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People find themselves drawn to different kinds of dogs. Some love tiny lap dogs, while others prefer slobbery giant dogs. Some have a penchant for Pulis, Komondors and other unusual breeds, while others love some of the most popular breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Beagles.
But we’re guessing that if this article’s title caught your interest, you are a fan of big – make that really big – dogs.
We certainly understand the appeal of giant dog breeds; we love colossal canines too.
But breeds of giant dogs have a number of unique needs, and they present a number of challenges, which their smaller counterparts do not.
Below, we’ll talk about the needs of the largest dog breeds, examine some of their most common health problems and explain some of the things you’ll need to do to provide your giant dog with a long, healthy and happy life.
But first, we need to ensure everyone is on the same page, by establishing a working definition for “giant dog breeds.”
The term “giant dog breed” evokes different images for different people. Some people may consider a 75-pound Labrador retriever to be a “giant” dog, while others may reserve the term for dogs weighing more than 150 pounds.
This occurs because terms like “large” and “giant” are fundamentally subjective in this context. But, for clarity’s sake, Canine Weekly considers dogs between 50 and 90 pounds to be “large,” while those who exceed the 90-pound threshold are considered “giant.”
There are 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 breeds” definition established above. Some of the most popular largest dog breeds include:
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.
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 large dog breeds.
Because they are much larger and are particularly susceptible to a number of health problems, the largest dog breeds require slightly different foods than smaller dogs do.
For example, large dogs often benefit from foods that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin and glucosamine to help protect their joints. Additionally, it is wise to avoid providing giant dog breeds with foods that have excessive caloric values, as giant dogs often become obese very easily.
Giant breed puppies also have a few unique food requirements. For example, giant dog breeds should grow at a moderate, steady rate; providing them with a food that contains too many calories or too much calcium can cause them to suffer from developmental problems.
Discuss the issue with your vet and check out our Large Breed Dog Food Buying Guide, which covers eleven different foods that are well-suited for big dogs.
However, if you are in a hurry, we’ll save you a click: Wellness Core Grain Free Large Breed Recipe was the best-rated food in our review, and makes a great choice for most giant dog breeds.
It has all of the things you’d want in a good large (or in this case, giant) dog food. It is made with nutritious proteins, like chicken and turkey meal, is loaded with glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and it is fortified with probiotics to ensure proper digestion.
All dogs require basic obedience training from a young age, but, given their eventual size and strength, training is especially important for giant dog breeds.
Be sure to check out our comprehensive list of dog commands, and be sure that you have all of the training tools you’ll need.
We’ve already reviewed large dog crates before, but if you are just interested in a quick giant dog crate recommendation, you should take a look at the MidWest iCrate. Large, affordable and feature-packed, it is a great choice for most owners of giant dog breeds.
All discussions about beds for giant dog breeds should begin and end with the Big Barker.
Seven-inches-thick, made in the USA and backed by a 10-year warranty, there’s simply no better option on the market. Additionally, unlike many other beds, the Big Barker is available in sizes large enough to properly support giant 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 dog 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.
You can provide exercise in a number of different ways. Daily walks may suffice for low-energy 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 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 wide dog collar review to find one that’s suitable for your canine.
Giant breeds frequently suffer from a number of common health problems. Some of these problems can be avoided by purchasing your dog from a high-quality breeder, and others may be kept at bay through proper nutrition, exercise and veterinary care.
However, a few common diseases of giant dog breeds can occur despite the best efforts of their keepers.
Some of the most common health problems of giant dogs include:
Be sure to discuss these — and any other health conditions to which your dog may be predisposed — potential problems with your vet.
Your vet may be able to provide actionable advice for avoiding these problems, as well as screening procedures to determine if your dog is likely to suffer from any of these conditions.
For example, you may be able to prevent joint problems from developing by giving your dog a supplemental product containing chondroitin and glucosamine.
Nutramax Dasuquin with MSM Chewables is our favorite option, but there are a number of other great choices on the market.
Just be sure to check out our comprehensive review of hip- and joint supplements for dogs.
Grooming can be a concern for dogs of any size, including those that fall into the “giant” category. And while you can certainly take your dog to a professional groomer, his large size and potentially intimidating appearance may make it slightly more difficult to find a willing (and affordable) groomer.
Accordingly, many owners of giant dog breeds like to learn how to groom their large dog at home. This will take a bit of practice, and you’ll need to buy a few important tools for the task, but your efforts will pay off, as grooming your own dog will give you more time to bond with your canine and save some money at the same time.
To start, you’ll need a good dog shampoo, but it is also a good idea to select a shower attachment to make it easier to spray down your dog.
There are a ton of dog shampoos on the market, but we recommend Earthbath All Natural Pet Shampoo.
Made with oatmeal and aloe, it is designed to be gentle on your dog’s skin, yet leave them clean and smelling fresh.
One of the best shower attachments on the market is the Rinse Ace 3 Way Pet Shower Sprayer.
Equipped with an 8-foot-long hose and a quick-release attachment, the Rinse Ace will make it much easier to bathe your dog.
You’ll also need a good dryer to prevent your soaking-wet dog from catching a chill and drenching everything in your home. Be sure to check out our comprehensive review of the best dog hair dryers, but the K-9 III Dog Grooming Dryer is our favorite option.
The K-9 III Dog Dryer is not only a powerful unit, it provides owners with the option of using one motor for short-haired breeds, or two motors for densely furred breeds. It features an 18-gauge steel body and comes in nine different colors.
We’ve put together a few tips to help manage your dog’s shedding, as well as an article that covers the best ways to keep your dog clean between baths. So, be sure to check them both out.
Like most canines, your giant dog will require a few toys. Toys not only give your dog the chance to exercise their chewing instincts, but they also keep your dog mentally stimulated and help to ward off boredom.
But, given their immense size and strong jaws, giant dogs require very tough and durable toys. Most typical dog toys are simply incapable of withstanding the type of punishment giant dog breeds can dish out.
Regular-sized dog toys can also represent a choking hazard for giant breeds. You don’t, for example, want to provide a 200-pound Great Dane with a standard tennis ball — he may end up swallowing the entire thing.
Fortunately, there are a number of high-quality, super-durable chew toys on the market, which should work well for giant dog breeds (be sure to check out our comprehensive review of indestructible dog toys for more information).
Two great choices include the Goughnuts Maxx 50 Stick and the KONG Extreme Goodie Bone. Both are available in sizes large enough for giant dog breeds, and they are both among the most durable chew toys on the market.
Related: 10 Best Dog Toys for Big Dogs
Although they are much bigger than their average-sized counterparts, giant dog breeds still require the same type of care that smaller dogs do.
You’ll have to be willing to purchase bigger toys, provide more space and accept a slightly shortened lifespan if you choose a giant dog breed, but you’ll be rewarded by a loving, loyal and lovable canine, who makes your life immeasurably better.
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