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Appenzeller Sennenhunde

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 Appenzeller Sennenhunde

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde is a medium to large purebred from Switzerland and is actually the least common of the four Swiss Mountain Dogs, the others being the Berner Sennenhund, the Entlebucher Sennenhund and the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhun (in English they are the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Appenseller Mountain Dog, the Entlebucher Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The Appenseller is also called the Appenzell Cattle Dog, Appenzeller Mountain Dog, Entlebucher Sennenhund and the Entlebucher Mountain Dog. It is an ancient breed bred to help on farms, guarding animals, pulling carts, herding and such. Its name comes from the name of the people who herded livestock in that region, the Senn. Today as well as being used in rural areas in Switzerland still, it also does well in shows such as obedience, flyball and agility.

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde at A Glance
Name Appenzeller Sennenhunde
Other names Appenzell Cattle Dog, Appenzeller Mountain Dog, Entlebucher Sennenhund, Entlebucher Mountain Dog
Nicknames Appenzeller
Origin Switzerland
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 45 to 70 pounds
Average height 18 to 23 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Double, thick
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, red, tricolor
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Above average – fairly smart dog
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle hot weather just not extreme
Tolerance to cold Excellent – good even in extreme cold, likes to romp in the snow
Shedding Average – some hair will be left around the home to be cleaned up
Drooling Low – not prone to drool or slobber
Obesity Average – make sure it doesn't over eat and that it gets daily exercise
Grooming/brushing Moderate – regular brushing needed
Barking Occasional to frequent – may need training to stop it on command
Exercise needs Quite active – needs owners who can commit to daily exercise
Trainability Moderately easy especially if you have experience
Friendliness Very good – quite social
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good to excellent with the right family
Good with children Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization
Good with strangers Moderate – can be wary and socialization as well as supervision are needed
Good apartment dog Low – not best in apartments, needs a yard
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being left alone for long periods
Health issues Healthy breed – some issues can include ear infections and other general dog health concerns
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for miscellaneous items, license, basic training and toys
Average annual expenses $1000 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $900
Rescue organizations Few that are breed specific but check out your local shelters and rescues
Biting Statistics None reported

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde's Beginnings

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde is an ancient breed from Switzerland but its beginnings are not terribly clear. There are a couple of theories though, one being that it descends from dogs brought by the Romans called the Molossus and the other being that it is native to the region and may have ancestors going back as far as the Bronze age! Whichever is true, the dog was mentioned in the mid 19th century in a book that translates to Animal Life in the Alps. For many years it was kept by those living in the region as a farm dog essentially. It would herd cattle and guard them, pull carts with heavy loads around and act as protector and companion. It was bred to be hardworking, with lots of stamina and strength and to be surefooted since it lives in the mountains.

In 1897 it was recognized as a native breed to Switzerland and as such need to be protected. As a result in 1906 the first breed club was started by enthusiasts including Albert Heim. By 1916 the first standard for the breed had been written. However numbers remained small, compared to the other 3 Swiss mountain breeds for example, and it stayed mostly in its mountains.

New Lease on Life

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde came to the US sometime in the 1950s but is not yet fully recognized by the AKC. They are recognized by the Swiss as a separate breed, by the Federation Cynologique Internationale and by the United Kennel Club. There is a club for the breed in the US though, the Appenseller Moutain Dog Club of America.

The Dog You See Today

The Appenzeller is a medium to large dog weighing 45 to 70 pounds and standing 18 to 23 inches tall. It is a muscular dog but not overly large just well built and molosser like. It has straight legs and its tail is curled and held on its back and has a white tip. Its coat is double, glossy, thick and tight. It is short in length and the usual coloring is tricolored, white, brown and black. It can have rust markings as well as white ones and there should be a blaze of either color on its head. Its heads is flat and wide and it has a muzzle that tapers to its black nose. Its ears are triangular shaped and small, set high on the head and then hang down falling close to its cheeks. Its eyes are dark and small.

The Inner Appenzeller Sennenhunde


The Appenzeller is a lively and energetic dog, used to working hard all day so it also comes with a lot of endurance and stamina. It is fearless and protective so will act to defend you or its home if it is threatened. It is also alert and will bark to let you know of anything different or someone breaking in. Because of it background as a work dog it needs to be in a home with active people and it needs to be socialized and trained well to keep it occupied and focused. That socialization is also important as it is wary of strangers and without it, that can turn to suspicion. When raised well it bonds very closely with its owners, in fact it can form closer attachments to one of them though it is still affectionate to the others. It loves to get attention and will need a good amount of it to stay happy.


Well looked after Appenzellers are confident, social, reliable, spirited and sometimes playful. It will be loving and very loyal. It can bark a lot so training to control that on command would be a good idea. It is best with owners who have some experience with dog ownership and may surprise you as to how physical and enthusiastic it can be when it wants to get to you to greet you or show its love. It can make a great family dog, it is smart and charming and loves it when friends come over.

Living with an Appenzeller Sennenhunde

What will training look like?

This dog is intelligent and learns quite quickly so if you are experienced and use positive techniques it is likely to need less repetition and do really well. They like having work to do and being with you and listen well. They do have an independent side to them so this is where the firm leadership is important and the experience helps. If you are too meek with them, give in to them or are not consistent in your approach they are going to take advantage and try to be top dog. However with clear rules and boundaries starting as soon as it comes home things should go well. Use praise, encourage it and motivate it with treats and rewards.

