Traditionally, big dogs were used as working or guard dogs. 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.
The more recognisable giant dog breed representative species include the Great Dane, the Mastiff, and the St Bernard. Let’s discover 10 of the biggest dog breeds in the world.
15 of the biggest dog breeds
A giant dog breed is a dog which reached gigantic proportions. Some dog breeds can weigh up to 99 pounds and measure up to 2.7 ft. Some big dog breeds can vary in size. Breeds like the Great Dane, the St.Bernard, the Irish Wolfhound or the Newfoundland, are considered giant dog breeds. They are a few more, let’s find out.
The Irish Wolfhound is actually one of the tallest dogs in the world. They can reach up to 32 inches. They were originally bred to hunt wolves (hence the name), and then used in war. These strong dogs are softies at heart and make great companions.
The English Mastiff can weigh up to 200 pounds and reach 27-35 inches, making it one of the biggest dog breeds. They were bred for war purpose but now prefer to snuggle up on the sofa with its owner. This dog breed is also used as a police, military and security dog because of their intelligence.
Dogue de Bordeaux
The Dogue de Bordeaux can weigh up to 110 pounds and can go up to 24 to 26 inches. This dog breed is known for its wrinkly face. They were bred back in France in the 12th century to hunt large games, drive cattle and they were also used for war. The Dogue de Bordeaux is extremely loyal and loving, but does need a firm and consistent training as they can be stubborn.
The Newfoundland can reach up to 29 inches. This powerful dog is sweet-tempered, very intelligent and most of the time used as a lifeguard because of their swimming skills.
Do you know why St. Bernard is called that? It is an attribute to their angelic temperament. The Saint Bernard was originally bred in Switzerland to protect Swiss monasteries, because of its large size (28 to 30 inches). Soon, people realised the incredible abilities to search and rescue. This softy is one of the most loved big dog breeds.
Did you know that the Great Dane was a cross between an English Mastiff and an Irish Wolfhound? It comes as no surprise that the Great Dane is one of the tallest breeds (30 to 34 inches tall). This German breed was used to hunt large game like. Great Danes are known for their soft and playful natures.
This ball of fluff is a cross between a Saint Bernard, a Newfoundland and a Pyrenean Mountain Dog. This big dog breed can reach up to 30 inches tall. The Leonberg dog is very smart and really strong. They were actually bred for tracking and herding. However, the Leonberg dog will need a firm and consistent training. If so, they will make an excellent family dog.
It is believed that the Anatolian Shepherd is one of the oldest breeds ever. Indeed, they were referenced in some of the earliest books of the Bible. They can reach up to 32 inches high and compared to other big dog breeds they have quite a long lifespan with an average of 13 to 15 years. This smart dog is extremely protective. They have a strong personality and will need to be trained by an experienced owner.
The Neapolitan Mastiff can reach up to 31 inches tall and can weigh up to 154 pounds. This intelligent and quiet dog was bred to guard homes in the South of Italy. Their appearance is quite unique: they have loose skin, which was designed to protect them from attacks. This dog breed loves human contact and makes a great family addition.
The Caucasian Shepherd is an active dog and needs a lot of exercise. This dog breed can be over 30 inches tall and were used to guard flocks and herds against predators. They are stubborn and would be best suited for experienced owners. They can also be quite territorial, so will need to be socialised early. With proper training and socialisation, the Caucasian Shepherd are a great addition to the family.
The very elegant dog can reach up to 27 inches and weigh up to 60 pounds. Because of its long coat, the Afghan Hound will need to be groomed by a professional. This dog breed is very independent and can sometimes be difficult to train.
Bernese Mountain dog
The Bernese Mountain dog is known for being one of the friendliest dogs in the world. However, this dog’s size and energy can be sometimes tricky to handle for first time owners. The Bernese Mountain dog can reach up to 28 inches tall and weigh up to 115 pounds. These big softies are a great addition to the family.
These strong dogs can weigh up to 100 pounds. The Great Pyrenees is a big softy, who thanks to its waterproof double coat can endure rough conditions. These dogs are very calm, except when they have to protect sheeps.
