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Most dogs are pretty lovable, but there’s something particularly appealing about extra-large dog breeds, especially huge dog breeds.
Among other things, extra-large dogs are great for snuggling and help you feel safe. Giant dogs also tend to interact with their families in ways that smaller breeds can’t.
But while most very big 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 giant dog.
We’ll help you make your decision below, by detailing 10 of the best giant dog breeds available.
But first, let’s talk about the characteristics and traits that typify the best extra-large dog breeds.
What are Large Dog Breeds?
Basically, everybody can tell if a dog is large or not when they see it, but what is officially considered as a large dog breed?
Are there specific measurements that can tell whether the dog is large, giant, or maybe medium-sized? Let’s take a look and find out.
Dog Sizing (Small, Medium, Large, Giant Dog Breeds)
At first, what most people don’t know is that various dog sizes have been codified. Basically, to understand what is officially considered to be a large dog breed, we should first understand what dog sizing is. If you have ever wondered, yes, dog sizing exists.
In order for dog breeders to effectively distinguish between dog sizes, they categorized dogs into a few categories. The first three main categories include small, medium, and large dogs.
However, over the years, more categories were added, depending on how tall the dog is, and how much it weighs. Now, we have a few categories, and they are a toy, small, standard (or medium), large, and giant.
Depending on the breeder, more categories are added sometimes, so besides small dogs, we have “really” small dogs. The same applies for large dogs.
So, What is Officially Considered a Large Dog vs. Giant Dog?
For a specific dog to be considered “large,” most consider a minimum weight requirement of at least 45 pounds and have a height of about 25 inches. Then, large breed dogs are differentiated from one another by being split into height and weight maximums. However, among a list of large dog breeds, there are usually two categories — large breeds and giant breeds.
So, what is the difference between a large and giant dog breeds?
Usually, if a dog is more than 90-100 pounds, it is considered to be a giant dog, no matter the height, although dogs with that weight usually have a pretty decent height, too.
Popular Giant Dog Breeds
There is a dizzying array of dog breeds in the world. The American Kennel Club recognizes nearly 170 breeds, while the Fédération Cynologique Internationale — the leading international breed registry — recognizes 340.
However, only a relative handful of these breeds fall into the “giant dog breed” definition established above.
Some of the most popular largest dog breeds include:
- English mastiff
- Cane Corso (Italian mastiff)
- African mastiff (Boerboel)
- Neapolitan mastiff
- Tibetan mastiff
- Irish wolfhound
- Anatolian shepherd
- Presa Canario
- Doberman pinscher
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- Great Dane
- Bernese Mountain dog
- Scottish deerhound
- Russian terrier
- Great Pyrenees
- St. Bernard
- Caucasian shepherd
- Dogo Argentino
This list is far from exhaustive, but it includes most of the popular huge dog breeds that you may be able to purchase from a local breeder. Be sure to check out our list of giant dog breeds for detailed descriptions and images.
It is also important to note that many dogs, which typically fall into the “large” dog breed category, occasionally reach sufficient size to be categorized as “giants.”
This would include German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers and among others. You’ll even notice that some of the dogs discussed here also appear on our complete guide to the best big dog breeds.
Extra-Large Dog Breeds: How to Decide on the Best Huge Dog?
Different people value different things when picking a huge 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 large dog breeds possess every one of these traits, the best giant dog breeds we identified mostly exhibit the following:
Extra-Large Body Size
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.
That being said, we consider big dog breeds to be between 45 and 90 pounds, while extra-large, huge, or giant dog breeds should weigh more than 90, and typically more than 100 pounds.
Some females (who are generally smaller than males) may not eclipse this size. But if most members of a breed reach the 90- to 100-pound mark, we consider them to be an extra-large, or giant dog breed.
Everyone wants a big friendly dog – that’s kind of the point of adding a pet to your family in the first place. A friendly temperament is extremely important for huge dog breeds, given the potential danger they can represent.
Fortunately, the vast majority of large dog breeds are incredibly friendly and affectionate with their families.
Nevertheless, some extra-large 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 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 brainpower, so be sure that you keep smart dog 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 huge dog breeds simply aren’t interested in pleasing their owners the way others are, which can make it difficult to teach them basic dog training 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.
Are you in the process of training your dog? Check out our review on the best electric dog training collars.
Good Health History
Unfortunately, some dog breeds characteristically suffer from more health problems than others do. This not only causes your pet to suffer, but it may also 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.
Reasonable Energy Level
All dogs need plenty of exercise, but some of the extra-large dog breeds are especially energetic.
This can cause problems for even the most active families. As a result, we’ve tried to restrict our list to those giant breeds who have reasonable energy levels and exercise requirements.
These very large breeds will still require plenty of long walks and regular playtime at the park. However, they won’t require you to go on a 5-mile hike every morning to prevent them from destroying your home.
Huge Dog Breeds and Families
Dog owners consider their pets as part of the family. But, when there are small children in the home to think about, it is essential to consider the needs of everyone in the household to ensure everyone remains safe and happy. This is especially important if you want to introduce one of the largest dog breeds to the family.
So, when choosing a dog or puppy for the family, you want to consider your lifestyle. Think about where you live and how much space you have available, including the age of your children.
There are many dog breeds that are patient with younger children, and this includes many large dog breeds.
However, you also want to make sure your new pup has enough room to run and play, and you also want to make sure they have a friendly and loving personality.
