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What you need to know about giant dog breeds

Black great Dane next to owner advice
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Is bigger always better? Does size really matter? Let's find out by taking a closer look at giant dog breeds.

By Ashley Murphy

Updated on the 24/01/2020, 11:35

A short history of giant dog breeds

Although there are no official classifications, giant dog breeds usually weigh over 110 pounds, although Zorba, an old English mastiff, clocked the scales at an incredible 314pounds (Anthony Joshua, the current heavyweight boxing champion of the world, weighs just 249 pounds.) Other notable big dogs include Zeus, a Great Dane from Michigan, who measures a staggering 7ft 4in when stood on his hind legs - that's over a foot taller than Anthony Joshua.

Traditionally used as working or guard dogs, giant dog breeds need plenty of exercise and stimulation. They're not for the faint-hearted or amateur dog owners. These are big, powerful creatures that need the right kind of training and discipline. Given that, they'll be fantastic companions. Without it, you’re going to have a real battle on your hands (and my money is on the dog!)

The more recognisable giant dog breed representative species include the Great Dane, Mastiffs, and St Bernards.

Giant dog breed lifespans

It's unfortunate, but many giant dog breeds tend to have shorter lifespans. For example, a 150-pound Great Dane lives for around about 7 years, while 9-pound poodle is likely to live for up to twice as long. Although experts have not discovered the definitive cause, many think that larger breeds age quicker and therefore tend to suffer from age-related symptoms much sooner than younger ones. Studies led by Dr Cornelia Krass found that for every extra 4.4pounds of body weight, a dog's life expectancy shortens by 1 month. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule. American Alsatians, Dobermans, Malamutes, and the Anatolian Shepherd all have an average life expectancy of between 14-15 years.

Common health problems in giant dog breeds

Like all breeds, giant dogs are susceptible to certain health issues. Some of these big dogs can weigh in excess of 150 pounds and all that pressure can affect the joins. Common issues include osteoarthritis, hip problems, and wobblers syndrome, a condition caused pressure on the spinal cord. Because of their big barrel-like bodies, giant dogs breeds like the Great Dane and Weimaraners are susceptible to bloating. Their huge stomachs fill up with gas, which can lead to Gastric Dilations Volvulus, or GDV. This is very serious and will need immediate medical treatment.

Do big dogs eat a lot?

They certainly eat a lot more than smaller dogs! According to the experts at petmd, toy and smaller dogs require between 139calories - 576 calories per day, while big dogs like the Great Dane need up to 2500 calories per day (which is the same as a fully grown man) The guidelines will vary depending on the giant breed. Some are far more active than others and their diet will need to be adjusted accordingly. Either way, feeding a big dog costs more money. Due to the potential health issues, its advised you opt for high-quality organic dog food or fresh produce. Again, this is an extra is you’ll need to consider. Some owners spend up to a £100 a month feeding their big dogs.

Do all big dogs need lots of space and exercise?

It depends on the breed, although I don't think anyone would advise keeping a big dog in a tiny one bedroom flat. Still, you don’t need to own acres of land to take care of a giant breed. Giant dogs like the bull mastiff and great Dane don't require too much exercise, although both will need to stretch their legs at least once a day. Big working dogs, like the Belgian Malinois and Weimaraners, need lots of regular physical activity. These were bred to hunt and track wild animals and these powerful dogs are brimming with energy and enthusiasm. A malinois needs at least 90mins exercise per day, and preferably spilt over 2-3 walks.

Are big dogs aggressive?

Unfortunately, some big dogs have gained a bit of bad reputation. Their large and fearless appearances probably haven't helped matters, but much aggressive behaviour stems from poor training and socialisation.  The right kind of training is crucial in developing happy and safe dogs, no matter how big or small they are. However, given the size and power of giant dogs breeds, owning one comes with extra responsibility. Remember, some of these breeds are used by police and military services all around the world. Owning a giant dog breed can be very rewarding, but you’ll need to put in the work.

Why choose a big dog?

Despite their massive frames, many of these giant dogs breeds are big softies. Train them right and you’ll have a huge cuddly companion who'll love you forever.They're also a great choice for people who like to stay active. Big dogs will run and play for hours so you can see who gets tired first - you or the dog. They’ll also natural protectors, making them a great guard dog for you and your family.

Remember, giant dog breeds are big, powerful and full of energy. If you've never owned a dog before, they may not be the right choice for you. But if you're still committed to getting a big dog, make sure you do plenty of research on the breed your interested in.