Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund
Pleple2000 /

A small to medium-sized hound with a number of different potential coat varieties, the Small Swiss Hound (Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund) was developed for the purpose of hunting in areas of restricted size. Hunters required a dog that would be shorter and slower than its predecessor, the Schweizer Laufhund. While still used for this purpose today, this breed has also become a cherished family member in many Swiss households.

The affectionate nature and charming good looks of the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund make it an attractive option for a pet but owners should be aware that this breed needs a considerable amount of exercise. At times, this dog can possess a stubborn streak, so benefits from having a firm trainer who has a good amount of patience.

About & History

The Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund, or the Small Swiss Hound, is a breed of dog that consists of several different breed types, which are determined by their coat colour and consistency. The Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund descends from the taller Swiss Hound or Schweizer Laufhund, a faster and more agile hound that is more suited to hunting over large territories, and the diminutive Basset Hound. The newly founded, short-legged Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund dogs were thought to be more appropriate for the form of hunting that became popular in the early 1900s in Switzerland. The new hunting regime involved smaller, private areas of land that were considered inappropriate for the Swiss Hound to hunt. Thus, hunters selectively bred short Schweizer Laufhund dogs and Bassett Hounds until they created an entirely new breed.

Traditionally, this breed has been used as a hunting hound, successfully pursuing a number of both large and small prey over a variety of terrains. Unlike many hunting dogs, the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund is particularly good at scenting down and finding injured prey. This breed relies on their superior sense of smell and communicates using their musical voice when working. They have the stamina required to hunt tirelessly for hours on end and require little input from their master.

In 2006, the UKC recognised the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund within their Scenthound group. While still used today within Switzerland, the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund are not well-known internationally.


Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund Large Photo
Berner Niederlaufhund (Pleple2000 /

When comparing this breed to the Schweizer Laufhund, they are visibly smaller and more compact, with a rectangular-shaped body. Despite being ‘shrunk down’, they have retained their elegant, noble appearance. The head of the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund is quite long and they have a straight nasal bone that ends in a dark nose that should have wide nostrils. Their eyes are oval in shape and dark in colour with an animated expression.

Their long and wide ears are particularly distinctive, hanging closely to their face. While they do have loose skin under their neck, it should not form into an obvious dewlap. Their muscular fore limbs should be straight and bow legs are considered a fault in the show ring. Their lengthy body consists of a straight back and a croup that slopes only marginally. Their tail is medium in size and tapers to a point at the level of the hock.

Males stand at 14 to 17 inches, while the shorter female Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund measures between 13 and 16 inches. One inch shorter or taller is permitted for both males and females. Breed members weigh around 33lbs.

Colour Variants

The coat of the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund varies and may be either smooth or rough. The four colour variants of the breed are listed below, and it should be noted that all four types are shown alongside each other in the show ring. They are:

  1. Small Bernese Hound: This is the tri-colour (white, tan and black) variant of the breed and its coat can be rough or smooth. A moderate amount of black mottling is permitted.
  2. Small Jura Hound: Usually possessing a single coat that is smooth, the Small Jura Hound has dark black fur with tan markings on the face, chest and sometimes the legs. They may also have tan fur with a black saddle. A small white patch on their torso is accepted.
  3. Small Schwyz Hound: Predominantly white-coated, the Small Schwyz Hound also has orange markings. They may have an orange mantle and some orange mottling is tolerated. Their coat is smooth.
  4. Small Lucerne Hound: The predominant colour of this breed type is white (though may also be ‘grey-white’ or ‘black-white’). Dark brown or black patches are seen on the coat. Patches of orange fur are accepted. They are a smooth-coated variant.

Character & Temperament

When on the hunt, the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund is untiring and relentless, exhibiting impressive stamina and fortitude of character. They tend to be lively and excitable, eager to perform their job. Most Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund dogs are happy to hunt independently, without any real command from their master.

Despite having been bred to hunt, most breed members can make the transition from working hound to family pet easily and are generally loving and demonstrative with their owners. They make good friends for children and other dogs but cannot be trusted with small animals, including cats and rabbits.

The temperaments of individuals vary, and while some can make calm and peaceful house guests, others can be excitable and bouncy. Those dogs with more energy can often be taught to settle down within the home once they have been appropriately exercised. Ideally, their exercise would come in the form of hunting, as this not only burns off excess energy but also occupies their inquisitive mind. Under-stimulated Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund dogs usually become nuisance pets that can be hard to train.

Not an aggressive dog, the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund should not be employed as a guard dog as they do not tend to scare away intruders and do not commonly feel the need to guard their property.


The phrase ‘little dog syndrome’ may be brought up when discussing the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund, as they have a reputation for acting like big dogs in little dog bodies. Full of confidence, lively and independent, this is not a breed for the novice trainer. Obedience work can pose a particular challenge, as they have a free-spirited character and a mind of their own.

Trainers should be firm and unyielding, keeping their training sessions short and interesting to maintain the dog’s interest. As this breed likes to assume a dominant position in the household, they should be taught their place from a young age, to prevent any misbehaving.


There are not many diseases that affect the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund more so than other breeds, but there are a handful of conditions that should be monitored for in individuals:

Ear Infections

Pendulous ears are prone to developing ear infections, particularly if a dog spends a lot of time in the wet, muddy outdoors. Keeping ears clean can prevent this from becoming too much of an issue.

Hip Dysplasia

Poorly formed hip joints can result in lifelong discomfort and reduced mobility. X-rays of hips (a process called ‘hip scoring’) should be carried out when a breeding dog is over one year of age to ensure that their hips are of good enough quality to be passed on.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The majority of Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund dogs continue to be employed as hunting dogs in Switzerland today, meaning that their exercise requirements are easily met during the hunting season. For those dogs that do not work, or when the hunting season is over, owners need to dedicate time to meeting the needs of this active hound.

A rural setting is the ideal place for the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund, who requires ample land to explore and does not enjoy being confined. It is essential that their property is securely fenced to avoid solo adventures.


While there are a number of different coat types within the breed, all are easy to maintain and need little in the way of grooming. Weekly brushing will be sufficient. The Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund will only need to be bathed a handful of times a year. If owners feel the need to disguise their ‘doggy smell’ more often than this they can use dry shampoo, avoiding the risk of drying out their skin and coat. The Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund should not shed excessively.

The ears of the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund should be cleaned on a weekly basis and ideally should be checked every day for signs of infection. They must be thoroughly dried after getting wet.

Famous Schweizerischer Niederlaufhunde

There are no celebrity Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund dogs.


It is widely accepted that the Schweizerischer Niederlaufhund is a cross between the Basset Hound and the Schweizer Laufhund.

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