Great Danes, for example, are considered gentle giants and often get along well with families that include small children. However, dogs and children should always be supervised – no matter the breed size.
Great Danes are very affectionate as you will learn more about below and they will make a loving and suitable companion for your family.
Another example of an extra-large breed that makes a good family pet are Saint Bernards. They are good with families and well-behaved children. They are often very eager to please which makes the training process go a lot smoother as well.
However, you may want to consider their massive size if you have smaller children at home because they can get excited and knock the children over. No matter what, they are still known to be extremely loving, affectionate, gentle, and tolerant despite their large size.
As long as you take into consideration the needs and lifestyle of your family, you can find a huge dog breed that will fit in nicely and make a loving addition to the family.
10 Best Extra-Large Dog Breeds
Below, we’ve compiled the 10 best giant dog breeds. Note that these huge breeds exhibit a range of personalities, grooming needs, health histories, and other traits.
Accordingly, be sure to select a large dog breed that matches the needs of you and your family.
1. Great Dane
Originally developed for hunting boar and other large game, the Great Dane dog is an imposing presence 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.
2. Irish Wolfhound
Another giant dog breed, 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 huge 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 giant dog 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 large dog 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 big 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 don’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.
4. English Mastiff
Another huge dog of epic proportions, the English Mastiff is a handsome and confident breed, who turns heads wherever he goes.
Although loving with his family, this extra-big breed can be suspicious and aloof around strangers. The mastiff is a very protective breed 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.
5. Saint Bernard
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 giant 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.
6. Great Pyrenees
Bred to resemble the sheep they’re often charged with protecting; Great Pyrenees are big fluffy dogs clad in feathery white coats that make these already massive dogs look even bigger than they are.
And while these super big 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 against 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, the Leonberger dog is a huge dog breed that creates quite an impression.
Given that Leonbergers were created by combining three other breeds on our list (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 giant dog 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 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.
9. Neapolitan Mastiff
Lumbering, loose-skinned and large, the Neapolitan Mastiff is a visually impressive huge dog breed, which exudes confidence and power.
Most weigh between 100 and 150 pounds, but the largest Neapolitan Mastiff dogs approach or exceed the 200-pound mark.
But despite all of their heft, Neapolitan Mastiffs are some of the gentlest very large 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 giant 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.
10. Black Russian Terrier
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 giant black fluffy dogs will not tolerate being left alone for long periods of time.
They are also incredibly intelligent animals and can be difficult for first-time owners to control and train. Experienced owners who are prepared to devote the time and energy these wonderful large dogs require, will surely appreciate black Russian terriers.
SEE ALSO: 10 Big Black Dog Breeds You’ll Love
Caring for Your Giant Dog
Extra-large dogs can weigh over a hundred pounds, which means they need ample room to play and live. Small and cramped spaces are never ideal and will just end up making things uncomfortable for everyone.
Larger dogs often also prove to be a bit clumsy and awkward at times as well, and before they are fully trained, they don’t quite understand the extent of both their size and their strength. It is very likely that they can knock over small kids as well as furniture if there isn’t adequate space available.
Additionally, when it comes time to feed your extra-large dog, you want to provide them with a special large breed dog food formula that will help support their joints and help significantly cut down their risk of developing orthopedic issues later on.
It is also important not to overfeed a large dog either because even just a few excess pounds can cause health issues for larger dog breeds like arthritis.
Finally, you also need to keep up with your super-sized dog’s wellness visits with their veterinarian. These visits should be scheduled one or two times a year to make sure your dog is growing as he should be.
As your larger breed dog begins to approach his senior years, you will want to make the visits twice a year to help catch any potential health problems early on.
The vet can also offer their recommendations on the best kind of supplements you can give your dog. Along with other things, this will help ensure that your large dog’s health is continually supported and maintained as he ages.
Exercise Requirements For the Largest Dog Breeds
All dogs require regular exercise, but the amount of exercise they need varies from one breed to the next. Fortunately, the majority of giant dog breeds require only moderate amounts of exercise, but there are a few exceptions.
Below, we’ve grouped a few of the most popular giant breeds into high-energy and low-energy categories. If your favorite huge dog breed is not listed on either list, assume that it requires a moderate amount of exercise.
High Energy Giant Dog Breeds:
- Alaskan malamute
- Great Dane
- Russian terrier
- Cane Corso
- Great Pyrenees
- Tibetan mastiff
Low Energy Giant Dog Breeds:
You can provide exercise in a number of different ways. Daily walks may suffice for low-energy giant breeds, but high-energy breeds will require long walks and 20 to 60 minutes worth of intense activity every day.
Games of fetch are one of the easiest ways to provide a good workout, but you can also allow your dog to run and chase other dogs at the park (provided that the play is good-natured and all dogs involved are well-socialized).
You could even invest in a dog treadmill if you fear you’ll have trouble providing your dog with enough exercise.
Swimming is another great way to get giant dogs a lot of exercise. Most dogs love to swim, and owners of giant dog breeds will love the fact that swimming is a low-impact exercise. This will help prevent the development of joint problems and reduces the wear-and-tear on your pet’s body.
Giant dogs also require much larger and wider collars than smaller dogs do, so you’ll want to check out our review of the best wide dog collars to find one that’s suitable for your canine.
Conclusion: The Best Huge Dog Breeds
At this point, it should be easy to see that each of the 10 extra-large dog breeds listed above has plenty of great traits, which can make them wonderful pets.
However, some of the traits that make a given large dog 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.