Since this is a strong dog teaching it the heel command is important so it does not pull at you when out walking, and a command to stop it barking is a good idea too. Early socialization is another must, especially since its wariness around strangers needs to be tempered and its protective instincts. Early socialization means exposing it as soon as it comes home to different sounds, places, people, animals, situations and so on. It learns appropriate responses and grows to be a more confident and happier dog that can be trusted more.

How active is the Appenzeller Sennenhunde?

Being a working dog the Appenzeller is a very active breed and has high needs in terms of activity and mental challenge needed to keep it busy, happy and healthy. It should only be with owners who are active themselves and can easily commit to giving the dog what it needs. Ideally it would be happiest in a rural or semi-rural setting where there is land to roam on. It is not an apartment dog. If it is not being kept as working farm dog then be prepared to take it for at least two long walks a day and then have some time for other energy burning opportunities like off leash runs in a dog park, play time and so on. It would also happily join you on your jogs, bike rides, hikes and so on. Do not forget to put in some puzzle toys, and perhaps take training beyond basic levels to ensure it gets mental stimulation too. Since they likes to have jobs to do if it is not a working dog it could be a good idea to teach them certain tasks they can do daily for you.

Caring for the Appenzeller Sennenhunde

Grooming needs

Appenzeller Sennenhunde have moderate maintenance and grooming needs. It sheds an average amount so there will be some hair around the home to clean up on a daily basis. It is not a hypoallergenic breed so not good for people with dander allergies. Its coat is easy to care for though, just give it a brush a couple of times a week using a rubber brush. This will prevent tangling, remove debris and dirt and loose hair, and also move its natural oils around its coat keeping it shiny and healthy looking. Do not bathe too often as that can damage those oils, as can using any shampoo other than a dog shampoo.


Its nails may be worn down naturally with its high level of activity, but if they are not you will need to have them trimmed by a vet or groomer, or cut them yourself. If you opt to do it yourself take care to use a proper dog nail clipper and not to cut too far down. There are nerves and blood vessels that if cut will hurt the dog a great deal and cause a surprising amount of bleeding. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week using a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Its ears too need to be checked on once a week to make sure there is no ear infection, and then wiped clean using dog ear cleanser or a damp cloth. Do not insert anything into the ears as that can cause damage and a lot of pain.

Feeding Time

Appenzeller Sennenhundes will eat usually between 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. However some may need more or less, amounts vary as it really depends on how big your dog is, its level of activity, health, age and its metabolism rate. Always make sure that it has access to fresh water.

How is the Appenzeller Sennenhunde with children and other animals?

With socialization this is a very good breed to have in a home with children as it can be playful and energetic with them, but also loving, affectionate and protective of them too. Care should be taken with young children though just because they are more lively to get bumped into and knocked over when the dog is being exuberant. Being herding dogs some may nip at children's ankles to try and get them where they want them, this will need to be stopped. Make sure children know how to approach and touch dogs properly and how to be kind to them. It usually gets alone well with other dogs and other large farm animals too, but with smaller animals its socialization is important so it does not chase them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of the Appenzeller is about 12 to 15 years and in general it is a very healthy breed. It has no hereditary issues which is very good for a dog of its size. There are some usual dog issues that can come up though such as ear infections, eye problems and bloat.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people in the US and Canada and causing bodily harm, in the last 35 years there has been no mention of the Appenzeller. It is not a dog that is seen as an aggressive one, but it is very protective so without training and socialization that can be taken too far, or cause it to see threat where there is none. It is important also to understand that no matter what breed of dog you get, all have the potential to have a bad day. Some can do more damage than others, some may be more people sensitive than others, but all have that potential. Make sure you give it what it needs in terms of exercise, attention, training and socialization and supervise your dog too.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The Appenzeller Sennenhunde is a rare breed in the US so the few breeders there are can charge quite high prices. Expect a puppy from a decent breeder to start at $900 but that could go up a great deal especially if wanting to use top show breeders. Also be prepared to have to be put on a waiting list. Avoid the temptation of using something quicker like a backyard breeder, puppy mill breeder or pet store. These are not places we should be helping to stay in business. Another option if you are not having to have a purebred is to check out rescues and shelters. Maybe you can find a mixed dog with some Appenzeller in them, or maybe it will be completely different. There are a lot of dogs hoping for people to come and fall in love with them! Adoption rates usually run between $50 to $400.


However you find your new best friend once you have that settled there are some other initial costs to spend too. There are items it will need like a collar and leash, crate, bowls and such that will cost about $220. There are also initial health concerns to deal with by taking it to a vet and having blood tests done, deworming, shots, micro chipping, a physical exam and spaying or neutering. These will cost about $290.

Another aspect of pet ownership is the cost of taking good care of them. Each year you can expect to spend about $1000. That will include $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health needs like shots, flea and tick prevention and check ups. $245 a year for miscellaneous costs like license, toys, miscellaneous items and basic training. Then finally about $270 a year for feeding it, so dog treats and a good quality dry dog food.


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The Appenzeller Sennenhunde is a breed best suited to owners who are very active, experienced and ones who live in rural areas and/or on farms. It is a hard worker and could make a great farm dog but it also can be a loving, loyal and reliable family dog and companion. It is a confident and bold breed, lively, protective and easy to train. It is because of their high needs in terms of exercise though that is what has kept it from being more popular in the US.

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