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Meet the Appenzeller Sennenhund

August 09, 2023
The Appenzeller Sennenhund is one of four regional breeds of Sennenhund or Swiss mountain dog. They come from the Appenzell region of north-eastern Switzerland and, like the other three Swiss Mountain breeds, characterised by a distinctive tricolour coat.

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde is the traditional working dog of the Sennen – Alpine cattle herders and dairy farmers. The Appenzeller Sennenhunde was traditionally used to herd and to guard property. The breed was also used as a draft dog and general farm dog

I have been talking with Debbie Dales about the Appenzeller Sennehunde and learning lots about this fascinating breed. Debbie put me in touch with Paula Webber, who has owned this rare breed for over 20 years and has competed in many different dog sports with her talented Appenzellers. I interviewed Paula to find out more about this hardworking breed that most Canadians haven't yet had the chance to meet.

 

What initially drew you to the Appenzeller Sennenhund?  
I fell in love with the breed, having had a Bernese Mountain Dog while living in the Yukon. We wanted another Swiss breed as a companion for our beloved Berner and one with a bit more stamina. Living in the mountains of the Yukon, we were avid hikers and trail runners and wanted a breed that could keep pace for longer hikes as well as be our guardian on wilderness trails. Being herders, quick and agile, the Appenzeller was a perfect choice: a dog that would never venture far from his "pack" and would alert of any "danger". The Appenzeller is also a very robust breed with few health issues and generally lives a long life. I soon learned how intelligent and trainable they were, and so began my journey into numerous performance sports in which all my Appenzellers have excelled. 
 
 
Describe the Appenzeller Sennenhund's personality. 
This is a very loyal and loving breed, very attached to their people. They are aloof with strangers and take their time getting to know new people on their own terms. Early socialisation is very important with the Appenzeller. A clever and quick learner, they can become bored and thrive on mental stimulation; they love to have a "job", and it doesn't have to be elaborate to keep their attention. Always ready to "work", they like to help with chores. My Appenzellers think that barking at leaves being raked and snow being shovelled will get the job done faster! That is part of their DNA and how they herd livestock by barking. Their exuberance for the task at hand can be unbounded, and that is why they are not a breed for the casual dog owner. They are very sensitive, alert, and they will guard. I never worry too much about my personal safety when I'm walking my Appenzellers. While they can be quite social, they are suspicious of strangers. They are described in the breed standard as having a cheeky expression. That is true of their personality too; cheeky, with a sense of humour. 
 
How much exercise do they require? 
They only require moderate exercise. That said, because of the job they were bred to do (cattle drovers), they have amazing stamina and make great hiking companions. But, they don't need a 10-mile walk every day. I believe, and have learned, having had them for so many years, that less is more with the Appenzeller. Personally, mine get one or two walks a day, and because we compete in performance events, I may do one or two short training sessions with them daily. Hanging out with their people, whether out for a walk or chilling on the couch, is what makes them happiest. 
 
Can they live in an apartment? 
Appenzellers do best with space to run and play. A securely fenced yard, at the very least, is recommended for this breed. Apartment living is not ideal and not recommended. 

 
Tell me about the coat and grooming requirements. Is shedding excessive? 
This is a double-coated breed, and weekly brushing is recommended. And yes, they do shed. They are very clean, and bathing is not required very often. I may take mine to the groomer for a bath and a good brush out before a dog show. Regular nail trims are important as well, every 2 to 3 weeks. 
 
Any health issues? 
Overall, Appenzellers are a healthy breed, but like many other deep-chested large breeds, bloat is rare but has been known to happen. 
 
How long do they usually live? 
An Appenzellers life span is generally 11 to 15 years. There are Appenzellers that have lived upwards of 18 years. My first Appenzeller lived a long and healthy 15.5 years.
 
Which dog sports are they involved in? 
Appenzellers can participate in Conformation, and they excel in Obedience, Rally, Agility, Scent Work, Tracking, Schutzhund and, of course, Herding, for which they were bred. Appenzellers are highly versatile and pretty much can learn to do anything you ask of them. I even competed in Flyball with my first Appenzeller. More and more, Appenzellers are being used for Search and Rescue. 

 
Are Appenzeller Sennenhunds easy to keep with other dogs? 

Appenzellers are easy to keep with other dogs and animals if they grow up with them. Mine are very well-socialised and are very good with other dogs. They have a rough style of play, but despite their size and speed, they are surprisingly gentle with smaller dogs and puppies.
 
How are they with children? 

Appenzellers are very good with young children if they grow up with them. They are anything but gentle and tend to play rough with each other and their owners, so they would have to learn boundaries with small children. I have been knocked over a few times by my exuberant Appenzellers and have had many bruises and scars over the years. Appenzellers are also very protective of their people, so that is something to be aware of when introducing newcomers, especially young children if they do not know them.
 
Who makes an ideal Appenzeller Sennenhund owner? 
An ideal owner is one who is active and is a doer. Appenzellers were bred to move livestock and as a flock guard, so ideally, an active lifestyle is best. Not to say that a 10-mile hike every day is necessary; they simply need to be doing something, whether it's daily walks, a swim in a local river or the ocean, learning a new trick, playing in the back garden; As long as they are with their people and you give them a task to do; it's pretty much all they need to be happy and content. Most Appenzellers owners I know keep them as family pets, and they are content. For me, personally, I compete with my Appenzellers in a number of dog sports, as well as Conformation, and that brings them (and me) great joy!

They are not a breed you can leave outside all day; if you're not there. They need to be included in your daily routine. Appenzellers are pretty needy, so be prepared to have your Appenzeller follow you wherever you go, and they are learners, as all the Swiss breeds tend to be. A couch or your bed is preferable to an Appenzeller and, of course, a secure backyard so they can run and play. I tell people interested in the breed that a busy Appenzeller is a happy Appenzeller, and you need to keep one step ahead of them at all times. I suppose that's one of the reasons I love them so much. They are demanding and a lot of work. I can't imagine my life without one (or 2). 


Anything you would like everyone to know about Appenzeller Sennenhund?
The Appenzeller is not a breed for everyone and not a breed for the first time dog owner. 


 The Appenzeller Sennenhund might be the breed for you if: 
  • You have experience with high drive dogs. 
  • You want a faithful and loyal companion that you can take anywhere.
  • You have a secure fenced yard.
  • You have the time to commit to fair and consistent training forever.
  • You understand herding behaviour and personality. 
 
The Appenzeller Sennenhund might not be the breed for you if: 
  • You are not prepared to socialise and train your Appenzeller.
  • You are a first-time dog owner.
  • You can't provide a safe space for an Appenzeller to run and play.
  • You want a couch potato.
  • You want an easygoing breed.
 

The opinions expressed by authors on the Canadian Kennel Club Blog and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Canadian Kennel Club or any of its employees.

Les opinions et les commentaires exprimés dans le blogue du Club Canin Canadien sont ceux des auteurs et ils ne reflètent pas les opinions du Club Canin Canadien ni de ses employés.

Author InformationInformation sur l’auteur

 Ian Lynch

Ian Lynch


Ian Lynch is a comedian, on-air personality and Canadian Kennel Club member.

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