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’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! 😉

  2. 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.

  3. 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 😉

  4. 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?

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

      http://www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull/findpit.html

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

  7. When I was born my family had an alaskan Malamute that weighed 125lbs. In other words, beastly for a Malamute.
    He
    Was
    AWESOME!
    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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).

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

      http://danesonline.com 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.

      http://www.dogaware.com/diet/rawgroups.html
      http://dogfoodchat.com/forum/raw-feeding/1647-raw-feeding-co-op-list.html

      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: http://www.greyhoundpetsinc.org/adoptionguide.html. 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.

  13. 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’

  14. 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!

  15. 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…

  16. 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. 🙂

  17. 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.

  18. 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 hilarious.lol. 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 outside..lol. But it took a LOT of training, persistence, and attention to get him thus far. Totally agree with the author. Big dog = big responsibility!

  19. 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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