Swiss Shepherd requires proper socialization beginning at an early age. Making sure to properly socialize your dog can help reduce problematic behaviors from cropping up as your dog gets older, especially when it comes to fear, anxiety and stress.
To properly socialize your Swiss Shepherd, it’s important to introduce him to as many new places, people, sights, sounds, and experiences as you can while he is young. Try and ensure these first time experiences are positive for your dog and avoid forcing your white Swiss shepherd to try something he is clearly afraid to try.
Instead, gently encourage him with treats and praise and allow him to explore the world at his own pace.
While it is easiest to begin socializing a Swiss Shepherd during puppyhood, you can work on socializing a dog at any age.
However, older dogs who have not been properly socialized during puppyhood do take more time to acclimate and can be more prone to behavioral issues, so keep this in mind.
Just like socialization, training should begin early and be consistent throughout your Swiss Shepherds lifetime. As most trainers will tell you, you are never done training a dog.
Consistent and repetitive training will help instill a sense of routine in your dog, and your dog will be happier for it. When training a white Swiss Shepherd, remember that this is a highly intelligent dog who can be an independent thinker.
Though he is usually trainable, a dog that has not yet built a strong bond with his owner may be more apt to become distracted or bored.
To ensure you hold your Swiss Shepherds’s attention and build trust, use treats and praise as opposed to punishment or scolding.
Positive reinforcement techniques will not only help strengthen the bond between you and your Swiss Shepherd but it will ensure your Swiss Shepherd retains the information you are teaching him.
How To Keep A Swiss Shepherd Properly Exercised
The Swiss Shepherd can make a wonderful jogging partner to an active owner.
Exercise is important for every dog regardless of their breed or size. However, some dogs require more routine exercise than others, and the white Swiss Shepherd is one such breed.
Closely related to herding dogs, the Swiss Shepherd should be considered a working breed built for endurance, physical exertion and independent thinking. While all of these traits make for a highly intelligent and athletic canine, they can also lead to disastrous problems for the unwitting or unprepared owner.
White Swiss Shepherds require daily physical exercise in order to stay happy and healthy. For this reason, they make wonderful additions to homes with active, outdoorsy owners and will make great companions to joggers, hikers, bikers and swimmers.
The proper exercise routine will include at least two walks a day for 40 minutes to an hour each. The white Swiss Shepherd will also enjoy free play time in a securely fenced backyard or dog park for large breed dogs.
When you are exercising your white Swiss Shepherd, be sure to invest in the right equipment. Though these dogs are large, they should not be walked on choke chains or prong collars. Instead, opt for no-pull dog harnesses that are safe and comfortable, as these are much more effective.
2 Hounds Freedom Harness
One of our favorite no pull dog harnesses for large, athletic breeds like the white Swiss Shepherd is the 2 Hounds Freedom Harness above. This harness slips over your dogs head and clips below the belly, fitting snugly and more naturally than collars or vests alone.
The harness also provides a front and back clip option for better control, which safely and gently guides your Swiss Shepherd back to you if he should pull or get ahead of himself on walks.
If you want to jog with your White Swiss Shepherd, you can opt to buy the jogging leash as well, which provides some extra give to reduce jerking.
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise when it comes to a clever dog like the Swiss Shepherd. A Swiss Shepherd that is not kept mentally busy can quickly become depressed, anxious, bored and destructive.
To prevent destructive behaviors and ensure your Swiss Shepherd is happy, we recommend utilizing consistent training with your dog each day.
Keep him challenged by teaching him new cues and tricks, and provide him with jobs to do around the house to help give him a sense of purpose. Teaching your Swiss Shepherd to bring in the mail, carry in groceries or sort the laundry will not only keep him happy, but also reduce the amount of chores you have around your home. Who would’ve thought?
The White Swiss Shepherd will also enjoy partaking in homemade obstacle courses you put together in your backyard using appliances or furniture. When you’re gone, the Swiss Shepherd will do well playing with interactive toys like KONGS and puzzle toys that keep him engaged and busy until you return home.
Grooming A Swiss Shepherd – Tips To Keep That Coat Sparkling
Swiss Shepherds are known for their white coats, which do require some special care from time to time.
One of the Swiss Shepherd’s most famous draws is that stunning white coat. We’ll be honest – while this coat is beautiful, it is also a bit high maintenance. White coated dogs can be more prone to grass stains and tear stains. Their coats are also more prone to showing dirt and debris buildup.
Luckily, with the proper care and products, you should be able to keep that white coat sparkling and lush.
With that in mind, let’s talk about brushing.
The Swiss Shepherd is a shedding dog with a dense, double coat. He sheds year-round but loses most fur during the shedding season in Spring and Fall. During the shedding season, most owners find they must brush their Swiss Shepherd a few more times a week than usual using a quality deshedding comb, dematting brush and undercoat rake.
