Is a large or giant-breed dog right for your family?
One of America’s favorite dog breeds, the golden retriever tops many charts, including smart and calm dog breeds. Sweet, happy, and eager to please, this breed is often an excellent choice for families. Originally bred for waterfowl retrieving, goldens make ideal outdoor companions. They are easy to train and excel at activities like agility and flyball, making them a perfect choice for active families.
Golden retrievers have a gentle, jovial disposition, and are equally content lying around or going for a run. However, keep in mind that while they do enjoy their rest, goldens can become destructive or learn undesirable behaviors if not adequately exercised.
This breed’s long, double coat requires some upkeep, and you should expect to brush your dog at least every couple of days, and to head to a professional groomer once a month, if possible. Golden retrievers generally live between 10 and 12 years of age. Unfortunately, cancer is a leading cause of death in this breed. Other common ailments include allergies and hip dysplasia.
These gentle, goofy giants make fantastic family pets. Members of the working group, Newfoundlands excel at hard labor, including pulling carts and water rescue, but you can also catch them happily snoozing throughout the day. These powerful yet exceptionally sweet dogs have webbed feet, making them great swimming partners. Newfoundlands need regular exercise, preferably swimming, but they are not considered a high-energy breed, by any means.
Newfoundland dogs are known for their tender demeanor and caretaker-like personalities. They are charmingly referred to as “nanny dogs,” likely thanks to Peter Pan’s Newfoundland companion “Nana” in J.M. Barrie’s film. While a Newfoundland will likely form special bonds with your children, don’t expect him to change any diapers.
This breed is not for the spic and span. Prospective pet owners must be prepared for heavy-duty grooming, shedding, and drooling. Many Newfs tip the scales at around 110 pounds, but some can grow to 150 pounds or more. As giant dogs, Newfoundlands regrettably have a lifespan of roughly 8 to 11 years, and may be subject to hip dysplasia, congenital heart disease, and bone cancer.
The extremely intelligent and loyal German shepherd is often a family favorite. Known for their exceptional training ability and protective instincts, it’s no surprise that these dogs also made the list of smartest dog breeds and favorite guard dogs for families.
German shepherds are somewhat aloof, but will form incredibly close, lifelong bonds with family members. Because of their protective instincts, they may not be keen to accept strangers into the home, although some families find this ideal. As herding dogs, this breed is active and exuberant, especially as puppies. As German shepherds age, they generally calm down, but will continue to require moderate daily exercise.
German shepherds are a great choice for families willing to undergo diligent training with their dog. They thrive when they have a job to perform, so keep them sharp in mind and body with regular exercise and tasks. Weighing in between 50 and 90 pounds, these large-breed dogs have a life expectancy of 8 to 12 years. Like many other large- and giant-breed dogs, hip dysplasia tops their list of health concerns. Other common German shepherd concerns include bloat/GDV and EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency).
Great Danes are imposing, yet friendly, giant dogs. Naturally, their impressive stature grants them status on the list of guard dogs for families. Fortunately for families, they are rarely aggressive and are, in fact, quite patient and tender with children.
Great Danes are generally big goofballs. They enjoy a good romp in the yard, but are actually quite sedentary, despite their massive size. This isn’t to say that your Dane should stay inside all day, every day. Daily walks and play are important for good mental and physical health. You don’t need an enormous house for this giant dog, but you may need an extra couch.
This breed is an excellent choice for families who enjoy the presence of an extremely tall, friendly giant. Great Danes weigh anywhere from 110 to a whopping 175 pounds, and can be taller than most humans when standing on their hind legs. Unfortunately, this giant breed’s life expectancy is between 7 and 10 years, and they commonly suffer from illnesses such as bloat, eye problems, and heart disease.
American pit bull terrier
The stocky, muscular, and lovable pit bull terrier is often mistakenly deemed a dangerous breed. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. These wonderfully energetic and loyal large-breed dogs make excellent family pets when raised responsibly.
American pit bull terriers love to have fun. They are often rambunctious, silly, and eager to please, but can be stubborn, depending on what you ask them to do. Early training and redirection can help nip this in the bud. Take care with small children, as muscular pit bull terriers can easily become over-excited and topple over a tiny bystander. Regular exercise will help ensure your pit bull uses his energy in a more controlled fashion.
Day-to-day care for the pit bull terrier is manageable, with minimal grooming and moderate exercise needs. Most pit bulls weigh between 30 and 60 pounds and have an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years. Pit bull terriers are commonly diagnosed with allergies and knee problems.
Which big dog should you choose?
Many big dogs make excellent family companions. Once you’ve decided that a big dog is for you, consider your family’s lifestyle, needs, and expectations before settling on a particular breed. No matter which loveable large dog you choose, be smart and protect him.