Appenzeller Sennenhund

Appenzeller Sennenhund
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Appenzeller Sennenhund, also known as the Appenzeller Mountain Dog, is a dog breed of medium size that originated in Switzerland. This is one of the four regional breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps, famous for its herding instincts.

This dog got his name from the Appenzell region in Switzerland and the herders who lived there. Known for his confidence, intelligence and hard-working skills, this is definitely a unique and beautiful breed that deserves our attention.

In this article, we are going to take a look at what makes this breed so interesting and why it might be a good or bad choice for you.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Herding Dogs
Height:Generally 1 foot, 7 inches to 1 foot, 10 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 48 to 55 pounds
Life Span:9 to 12 years

 When it comes to adaptability, the Appenzeller Sennenhund is a dog breed that does not adapt to apartment living at all. Even though he is of medium size, he appreciates lots of open space and lots of exercise.

Additionally, his herding instinct is one of the reasons why this dog breed does not like small and cramped spaces – he loves working and running under the open sky!

He is more or less good for novice owners – he is intelligent and responds well to positive reinforcement; however, he needs an experienced owner because you have to have the upper hand and teach him how to herd properly.

If you’re not strong-willed enough, this dog might simply not listen to you and be stubborn. Speaking of sensitivity level, this breed is used to working alone and herding cattle, so he can live and sleep outside, but that does not mean that he is not loyal or affectionate towards his owner.

He tolerates harsh weather very well, but he does not tolerate being alone. You should not neglect this breed because it is used to cooperating with his owner and thriving in a family. He definitely handles cold weather better than scorching summers.

Speaking of friendliness, the Appenzeller Sennenhund is definitely a good-natured and friendly dog that is affectionate and loyal. He is extremely loyal to his family, owner and children. He is very patient with children and also very gentle.

This is a dog that is used to hard work but he appreciates being part of the family. However, he is less tolerant of other dogs and even less tolerant of strangers which make him a good guardian and watchdog.

When it comes to health and grooming, the Appenzeller Sennenhund is a generally healthy breed, with some conditions that affect him and will be discussed later on. He does shed throughout the year but does not drool.

He is also extremely easy to brush and groom, but he does have a tendency for weight gaining.

Speaking of trainability, the Appenzeller Sennenhund responds well to training and it is an easy to train breed because of high intelligence and willingness to please his master.

However, he does have a potential to mouthiness (due to the herding instincts), prey drive and wanderlust potential. He also likes to bark, especially at strangers and during the night.

This behavior could be controlled with training and socialization but it might be impossible to get rid of. All in all, he likes pleasing his master and responds well to awards.

When it comes to exercise needs, they are high. The Appenzeller Sennenhund needs high-intensity exercises that will keep him in shape and healthy.

He needs daily walks and stimulation on a daily basis because he is a breed that likes playing, running and spending lots of time in nature. This is why he can do great in dog sports activities if he is not working for real and herding.

Main Highlights
  • The Appenzeller Sennenhund belongs to the group Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps.
  • This is the rarest of the four ancient Swiss mountain dog breeds!
  • This breed is not recognized by any English-speaking Kennel Club.
  • It is believed that he is descendant from «cattle dogs left there by the Romans».
  • The Appenzeller Sennenhund is a great family dog and he is also great with children, very gentle with them.
  • You should keep him on a leash in dangerous and unknown places because of his prey drive and wanderlust potential.
  • This breed is known as a rare breed in North America.
  • This breed has strong herding instincts and it might nip at your heels when young! Socialize and train your puppy on time!
  • This breed does not like at all apartments, he needs space and lots of exercise under open sky!
  • Never buy an Appenzeller Sennenhund puppy from illegal or suspicious breeders, especially puppy mills! Otherwise you might end up with a sick puppy and just contribute to the illegal trade of dogs!
Breed History

The Appenzeller Sennenhund originated in Switzerland and it is one of the rarest ancient Swiss mountain dog breeds. It is so rare that most Kennel Clubs do not even recognize it and do not have any club owners who own this breed. It is believed that this breed might be a descendant of the ancient Roman cattle dogs but that is not sure.

This breed was founded and described in 1906 by Albert Heim, and it was not until 1989 that it was accepted as the separate breed. The original role of an Appenzeller Sennenhund was to be a cattle herding dog and a watch dog. He would be a flock guardian as well and a draft dog. Many families kept him as a farm dog and a nice family companion, which he is even today.


