My dog may be huge, but he’s terrified of chihuahuas (and more surprising facts about Giant Breed dogs)

July 14 2011 | Guest post by Ang Jandak

I'm totally and unequivocally a dog person. Narrowing it down further: I'm a big dog person. To the point where I refer to our 35 and 75 pound pups as "the little dogs." Maybe that's because my other baby is a 170 pound Great Dane named Nee — as in the knights who say. He's my little snuff muffin and I love him to bits.

Giant Breed dogs (dogs whose breed standard is 100 pounds or more) are awesome, and they make great pets as long as you're prepared ahead of time.

They're big

You might be thinking "Duh," but seeing a people-sized dog in a park is a TOTALLY different thing than having one in your living room.

  • You have to keep your dog in mind when you're decorating; breakables have to be at the very least above tail height. Their tails are like clubs of death — Nee dented the fridge a few years ago.
  • When you cook, you can't leave food out because their chins are counter/stove/table height.
  • The big jowly dogs drool. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are essential for getting "slingers" off of walls.

They get big QUICK

Big dogs grow exponentially, but they're so big it takes a bit for them to get there. Most dogs keep growing until three years old. Keep in mind that adorably awkward little puppy is going to have a HELL of a terrible twos, during which they'll weigh 80-100 pounds. Most giant breeds end up in rescue between 12-18 months for this very reason. That's why training them while they're cute and innocent is so important.

They're show stoppers

If you're shy, you're going to have to get over it, because when you take out a giant breed dog, EVERYONE stops and asks about them. Seriously, add at least 30 minutes to your travel time. You should also grow a thick skin because people can be assholes (they think Big Dog = Bad Ass) but in reality most of them are very sensitive. Nee is terrified of Chihuahuas and Boston Terriers. Some people are scared of big dogs, and their freaked-out vibes can make a dog nervous, so it's very important to socialize your pup as much as possible.

They belong INSIDE!

Unless your dog is a livestock guardian, or a Nordic breed (and you live in a cold climate), they cannot handle living outside. I believe that all dogs belong inside, but Giant Breeds especially are too large to regulate their body temperature efficiently. Think of them as a big cavernous house: it takes forever to heat up or cool down, and it takes a lot of energy to change the temperature. Your dog can go into shock while waiting for his body to stabilize, so it's much better to keep them indoors.

Big dogs have a tendency to have big medical bills

The most prevalent problems with giant breed dogs are hip and elbow dysplasia and heart issues. If you decide to get a puppy from a breeder, make sure his parents had the appropriate health testing — you can learn about appropriate tests on breed club websites. When people breed for size and neglect health, you have dogs that are ticking time bombs with a plethora of medical issues.

"Ang, why are you pointing out all the bad stuff?"

I'm a firm believer in knowing what you're getting into — and the GOOD parts are so easy to see. Big dogs have the most AMAZING personalities. They adore their families, they make you feel safe, they make you laugh, and they bring so so much joy. Spend ten minutes with one and you'll know all the good stuff.

If Giant Breeds are raised with smaller animals, they are incredibly gentle. They're excellent service dogs for people with stability issues, and can help prevent injury during a seizure. There's the general protection factor of course. Because of their huge energy gobbling bodies, most of them are couch potatoes and adjust well to apartment living. Giant Breeds can do all the typical dog sports like agility, fly ball, dock diving, and obedience — plus they pull carts, and can carry quite a bit of hiking gear. I'm guilty of throwing the pack on him when I just don't want to lug my purse around.

Of course I bring him everywhere with me; how could you leave this face at home?

  1. I have ALWAYS been a big dog person. Anything below the size of a retriever was not a dog for me (save for my father's blind & deaf dappled Dachshund named Pickles, but she is just an anomaly in & of herself).

    My mom used take my sister and I to the shelter to look at dogs, and while she would do her best to steer us toward the little shih tzu mixes & cocker spaniels, my sister and I made a bee line for the big dogs. I was more partial to the pitbull mixes and hounds. One time, my sister found this GIGANTIC dog that, to this day, I still have no idea what the hell it was. It looked like a lion! It was taller than she was! But I will never forget that dog as long as I live. My sister begged and begged my mom to get it, but unfortunately our lives were not quite ready for a dog THAT big…

    Mad love for the big dogs! <3

  2. We have a wonderful Bernese Mountain dog. She is the most gentle, mellow, people-oriented dog I've ever known. She's amazing with my 3-month old — no jealousy at all when we brought him home, and she even sleeps by his crib at night. I am a big dog convert and I will never go back! (and yes, she's afraid of chihuahuas, teacup poodles, and squirrels.)

    • I loved my Berners so much! I grew up with them, and can't get one in my apartment (I have a hedgehog instead). Both the dogs we had were so gentle. Our second one, Kyra, was not the most social dog because she was nervous around other people, but she was never aggressive at all, just a bit jumpy. Still the sweetest dog.

