While big dogs might be intimidating, many are actually quite gentle. These gentle giants were bred for jobs such as guarding, pulling, and companionship. Big dogs hold a special place in our hearts, and for those who love them, we couldn’t imagine our lives – or our houses – without giant dogs in them. If you’re considering getting a big dog, it’s important to consider what special care they may require. Let’s discuss a few popular giant dog breeds and how to care for big dogs.
Pros and Cons of Big Dogs
Like any dog, big breeds have positives and negatives. Giant dogs are generally easy to train, affectionate, and gentle, which is where the term “gentle giant” comes from. Many giant dogs are so large that they don’t have very high energy levels, making them great companions for many different families.
Though gentle and sweet, big dogs have their downsides too. With bigger dogs comes an increase in the cost of food, supplies, and even veterinary care. Some larger dogs have droopy jowls, which cause them to drool everywhere. Giant dogs are often more prone to health issues such as hip dysplasia or bloat. By far, the biggest con of loving a large breed is that their lifespan is typically much shorter than that of a smaller dog: many giant breeds only live to be 6 to 10 years old.
Caring For Big Dogs
Giant dog breeds typically weigh over 100 pounds and can even weigh as much as 200 pounds. That’s quite a lot of puppy! It makes sense, then, that these giant dogs need a little extra tender loving care. How do we care for our big dogs?
It goes without saying that big dogs are big puppies. Puppies are clumsy, messy, and potentially destructive. While some giant breeds can adjust to apartment living, you must give real thought to if your life and home are suitable for a large dog.
Do Big Dogs Need Exercise?
The amount of exercise your big dog will need depends on factors such as breed, age, and health, but your dog will need some form of exercise. Some giant breeds, like Great Danes, don’t need much exercise at all, but other large breeds need moderate exercise for maximum wellness. No matter what dog or breed you choose, make sure their exercise requirements suit your life and lifestyle.
Training and Socialization For Big Dogs
Training and socialization are necessary for any dog you bring home, but giant dogs’ size and strength make it even more vital. Big puppies and dogs can accidentally knock over furniture or small children. Lack of training can lead to a dog you are unable to control, which could prove dangerous. At a minimum, your big dog should learn to walk on a leash, sit, lie down, stay, and be calm around people.
Big Dogs’ Diet
Big dogs need a lot more food. Many brands offer a specialized diet specifically for large dogs, with a calorie-dense formula that helps support strong joints. Size-specific food is ideal for giant puppies because regular formulas can cause your puppy to grow too quickly, leading to orthopedic issues later on. While your big dog needs bigger portions, be careful not to feed your dog too much; obesity is a common health issue among larger breeds. Always follow portion suggestions and consult your veterinarian with any dietary questions you may have.
In addition to your dog’s food, you will probably want to consider adding supplements to your dog’s diet. Supplements can increase your dog’s bones and joints’ health, which are especially stressed in a big dog’s body.
It’s common for most dogs to visit the veterinarian once each year for a wellness checkup. It’s a good idea for a giant dog to visit the veterinarian twice a year, especially after your dog reaches senior age at around 6 years old. Visiting the vet more often ensures that you catch any developing health issues early on and enables you to keep your big dog healthy and happy for years to come.
5 of the Gentlest Giant Dog Breeds
Here are some of the gentlest of all giant breeds.
A Newfoundland is a working dog originally bred in Newfoundland. Unlike many other giant breeds, the Newfoundland wasn’t used as a guard dog. Newfoundland is known as a fishing community, and the “Newfie” was a fisherman’s helper, hauling nets and lines for boats, pulling carts, and fetching anything, or anyone, that might fall overboard. They are strong swimmers and friendly companions. Newfoundlands stand 27 to 30 inches tall and can weigh as much as 150 pounds.
The Irish Wolfhound is arguably the tallest dog breed in the world. They stand 32 inches tall and weigh 120 pounds on average. Though their stature and appearance can be quite intimidating, they are actually amiable dogs. Wolfhounds were used for hunting wolves and other big game in Ireland but now spend their time as loyal, gentle canine companions.
Think Leonbergers look like lions? It was intentional! The Leonberger originated from Leonberger, Germany, and was bred to resemble the lion on the town’s crest. Though the big dogs might look like lions, their temperament is more like a lamb. Used as farm and family dogs, Leonbergers were intentionally selected for their docility and friendliness, as these are key characteristics of the breed. Leonbergers stand 26 to 32 inches high and can weigh up to 170 pounds!
The Great Pyrenees is a livestock guard dog from the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. Their job was to protect sheep from predators such as wolves, bears, or thieves. These dogs resemble the sheep they protect and could blend right in with the flock. Though ferocious in defense of their charges, to people, they are the gentlest of giants. The Great Pyrenees is patient, loyal, and kind. This breed stands 25 to 32 inches tall and can weigh well over 100 pounds.
Saint Bernards’ original purpose was to rescue avalanche victims from their snowy tombs. This job requires a strong body as well as a keen mind. They can pull people from giant piles of snow and ice but do it gently enough so as not to injure their rescues further. This breed is social and incredibly companionable. Saint Bernards stand 26 to 30 inches tall and weigh up to 180 pounds!
Big Dogs For One and All
Still think a big dog is for you? Giant dogs make fantastic pets. Taking care of a dog that’s larger than life can be quite rewarding. They may take a little more time and planning to accommodate, but we promise it’s worth it!