Most dogs are pretty lovable, but there’s something particularly appealing about extra-large dog breeds. Among other things, giant dogs are great for snuggling, they can help you feel safe, and they tend to interact with their families in ways that smaller breeds can’t.
But while most extra-large dogs make great pets, some are clearly better suited for family life than others. So, it is important to be selective when choosing your new dog. We’ll help you make your decision below, by detailing 10 of the best extra-large dog breeds available. But first, let’s talk about the characteristics and traits that typify the best breeds.
Different people value different things when picking a dog, so breed-to-breed comparisons are obviously a bit subjective. However, there are a few criteria that are pretty universally desirable.
And while few dogs possess every one of these traits, most of the breeds we identified as the best exhibit the following:
People have varying definitions for words like “large” and “extra-large,” when discussing dogs. There is no single authority that establishes a consistent definition for these terms, but we consider large dogs to be between 45 and 90 pounds, while extra-large or giant breeds should weigh more than 90, and typically more than 100.
Some females (who are generally smaller than males) may not eclipse this threshold, but if most members of a breed reach the 90- to 100-pound mark, we consider them to be extra-large.
Everyone wants a friendly dog – that’s kind of the point of adding a pet to your family in the first place. But, a friendly temperament is extremely important for extra-large breeds, given the potential danger they can represent. Fortunately, the vast majority of large breeds are incredibly friendly and affectionate with their families.
Nevertheless, some dog breeds are typically friendly with their owners, yet aloof or suspicious of strangers. Such dogs require early socialization so that they learn to distinguish between threatening strangers and harmless ones.
Nobody wants a dim dog who isn’t able to learn routines or interact with their owners in rewarding ways. Fortunately, most extra-large and giant dog breeds are pretty sharp, and they tend to figure things out and learn quickly.
Note that intelligent dogs can become bored or frustrated more quickly than dogs with less brain power, so be sure that you keep smart breeds well exercised and properly stimulated. Make sure you provide them with plenty of toys and spend lots of time playing with them.
While many people assume that intelligent dogs are always easy to train, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some very intelligent breeds simply aren’t interested in pleasing their owners the way others are, which can make it difficult to teach them basic obedience commands.
Experts are often able to train such breeds, but the average pet owner will struggle to do so. As such, we tried to include only easily trained breeds below.
Unfortunately, some dog breeds characteristically suffer from more health problems than others do. This can not only cause your pet to suffer, it may shorten his lifespan too. Health problems will also hit you in the wallet, as you are forced to pay for expensive veterinary services and medications.
This doesn’t mean that the breeds listed below never suffer from health problems – all breeds do. However, we tried to avoid those breeds who are well-known for the health problems they experience.
All dogs need plenty of exercise, but some of the very large breeds are especially energetic. This can cause problems for even the most active families, so we’ve tried to restrict our list to those breeds who have reasonable energy levels and exercise requirements.
These breeds will still require plenty of long walks and regular playtime at the park, but they won’t require you to go on a 5-mile hike every morning to prevent them from destroying your home.
Below, we’ve compiled the 10 best extra-large dog breeds. Note that these breeds exhibit a range of personalities, grooming needs, health histories and other traits, so be sure to select a dog that matches the needs of you and your family.
A strong contender for the title of world’s largest breed, the Great Dane is a gigantic dog that often stands 34-inches-high at the shoulder. Originally developed for hunting boar and other large game, the Great Dane is an imposing beast that has also been used in guarding contexts throughout history. However, despite their intimidating appearance, most Great Danes are gentle, patient and wonderful with kids. In fact, they’re some of the most sensitive dogs in the world.
While they don’t have especially high exercise needs, you’ll need a large home with a big yard to keep a Great Dane happy. Great Danes are quite handsome, but they shed and drool constantly, which some owners find off-putting. However, they are easy to maintain; regular baths and nail-trimmings are all the grooming they need. While they are easy to train, they’re not particularly great for novices, thanks to their extraordinary size.
Another one of the world’s biggest breeds, the Irish Wolfhound is a tall and leggy dog with a shaggy coat and sweet personality. However, their slightly goofy demeanor belies their dark origins: They were originally bred to be dogs of war. Nevertheless, the modern Irish Wolfhound is a fantastic, loving and happy-go-lucky companion, who befriends everyone and is always ready to play. Irish wolfhounds are also great with kids, although their large size and rambunctious tendencies mean supervision will always be required.
Irish wolfhounds need a large yard with plenty of room to roam. You’ll want to use caution when introducing these dogs to other pets, as they have a very well-developed prey drive. They rarely drool nor shed in great quantities, and they’re usually rather quiet dogs, who don’t see the need to bark at every squirrel or passing car.
The Newfoundland is a massive breed, with a shaggy coat that makes them appear even bigger than they truly are. This coat – which was developed in part to allow the dogs to work long hours dragging fishing nets – makes them very well-suited for cold climates, but it can cause problems for dogs living in warm locations. It can also cause significant problems for those with allergies, as it jettisons hair by the handful. However, unlike many other breeds with long, fluffy coats, Newfoundlands don’t require very much grooming – just bathe them regularly and give them a brushing once a week or so.
Newfoundlands are very friendly dogs, who usually bond strongly with their families. They’re great with kids, and they usually get along satisfactorily with other pets. They’re also a pretty laid-back breed, who doesn’t require that much exercise or stimulation to remain happy. But they love to learn commands and tricks, and they’re usually quite easy to train – even by novices.
Another dog of epic proportions, the English mastiff is a handsome and confident breed, who turns heads wherever he goes. Loving with his family but suspicious and aloof around strangers, the mastiff is a very protective breed, who’s often been used as a guard dog throughout history. However, unlike some other working breeds, the English mastiff is a bit more laid-back and doesn’t need a daily job to remain happy. In fact, many are content to lay about on the couch for most of the day.
