Some people prefer small breed dogs. Others yearn for the tiniest dogs out there. But some believe bigger is better and want giant dog breeds in their household. The more dog, the more to love, right? If you’ve ever considered a gentle giant for your family, we have the most popular members of the largest of the large.
What Makes a Dog Giant?
Dogs earn the “giant breed” appellation when they top 90-100 pounds. There’s no set height requirement, but most giant breeds usually stand pretty high at the shoulder. While such bulk might seem intimidating, you have nothing to worry about. The majority of giant dog breeds are sweet as pie and just as gooey on the inside.
There is a trade-off with those extra inches and pounds. While the average dog’s lifespan ranges from 12-15 years, giant dog breeds only tend to live around 7-10 years. If you plan to take on one of these big softies, make sure you’re prepared for that eventuality.
Big Dog, Big Responsibilities
Giant dog breeds make everything gigantic. That includes all of the following:
- Supplies (puppies outgrow collars, beds, and leashes rapidly)
- Veterinary care
That sheer size means keeping some extra space in your bank account. Know what you’re getting yourself into, and consider setting a little extra aside each paycheck in case of emergencies.
Your giant breed also has access to parts of your house smaller dogs can’t reach. The counter? It’s at head height. So dog-proofing the house takes on a new meaning. And if you allow your pets on the couch, prepare to give up – well, the entire couch (or have your mammoth hound in your lap). Socialization and training are crucial for giant dog breeds to prevent poor behaviors from settling in.
Best Active Giant Dog Breeds
Contrary to common perception, giant dog breeds don’t always need a ton of room. Some do well in apartment settings, provided you meet their daily exercise needs. Many breeds need no more than a walk, while others need space to stretch their legs, jump, and engage in raucous play. If you enjoy an active lifestyle, these are a few of the big dogs out there who’ll make great companions.
- Bernese Mountain Dog: Bernies are considered one of the most beautiful dog breeds out there. That thick tricolored coat not only looks stunning, but it also provides plenty of warmth in colder climates. These herding dogs tolerate cities, but they prefer open spaces where they have plenty of chances to run and play.
- Greater Swiss Mountain Dog: Swissies served as herding and guard dogs during the Middle Ages, protecting cattle from wolves. That instinct remains strong today, and they don’t like staying cooped up in an apartment. They want to run; give them a job to do, and they’ll stay happy. Just start training early because they mature SLOWLY. Oh, yeah, and watch that bark – it’s a doozy.
- Irish Wolfhound: Would you believe the Wolfhound started as a war dog? Once battle companions, they’re now one of the sweetest giant breeds in the world. Those tall, lanky legs beg for room to run, and you’ll want a lot of land to keep them happy. Best of all, they don’t shed much or drool, and they’re amazingly quiet.
Best of the Fluffy Giants
Are you the kind of person that craves handfuls of soft, fluffy hair? Can you picture snuggling up with your life-size teddy bear? These are the giant dog breeds for you! With shaggy coats, designed to keep them cozy during frigid temperatures, you’re sure to enjoy a cuddle. Be careful when the mercury starts to climb, though. All of that snuggly warmth doesn’t do so well, and heatstroke can set in quickly.
- Great Pyrenees: Great Pyrenees are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. They originally watched herds of sheep in the Pyrenees mountains, which is why they have a thick, waterproof double-coat. While Pyrenees fall on the mellow side and don’t trail behind their owners like some dogs, they’re still loyal to a fault. Just don’t try to squish them into an apartment – they need LOTS of room for their daily exercise.
- Leonberger: Leonbergers came from combining the Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernard, and Newfoundland. The breed originated in Germany as a companion dog and found favor with Napoleon III, Tsar Alesander II, and King Edward VII. The massive double-coat helps regulate their body temperature, which means it should NEVER get shaved. All that hair sheds, though, so daily brushing is on the agenda to prevent matting. Also, be prepared for a hefty dose of exercise to avoid wanton destruction.
- Saint Bernard: Saints found their first jobs as search and rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps. Their heavy coats protected them from the severe cold, while their giant size made them ideal for human rescue work. Today, they prefer family life (though many still work at search and rescue!). That fluffy coat is perfect for cold weather, but Saints don’t tolerate the heat AT ALL. Make sure there’s air conditioning available at all times. And watch out for the massive shed hair and copious drool if you bring a Saint in the house.
Giant Breed Jowls
Most giant dog breeds come with jowls (loose flesh on the cheeks and throat). The large skull structure creates this protective structure. The larger the jowls, the more prone a dog is to drooling. This is why these breeds are also some of the biggest droolers in the canine world. If you don’t mind keeping drool cloths on-hand in each room to handle the slobber, then these squish-faces may find their way into your heart.
- Dogue de Bordeaux: Due to their origins in France, you also hear this giant breed referred to as the French Mastiff. They have the largest head in the dog world. And how can anyone resist those wrinkles and jowls? These massive canines have a stubborn streak you’ll need training to curb. As long as you’re ready to handle the profuse amounts of drool, though, you won’t find a more loyal companion.
- English Mastiff: Also referred to as simply Mastiffs, these dogs rank as the largest of the giant dog breeds. Males and females reach astounding weights of 175-190 pounds! (That’s more than some people!) However, they’re sweet as they come, and often forget how big they are, knocking people over. Keep the drool rag handy, and keep a pet vacuum on-hand for the constant shed hair.
- Great Dane: When people hear “giant dog breed,” the Great Dane is often the breed they think of the most. These gentle giants often look children (and even some adults) square in the eye. Of course, Danes never realize how large they are, and you’ll find your canine companion crawling into your lap. They’re known shedders, in addition to a constant drool, so be prepared.
“You’re in My Seat”
Sharing a house with a giant dog breed means giving up your favorite chair. Rather, it means YOU become the favorite chair. It also means wearing a back brace to haul in the bags of dog food. But when you look into those sweet eyes – usually very close to your own – you know it’s worth it.
While you can’t slip your enormous dog into a purse for portability, there’s no denying the charm of jogging alongside a giant breed. Sometimes, bigger really is better!