Owning a large or giant breed dog is very different than owning
a small dog, and owners usually choose such a dog because they
have different expectations. You may be interested in a jogging
or hunting buddy, or a dog who can protect your family from
However, owning a
Mastiff or a Boxer
comes with added responsibility because large dogs require
space to move around, careful training, and time to exercise
that not everyone can spare. They can be a beautiful addition
to your home, or a bringer of chaos, if you aren't a careful
pet parent. While some large breeds have the potential to be
aggressive, most are gentle giants who need your help to learn
the best way to behave in your home.
Large breed dogs include
Golden Retrievers, and
German Shepherds, and giant breed dogs are easy to
Black Russian Terriers, and
Newfoundlands. Such majestic dogs may seem exciting, but
it's important to ensure you have
the time to train and take care of them properly.
If you have a large dog, or are thinking of bringing one home,
here are some tips to help you make the proper choices for your
Sometimes it's tough being big, and large breed dogs are
susceptible to certain joint and health conditions due to their
size. Hip dysplasia is one of the
greatest concerns for large and giant breeds because of the
stresses on their joints. It's important to know what problems
your dog may have and to look out for warning signs.
Your big buddy will have very different nutritional needs from
a miniature. Puppies risk growing too quickly if overfed, which
can cause them joint trouble. Switch to an adult food early, or
always give them appropriate food like Nutro Wholesome Essentials Large Breed
Puppy Farm Raised Chicken, and talk with your veterinarian
about how much to feed your dog and what supplements might keep them healthy. Food
specially designed for large breeds, such as Diamond Naturals Large Breed Dog Food
or Iams Proactive Health Mature
Adult Dry Dog Food will often include fatty acids and other
ingredients to promote joint health.
One of the best things you can do for your large dog is train
early and clearly. Even though your dog will grow to compete
with you in weight, you should make clear to your dog that you
are the master. If your commands are taught early and delivered
with a firm voice, your dog should follow them well. Make sure
you take time to train your dog early on, and allow for enough
exercise to avoid boredom-induced delinquency. Keeping rewards
at hand, such as Iams Proactive
Health Adult Minichunks Dry Dog Food is a good idea.
Washing a dog can be hard enough, but combine that with 120
pounds of love and a double-coat—and it may be more than you
bargained for on a bath day. Training your dog to behave during
grooming is an important first step, but having the right tools
will make the process quicker and easier. If you keep your
dog's fur and teeth brushed, ears clean, and nails trimmed,
only an occasional bath will be needed to keep your large dog
clean, healthy, and beautiful.
Tough dogs need tough toys! Your large dog is powerful enough
to break some toys and leashes designed for smaller dogs. Look
for products designed for larger dogs so that your dog bed is
big enough, your bowls are strong enough, and your toys fit the
playtime needs of your pet.
Large Dog Breed Health
Adding a large or giant breed dog to your family can be an
exciting choice: many large breeds, such as St.
Bernards, can be wonderfully gentle pets for families with
children while still appearing imposing to intruders. However,
there are many health concerns which affect large dogs
disproportionately that should be monitored to keep your pet
mobile and healthy. Taking steps early can decrease the risk of
injury or illness.
Large dogs are more likely to suffer from obesity, joint and ligament problems, and
live shorter lives. Being aware of possible breed-related
health concerns can help you catch issues early and keep your
Puppyhood for large dogs
Nutrition is incredibly important for quickly growing puppies,
but puppies are at risk of being overfed. Work with your vet to
determine proper portions to support their rapid growth without
accelerating it. Many giant breeds' bodies grow at different
rates, which may make their joints loose and put them at risk
of joint injury.
While the causes of hip
dysplasia, a serious concern for large and giant dogs (see
below), are still under investigation by vets, too much
exercise or weight gain can increase the risk of dysplasia.
Avoid letting your puppy under three months roughhouse with
adult dogs or play on hard surfaces to minimize overexertion
and joint injuries during playtime. Also, consider giving your
dog a specialized food for meant for large dogs such as
the Diamond Naturals Large
Breed 60+ Dog Food
Bigger dog, shorter life
In general, large dogs live approximately 15 years, giant dogs
live 9-12 years, and both tend to grow quicker and live shorter
lives than smaller dogs. There is an old Swiss saying
Mountain Dogs, “3 years a puppy, 3 years a good dog, 3
years an old dog, and everything else is a gift.” While it may
not be a long life, big
dogs make up for it by enjoying each day to the
fullest. Recognize your dog's shortened life by treating them
as a senior dog after 7
or 8 years and make the necessary changes to their nutrition
Tricky being big
Large dogs can have unique environmental issues due to their
size. While not all giants are high-energy, most need space to
exercise every day and enough room in the home to move around.
If you are considering adopting a large dog, make sure there is
space available for them to run (in a field or dog park) and
make sure you have time to give them proper exercise. A bored,
couch potato is more likely to become obese, or cause mischief.
If left alone, a toy like the Kong Bounzer can keep a giant dog
satiated for hours.
Hip dysplasia and arthritis—hardest on large dogs
Hip dysplasia is a problem most commonly seen in large and
giant breed dogs. It is a hereditary disorder, causing
malformed hips, which eventually leads to intense pain and
often osteoarthritis. You
can try to reduce the risk of purchasing a dog with hip
dysplasia by learning more about the dog's parents and checking
hip certificates, but sometimes it is unavoidable. For large
dogs, it can be extremely painful, and may not be diagnosed
until major damage has taken place. You can decrease the risk
of suffering for your big buddy by taking a few precautions:
Puppy portion control:
Overfeeding in puppies has been linked to abnormal bone
and joint growth. Work with your vet to determine the proper
nutrition for your puppy (even if they seem to want to eat
Keep weight in healthy range:
Being overweight increases the likelihood of hip
dysplasia and additional pain. Keeping your dog in
a healthy weight
range will improve mobility, and if your dog is
diagnosed with hip dysplasia, losing weight is the best first
step to treatment.
Excessive exercise, especially for a puppy, is hard on
these big dogs' joints. Make sure they get out but aren't
doing vigorous activity on hard surfaces.
Knowledge is power:
Learn more about hip
dysplasia symptoms and treatments for your pooch.
Other health concerns
Certain large breeds have an increased likelihood of health
problems, such as epilepsy, ulcers, or cancer. Learn more about
your dog's breed and keep an eye out for symptoms of the most
common health problems. The sooner you catch hip dysplasia or
an illness, the better it can be treated.
More on Caring for Your Dog
Arthritis in Dogs and Cats
The Behavior of a Doberman
How to Give a Pet Oral
This information is for informational purposes only and
is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or
diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to
your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed
veterinarian for accuracy.