English mastiffs can make good pets for experienced owners, but they present a few challenges, which prospective owners are wise to note. For example, English mastiffs produce copious quantities of drool and shed pretty constantly, so they’re a bad choice for owners who can’t deal with a bit of a mess. Also, they aren’t especially easy to train (they lack the people-pleasing instincts many more easily trained breeds exhibit), which is troubling, given their large size.
Standing up to 30-inches-tall at the shoulder, Saint Bernards are incredibly big and endearing dogs, who have gentle personalities and impressive work ethics. But despite their desire to complete the tasks with which they’re charged, Saint Bernards are pretty low-key dogs who don’t require a ton of exercise or space. They’ll even adapt to apartment life, as long as they still get a few long walks each day. Just be aware that they shed and drool excessively, which can cause problems in small living spaces.
Saint Bernards typically get along well with everyone and everything they meet, including children, strangers and other pets. They’re quite intelligent, but they aren’t always easy to train. Nevertheless, given their sweet dispositions and calm personalities, they can make reasonably good pets for first-time owners. It is important to remember that these dogs were bred to work in the Swiss Alps, so they feel right at home in the snow, but they’re very poorly suited for warm climates.
Bred to resemble the sheep they’re often charged with protecting, Great Pyrenees are clad in fluffy white coats that make these already-colossal dogs look even bigger than they are. And while these dogs are still used to guard livestock, many people also keep them as family pets too. They aren’t a good choice for first-time dog owners, but experienced owners will often find them very rewarding. Great Pyrenees won’t be happy if raised in an apartment or small home, and they should really be provided with a spacious yard to roam and patrol.
Great Pyrenees were bred to work independently, guarding their charges from wolves and other predators. This means they don’t shadow their owners the way some other dogs do, nor do they find it necessary to seek their owner’s counsel before acting. They’re usually affectionate with their families, but they won’t hesitate to wander off if given the chance. This kind of independent nature makes the Great Pyrenees a challenging dog to train.
Weighing up to 170 pounds, Leonbergers are huge animals, who create quite an impression. Given that Leonbergers were created by combining three other breeds on our list (the Saint Bernard, Great Pyrenees and Newfoundland), it’s no surprise to see them included on the list too.
They’re as friendly with their families as any of these other breeds are, but they’re a bit more guarded with strangers and other dogs than Newfoundlands or Saint Bernards are. However, like some of these other breeds, Leonbergers are not very easy to train, despite being pretty sharp dogs.
Leonbergers have very thick, fluffy coats, which shed profusely; so, allergy sufferers will likely want to select a different breed for their home. You’ll also need to brush them frequently, as their coats will tend to matt and collect dirt and debris.
A large yard is mandatory for these energetic dogs, who’ll quickly become destructive if deprived of enough room to roam. Daily walks won’t cut it for the Leonberger– this is a breed that needs to be able to run, jump and play whenever the mood strikes.
Rottweilers are famous for their imposing appearance, bravery and protective instincts, but their affectionate, loyal and loving personalities are what make them such wonderful dogs. Rottweilers bond very intensely with their families and do not tolerate being separated from their people for long periods of time. Rottweilers are typically very friendly with non-family members who they’ve previously met, but they’re quite suspicious of strangers and will not hesitate to protect their owners from perceived threats.
An ancient working breed, the Rottweiler is only happy when provided with at least one hour of exercise each day. These dogs will quickly become bored, frustrated and anxious if inadequately stimulated or cooped up inside for long periods of time, so this is only a good choice for owners willing to go out and play with their dog on a daily basis. Rottweilers are incredibly intelligent dogs, who can be challenging to control, so they are poorly suited for most novice dog owners.
Lumbering, loose-skinned and large, the Neapolitan mastiff is a visually impressive breed, which exudes confidence and power. Most weigh between 100 and 150 pounds, but the largest individuals approach or exceed the 200-pound mark. But despite all of their heft, Neapolitan mastiffs are some of the gentlest dogs around and they’re usually great with kids (however, they don’t always get along well with other dogs, so use caution when adding one of these dogs to a home already occupied by other pets).
More sensitive than you’d expect such a formidable animal to be, the Neapolitan mastiff does not respond well to harsh training methods and requires an experienced owner, who can establish a firm, but loving family hierarchy. It is also important to realize that these dogs produce buckets of drool on a more-or-less constant basis, so they aren’t a great choice for neat-and-tidy owners or allergy sufferers.
Although many female black Russian terriers remain around the 90-pound mark, most members of the breed are at least 100 pounds -- many even exceed 125 pounds in weight. Steadfast and protective at heart, black Russian terriers are eager guard dogs, with impressive work ethics – to be happy, they must have a daily “job.” However, unlike true terriers (black Russian terriers were created by crossing at least 17 different breeds) who are often quite yappy, black Russian terriers rarely bark without good reason.
People-oriented, loving and gentle with their families, these dogs will not tolerate being left alone for long periods of time. They are also incredibly intelligent animals, who can be difficult for first-time owners to control and train. But, experienced owners who are prepared to devote the time and energy these wonderful dogs require, will surely appreciate black Russian terriers.
At this point, it should be easy to see that each of the 10 extra-large dog breeds listed above have plenty of great traits, which can make them wonderful pets. However, some of the traits that make a given breed perfect for one family may make it a disaster for another. So, as always, it is important to select a breed that suits your family and living situation well.
Are you the proud owner of one of the giant dog breeds listed above? Tell us what we neglected to mention about them – including the good and the bad. Your comments may help another prospective owner make the best choice for his or her family.
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Neapolitan mastiff and black Russian terrier photos from Wikipedia.
Irish wolfhound photo by Airwolfhound via Visualhunt.com.