Since time immemorial, large breed dogs have been our faithful companions, working partners, and protectors. These dogs are the gentle giants of the canine world, known for their majestic stature, hearty personalities, and lovable dispositions which makes them one of the favorites for both old and new dog breeders.
However, these regal beings are not merely larger versions of their smaller counterparts. They come with their own distinctive set of attributes, demands, and requirements that make them distinct, both in terms of care and companionship.
Understanding Large Breed Dogs
Before delving deeper into the specifics of large breed dogs, it is essential to understand what constitutes a “large breed.” The classification is generally based on weight, with dogs weighing between 50 to 100 pounds considered large breeds. This category includes several breeds like Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Boxers, Rottweilers, and more.
Dogs weighing over 100 pounds, like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundland dogs, are often classified as “giant breeds.
The significant difference in size in large breed dogs compared to their smaller counterparts leads to various physiological variations. They have a different bone structure, muscle mass distribution, metabolic rate, and even cardiac and respiratory systems that require special attention.
Due to their size, large breeds have a slower metabolic rate, which means they grow slower, often not reaching maturity until they are two or three years old. This slow growth rate necessitates a diet that promotes steady, sustained growth rather than quick weight gain, which can stress their skeletal system and potentially lead to health issues.
Large breed dogs also have a larger heart to support their size, leading to different heart rates and blood pressures compared to smaller dogs. Their respiratory systems are also different, with larger lungs and higher lung capacities, affecting their stamina and exercise needs.
Debunking Myths about Large Breed Dogs
Myth 1: “All large breed dogs are aggressive.”
Truth: Aggression is not a trait that’s inherently linked with size. A dog’s behaviour is largely influenced by its upbringing, training, socialisation, and sometimes, breed-specific traits. Large breeds like the Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, and Great Dane are often praised for their gentle and friendly nature. Of course, large breed dogs, like any other dogs, require proper socialisation from a young age to ensure they grow up to be well-rounded and well-behaved adults.
Myth 2: “Large dogs are not suitable for apartment living.”
Truth: It’s not always the size that determines how well a dog adapts to living in an apartment, but rather their energy level and exercise needs. Some large breeds like the Greyhound, often dubbed as “45 mph couch potatoes,” are known for their love of relaxation and can adapt quite well to apartment life provided they get enough exercise during their active periods. Of course, the dog’s temperament, noise levels, and the apartment’s size and rules are also factors to consider.
Myth 3: “Large dogs are harder to train.”
Truth: The ease of training a dog largely depends on the breed’s traits and the individual dog’s personality, not their size. Many large breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever and the German Shepherd, are renowned for their intelligence and trainability. However, training should start early when the dog is still manageable size-wise, and consistency is key. Remember that some large breeds can be strong-willed and may require a bit more patience and firmness to train.
Myth 4: “Large dogs aren’t good with children.”
Truth: While supervision is necessary when dogs and young children are interacting, many large breeds are known for being gentle, patient, and protective around kids. Breeds like the Newfoundland and Saint Bernard are often referred to as “nanny dogs” for their affinity with children. However, it’s essential to teach both the dog and the child to respect each other’s space and interact safely.
While large breed dogs do come with their unique sets of challenges and needs, many of the myths surrounding them are just that – myths. With proper care, training, and love, these gentle giants can make wonderful, loving companions.
Practicalities and Challenges
The care for large breed dogs extends beyond the usual feeding and grooming needs. They require a tailored diet as they grow at a rapid pace, which, if unchecked, could lead to skeletal problems like hip dysplasia. Regular vet check-ups and specific diets for large breed puppies can help mitigate these issues.
Exercise is another vital aspect of their care. Large breeds require regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. However, it’s essential to strike a balance, as excessive or high-impact exercise at a young age can stress growing bones and joints.
Training and socialisation, while important for all dogs, are crucial for large breeds due to their size and strength. Early training helps foster good behaviour, and socialisation helps them be comfortable around other animals and people.
When it comes to living arrangements, large breeds require more space to move around comfortably. While it’s not impossible for them to live in apartments, it’s imperative to ensure they get ample exercise outside. Large breed dogs in the suburbs or countryside can enjoy more space and freedom, but they still need structured exercise and mental stimulation to remain content and healthy.
Choosing a Large Breed Dog
Choosing to adopt a large breed dog should be a well-informed decision. Understanding the breed’s history, characteristics, exercise, and nutritional needs are all important. It’s also crucial to consider your living situation and lifestyle. Despite the challenges, owning a large breed dog can be incredibly rewarding, and the bond formed is beyond comparison. Here are some popular large breed dogs and their unique traits:
Known for their intelligence and versatility, German Shepherds are one of the most popular large breeds around the globe. They were initially bred in Germany for herding sheep and protecting flocks. However, their high intelligence, trainability, and loyalty have seen them excel in many other roles, including search and rescue, police work, and as service dogs. They have a double coat, which needs regular grooming, and they’re known for their high energy levels, requiring daily exercise to keep them mentally and physically stimulated.
Despite being considered a medium to large breed, Labrador Retrievers are one of the most loved and recognized large breeds. Originally bred for retrieving game in water, their gentle mouths, high intelligence, and excellent swimming abilities have made them ideal companions for hunters. Nowadays, their affable nature, combined with their intelligence and eagerness to please, make them excellent family pets, service dogs, and therapy dogs. Labs are energetic and love playtime, whether it’s a game of fetch or a swim in the lake.
Rottweilers are a powerful breed known for their protective instincts, making them excellent guard dogs. They were originally bred in Germany to herd livestock and pull carts laden with butchered meat to market. While they may have a reputation as being fierce, with proper socialisation and training, Rottweilers can be very gentle and loving family pets. They’re intelligent, loyal, and have a strong desire to please their owners.
Each of these breeds shares a common trait of forming close and loyal bonds with their families, making them loving companions in the right home environments.
Large breed dogs are, in many ways, just like any other dog – they’re loving, loyal, and crave companionship. Yes, they come with their unique set of challenges, but the love and loyalty they offer make every hurdle worth it. By understanding and meeting their needs, we can ensure a happy, healthy life for our gentle giants and forge a profound bond that enriches our lives immeasurably.