  3. I grew up with Borzoi who were twice my size for most of my childhood. I've downsized to a 3 pound papillon (the breeder told me she'd get bigger!). I will never regret getting my Betty, she has been a saving grace for the past couple of tough years, and I love her with all my heart. That said, when I have children I will go back to large/giant breeds. Laying in the yard with my head resting on a dog bigger them me is one of my happiest memories from childhood and I want my kids to have that. Plus children tend to deal better with large breeds, they are less breakable.

    • My earliest memories were of me as a two year old running away from home so I could live in the dog house of our neighbor's Great Dane. I also learned to walk by hanging onto our Brittany Spaniel's butt feathers, and was notorious for stealing biscuits out of his mouth when I was teething.

      Dog drool runs in my blood.

    • I totally agree about kids and dogs. I've had labs and goldens my whole life. They were great with me. We'd play and my first acted like I was her pup. She guard me, clean me, and play with me.
      Meanwhile I knew two boys that had a very small dog, I don't know the breed, and the one boy broke the dog's jaw. Needless to say their dog went missing not long after that.

  4. We have an Anatolian Shepherd named Bumblebee, and let me just second the terrible twos comment. We adopted him 8 months ago and he is just shy of two years old at the moment. His breed doesn't finish maturing until age 4, and it shows. It is like having a combination two-year-old/teenage boy (without the back talk). That said, we can see his progress on a weekly basis–calming down more quickly when we have company, eviscerating fewer toys, etc.

    Big dogs take patience and minimal objects that you will cry over if they are destroyed. But they are so incredibly awesome.

    • My cousin has one of those. She's kind of insane right now, but still a great dog. It helps that she has a whole farm to run around on 🙂

  5. I completely agree. I'm a fan of big dogs and our boy Jackson is no exception – great dane/pit mix. People will cross the street to avoid him, while out on walks, but if they only knew what a big goof ball and sweet heart he is. And yes the drool. The constant waterfall of drool… We should purchase stock in Brawney paper towels.

  6. I used to be absolutely terrified of dogs after some bad experiences with an English Setter and some Rottweilers. Big or little it didn't matter, I didn't want them anywhere near me. It was actually a Great Dane a high school friend of mine owned that got me to start liking dogs. He was the sweetest thing on the planet! Now I have a Havanese, which is not a big dog by any stretch, but you have to start somewhere 🙂

  7. I just read a book called A Dog's Purpose – it's about a dog that keeps being reincarnated and figures he keeps coming back for a reason, it's sweet and heartwarming but by definition of reincarnation, it can be tearjerking at times as well. Enjoy!

  8. I love Great Danes, they are amazing dogs. I've never met one that was anything but sweet and gentle.

    I agree that all dogs should live inside – can't stand when I see a dog tied to a chain outside in -10 degree weather (although frankly, my husky mix relishes that temperature…regardless she lives in our house and lays on our couch). I would add, though,that even though they live inside they still need plenty of walks outside, no matter how big/small the dog!

    The issue we've had with our husky-Rottie mix (not giant, she's 70 lb) is when she gets into little scuffles with other females. Nothing big but it's good to be aware of her capabilities…lots of muscle!

    I would add that for large dogs (and any dog really) you should make sure to have an elevated food bowl. Large breeds particularly are susceptible to bloat, which can be caused and exacerbated by having to bend their heads down to get food, and can be fatal.

    • Raising feeding bowls to prevent bloat seems like a good commonsense practice.
      We consistently fed our first Mastiff from a raised bowl.

      We've stopped doing this with our current Mastiff.
      There's limited data, but this practice may actually increase the risk of GVD (bloat).

      I'd recommend talking to your vet and doing some research before elevating the bowl.

      November 15, 2000, Vol. 217, No. 10, Pages 1492-1499
      Journal of the American Veterinary Association

      Non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in large and giant breed dogs
      Lawrence T. Glickman, VMD, DrPH Nita W. Glickman, MS, MPH Diana B. Schellenberg, MS Malathi Raghavan, DVM, MS Tana Lee, BA
      " …Factors significantly associated with an increased risk of GDV were increasing age, having a first-degree relative with a history of GDV, having a faster speed of eating, and having a raised feeding bowl."
      "Approximately 20 and 52% of cases of GDV among the large breed and giant breed dogs, respectively, were attributed to having a raised feed bowl."

  9. This is so interesting! I grew up with springer spaniels, but my husband would love a big dog. My sister has two greyhounds, and the way they come over and plop their heads in my lap is adorable. We've decided to start with a medium-sized dog, but we have the space for something bigger – maybe it'll happen one day. I've never met a big dog who wasn't friendly, mellow, and generally wonderful.