The Appenzeller Sennenhund is a dog breed of medium size. The males are a bit bigger than females and they are usually 52–56 cm (20–22 in) tall and weigh 48 to 55 pounds. The females are 50–54 cm (20–21 in) and weigh usually the same. The life expectancy is around 9-12 years.

Personality and Character

The Appenzeller Sennenhund is an affectionate, loyal, intelligent, hard-working and skillful dog that has, besides his herding role, been a family companion for many years in Switzerland.

Even today he is known as a loyal and beloved dog that is very gentle with children and loves being part of a family circle. He thrives in the country and houses with huge yards where he can run and enjoy his time under the open sky.

He is fearless and reliable and loves protecting his family. Unless you socialize him from an early age, he might even become aggressive towards strangers in order to protect his territory and people on it.

Health and Potential Problems

This Appenzeller Mountain Dog is usually a healthy breed but there are certain conditions that might he be prone to; here are some of them that affect this breed:

  • Canine hip dysplasia can be common in almost all breeds since it is an inherited condition and Appenzeller Mountain Dog is no exception. When the thighbone does not fit properly into the hip joint, then that can create pain and lameness in a dog, which is usually diagnosed via X-ray screening. Sometimes even arthritis can develop if the pet is older.
  • Elbow dysplasia. It affects a dog’s elbows and it may result in osteochondrosis of the elbow.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a common genetic condition that affects the retina and causes blindness.
  • Cataracts are very common visual problems in dogs as well and it causes for the lens to become unclear and in need of surgery.
  • Gastric Torsion/Bloat is one of the most serious health problems found in dogs, mostly because it is usually fatal and there is no medical help for it. It happens when the food and gas stay trapped in a dog’s body, and that is why it is often advised not to feed your dog large amounts of food and then make him exercise right after it.
  • Hemolytic Anemia which is noticeable by the destruction of red blood cells.
  • Epilepsy can be either primary or caused by some kind of trauma. The most common signs are severe seizures.
  • Entropion is another visual and inherited condition that is defined by the inversion of the eyelids. This can cause irritation and pain.
  • Ectropion is a visual condition defined by the dog’s eyelid folding outwards.
  • Other: Demodicosis/Demodectic Mange/Demodex Mange
Care Features

When it comes to care features, the Appenzeller Mountain Dog needs his basic needs to be fulfilled just like with any other dog – he needs his teeth brushed at least a couple of times per week in order to prevent gum diseases and teeth decay.

He also needs his nails trimmed when they become too long and start clicking on the floor. Besides this, you need to bathe him at least once per month or two months and you need to groom him when it is needed, which is not difficult.

You must brush his coat (which is short) and walk him daily because this breed is very active and requires intense running and walking in order to remain healthy. After each walk you should carefully examine his coat so there are no ticks, cuts, fleas or tangles.

Feeding Schedule

When it comes to the feeding schedule, the Appenzeller Mountain Dog is a big dog, and he also is very active which means that he needs 2 to 3 cup of high-quality per day. It would be for the best to mix dry and canned food but it all depends on your dog’s age, general health and activity level. This breed is very active and hard-working, but you should try not to overfeed them since they love eating.

Make sure to include the ingredients and food of best quality in your Appenzeller’s diet! He needs lots of proteins and vitamins, especially if he is working hard on the farm or he perhaps practices for his dog agility activities.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Speaking of coats, this dog breed has a distinctive tricolor coat that consists of white, black and fawn. The coat is thick but very short and easy to groom. You need to brush him regularly if he spends a lot of time outside (as he should), but grooming and trimming are only necessary when it is really needed. A bath should be provided once per month at least.

You do not need a professional here to groom this dog breed as it is really easy to do it by yourself. When it comes to his overall body, the ears are small and triangular while the physique is heavy and strong build.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

When it comes to children, the Appenzeller Sennenhund is a really great dog to have as a family companion. He is very gentle towards children and you won’t have any problems if you trained and socialized your pup from an early age. Furthermore, it is important to teach your children how to behave around a dog of this size.

This breed is less tolerant of other dogs and strangers and he likes barking at them. A proper socialization should control this behavior and you should definitely do anything you can to subdue it.

Bringing this topic to an end, we have covered the most important characteristics of a dog called the Appenzeller Sennenhund, the herding dog breed from Switzerland. You are now familiar with this hard-working dog’s physical traits, health issues, sensitivity level, and personality quirks, among other things.

Even though the Appenzeller Sennenhund is not very popular or known, especially in North America, he is still a wonderful and reliable dog that deserves our attention. With his strong build, unique tricolor coat and interesting heritage, he is definitely a dog that you would love to have on your farm!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.