Giant dogs are some of the hardest-working and most recognizable breeds. But because many of them maintain the strong working instincts and drive they were bred for, they can be a lot to handle. Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re considering adding one to your family.
Giant dogs are giant puppies for a very long time and are slow to mature both mentally and physically. When giant dogs are young, their joints can become injured easily, so it’s important to be very cautious with exercise.
The bigger the dog, the bigger everything needs to be—including toys, bowls, and beds. While some giant dogs are happy and content living in small spaces, you do need to have enough space for the things they need. It’s also important to keep in mind that not everyone or everywhere is going to be giant-dog-friendly. Many apartments and hotels have weight limits for dogs, which giant breeds far exceed. It can also be much more challenging to find skilled and qualified care from dog sitters or walkers.
Giant dogs can be expensive to care for. When the dog is bigger, the bill usually is as well. Before adding a giant dog breed to your family, consider your budget flexibility and if you will be able to cover giant-size costs. Large breed dog food, toys, and other supplies are generally more expensive than those for smaller dogs. In addition, medication for giant dogs is going to be more expensive. Unfortunately, not all vet clinics—especially those in urban areas—will be equipped to safely handle giant breeds and you may need to shop around or travel to a vet who can accommodate a giant dog for X-rays, surgery, etc.
Regardless of size, all dogs need training, but it’s especially essential for giant breeds. Misbehaviors that people might think are “cute” when they happen with small dogs—like jumping up, counter surfing, and pulling—aren’t so adorable when your dog is a giant. These are dogs who will outweigh many people when fully grown, so it’s important to begin training giant dogs as very young puppies. Training should always be fun and positive. If you’re considering adding one of these giants to your life, look at the S.T.A.R. Puppy Program to get training off on the right foot.
If you’re okay with all of these potential challenges and you still think bigger is better when it comes to dogs, one of these breeds might be the right fit for your family.
Largest Dog Breeds
Imposing and protective, the Anatolian Shepherd is a territorial, smart, and loyal working dog. Weighing in at 150 pounds, this breed was developed to protect livestock. These are dogs who would rather intimidate predators than attack, making them popular as guardian ranch dogs protecting farms today.
Bernese Mountain Dog
With a distinctive tri-colored coat, the Bernese Mountain Dog is one of the more popular giant breeds. They thrive in cold weather and were developed as hard-working, versatile dogs for farms in their native Switzerland and excel at drafting/carting. Known for their good-natured temperament, Bernese Mountain Dogs are popular giant companions and family dogs.
Black Russian Terrier
These giant terriers are as imposing as they are intelligent. The Black Russian Terrier was developed by the Soviet government in the 1930s to create a powerful guard dog. The dogs maintain those protective qualities, are very loyal to their families, and will often be aloof with strangers. These large dogs should be both powerful and have a reliable temperament.
The ultimate guard dog, the Bullmastiff is known as “the Gamekeeper’s Night Dog.” The breed was developed in the 19th century to guard private English game preserves and country estates. Highly biddable, the Bullmastiff responds well to training but early socialization and puppy training are extremely important.
Dogue de Bordeaux
Another powerful guardian dog, the Dogue de Bordeaux is known for its expressive face and eyes and has the proportionately largest head of any breed. These dogs are sensitive and loyal, but they are also known to be stubborn, which makes early training extremely important.
An alert and intimidating dog, the Cane Corso is a loyal, strong breed. The ancestors of the Cane Corso are believed to date back to guardian dogs of the ancient Greeks, but at one point the breed nearly became extinct. The first Cane Corso was imported to America in 1988. Because of their wary and protective tendencies, early socialization and training is essential.
One of the most recognizable giant breeds, Great Danes were developed as guardians and to hunt wild boars. This is an easy-going giant breed making the dogs popular companions. Great Danes are very friendly and outgoing, but they are also very loyal and alert guardians of their home and family.
This majestic breed is impressive in size and easily recognizable by its (generally) large white coat. The breed was developed to work alongside shepherds and to protect livestock. Known for their patience and independence, the Great Pyrenees fearlessly fight off predators.
Large and majestic, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest breed of dog recognized by the AKC and was originally bred as a big-game hunter. While their ancestors date back to ancient times, the Irish Wolfhound first gained popularity in the 15th century to help control the wolf population in Ireland. Today Irish Wolfhounds are known as dignified, eye-catching companions.
Sporting a lion-like mane, a Leonberger is a solid watchdog and versatile working dog. Unlike many other giant breeds, the Leonberger was first developed as a companion dog for European royalty. It wasn’t until later that they became known as an all-around working farm dog. Today, Leonbergers are loyal pets and excel at cart pulling/draft work.
With a broad, wrinkled forehead, the Mastiff is a dignified, courageous, and docile breed. Known for their devotion and loyalty to their families, Mastiffs are naturally wary of strangers, making early socialization important. After World War II, approximately only 14 Mastiffs survived in all of England. The breed’s population was later established with the collaboration of breeders in the United States. Mastiffs are emotional and sensitive and thrive with early positive-reinforcement training.
Dating back to ancient Rome, Neapolitan Mastiffs are giant and powerful dogs. Visually striking with their loose wrinkles and folds of skin across their body, these dogs are easy to spot and are very protective of their families. Like other highly protective breeds, the Neapolitan Mastiffs thrive with consistent positive reinforcement training.
This powerful working dog is a natural in the water. The breed has webbed feet and a water-repellent outer coat, and was first developed to work with Canadian fishermen pulling fishing nets out of icy water and performing heroic water rescues. These giant water dogs are still used in water rescue around the world. In addition to its massive size, the Newfoundland is known for its gentleness and trainability.
One of the most famous giant breeds, the Saint Bernard hails from the Swiss Alps. The massive and powerful breed was first developed to locate and rescue people who had gotten lost in the snow and buried by avalanches. The Saint Bernard’s charismatic friendly expression has helped it gain popularity in film and television, and become beloved by dog lovers.
Known as the royal dog of Scotland, this giant coursing dog is one of the tallest breeds of dogs in the world. Bred to hunt, the Scottish Deerhound is very courageous and was born to run. It’s a sensitive breed that’s deeply connected to family and can struggle with being left alone. With a strong drive to chase, the Scottish Deerhound should only be allowed to run in a fenced area or on leash.
An intimidating ancient breed, Tibetan Mastiffs are known for being strong-willed and independent. These dogs are extremely protective and are considered guardians of the Himalayas because they were used to guard monasteries in Tibet. Not a breed for beginners, these noble dogs are known for making up their mind about a situation and responding accordingly, regardless of training.