  10. Me and the hubby are looking to add a giant breed to our pack (currently consisting of a beagle, a doxie, and a human-baby) We've had a pit and a boxer-mix so we've had big dogs, just not BIG dogs. We learned the decoration height rules from the pit and boxer (lost quite a few plates and glasses to those tails) and the cooking rules go for the beagle. She may not be able to see or reach the food with her feet on the ground, but she sure as sh*t can figure out how to get it!

  11. I have a massive Akita named Montana. Here are a few things we have learned:

    -The amount of hair they shed is horrifying. If you are a clean freak, you have to vacuum twice a day during shedding season just to control the fluff. Or you can do like we do and just accept that you will never have a spotless house and a giant dog at the same time.

    -In addition to the vet bills, you will pay more for boarding and food. The food is obvious, but we were a little surprised at how much more it cost to board the Akita than our pug.

    -Don't even get me started on insurance issues with Akitas.

    -It is all worth it.

    • Ugh the shedding is truly amazing – my dog is part husky and we have tumbleweeds all over the house for 5 months out of the year. It's insane. The insurance thing is extremely frustrating – we're lucky that our homeowner's insurance only refuses to insure if the dog has a bite history, but some are much harsher and it's ridiculous.

      And you're right, it's all worth it 🙂

    • I am not sure how you could handle it with an Akita, but our vet is awesome enough to list our Pit Bull rescues as "Terrier Mix" and "Catahoula Mix" (because one is pit with catahoula markings, had some catahoula bred in somewhere down the line) on the vet records. That way when the insurance agents asked what sort of dogs we have it isn't an issue. Our dogs are well trained and amazing dogs. Of the three dogs – two pit bulls and a yorkie – which do you think is the aggressive dog? I HATE breed-specific policy. It's racism for dogs!

      • We have State Farm homeowners insurance and they don't discriminate based on dog breed. I could recommend State Farm for many reasons, but that is always my number one.

        (we have an amstaff)

    • / My little Podenca Andaluz has THE bigegst character of all our dogs, she really needs to wear a T-shirt saying cutie pie'! Loving and loyal, lots of fun, nudges the leg when we're sat at the table eating hey, I'm down here', scrounges for vegetables when I'm cutting up veg from our vegetable patch to preserve for winter, dances and sings for her dinner, snuggles up to me on the sofa in an evening absolutely adorable. I nickname her my iPod' as she's My Pod'.Well done on the website, it's great.

  12. Thanks for posting this! My cousin has a couple of Great Danes, and I always wondered why they kept them in their home 24/7 when they have a perfectly nice yard. Of course, living in Texas and now knowing more about the larger breeds, I totally understand!

    Speaking of large dogs being afraid of smaller ones… one of their rats got out of its' cage once and scared the poor puppy so bad that he ran around the house peeing and ended up jumping on the couch and emptying his bladder [ruining a full bag of chips] all because a little bitty rat! It's like, "just eat the damn thing!" XD So funny, though. Just thought I'd share~

    And on a side note, I once heard that "ni" means "never" in… some language. Not sure how true this is. Could be a different spelling, too. But it could be a random, cool fact. 😉

    • Nie (pronounced just like nee) means never in German.

      P.S. I love BIG dogs! I cannot wait until I can get a dog again (when school doesn't consume my life and I live in a house, when I can take care of it properly)

  13. Just a tip from someone who used to work in a vet clinic – Giant breeds can really rack up the vet bills when they need medication because they need such a high dose for their body weight. Ask your vet if you can get the prescription at the pharmacy instead of at the clinic – vets often only carry name brand meds, and their dispensing fee can be really high. Getting a written script to take to the pharmacy can save you a TON!!

    *Note – this is a good tip for ALL pet owners. One of those secrets the vets will never tell you!

    P.S – Coming from someone who has seen and handled evry breed you can think of- great danes are absolutely in my top five! So gentle and intuitive to people.

    • There was a LOT I wanted to say in here about medical issues, but there is a word limit, LOL. The white dane in the pictures above was my best friend's dane, Tenchi, who had a ton of health issues due to poor breeding. My friend rescued him and his sisters, who were going to be put down because they were deaf. He ended up passing away at only 4, because of the selfishness of his "breeder". Best dog EVER, even better than mine.

      Giant breed dogs, especially deep chested ones, can have severe reactions to anesthesia, so it's good to request specific medications if your dog is going to go under.

    • At our local supermarket they have a prescription plan. It's $7 a year, and you can use it for pet prescriptions too! My mother was delighted at how much she saved when her cocker spaniel was sick. Definitely something to look into.

