The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was one of the preferred breeds competing at the Westminster Dog Show in New York this week. Ten championship dogs from around the country competed for the Best of Breed award, but each had a unique background illustrating how the life of a prize-winning dog is about more than mere competitions.

Nox's George Bailey's Irish Crème, known as George, was the winner of the Best of Breed award for the Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. While George is an avid competitor, he also serves as the official mascot of the University of Virginia's women's rugby team. His co-owner, Nancy Kechner, is the coach of the rugby team. In addition, the nearly three-year-old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog trains for weight pulling competitions and has pulled over 3,300 pounds in shows. He won the breed's national specialty as a two-and-a-half year old.

Ava, another Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, has made a name for herself as a survivor. Last July, Ava flat-lined on a heart monitor in the emergency room, however a veterinarian was able to revive Ava after shocking her heart. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog underwent surgery to have her stomach tacked and her spleen was removed. Since the near-death experience, Ava has continued to successfully compete in dog shows.

Other Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs competing are well-known family dogs and recognizable figures in their neighborhoods. One of the competing Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, Oscar the Grouch, lives in New York in a high-rise building in Murray Hill, eight blocks from Madison Square Garden. Oscar is not quite 2 years old yet and finished his championship in three months. He is well known in his neighborhood despite being one of more than one hundred dogs living in his building.

Similarly, Gabby, a three-and-a-half year old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, has earned a reputation as a loyal family dog. She has competed successfully in shows for fun, but treats competing as an extra-curricular hobby more than a career. Gabby recently gave birth to a litter of puppies and one of her sons will begin training for dog competitions in the near future.

Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs can begin training for competitions as young as six months old, though they normally begin to train at around nine months old. The male dogs often wait to compete until after they have reached maturity as their larger stature and developed build is highly valued in the competition. Bitches are also more successful after they have given birth as they grow into their fully matured forms.

Part of the Working group, the dogs are robust performers capable of completing rough farm work in mountainous regions. They also enjoy hiking, carting, herding, weight pulling, backpacking and obedience trials. While the breed is large, sturdy, calm and confident, it is also sociable, active and loves being part of a family.

The solid dogs are judged by how closely they adhere to the ideal standard of the Greater Swiss Mountain breed. The American Kennel Club identifies the ideal breed as striking, tri-colored, large, powerful, confident... and of sturdy appearance. The AKC claims the ideal dog has an animated and gentle expression with medium-sized, almond-shaped brown eyes. Blue eyes are a disqualification. The winning Greater Swiss Mountain dog must be a bold, faithful [and] willing working that is alert and vigilant. 

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was developed in the Swiss Alps and is believed to be related to indigenous dogs in the Swiss mountains, which mated with large Mastiff types brought to the country by foreign settlers.