Your Large Breed Dog Everything You Need to Know

BY | February 15 | COMMENTS PUBLISHED BY
Your Large Breed Dog
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Owning a large or giant breed dog is very different than owning a small dog. They can be a beautiful addition to your home, or a bringer of chaos, if you aren't a careful pet parent. Here's what you need to know.

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 intruders.

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 Dalmatians, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, and giant breed dogs are easy to recognize, including Great Danes, 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 big dog.

Keeping Your Large or Giant Breed Healthy

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.

Large Dog Food and Nutrition

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.

Training Your Large Dog

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.

Grooming for Your Large Dog

Washing a dog can be hard enough, but combine that with 120 pounds of love and a double-coatโ€”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.

The Best Large Dog Supplies

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 dog healthy.

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 about Bernese Mountain Dogs, โ€œ3 years a puppy, 3 years a good dog, 3 years an old dog, and everything else is a gift.โ€ 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 and lifestyle.

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 arthritisโ€”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 all day).

  • 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.

  • Moderate exercise:

    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 Pinscher
How to Give a Pet Oral Medications

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.

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