    • Does anyone know if you can do this in Australia? Obviously you wouldn't be able to buy them meds through the PBS, but…

        • I think it is possible if you have a dog with a predisposed medical condition which needs regular medication. The vet can sometimes write a script which you can usually get filled at a chemist. I know that is what my fiance's mum did… although they've been going to the same vet for about 20 years so perhaps the long standing relationship helped out in getting that. Probably best to ask your vet 🙂

  14. Thanks, this was a wonderful post! I grew up around Great Danes and Hovawart dogs (a German breed about the size of a LAbrador, which dates back to medieval times and was almost extinct until about a century ago), and as a toddler would climb into one of our Great Dane's basket when waking up from a nightmare. That started the first night we had her, and she guarded me so fiercely my parents couldn't put me back in bed again. Most big dogs I know are incredibly kid-friendly and very careful around kids, and even our boxer/dalmatian breed (the last dog we had, who is now almost "antique" and living with my older sister) will tolerate small children, although he must have had bad experiences.

    I still love sharing my bed with him when I go and visit my sister, there is no smell more comforting for me than sleeping dog. (^v^)

  15. I think it's absolutely right to discuss big dogs in terms of the bad. Why? Go to a dog shelter. Take a look around. There are so many big dogs! It's no coincidence. Puppies are lovely, the IDEA of a big dog is wonderful. But the reality of a big dog is time consuming and sometimes difficult. Even the most well-meaning animal lover can be totally overwhelmed by a giant breed dog.
    And you're so right. The best qualities of a big dog come out as soon as you meet it. They're wonderful! It's so easy to be won over.
    I think the best advice I could offer someone wanting a giant breed dog would be make sure you can handle the investment. Not just the price of the dog itself if you choose to buy or adopt, but so much food, so much cleaning, often a lot of grooming and training (a dog trainer can your dog not to jump up on you or stick his head over counters. This alone is worth the investment.) Every giant dog lover I've know has said that they're worth every single penny. But it's kinda like bringing a VERY LARGE toddler into your life, investment-wise (and sometimes care-wise.)
    Myself? I am so so in love with Great Pyreneeses and Newfoundlands. Harry Potter fans might adore Neapolitan Mastiffs 😉

    • My parents have two Great Pyrenees. They're both from a rescue group that is constantly at capacity because a lot of people get Pyrs when they're tiny little snowballs and then give them up with they get big. Pyrs can be very affectionate, but since they were bred to independently guard livestock, they can be really stubborn and difficult to train. That also contributes to the number of owner-surrenders. (Tangent: It's a bad idea to teach a Pyr to shake. Most dogs will lift their paw up to your hand. Pyrs tend to "shake" by swiping their paws at you like and overhand pitch–also known as a "Pyr pat"–and they can easily claw your face. I know from experience that Pyr pats HURT.)

      The smaller of my folks' two dogs (who still weighs 90 lbs) is absolutely convinced that she's a lap dog. She really thinks she can fit. It's not so bad when it's just her, but when the male gets jealous and decides he wants to sit on my lap too…. there have been times I thought I was going to die of suffocation under 230+ pounds of white fluff.

      • My parents just got a Pyr mix a couple months ago. She was bought as a gift, and surprisingly that didn't work out, so she ended up in a rescue organization. She has "papers" saying she's purebred, but they don't believe it because she's only 70 lbs or so. She is a SNUGGLER. Also very stubborn!

  16. I love this article! I am a dog fanatic. currently we have a 7 pound maltese rescue that rules the roost, so we've decided to let him live out the rest of his life as a happy only child. "IF" my baby leaves us one day, and i'm in tears just typing this, I want lots more babies, more malteses and great danes and labradoodles (all rescues of course). i love that you point out all the important stuff. big dogs are amazing but they are like a million times more work than wittle ones. i'm loving that you also pointed out that all dogs are inside dogs. i live in texas its over 100 degrees today with no wind. and it kills me to see peoples dogs outside. big and little. thanks for this : )

  17. and the cost of owning a dog period is sometimes huge. since my baby was a rescue he has had several health problems, he currently takes 4 pills a day. and that stuff adds up. behavior and cost are 2 things i think people dont take into consideration, and end up giving up there pets over. when my babies liver failed a few years ago we were referred to a specialty animal hospital. needless to say i'm glad i had a credit card at the time. even yearly vet bills can be expensive. so i agree with Dootsie, you should estimate what you think a dog will cost you and then triple that and keep it in the bank for when trouble comes. unfortunately they aren't allowed on our health insurance plans : )

  18. I'm also glad you mentioned the yard thing. My family has a Neapolitan mastiff, and he is BIG. People always comment on how we must have a huge yard and house. This dog does not want to be more than 6 feet from any member of the family. He's lazier about it now that he's old, but he agonizes over where to lay if some family members are upstairs while others are downstairs. Most big dogs like to be near their owners. We've always thought our dog would be happiest if we lived in a one bedroom apartment. Walks and exercising outside are of course important, but I doubt most large breeds want to be outside without you, even on the most beautiful day. Also consider the energy and endurance of the breed. I know our mastiff could only play intensely for 30 minutes or so before needing a rest. He couldn't be a companion for a distance runner. Your dog may need walks/exercise for short periods throughout the day.

    If you want a big dog, don't worry about whether you have a big enough yard, just if you will have enough time to spend with him.

