Sometimes bigger really is better, and when it comes to large dog breeds that’s definitely the case. Whether you’re after an active companion or a chilled out friend for naps on the couch, big dog breeds can do all that and more. Before you jump into large dog ownership however, it’s important to consider if you can provide what these breeds need.
“A significant difference in giant breeds versus smaller dog care is simply in the logistics of having such a large animal to care for,” says Jay Rowan, chief veterinarian and owner of Paoli Vetcare. Owning a giant dog isn’t for everyone, and these logistics can extend to every part of your life, so this isn’t a decision to be rushed.
If you think you’re ready to add a giant dog to your family, check out our favorite breeds for some inspiration.
What is Considered a Large Breed Dog?
Typically, any breed that weighs over 80 pounds fully grown is considered a large breed.
If you’re wondering what the biggest dog breed overall is, the answer depends on if you’re measuring by height or weight. The tallest dog breed recognized by the American Kennel Club is the Irish Wolfhound, which can stand over 32 inches at the shoulder. The heaviest is the Mastiff, topping out at a huge 230 pounds.
10 Best Big Dog Breeds
Take a look at the ten biggest dog breeds and learn more about what makes these pups different from average-sized dogs.
Weight: 150-200 lbs
Originating in South Africa, the Boerboel was originally bred to protect remote farmsteads and diamond mines. They might be fearless but they thrive on human company. They’re loyal and attentive with their families, but their huge size and protective nature means care always needs to be taken when they’re around small children or strangers.
These athletic dogs need plenty of physical exercise as well as lots of mental stimulation. Their short coat is low maintenance and easy to care for. This breed is a good fit for relatively quiet homes with large and securely fenced backyards. The protective nature of Boerboels means they won’t enjoy a home with lots of people coming and going and are best suited for experienced owners.
Weight: 110-175 lbs
One of the most popular big dog breeds, the Great Dane is instantly recognizable thanks to its short coat, athletic body and huge size. Despite their lovable and slightly goofy natures when around family, Danes won’t hesitate to bark at strangers, then probably go and hide behind their owners!
Their history as a hunting dog means they sometimes can’t help chasing down an interesting scent, so leashed walks or a fenced backyard are a must. Great Danes can be a little fearful as they’re growing up, so plenty of positive socialization when they’re puppies will help them become confident adult dogs.
Weight: 85-100+ lbs
The Great Pyrenees have a courageous yet gentle character, born from their history as a guardian of livestock. Known for their loud bark, Pyrs adore being part of a family and are very tolerant of children and other pets. Despite their gentle nature, they can have an independent spirit, so starting training early is recommended.
Bred to thrive in the snowy Pyrenees mountains, their furry coats sheds a lot, so be prepared for regular grooming sessions, especially during shedding season. The extra time and effort to keep that furry white coat pristine will be well worth it. Great Pyrenees are made for spending hours patiently watching their flocks, so they don’t need masses of exercise. A couple of easy 20-minute walks each day will be enough for one of these fluffballs.
Weight: 105-120 lbs
Irish Wolfhounds are big in every sense of the word. This breed is among the tallest there is—when standing on their hind legs they can reach seven feet tall. Despite their huge size, these dogs are gentle giants. They love a good snooze on the sofa, just make sure you buy one large enough to accommodate them.
When not napping, Irish Wolfhounds love to run, and they can cover ten feet in just one stride. Owners need to provide plenty of space for these dogs to run. Leashed walks are recommended, as their history as a sighthound means they sometimes can’t resist the urge to chase after wildlife (or neighborhood cats). They might look intimidating, but in reality Irish Wolfhounds have a sensitive streak and really just want to be loved.
Weight: 100-150 lbs
These huge bundles of fluff were originally bred to work on ships, and their devotion to humans even extended to rescuing drowning fishermen. Modern Newfies are just as loyal to their families, earning them the nickname of “nanny dogs.” This breed is typically patient, sweet-natured and naturally friendly.
Newfoundlands love water, and thanks to their webbed feet and double coat they’re extremely strong swimmers. Out of the water, their exercise requirements are fairly low. High intensity exercise can harm their joints, so gentle walks are best for these dogs. Newfies also drool a lot, so owners need to be prepared to clean up plenty of slobber trails. Newfoundlands love to please their owners and respond best to positive reinforcement training methods.
Weight: 90-170 lbs
Combining grace and power, the Leonberger is sometimes nicknamed the “Gentle Lion.” Unlike many other giant dog breeds, Leonbergers were bred as companion dogs. This means they thrive when they’re included in every aspect of daily life. Leos are also extremely active and intelligent, so they need a family that can give them plenty of physical and mental exercise.
Make sure you can set aside plenty of time for grooming as Leos shed their coat profusely. Short daily brushing sessions are required, plus a longer session once a week. Given their huge size, this may take longer than you think. This breed is clever, but they can also be strong-willed and incredibly energetic. They do best with an experienced owner who can start training and socialization as early as possible.
