5 Things to Know About Appenzell Mountain Dogs

The rarest of the Swiss sennenhunds, the Appenzell Mountain Dog pulls double duty as a herding and guarding dog.

Appenzell Mountain Dog breed profile

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Foundation Stock Service (Herding Group)
  • Height: 19.5–22 inches
  • Weight: 48–55 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 12 years

The Appenzell Mountain Dog is the rarest of the 4 Swiss sennenhund dog breeds and doubles as a herding dog and a guard dog. The breed is also known as:

  • Appenzeller Sennenhund
  • Appenzeller
  • Appenzell Cattle Dog

The dogs have wedge-shaped heads, and the nose is black or brown, depending on the coat color.

They have small, almond-shaped eyes that are light to dark brown. The ears are triangular with rounded tips and set high on the head. The medium-length tail is coated with longer hair on the underside.

The double coat consists of a thick top coat and a black, brown or gray undercoat. The tricolor coat is tan and white with either some black or havana brown. Tan or white markings are common.

2. Where They Came From

Although Appenzells were likely around for a long time in the Appenzell region of Switzerland, it wasn’t until 1853 that they were referenced in the book Animal Life in the Alps.

The dogs herded livestock and protected farmers’ properties and possessions. They were separated into their own breed in 1898 and were featured at the first International Dog Show in Winterthur.

Professor Dr. Albert Heim took a great interest in the breed and is credited for his contributions leading to the 1906 formation of the Appenzeller Sennenhund Club.

The dogs are called Blass in Switzerland in reference to the white color on the forehead. The American Kennel Club added the breed to its Foundation Stock Service in 2007. The breed will be listed under the Herding Group upon full recognition by the club.

Appenzells have a natural instinct to guard and protect, making them ideal watchdogs. By:
Appenzells have a natural instinct to guard and protect, making them ideal watchdogs. By: I, Lilly M (Top photo: localpups)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Appenzells are affectionate, intelligent and fearless. They are good with other animals and livestock, provided they are properly socialized.

They are wary of strangers — their natural instinct is to guard and protect. They can also be independent and strong-willed. For all these reasons, training and socialization are musts.

The dogs are good with kids but may knock over young children because of their boundless energy.

They learn quickly and need a job to do. They are not lap dogs and can develop destructive behaviors without mental and physical exercise.

Barking is common for Appenzells, and they may try to corral or nip at people or other animals because of their herding instincts.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

High

VERY HIGH: Appenzells love the outdoors and having space to run. Take your Appenzell on long daily walks or jogs, and consider adding an agility, obedience, or another challenging and physical routine to your dog’s exercise regimen.

Appenzells are best suited to active lifestyles in suburban or rural areas, so apartment or city life is not ideal.

Appenzells love a colder climate, and, again, your dog will do best on a property with land. Because of your dog’s herding instincts, they will learn to remain in your territory.

Grooming Needs

Low

LOW: Appenzell are easy to groom. Brush the coat a few times per week to remove dead hairs, and bathe the dog as necessary.

In addition to brushing the teeth and keeping the nails trimmed, pay special attention to the ears. Clean them weekly and inspect them for debris or insects if your Appenzell spends a lot of time outdoors.

Health Problems

Low

LOW: Appenzells have no notable genetic health problems.

This Appenzell Mountain Dog couldn’t be happier in all this snow:

5. Where to Adopt One

Appenzells are difficult to find. A recent online adoption search turned up only 4 mixed breeds in the United States.

If you have your heart set on a purebred Appenzell, you’ll likely need to contact a breeder. Be on the lookout for signs of a puppy mill and take the time to get to know the breeder before you exchange money.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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