    • We also have a Neo! His name is Dozer and it fits him perfectly. I completely agree, he would be so happy is we lived in a 1 bedroom apartment and all his humans would always be in the same room! He would also love it if nobody every needed to go to the grocery store or ever leave the house except for walks. lol As a giant breed we also have our struggles. Many people are intimidated by him which makes him nervous and leary of them. we did not have him until he was almost 2. We've been attempting to re-socialize him but it's an adventure with 150 lb 2 1/2 year old. many days i tell my husband that i love my dog more than i love 99.9% of humans. he's so wonderful and lovey! I wouldn't trade him for the world! Big dogs for life!

  19. Your dog is so precious! I remember when my sister and I were much younger, 12 and 8, we were at Petsmart with our parents and we saw a HUGE dog. Mastiff maybe? He was black and white and the size of a calf, and sooo sweet. He just wanted to snif our heads 🙂

  20. Love this post! We've got two 30lb'ers but who DOESN'T love the gentle nature of a big dog? We've got a neighbor with an Great Pyrenees – and their young daughter "walks" the dog even though he's almost as tall as she is at the shoulder!

  21. I grew up with a Great Dane, lovely dogs.
    Which might be why I'm so often surprised when people comment on the size of my 80lb Akita-cross – to me, he's a medium-sized dog.

  22. I LOVE LOVE LOVE big dogs! The things that worry me about having one are a) the short lifespan and b) the medical issues. Unfortunately those scare my wife enough that I doubt she'll ever let me have one. XP BUT I WANT A PONY DOG DAMMIT

    • Look into Hovawarts. They are medium-big (60-100 lb) but their life expectancy is double that of a lot of other breeds their size. They are very smart and VERY bonded to their person- they have a ranking order of who they care about, haha!

  23. Big ups to my big puppies out there!
    We recently lost our BIG boy Ben (a 185lb St. Bernard) to a very rare genetic disease which apparently only effects giant breeds.
    Looking back on the short time we spent with him, nothing beats the first week or so after we got him.(he was a rescue, at 18mos). He would come around the corner with his GIIIIIANT head all wobbling and stuff and my partner and I would just look at each other, wondering "What on earth did we adopt?!"
    We've always had medium sized dogs, which are awesome too, but I think Ben converted us to those special giants out there.

  24. I'm another big dog lover. My heart breed is the Bullmastiff and the only drawback to owning a big dog is their life span, it is too short! When my big boy died at 8 it broke my heart and I couldn't bring myself to get another Bullmastiff straight away and I bought a Neopolitan Mastiff x Dogue De Bordeaux x Aussie Bulldog and a pure bred Dogue De Bordeaux also. (Man two big dogs is a handful, LOL). I will get another Bullmastiff next, now my heart has healed, but any mastiff in my eyes is a beautiful dog. As kc said, they love to have their family around. They are not dogs who like to be left on their own for long periods of time, so really aren't suited to people who work a lot or are out most of the time.

    Also, drool rags are a definite must!!! When my Bullmastiff started developing his jowls I started noticing streaks of something dirty high up on the walls and I couldn't figure out what it was… then I realised… Sage had come inside with dirt on his jowls, shook his head and voila, decorated my walls! Not fun when the ceilings are 16 feet and you have to get a ladder out to clean the tops of the walls! Haha.

    Don't expect to get away with wearing nice clothes and them staying clean before you walk out the door to work/going out… you will get slobbered on in most cases no matter what! There will be slobber on walls, tables, cupboards, couches, you name it. Sisters (in my case) or friends who are "princesses" will flip out at the drool but it is part and parcel of welcoming these guys into your heart. Love me, love my dog, drool and all… just remember don't wear your good clothes when you visit me! 😉

  25. Recommendation for any dog owners – read the books by the Monks of New Skeet. It's pure down to earth dog wisdom that will help you pick out a puppy with a temperament you like and train a dog that will actually obey you. Find a reputable breeder and trust them – if they tell you that a puppy will be too much dog for you, they probably know. Having breed dogs in the past, a good breeder will know the personality of all of their puppies, and can quickly ascertain the needs of potential owners.

  26. First of all, that is one of the best dog names I have EVER heard 😀 also, I love Danes!!! I agree though, it's best to point out all of the cons. I even just have a small dog (my mom was a farm kid and she always said – you have to have small dogs in the city! so I have a papillon from the SPCA, but she's big for a papillon… but still small for a dog, lol!) and people will always come over and think wow she's great I think I want a dog now and it's like umm no, you've seen her for 10 minutes, it's not the same as living with her. She can be a real tool too, I love her but being a small dog she has opposite problems from a big dog… like small dog syndrome/can be very aggressive towards other dogs which requires work and patience, and all sorts of regular dog owning maintenance (plus the insane amount of hair she sheds which I am used to but I've had other people complain about) which people don't see when they first meet her they just see the cute face and the fluffy tail and then they want to go out and buy their own cute face and fluffy tail :S but I've always had dogs in my life so I know all of the pounds of hair, and the training, everything else that goes with it is worth it! And I have often admired the giant breeds from a far – I have a soft spot for bull mastiffs myself 😉

  27. my fiance and i will be moving out into the country soon and we have been thinking about adding a dog. i like big tall dogs while he is more into there muscles. how much would you say you spend on food a month with your dog?

