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

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?

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

  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. 😉

  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.

        • 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.

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