The Belgian Tervuren is very smart and energetic. They need a lot of mental and physical activities to be fully happy. They can reach up to 26.5 inches and weigh up to 70 pounds. The Belgian Tervuren is very alert and observant making him a great watchdog.
This giant dog breed is known for its guardian abilities. The Cane Corso, also known as the Italian Mastiff, is extremely loyal, alert and very confident. They can weigh up to 100 pounds and are mostly built with muscles, which is most of the time very intimidating for any intruders.
What is the biggest dog in the world Guinness World Records?
A Great Dane called Freddy was crowned the world's tallest dog in 2017 and was officially recognised by Guinness World Records. When Freddy stands on his feet, he measures seven-feet, that's three inches taller than an average professional basketball player. Freddy has actually reached a new world record, being the oldest Great Dane when turning 8 years old.
What is the personality of a big dog?
Big dogs are very friendly and love nothing more than being surrounded by all the members of its family. Of course, it all depends on the breed, but in most cases, it will be easy for a big dog to fit into the family. Most of the time big dogs don’t realise how big they are and will try to squeeze in tiny places just to be near its family.
These mild mannered dogs often look a little goofy, but they are in fact very intelligent and easy to train. Because of their origins, they tend to be very protective especially towards children. They are actually great with children, it doesn’t bother them to have noisy kids running around them, on the contrary, they love human company so much. Big dogs also love hugs.
Big dogs tend to be less afraid of humans because of their size. They are therefore more friendly, curious and approachable, even though they can be sometimes intimidating to humans.
What health problems can big dog breeds have?
It is a widely known fact that big dogs do not live as long as little dogs. They are more prone to terminal illnesses than their smaller kin, and they seem genetically predisposed to live no longer than about eight years.
The causes of this premature mortality are not entirely clear. Early death may be due to the high rate of physical growth seen in big dogs or it may be something linked to congenital defects.
Let’s have a look at five illnesses that big dogs are prone to:
- Cardiomyopathy: Dilated cardiomyopathy is a degenerative disease of the heart. It is a common illness of large breeds. A big dog with acute cardiomyopathy will breathe heavily and quickly.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is a common ailment of the large breeds perhaps due to the speed at which their bodies grow when they are younger. The main symptoms of arthritis in a big dog are stiffness of joints (which affects mobility) and pain when trying to move limbs.
- Cervical Spondylomyelopathy: The condition is also called ‘Wobbler Syndrome’ due to its effect on the gait of the dog.
- GDV: Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV) is a serious disorder of the stomach. It is brought on by the stomach’s twisting; if this twist is prolonged and untreated, the blood supplies to the stomach and spleen are stopped and death can soon follow. It is believed that the deep and narrow chest of the big breeds creates just enough room for the gastric strangulation to occur.
- Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a condition that is caused by the incomplete excretion of the dog’s thyroid hormone. If untreated it brings on symptoms that include bradycardia (slow heartbeat), lethargy, hair loss, weight gain and skin infections.
Most of these diseases are genetic malformations. As such, the only treatments worthwhile to have are those which prevent further worsening of the disease or treat pain and discomfort caused by the disease. Don’t hesitate to discuss these different diseases with your veterinarian.
Giant dog breeds life expectancy
It's unfortunate, but many giant dog breeds tend to have shorter lifespans. For example, a 150-pound Great Dane lives for around 7 years, while a 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 shortened by 1 month. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule.
Do big dogs eat a lot?
They certainly eat a lot more than smaller dogs! Small dogs require between 139 calories - 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. Make sure you speak to your vet about the food quantity you should give your big dog.
Do all big dogs need lots of space and exercise?
It depends on the breed, although it wouldn’t be advised to keep 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 Bullmastiff or the Great Dane don't require too much exercise, although both will need to stretch their legs at least once a day. Some big dogs will be happy with a long walk every day (at least 30min), while others will need more physical activities to be fully happy.
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 a happy and safe dog, no matter how big or small they are.
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 should I 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 be 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 you're interested in.