  28. I have 2 dogs on each end of the size spectrum- a 60 kilogram(i don't know what it is in pounds) Alaskan Malamute and a tiny 8 kilogram Jack Russell X Chiuahua. He is so good with her, except when he accidentally treads on her! It looks ridiculous when i take them out for a walk. I usually just walk them at night as my big dog gets too much attention for my liking!

  29. I think it's interesting all the comments on insurance issues. Our apartment had a laundry list of banned dog breeds but I figured that had more to do with the heavier the dog, the more noise their footsteps make when running around. My parents have a Jindo, similar to a Husky, and haven't run into issues with their home insurance thankfully!

    • Unfortunately, insurance goes by reported dog bite statistics. Nothing against little dogs, but they are more likely to bite (That Napoleon complex), and typically bite more often. Many of them were actually bred to bite things terriers were rat killing machines, and dachshunds owe their short legs and long bodies to being bred to go down badger holes for extermination purposes. Plus, since little dogs are, well, little, people seem to think they don't need to train them, which of course emphasizes any bad attitudes.

      Bigger dogs do more damage when they do bite, and those bites are more likely to be reported. Dog breed usually has no bearing on the dog's likelihood to bite, it comes down to training and responsible owners. When a dog becomes popular with a "certain crowd", media stereotypes create mass hysteria. It happened with German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and now pitbulls. Often the dogs involved in the attack are mis identified, making the breed look even worse.

      Some insurance companies will make allowances if your dogs are Canine Good Citizens.

  30. When I was born my family had an alaskan Malamute that weighed 125lbs. In other words, beastly for a Malamute.
    But he was an outside dog. We didn't like him living outside, but he HATED the indoors. No kidding, just went crazy and cried and groaned and tore things up and panted and the like. So instead, he got a huge pen and a big super-fancy dog house and access to the pool (no matter how much it clogged the drains) and extra toys and lots and lots or time to run. We did what we could for him, is what I'm saying.
    And having a sled-dog to pull you in the snow at age 4 is the best way to spend winter, in my humble opinion.

  31. My girl is probably part malamute part shepherd or Norweign Elkhoud/Great Dane… possibly a bit of wolf. She was a stray from a Northern Community in British Columbia so there's really no way to tell. We have a lot of people stop us to say that she is definitely part X and looks just like their dog.

    My husband sometimes has people stop him to comment that "he's" a real man's dog (She's not – she's a coward who is afraid of dead garter snakes and spiders), but I get the real fun. I have people from all walks and stages of life stop to play/pet/chat. I LOVE it. I'm pretty small and feminine looking so I think people assume that she's friendly (she is) and safe to approach (definitely). I love seeing grown men turn into little boys when she leans into them and cuddles back, or getting to hear an elderly woman with a thick accent talk about the German Shepherd she had as a little girl. These are people I'd never get to talk to otherwise!

    Dogs are a fantastic common ground for people who would otherwise pass each other on the street without a second glance.

    PS. If you're worried about health problems of big breeds, one thing is to go with a mutt. The added genetic diversity helps to even out some of the problems (not all) that are associated with pure breeds. They also (not always) tend to have more even personalities.

  32. My malamute/wolf hybrid is giant in height only–he's tall enough to put his chin on the kitchen counters but is super-light and agile. He's definitely taller than most, including the Irish Wolfhounds at the dogpark and he's the best dog I've ever had.

    I highly recommend pet health insurance with giant/genetically-susceptible breeds. That being said, anything can happen at any time, even with a smaller dog so the insurance is a good call.

    So many of the big dogs end up in shelters and have a rough time finding homes that are welcoming to their large size. Personally, I love a big dog and would easily adopt one.

  33. I freaking love big dogs, although I've never had a true giant. The biggest dog I've ever had was about 80 lbs, but I would love to rescue and raise giant breeds when I'm an actual adult. I would really like an Anatolian or an Akbash someday, to guard my someday goats and tiny cow.

    We've got a lab/doberman or boxer mix right now, about 80 lbs. He's terrified of small dogs and puppies, and utterly convinced he's a lap dog (although in all fairness, my partner and I are kind of giant ourselves, so he is small enough to sit on our laps. It doesn't work too well when normal sized people come over).

  34. I have a great pyrenees/australian shepherd mix. My now husband got him for me as a college graduation gift. Our vet at the time figured he'd be no more than 40-45 lbs. Man, was she wrong. My Olaf tops out at about 95 now. He is the smartest, gentlest, sweetest dog ever. Even when he's playing with my brother's 8lb rat terrier(who is terrible) he lays down to be on his level. So cute.

