Five Giant Dog Breeds That You Will Love
What is not to love about a big dog? They slobber a lot, shed in great masses since they have so much hair, eat more than the kids, and take up so much space that they need their own rooms. (Actually giant dogs usually like to be around company, so all they really need are their own sofas and beds.)
Giant dogs can also break your heart. They suffer devastating health problems, cost a fortune to take care of, and live short lives.
Of course, they wouldn´t break your heart if they weren´t so great.
All giant dogs are great choices, but which five are the best?
Newfies are number one, and there aren´t many dog owners that would disagree. (Well, actually there are. Almost everyone thinks that their favorite dog breed is the best.)
I don´t think they are number one because they are the biggest. They usually only get up to 70 or 80 kilos (150-175 pounds) but there are plenty out there who are heavier. It isn´t just because they are champion droolers, although they are. It isn´t just because they are champion shedders, although they are.
So why are Newfies number one? Part of it has to do with their willingness to jump into the water and save a life. They have excellent lung capacity, a coat that is almost waterproof with webbed paws that allow them to swim faster, a powerful breaststroke, and of course a big heart.
They´re so good at swimming and so likely to jump in and save a kid that many mothers are willing to trust their children to a Newfie. They have even been used in crossbreeding programs that hope to spread this great characteristic to other breeds.
Newfoundlands do have some serious health problems, like hip dysplasia and heart disease. Only about 38% of them even make it their tenth birthday.
During that time, of course, you will have one of the best giant dog breeds.
St. Bernards are probably the most well known of all the giant dogs, and they are giant, around 70-120 kilos (150-250 pounds).
Everyone pictures them trudging through the snow with a flask of brandy tied to their neck, but they haven´t been involved in that type of rescue work for many years; they never really carried flasks and the last recorded case of a rescue in the snow was in 1897.
They are a lot more likely to participate in weight pulling sports now, or do their duty as great companion dogs.
Or maybe do their duty as guard dogs. They have a deep bark, and almost everyone remembers Cujo. They are great with kids but if not socialized are a lot of work to handle.
Like a lot of giant dogs, St. Bernards are prone to hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Some of them have eyelid problems, epilepsy, and heart disease. St. Bernards are even affected by an inherited form of bone cancer.
They probably live about 8 to 10 years, but only about 26% of them live until 10. They do drool, of course, but that is just because they haven´t figured out how to open the flasks and get to the brandy.
One of my favorite giant dogs is a working breed, not really bred to be kept as a companion, not really meant to be confined to a house. These giants (over 50 kilos, or 110 pounds) have been running around on the slopes of the Pyrenees mountains guarding sheep for hundreds of years. So why is the Great Pyrenees so great?
The Great Pyrenees does his job, just like all the other livestock guard dogs. A litter can be born in a barn, raised with the lambs, and then turn into a low maintenance dog that provides a special ambiance to the farm.
They can be great with kids on the farm, great with the stock they protect and other animals on the farm, and great with the farmer.
But they can also be trained as companion dogs, if you really must!
I like Great Pyrenees because of the dog´s resistant attitude to obedience training. Dr. Coren rated them number 64 out of 69 breeds tested for his book The Intelligence of Dogs. They are not stupid—they know their job is to guard livestock and commands like “sit” and “stay” are frivolous.
Yes, they drool, but when they slobber on the field it is not much of a problem. Yes, they do bark at night when performing their “rounds”. And yes, they need to be brushed and groomed if kept around the house. Their coats are thick, and if you force them to do something (instead of fulfilling their chosen occupation, which is lie around and do nothing) they can overheat.
They also have some problems like hip dysplasia and bloat. Most of their health problems are less serious, like ear infections and skin problems, and they usually live to be about 10 or 11 years old.
They are usually Great the whole time.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs are great farm dogs. They are large enough to pull a cart, smart enough to bring the cows home, and docile enough to look after the kids.
(They do need to be socialized, like any breed of dog. Training a dog this big is also a good idea.)
They are giant, but not as big as a St. Bernard. Males usually weigh up to 50 kilos (110 pounds) and females just a little less. They do look just as solid, however, just like all the dogs on this list.
Bernese Mountain Dogs have a lot of health problems, especially for farm dogs. Almost half of them die from cancers like bone cancer, lymphosarcoma, fibrosarcoma, and mast cell tumors. They also have problems like hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament ruptures, and arthritis. The breed also has several inherited eye diseases.
They only live to about 7, and only about 28% even make it to 10. Part of that may be due to the fact that they can become lame when quite young. If they were a small dog, the owners would be able to handle it.
A giant dog is a lot to move around. Berners are worth it.
This calm giant is almost as famous as the St. Bernard. He is famous for his huge build (anywhere from 70-110 kilos, or 150-240 pounds), his massive head, his good nature, and his black mask.
The Mastiff may not be the tallest giant breed, but he is definitely the biggest.
One English Mastiff holds the record for the heaviest dog. He weighed 156 kilos (343 pounds) as an adult in 1989, and was well over 2 meters long! (8 ¼ feet). Before that time the Mastiff almost died out, but they are now an almost popular dog breed. (Well, at least considering their size!)
Like most big dogs, the Mastiff has some serious health problems. They are prone to hip dysplasia, bloat (twisted stomach), thyroid problems, and some eye diseases. Fast growth is normal so they need only mild exercise when young.
Some Mastiffs also tend to become obese. They need a soft dog bed so as not to get hard calluses and fluid pockets (hygromas) on the elbows.
Mastiffs live about 7 years, but sometimes make it to 10 or 11. If you want to read about some suggestions that might help you keep your dog around longer, read Dog Breeds with Short Lifespans.
Most of these dogs have similar ancestry and act a lot alike. They are probably all descended from the Tibetan Mastiff, and have been brought in to cross with each other when their numbers have been threatened.
If you like what you hear about these dogs and are interested in finding one be sure to call your local animal shelter first. Some people obtain one of these giants without being aware of how much extra it is going to cost in food and medical bills. They end up surrendering the dog to the humane society so a few are always available.
You can also check Petfinder.com. They will give you an idea of the giants available in the states closest to you. If you are willing to get an adult you should search for a breed rescue, and if you want a puppy you can try to go to a dog show and chatting with some of the breeders that have the type of dog you like.
Do not order a puppy off of the internet. You will end up supporting a puppy mill and a puppy shipping and warehouse operations.
Are you ready to have your heart broken?
Coming up with a list of the five best is not easy. There are a lot of great dogs that aren´t on here, like the Great Dane, a popular dog among my German neighbors, and the Irish Wolfhound, one of my favorites.
I would really like all of these dogs to live longer and stay healthy. I do not have any secrets to tell you, but I do encourage you to research how to help your dog live longer.
More About Dogs . . .
- Five Great Low Maintenance Dog Breeds
Are you looking for a low maintenance breed of dog? Here are five dog breeds that all need basic care, but are also good at taking care of themselves.
- Five Best Dog Breeds for Women Living Alone
Do you live alone and need a good companion to protect you? Here are five great choices.
- Five Dog Breeds For People That Like to Be Alone
If you are in search of the solitary life you should consider one of these dogs. Want to keep a breed of dog that really will guard your home, even from the meter reader? Try one of these five!
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Dr Mark