Weight: 120-230 lbs
Out of all the big dog breeds, the Mastiff is one of the heaviest, with males weighing up to 230 pounds. These giant dogs are sometimes known as British Mastiffs or Old English Mastiffs. Loving and affectionate with their families, they’re naturally wary of strangers and need plenty of training and socialization when they’re puppies.
Mastiffs love watching over their families, but be prepared for a lot of drool. When it comes to grooming and exercise requirements, they’re fairly low maintenance. Their short double coat only needs grooming every other day. Mastiffs enjoy short walks, preferably on soft surfaces to protect those giant joints. Push them past their limit and they’ll simply lie down—and trying to move a dog of this size takes some doing!
Weight: 120-180 lbs
Almost everyone is familiar with the legend of Saint Bernards rescuing stranded travelers in the Alps. While they didn’t carry brandy barrels (myth busted, sorry) this breed lives up to their reputation as gentle and affectionate companions to this day. Saint Bernards don’t always comprehend their own size, so move any delicate possessions out of their way.
As a working breed, Saint Bernards love to feel like they have a job to do, whether that’s joining you on a hike, helping with farm chores or even learning how to pull a cart. Around 30 minutes of exercise per day is enough for these guys though. Their dense coats can be long or short but both are fairly high maintenance as they do shed a lot. Saint Bernards also have large jowls, so expect plenty of slobber to accompany your dog wherever they go.
Weight: 110-150 lbs
The Neopolitan Mastiff is an imposing, rare Italian breed known for their huge heads, gigantic jowls and soulful expression. These working dogs can be a little aloof with strangers, but they will always be extremely devoted to their families. They do best as an only dog, as they don’t always tolerate other pets sharing their space.
Training a Neopolitan Mastiff can be a challenge, as their independent nature means they do have a stubborn streak. Starting their training early and keeping it consistent is essential. Neopolitan Mastiffs don’t need a huge amount of exercise and its important to make sure they don’t overheat in hot weather. Their short coat is easy to groom, but more time will need to be dedicated to those sizable wrinkles.
Weight: 70-120 lbs
The Tibetan Mastiff makes a loyal and loving family companion, but they’re not suitable for first-time dog owners. Given their independent nature, this breed needs careful and consistent training. They’re happy to take charge and make decisions without any input from their owners, which can be challenging for inexperienced pet parents.
One of the defining characteristics of this fluffy big dog breed is their dense ruff of fur across their neck and shoulders. For most of the year their grooming requirements are minimal but they do shed twice a year. As a working breed, Tibetans prefer to be given a job rather than go for a walk. Owners should keep this breed on leash when not in a securely fenced yard, and bear in mind they can be wary of strangers.
Caring for Really Big Dog Breeds
It’s tempting to think that owning one of these extra large dog breeds will be like owning any other dog, but that generally is not the case. Before committing to a giant breed, you’ll want to consider their unique needs and challenges.
Big Dog Breed Health and Exercise Needs
Big dog breeds mature much more slowly than smaller breeds. “With any large dog breed, care needs to be taken not to over exercise them when they’re puppies,” Rowan says. “These dogs take longer to mature than their smaller counterparts and excessive amounts of exercise can strain their joints.”
Large dog breeds can also be prone to different orthopedic and neurological issues that can make it difficult for them to go down stairs or get into a vehicle, Rowan adds. They might require assistance which can be physically challenging for some pet owners.
Financial Considerations of Big Dog Breeds
Big dogs equal big bills. From food to dog beds, toys and medication, everything is supersized. Rowan says that feeding a big dog is “an expense many-fold above that of having a small breed dog. This especially becomes evident when expensive prescription diets are needed to manage a medical condition.”
Lifestyle Needs of Giant Dogs
Big dog breeds don’t suit every lifestyle. Is your home large enough to accommodate a dog that can stretch out to seven feet as they take a nap? Do you have space for them to run at full speed when they want to? Cleaning your home can also be a challenge, as large breeds tend to make larger messes.
Sometimes it may be a struggle to find day care facilities, groomers or dog walkers who have the facilities to care for giant breeds. Rowan notes that owning a big dog can even affect the vehicle you drive. “Having a giant breed dog will oftentimes influence your vehicle choice. Many giant breed dog owners have trucks, large SUVs or vans to accommodate their extra large cargo,” he says.
Big Dog Training Tips
Training is important for all dogs, no matter their size. But when it comes to big dogs, it’s absolutely vital. Once mature, these dogs are capable of reaching your countertops, taking over your couch and can easily pull down a fully-grown adult if they decide to run off on the leash. Starting your dog’s training as young as possible means by the time they’re fully grown they’ll already have a good level of obedience.
Despite their intimidating size, many big dog breeds are very sensitive, so positive reinforcement is going to suit them best. Socialization, walking well on leash and interacting with strangers and other dogs are all areas to focus your training on.