  35. This post (and the comment thread) are fantastically timed! We're in the midst of hunting for the perfect dog to adopt, and we're mostly looking at great 2-5 year old dane/greyhound/wolfhound/etc mixes. They're, rather unintuitively, some of the best breeds for apartments. Plus, the man-friend grew up with 4 malamutes, and I'm a big dog type of girl as is.

    Our friends have a greater swiss mountain dog in their own 500sq.ft. apartment, and they've been the absolute best resource on the realities of life with a large dog. Specifically, as we're all raw food devotees, how much that can cost to feed a 100lb+ beast.

    Sadly, though everyone says how common young adult large breeds are at shelters, we're finding the opposite to be true. We live in Vancouver, BC, and have broadened our search to Washinton State and are still hunting – I feel like a bad person every time I leave the shelter alone, having not fallen in love with some spaniel mutt.

    • Another option you might want to look into is joining some breed specific forums. Dogs in need often show up there first. is one of the best, although some of the members can be elitist booger heads in the breeding/training/food department.

      • I checked out the site – unfortunately, most of the dogs in need are scattered throughout the US – I'll keep an eye on it. In any case, the forum itself is a great resource!

    • OH, I wanted to add on the RAW comment. There are RAW co-ops that really help with buying in bulk.

      I would love to feed RAW but Nee is the only one who will eat bones, and my husband doesn't have the heart for tough love with the other two. "The little dogs haven't eaten for three days, and they still aren't interested in the RAW…" "Ummm MAYBE I gave them some kibble. And Doritos. And McDonalds…" *Ang gives stupefied look* "THEIR EYES! I CAN'T SAY NO TO THE EYES!!!!"

    • Erin, have you considered looking at a retired racing greyhound? I realize it's not a mix or shelter dog, but there are thousands of these doggies that need good homes and deserve some love after years being held at tracks. A quick Google search brought up a couple of groups near Vancouver including this one: They may match you with a dog that's slightly older (around 4 or so), though.

      Good luck and don't feel guilty at all about trying to make sure the dog you get is the right fit for all of you.

  36. I had a Leo i had to leave behind when my Husband and i Split up last year. It breaks my heart to think about my beautiful big boy. I recommend the breed to anyone. And you are right about the adding 30mins. we used to call it 'the Oscar factor'

  37. We have a big dog and he's pretty clean. He's a 110lb Standard Poodle. He's even been featured on offbeat home! The bit about them growing so fast is so true. Thinking back to how gangly I felt when I was a tween made my heart ache for my buddy and how incredibly uncoordinated he was. Now that he's almost four he's starting to get some grace.

    We run into the big dog = bad ass thing a lot. We don't cut our poodles like eighties rockers so they just look like big curly dogs. A friend's dad refers to our big guy as a "War Poodle" and he kinda looks it when he's standing next to our other 50lb poodle. But he was poorly socialized before we got him and had almost no training. So when the kids come running up to pet them we have to be careful that they only pet the smaller guy until our big dog has a chance to relax. And he can be so protective so then you get this HUGE DOG barking right in your face when really he's just a big softy and afraid. At home he's just a snuggle bug!

  38. The Greatest Dog in the world was my sister Rosie. Rosie was an Old English Sheepdog. She thought she was human, could pronounce her name (I swear. She would even talk on the phone), and saved my nephew's life. We lived in So. Cal and in the summer we would shave all her hair. It saved on groomers. As a sheep dog, she had a tendency to herd one away from "dangerous" areas. (For example, stoves are hot) My brother used to call home from college for us to put Rosie on the phone. To this day my mother weeps when thinking of her, and I'll be honest, all of us get teary eyed. For those out there considering larger breeds: Sheep dogs and herding animals are great around children, they are calm/patient and vastly intelligent; Old English Sheepdogs have hair instead of fur so they don't shed, and traditionally have docked tails (no whips of death). You really need to study up on the breed before deciding, though. Dalmatians, although awesome and intelligent, are very active and some can be excessively needy. Standard Poodles are shockingly good family dogs but somewhat high-strung (plus, you know, grooming). I'm a big dog lover from way back.

    P.s. Chihuahuas freak me out as well. They are actually a pack dog and there are still wild/feral Chihuahua packs to this day. I don't know about for your dog, but for me; it's the idea of being taken down by my Achilles tendon *shudder* before they finish me off…

  39. I agree that big dogs are adorable. Where we live, there's a guy with 3 Irish Wolfhounds. Apparently they eat 1kg (2.2lb) of food a day each. We have a little dog ourselves – a 7kg (15lb) Border Terrier, who we love more than anything and think is the best dog in the world. Maybe that's why I feel the need to defend little dogs and clear up some misconceptions, because I think little dogs are getting a bad rap here. Here in NZ, the largest number of dog bites are caused by the classified dangerous dog breeds (mastiffs, rottweillers etc) and Labs, not small dogs. Also, I think people are confusing small dog breeds with toy breeds when talking about how fragile and non-child friendly smaller dogs are. Our wee girl is the most robust and action-ready animal I've ever met in my life! She loves to play and rumble with big dogs and my 6'4, 235lb husband, and while we don't have children, she's 100% fantastic around kids and other dogs. So, while big dogs can be awesome, please don't make that at the expense of little dogs!