Otherwise, outside of shedding season, you should be fine brushing your Siwss Shepherd once or twice a week.
Bathing is a bit easier with this dog as he has a self-cleaning coat that is weather resistant. You should only need to bathe your Swiss Shepherd once every six weeks or so, unless he gets into something particularly dirty in the meantime.
Snow White Dog Shampoo
This dog shampoo is specifically made for dogs with white coats. It not only deodorizes and cleans your Swiss Shepherd during bathtime, but it also brightens his coat so it stays looking thick and healthy.
It is made with quality ingredients and lightens the coat naturally without the use of bleach or peroxide. It also includes Vitamin E and green tea extract to help protect and soothe your dog’s coat and skin.
While you may be tempted to bathe your Swiss Shepherd more often than every six weeks, experts warn against it. Overbathing a Swiss Shepherd can strip his skin and coat of natural oils that help keep his coat healthy.
Instead, we recommend investing in grooming wipes for white dogs to help wipe away any stains, dirt or debris that may show on your dog’s coat between baths.
Along with bathing and the occasional wipe down with a grooming wipe, your Swiss Shepherd will also need his eyes cared for to prevent and remove tear stains. His ears should be checked and cleaned regularly to keep ear infections at bay, and his nails should be ground or trimmed every few weeks to keep them from cracking or splitting.
Like all dogs, the Swiss Shepherd can be prone to dental issues if his teeth are not properly cared for. To reduce chances of dental disease, try and keep your Swiss Shepherd’s teeth brushed at least once a day using a dog safe toothbrush and toothpaste.
Arm & Hammer Dog Dental Kit
We like the Arm & Hammer tooth brushing kit listed above because it helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup while also freshening your dog’s breath. The toothpaste is made with dog-safe ingredients and even comes in a beef flavor your dog will enjoy.
The toothbrush includes an extra long handle to make brushing easier and the bristles are designed to work on a dog’s unique teeth.
To help get your Swiss Shepherd used to having his teeth brushed, begin early during puppyhood and brush his teeth often. Provide him with treats and praise after and refrain from forcing his jaw open or hurting him during the process.
Health and Lifespan – What To Consider When Considering A Swiss Shepherd
Sadly, the Swiss Shepherd can be prone to a variety of genetic health issues. (https://unsplash.com/photos/uTkSTBYxKGE)
While the Swiss Shepherd has a number of wonderful characteristics and traits, his health is one of his downfalls. Sadly, this is a breed that is known for suffering from a variety of serious genetic health issues due to his very small gene pool.
A potential owner should be aware of this before opting to commit to a Swiss Shepherd, as these health issues may not only be devastating emotionally, but also financially draining.
Swiss Shepherd Average Lifespan: 12 to 14 Years
Swiss Shepherd Common Health Issues:
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Degenerative Myelopathy
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Degenerative Spinal Stenosis
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat)
What You Should Know About Bloat In Your Swiss Shepherd Dog
Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, also known as GDV or Bloat, is a serious and life threatening complication that is common in many large, deep-chested dogs like the white Swiss Shepherd.
The condition occurs when air or gas fills the intestines, causing organs like the stomach and kidneys to flip. When this happens, blood flow is cut off to the Swiss Shepherd’s lower body, resulting in shock.
Bloat is a medical emergency that requires immediate care from a veterinary professional. It’s important to know the symptoms of Bloat in your Swiss Shepherd so that if you notice them, you can get your dog the help he needs as quickly as possible.
Some common symptoms of Bloat in a Swiss Shepherd include:
- Excessive Panting
- Extended Abdomen
- Excessive Drooling
- Obvious Pain
- Unproductive Vomiting
- And Eventually Collapse
While Bloat is a condition that can come on suddenly and without warning, it is often triggered by lifestyle events that can be avoided.
Some common causes of Bloat include a dog eating or drinking too much too quickly, a dog eating or drinking immediately after exercise, a dog eating something he shouldn’t, or a dog becoming overly excited or anxious.
You can reduce the chances of Bloat by ensuring your Swiss Shepherd does not eat immediately after play or exercise and by investing in a slow feeder.
Slow feeders or puzzle feeders help reduce the chances of Bloat in dogs because it forces them to slow down while they eat. Slow feeders can also help promote healthy eating habits, improve digestion, and encourage healthy weight.
Outward Hound Fun Feeder
One of our favorite slow feeders is a feeder by Outward Hound. This feeder is available in different sizes and patterns and, as mentioned above, not only reduces the chances of Bloat but can also encourage healthy eating habits.
Best of all, slow feeders can also make mealtime more enjoyable for your Swiss Shepherd. This is because eating from a slow feeder is challenging, which can help keep your Swiss Shepherd engaged and mentally stimulated.
