When choosing the right dog for you or your family, some people know from the beginning that they want a BIG dog. And I’m not talking about a typical large breed dog like your Labradors or your German Shepherds. I’m talking about the giant breeds.
Many extra-large dogs are some of the most loyal and smart companions out there. And surprisingly, they don’t always require a ton of exercise either. For people who want a big dog, a giant breed might be a better fit than you’d think!
Today, we’re going to give you a rundown of some of the largest dog breeds available. We’ll look at the most popular so-called ‘giant breeds’, and we’ll talk a little bit about the special care these gentle giants require.
With this info, you’ll be able to decide which of the largest dog breeds is right for your pack.
What is a giant breed dog?
When you start to research the largest dog breeds available, you’re likely to stumble across the term giant breed. Interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast definition as to what constitutes an extra-large or “giant breed” vs. a regular large breed dog.
However, most sources agree that a giant breed dog has an average weight that is over 99 lbs. Some other sources say giant breeds have an average weight of over 75 lbs. Either way, that’s one big dog!
Giant breeds are most often classified by weight, but these canines are often quite tall, too, with shoulder heights between 24 and 32 inches!
6 of the biggest and best giant breed dogs
Great Danes are one of the most iconic giant breed dogs out there. Hello, Scooby-Doo! When you meet one, you’re unlikely to forget them. They’re often likened to smaller ponies more than other dogs. But this breed is one of the sweetest, gentlest, loyal, and regal ones out there. In fact, their gentle-nature was specifically bred into them.
Great Danes measure in at a whopping 32 inches tall, and can weigh up to 180 lbs! These guys need some exercise and stimulation but don’t require the vigorous exercise of regular large working breed dogs.
Newfoundlands are very large, furry dogs that are known for their calm demeanor and strength. Despite their size, Newfoundlands make excellent therapy dogs because of their gentle and docile nature. They are the epitome of the term “gentle giant”.
Newfoundlands can weigh anywhere from 100-150 lbs, with males being on the higher end of that range. They are a working breed which means they are quite smart and easily trained. They were bred as water dogs that are strong and can hold up well to cold temperatures. Your Newfoundland will love swimming!
Mastiffs are another breed that is as big as they come, with weight ranges between 175-190 lbs for both males and females! They have a short flat coat that needs minimal grooming or care. They’re also known for being very laid back and sweet-natured.
Mastiffs don’t require much exercise, a few walks around the block will do it. However, this breed is highly social and will want and need mental stimulation from you. They were bred to be guard dogs, so it’s especially important to socialize your Mastiff to avoid extreme guarding.
Saint Bernards top the weight charts at 260 lbs! These dogs, like other giants on this list, are constantly described as gentle, calm and friendly. They are born ‘helpers’ and have been associated with many great rescues and work in cold weather and deep snow.
Their easy-going temperament makes them a great dog for families with young kids. They easily adapt to the high and unpredictable energy babies and children bring to a home. They are also smart and eager to please which makes training easier.
Great Pyrenees are giant, fluffy dogs, most often known for being all white. However, they also come in tan, grey, and red. They were originally bred to be livestock guardians, and have a confident, fearless and strong-willed nature.
For these reasons, it’s important to socialize your Pyr when they are a puppy and work on obedience skills. However, when not guarding, they’re gentle and affectionate, which makes them a good family dog, too.
Great Pyrenees weigh in between 90-120 pounds, but all of the extra fluff makes them appear even bigger!
Irish Wolfhounds are giant dogs that earn top scores when it comes to friendliness and making good family dogs. They’re great with kids and super friendly towards other dogs, too. Because they are a hound, they are known for their strong prey drive which can make it challenging to have them off-leash in some cases.
Irish Wolfhounds have a pretty short life expectancy at only 6-8 years, and due to their impressive height (the tallest of all breeds) they are predisposed to a wide range of health risks. It’s important to be aware of these characteristics before adding a Wolfhound to your pack.
Caring for giant breed dogs
Like with any breed, choosing to get a giant breed dog comes with some unique challenges and care needs. Here’s a rundown of what to expect when you own a giant breed dog and how to care for them:
- They may need a special diet. When picking a dog food for your giant breed dog, there are some special considerations. Ideally, you’ll find a formula designed for especially big breeds because they have extra nutrients to support joint health and weight maintenance
- Their life expectancies are shorter than other breeds. Of course, there is a range across the different types of giant breed dogs, but generally, their life expectancies are in the 6-10 year range
- They are at a higher risk for certain health issues including arthritis, hypothyroidism, dysplasia, bloat, and twisted stomach
- They may not require as much exercise as other breeds. While this isn’t a blanket statement, many of the giant breeds don’t need an exceptional amount of exercise the way many large breeds do. Most are happy with a few brisk walks a day and some basic play
- They need a lot of space. While this might seem obvious, it’s a serious consideration! It’s true that many extra-large breeds don’t require a ton of exercise, but the amount of space they take up in the home is significant
- Training and socialization are especially important. With a dog this big it’s important that you have good voice control over them and that they have some basic manners. Having your Boston Terrier jump on everyone who comes to your home is one thing—but your Great Dane? Not so much. Same goes for things like begging and going on furniture
So, what do you think? Is one of the largest dog breeds right for you? Do you already own a giant breed dog?
We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below!