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Giant Dog Breeds: Bigger is Better With These Dogs

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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:

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 the 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. So 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!

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn’t a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals.

After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study.

Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania’s small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum’s vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn’s vet students.

With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make.

New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine
Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn’t disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions.

And a few memories stood out and remained to this day:

  • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY
  • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill
  • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life

Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine
Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining “real life” experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital.

However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered – staff, clients, and patients alike – left a lasting impression.

Additional standout moments included:

  • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program
  • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit
  • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge)

Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician
Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician – first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT).

Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient’s stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape.

With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations.

Cardiology Veterinary Technician
With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted.

She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern.

And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

Check out Andria’s LinkedIn here

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