A Few Other Tips On Keeping Your Swiss Shepherd Healthy
Since the Swiss Shepherd can be prone to a variety of serious health issues, it’s important to do what you can to ensure your Swiss Shepherd lives his healthiest life from the start. You can reduce the chances of your Swiss Shepherd developing health issues by ensuring you get him from a reputable breeder or shelter.
It’s also important to make sure your Swiss Shepherd is on a quality dog food specified for his age, weight and activity level. Avoid dog foods that include fillers, additives and byproducts. Instead, choose dog foods that contain real meat protein, carbs, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and that have a good source of water.
Keeping up with routine grooming will also give you a hands-on look at your dog over time, and help you better keep track of any physical changes you may not have noticed otherwise.
Last, be sure you schedule and maintain wellness checks with your veterinarian. Most veterinarians recommend that dogs under the age of seven be seen at least once a year for wellness exams while dogs over the age of seven should be seen at least twice a year.
Are You The Ideal Swiss Shepherd Owner?
The ideal owner of a Swiss Shepherd will have plenty of time for exercise, training, socialization and play.
The beauty of a white Swiss Shepherd can be quite alluring, but it’s important to remember that you are investing in a dog, not a coat color. When it comes down to deciding if the Swiss Shepherd really is for you, it’s best to consider his personality and needs, and then compare these needs to your lifestyle.
The ideal owner of a Swiss Shepherd will be an experienced dog owner who understands intelligent, working breeds. This owner will have a large, securely fenced backyard where their Swiss Shepherd can run and play freely as well as a flexible schedule.
It’s important that any owner of a Swiss Shepherd is able to take time out of their day (or at least hire someone who can do this) to walk and exercise their Swiss Shepherd.
Last, be sure to note that the Swiss Shepherd is a people-oriented dog. He may be aloof with strangers if not properly socialized, but when raised right, this is a friendly, affectionate companion dog who does well with children and other pets.
Finding A Swiss Shepherd – How To Go About It The Right Way
Whether you want to buy your Swiss Shepherd puppy from a breeder or you are looking to rescue, it’s important to go through reputable sources.
Have you decided that the Swiss Shepherd is the perfect dog for you? If so, congratulations! While he may not be the most low maintenance dog, the Swiss Shepherd is sure to be a rewarding and adored addition to the right family and owner.
With that in mind, we want to help you and your Swiss Shepherd start off on the right paw by offering some advice about how to find the healthiest Swiss Shepherd puppy or rescue possible.
Buying A Swiss Shepherd Puppy Through A Breeder:
The average cost of buying a Swiss Shepherd puppy through a breeder is around $1,300. While this may seem like a good amount of money, it’s important not to try and cut corners or go through irresponsible sources to find a puppy at a bargain price.
Avoid going through backyard breeders, unqualified online sellers, or those promising a Swiss Shepherd puppy at a price too good to be true. Also, avoid sellers providing Swiss Shepherds at prices that seem impossibly high.
Instead, do plenty of research and go through qualified, licensed breeders with a history of breeding the Swiss Shepherd. Ask plenty of questions and remember that reputable breeders will be able to provide you with certificates of health and papers proving their dog’s pedigree.
You can also ask to see pictures or videos of the parent dogs to get a better idea of what your Swiss Shepherd puppy might grow up to look like, and some breeders will even provide you with references of past clients.
While all this due diligence does take time, being careful upfront can save you a lot of money and heartache down the road.
Adopting A Swiss Shepherd Puppy Through A Shelter Or Rescue:
Do you have your heart set on rescuing a Swiss Shepherd? If so, you’ll be happy to learn that there are plenty of breed-specific rescues and shelters throughout the United States that specialize in this dog or mix.
When looking into a shelter, be sure to ask plenty of questions. Be honest about the type of dog you are looking for and your lifestyle. This will help the shelter match you with the perfect Swiss Shepherd.
There are plenty of benefits of going through a shelter, and one of those benefits is price. On average, it costs around $250 to $500 to rescue a dog through a shelter, which is a fraction of the cost of going through a breeder.
Best of all, you are offering a dog in need a good and loving home, and you can’t put a price on that.
Jen Jones is a professional dog trainer and behavior specialist with more than 25 years of experience. As the founder of ‘Your Dog Advisor’ and the ‘Canine Connection’ rehabilitation center, she applies a holistic, empathetic approach, aiming to address root causes rather than merely treating symptoms.
Well known for her intuitive and compassionate approach, Jen adopts scientifically-proven, reward-based methods, encouraging positive reinforcement over punishment. Jen specializes in obedience training, behavior modification, and puppy socialization. Her innovative methods, particularly in addressing anxiety and aggression issues, have been widely recognized. Jen has worked with many of the world’s leading dog behaviorists and in her free time volunteers with local animal shelters and rescue groups.