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Caring for Large Dog Breeds

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Owning a large dog has its share of chores and challenges. So, this article is all about feeding, grooming and caring for large dog breeds.  It is very important that you give them the best care you can.  Obviously, that includes how often and how much of what you feed your dog. And, how and how often you groom your big best friend.  

Yep, big dogs are strong and often have an air of superiority about them. But, ignore them or hurt their tender feelings and they will crumble — like a house of cards. Their superior air will quickly come crashing down so be careful and be kind.

Caring for Large Dog Breeds

Suggested Diet

Large dog breeds require a balanced diet that is rich in dog healthy protein, omega-3 fatty acid,  fiber, vitamins, and minerals. We always urge you to feed your dog high-quality dog food of your choice.  Just be sure the dog food is specifically formulated for large breeds. The food should have a minimum protein content of 25% and a minimum fat content (animal fat, not plant-extruded oils) of 12% to 15%.

It is critically important to watch your dog’s weight and adjust their food intake accordingly. You may need to upgrade your dog’s exercise program too. Overfeeding will lead to obesity and/or related health problems like fatigue, restlessness, joint pain, or heart disease.

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Grooming Needs

Large dog breeds usually need regular grooming to keep their coats healthy and clean. Brushing your dog’s coat at least once a week, or as needed, can help prevent mats and tangles. Bathing your dog every 2-3 months should also be done (or, as needed if the dog gets into stinky stuff)But, do not over-bathe your dog because that will wash out the dog’s first line of defence — the natural skin oils.

In addition to brushing and bathing, a big part of grooming is trimming the dog’s nails so they aren’t too long and painful.  While you’re at it, you should clean your dog’s ears and teeth too. And, remember to examine the dog’s skin for lumps, bumps, any wounds, and parasites.

Exercising Needs

Large dog breeds require regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. It is recommended to provide them with at least 30 minutes to an hour of exercise every day. This can include walks, runs, or playtime in the backyard.

Some large dog breeds, such as Great Danes, will develop bad joints over time. So, help your big dog avoid painful or crippling joints by using low-impact exercises as they grow into adulthood. Low-impact exercises include things like swimming or walking on comfortable, non-slip (carpet, grass, dirt trails, etc.) or non-hot paved surfaces (sidewalks or streets) to prevent joint pain and injury.

Providing your big dog with a nutritionally balanced diet (No Table Scraps!) proper grooming, and low-impact exercise can help prevent foot and leg problems as the dog gets older.

Training Large Dog Breeds

Training large dog breeds can be a little intimidating and challenging.  Patience, calmness, and consistency are key. Training your own large breed dog should be a rewarding and fun experience for both of you and not a dreaded chore for either of you.

Here are some tips that may help you train your large dog:

Big Breed Puppy Training

Puppy training is key to starting large dog breeds out the right way. Begin training your puppy as early in their young age as you can (Remember that no dog should be taken away from its mother till it’s weaned at about 8 weeks of age!).  

Begin training slowly starting with basic commands (sit, stay, fetch, play, down, come, walk, and heel). Freely use positive reinforcement techniques like treats and praise to reward learning and good behaviour.  Never use negative reinforcement like yelling, cursing, or any kind of punishment for unwanted behaviour — Just take a deep breath and walk away!

It’s important to set a good training routine and stick to it. Put aside a set time each day for training sessions. Keep training sessions short and fun. As your puppy grows, gradually increase the duration and difficulty of each session.  As the puppy learns and grows, introduce him or her to new locations and new lessons.  Doing so will prevent boredom and lacklustre enthusiasm, and don’t forget to reward your pup with your own encouraging praise and treats.

Big Breed Obedience Training

Obedience training is crucial for all large dog breeds.  Not training is a sure sign of owner laziness and total disregard for others.  If you are unable to correctly train your big dog or pay a professional to do it, then don’t get a big dog.  End of story!

Correctly teaching your large breed dog to promptly obey commands will help you prevent behaviour problems down the road.  This will help to keep everyone safe. 

Remember, always use positive reinforcement training to encourage good behaviour and to discourage bad behaviour.

Big Breed Socialization

Socialization and acceptance of other pets and people is crucial to owning any dog, especially large dogs — even otherwise gentle large dogs. Training your puppy to accept other people, animals, and locations socializes the pup to new smells, sights, and sounds. Begin socializing your big breed puppy at as young an age as possible and positively reinforce those social lessons throughout his or her life. 

Take your puppy to different places like dog parks, pet stores, and other public areas. Introduce them to other sights, sounds, dogs, and people.  But, always be careful about supervising and controlling your dog in all locations and interactions. Remember to use positive reinforcement to reinforce good behaviour. 

Make no mistake about it — as a dog owner you are personally responsible for the actions of your dog. Training does not guarantee that your big dog won’t attack, bite, or do anything wrong, but it’s an important step in the right direction. And, it’s important to understand that there is no excuse for not training or mistreating your dog.

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Steve Mann is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist with over 30 years of experience. As the founder of the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, he has transformed the lives of over 100,000 dogs and their families.

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Choosing A Large Breed 

There are a few things you should think about before choosing a large dog breed. Large dog breeds can vary greatly in temperament, energy level, and overall care requirements. 

caring for a large breed dog

Here are some important things to consider: 

Family-Friendly Breeds

If children, visitors, or other pets will be around your home or places you go to with your dog , then you need to pick a large dog breed that is family-friendly. Some gentler breeds that are good with kids, people, and other pets are the:

These dogs are all known for their gentle nature. In fact, they are often used as therapy or service dogs. Their trainability, loyalty, and affection usually make them awesome family pets.

Active Lifestyle Breeds

If you are looking for a large dog breed and have an active lifestyle, then there are several breeds to consider. These breeds are respected for their high energy, great obedience, aptitude for learning, adaptability, friendly companionship, and love of exercise:

These dogs all need lots of exercise and mental stimulation to stay fit and healthy. They are often used as working dogs or in action sports.

Guard Dog Breeds

Looking for a large dog breed that will protect you, your family, and your property?  Well, there are several breeds to check out: 

The following dogs are known for their extreme loyalty, protective instincts and natural abilities:

  • Bullmastiff
  • Great Dane
  • Akita
  • Cane Corso
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Rottweiler

These breeds all need careful socialization and training so they are well-behaved and obedient. 

Remember, choosing the right dog breed means careful thought must be given to your lifestyle, family situation, visitors, and overall needs. When the right breed is chosen you can anticipate years of companionship and loyalty from your best bud.

Training large dogs takes patience, consistency, understanding, and above all positive reinforcement. Always begin training your puppy as soon as you can.  Always be consistent with your commands. And, always socialize your puppy to different people, pets, and places. 

Did you enjoy this article on caring for large dog breeds? Want to learn more about these giants of the dog world? Read our post on the top 10 large companion breeds or find out the common traits and afflictions that link these large breed dogs.

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