So you want a really big dog? Giant dogs are a gigantic responsibility because they require plenty of exercise, space, and careful training to teach them safe habits. The largest dog breeds are not ideal pets for the city or apartments because they need plenty of space to move and run around.
Despite their size, they can all be very gentle and loving dogs, as long as they are carefully trained. When you have a dog almost as big, or bigger than you are, it's crucial to establish yourself as a pack leader over the dog. All of these breeds have histories as working dogs, either protecting sheep or hunting, so they love to please their pet parents and are relatively easy to train with a strong leader. They are also great guard dogs who can be devoted and loyal to their family and fearsome to strangers or troublemakers when needed.
If you have the space, patience, and time for exercise and training, you may want to bring one of these giant dogs into your home. Learn about the differences between the breeds below to find out which breed might be best for you.
These dogs may not be the heaviest, but they are the biggest—you might even mistake them for a pony! Irish Wolfhounds can grow to be 35 inches tall to the top of their back and 7 feet tall when they stand on their hind legs. Healthy (not overweight) males usually get up to 140 pounds making for a thin, but very athletic endurance hunter. Irish Wolfhounds were originally bred to hunt wolves, boars, and elk.
Different varieties of the Mastiff are different sizes, but they are all massive. The French Mastiff is notable in particular for their giant head, but the English Mastiff holds the record for being the heaviest. Most male English Mastiffs grow to around 30 inches and 200 pounds, but the record holder, named “Hercules,” was 282 pounds. Mastiffs can be docile and gentle, but make sure they have enough space and are fed a lower-fat diet to keep their weight in a healthy range.
One of the most popular giant dogs, Great Danes are the tallest, growing to around 40 inches and 180 pounds. Originally used as hunting dogs, Great Danes are powerful runners and must be trained early not to jump up on people or furniture. They may be the only dog on this list who can survive in an apartment, but only if they can get enough exercise each day.
Competing with the Mastiff for heaviest dog is the Saint Bernard, which can grow to be 35 inches tall and over 200 pounds. These dogs look even bigger with their thick coat of fur which has made them the perfect alpine rescue dog and symbol of Switzerland. Despite their size they can be very gentle and are great with families.
Another helpful dog, Newfoundlands used to assist fishermen in Canada to bring in their nets, and their thick, water-proof coat and webbed feet allowed them swim in the icy waters. These furry dogs can grow to 30 inches and 150 pounds. Their black double coat is beautiful, but requires a lot of brushing and grooming to stay clean.
Similar to the Newfoundland, Great Pyrenees also have a thick double coat that allows them to stay outside in freezing temperatures—but they have white fur instead of black. These dogs are a little smaller than Newfoundlands, usually growing to 32 inches and 115 pounds. Used in Europe to protect livestock, Great Pyrenees are devoted and calm with their family, but need firm training and a lot of exercise.
A lesser-known breed from the Caucasus Mountains near the Black Sea, Caucasian Shepherds are still used to protect livestock from mountain predators. They are big dogs, but not very heavy, growing to 28 inches and 100 pounds. These sturdy dogs are usually sweet and gentle with their family, but require firm training and a strong pack leader or they can become aggressive.
These shorthaired giants are originally from Turkey and can grow to 31 inches and 150 pounds. They are excellent guard dogs because of their great eyesight, agility, and hardiness. They can also be good for families with children and require minimal grooming.
These powerful dogs with long beautiful fur were used as hunting and guard dogs. Kuvasz were originally from Tibet but have been used throughout Europe, and were even popular with the royal family of Hungary. They can grow to 30 inches and 120 pounds and are very intelligent dogs. Kuvasz are devoted to their families and will always protect them, no matter what.
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