    • Little dogs ARE awesome, and I hope it didn't come across that I was saying they weren't. Some of my friends have great little dogs. However they trained them well, as I'm sure you did with your pup.

      The problem comes from people who don't train their dogs, regardless of size. In my experience people with small dogs are more likely to not train, simply because their dog is little and it is "cute" when they do bad things. The whole reason Nee is terrified of Chihuahuas and Boston terriers is we were chased by some on a walk, biting and attacking us, while the owners watched and laughed. When I threatened to kick their dogs if they didn't stop them, they started calling them, but the dogs ignored them til they brought the car around to tease them with a car ride.

      And yes, like I said, the reported bite statistics are MUCH higher for big dogs like rotties because if a little dog bites you, most likely it's not going to cause you to go to the hospital, and so it's not going to be reported. It's like saying more people break their leg then stub their toe. Obviously more people stub their toe, they just don't go to the hospital for it so it never gets reported.

      And like with ANY breed of dog, people need to know what the dog was bred for. Like, your border terrier was bred to join in fox hunts to grab the fox from the hole. Their long legs (For a terrier) were to keep up with the bigger hounds and the horses, and that's one of the reasons that they're among the friendliest of all terriers, because of having to hang out with the other dogs.

      Knowing the history of your breed can be vital to understanding their behavior in today's world. A ton of misunderstandings happen because people get a cute puppy and are completely oblivious to what it's breed was created for. Like being angry for a border collie for nipping, when all it's doing is herding. Or a Jack Russel for digging, when it's just doing what it was born to do. Even my beloved Danes get misunderstood, they were bred to be boar hunters, and later on estate guardians. Their job was to hold the boar/intruder, until the hunter/caretaker got there. So they have a tendency to hold people with their mouths, obviously that can make someone nervous.

      Little dogs can be fantastic! They just need to be held to the same rules of civility as the rest of the canine world. 🙂

  40. I <3 big dogs! I grew up with no less than 3 large dogs at any given time. (Try having a great dane and a large lab have puppies within a week of each other, there big dogs everywhere for a year!) Right now I have a lab/pitt mix who I am convinced has to have some Great Dane in there somewhere as well, because he's much larger than any lab or pitt i've ever owned! He thinks he's a little guy, and always tries to sit (all 80 lbs of him) on my lap/computer chair. Can't wait until we get our own (owned) home, so we can finally add the great dane we've been wanting to our family.

  41. I just want to say I love this post and how true it all is. We have an English mastiff that's a big teddy bear. He's been around kids and small dogs and loves them…well until our little baby goes up to try and kiss him…20 lb kid and a 180 lb mastiff slooooowly backing away is Big dogs are awesome tho and we had ours well trained enough he doesn't get stuff off tables, even coffee tables! He doesn't eat toys unless they are presented to them as his own. And he's never chewed anything to bits except for branches But it took a LOT of training, persistence, and attention to get him thus far. Totally agree with the author. Big dog = big responsibility!

  42. This is the straight skinny, and we've dealt with all of these issues.

    There are no guarantees with health, even if you've done your homework and carefully selected a breeder.
    We have a four year old English mastiff who's accumulated unbelievable medical expenses.
    The costs were spread over the years- but the money would've bought us a couple of new Hyundais.

    The show stopper problem can be a challenge.
    You'll need to smile, nod, and give an appreciative chuckle when someone invariably compares your dog to ponies and/or brings up saddles.
    You'll learn that people are hardwired, with a genetic compulsion to utter these words, when they encounter a giant breed dog.

    Some giant breed dogs will need to be permanently sequestered from the kitchen after they learn to open the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards- including the ones above the kitchen counters.
    You'll know it's time for kitchen sequestration the morning you discover the muck and debris of a food orgy strewed across your floors and walls.
    Your dog will act as if nothing is awry, but you'll know better.

    We don't get overwrought about drool on our walls… it isn't that big of a deal.
    Discovering stealth slingers on your clothing can a big deal.
    The stark reality- other than DNA testing there is no way of distinguishing dried dog saliva from dried semen.
    This look doesn't serve you well in any environment.
    You'll be relieved if your dog is by your side when you make this discovery.
    If the dog isn't, you might as well just run down to the nearest police station and self-report as a sexual offender, since everyone you've encountered has undoubtedly reached that conclusion anyway.

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