Siberian husky

Large Dog Breeds: Traits & Common Afflictions

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Many similarities exist between large dog breeds.  Among these are shared traits and common afflictions. Similar traits among large breeds are often behavioural breed traits. And, the afflictions that commonly affect large breed dogs are mostly injury or disease related. In fact, certain health issues can and will affect the diverse large breeds which can vary widely in both health concerns and individual dispositions. But, there are several common concerns to focus on that you can expect from large breed dogs.

Big Dog Temperament

Large breeds — gentle giants — are well known for their calm temperament, especially with their human families. In fact, big breed dogs often make great family pets because of their patience and tolerance with kids. But, please note that it’s important to realize that some large dog breeds can be overly protective and extremely territorial — especially herding breeds.  Early socialization and good training is key to avoiding problems with all dogs, but especially with big, overly protective family dogs.

Big Dog Intelligence

It’s well known that the large breeds are highly intelligent and very trainable. They often excel in obedience training, fetch training, and other training exercises like agility and tracking. You should be aware though that some breeds can be stubborn and independent-minded. It’s so important to find a training method or trainer that works well for your individual dog.

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Big Dog Trainability

Large dog breeds can be trained to develop their natural skills and instincts so that they can perform a variety of tasks well. These tasks run the gamut including everything from being a friendly family pet to working diligently in law enforcement or search and rescue. Be aware that certain breeds may need more consistent and professional training than others.  

Big Dog Activities

It is very important to know your dog’s activity needs as a youngster and a fully grown adult. Large dogs can have varying activity needs, depending on the dog’s breed.  While most big dogs easily adapt to their owner’s whims. Some breeds — like the Great Dane — are relatively low-key and don’t need a lot of exercise. However, the Siberian Husky — another large breed — has an abundance of energy so that breed needs a lot of challenging activity.

Large Breed Health Issues

Large dogs sometimes have serious health issues that can be heartbreaking and expensive. This is unfortunate information that often goes unasked about when people get a new big breed dog. 

So, if you’re thinking about getting a big breed dog then ask about potential health problems that may occur. Armed with this information, you can then make an informed choice., 

Here are some of the most common health issues that you and your dog may face:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common skeletal problem that affects many dog breeds, especially large breeds.  Dysplasia is a genetic disorder that happens when the hip joint doesn’t develop correctly during the dog’s growth phase. This causes the femur to rub against the hip socket. Causing a lot of discomfort and painful arthritis. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include limping, difficulty standing up, and reluctance to exercise or play.

To prevent hip dysplasia, only buy your large breed dog from a reputable breeder who screens for this. If your dog has dysplasia or signs of its onset, then all is not lost. Reduce the risk and the pain by keeping your dog at a healthy weight, frequently and correctly exercising, and avoiding strenuous movement that strains the hips.


Bloat, also called gastric torsion or twisted stomach, is a serious condition that can harm or kill large breed dogs. It usually happens when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself.  This makes proper digestion impossible and is very painful to the dog. Also, bloat can cut off the blood supply to other major organs. This condition is life-threatening and most vets will immediately operate to save the dog’s life.

Bloat symptoms are a distended abdomen, whimpering, growling, restlessness, and vomiting. To avoid bloat, feed your dog small meals several times a day rather than a big meal once a day.  Don’t train or exercise your big dog after a meal.  Feed your big dog from a raised bowl rather than the floor.

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Cardiovascular Disease

Large dogs are more apt to develop cardiovascular disease, like dilated cardiomyopathy and aortic stenosis. These conditions can lead to heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, and other serious complications.

Keep your dog’s heart healthy by regular exercise, a balanced diet, and regular check-ups with a licensed veterinarian. Also, while not proven, some breeds might benefit from heart health supplements or medications.  Ask your vet!


Unfortunately, cancer is a common disease for many large dog breeds. Some breeds, like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Bernese Mountain Dogs, are known to be more likely to get specific types of cancer than other breeds. 

Reduce the odds of cancer by feeding a healthy diet, including plenty of good exercise, and lowering your dog’s exposure to toxic chemicals. Early detection is also key, which requires regular check-ups and telling your vet about any changes in your dog.

There you have it — large dog breeds can be great pets for the right situation.  The owner, though, must be one who is willing and able to put the time, money, and energy into properly training the dog. It can’t be stressed enough just how important it is to do your research. Pick a breed that fits well with your lifestyle and personality. 

With good training, socialization, and care, a large breed dog can be a loyal and loving best friend or a devoted and skilled family dog.  

Want more on large dog breeds? Check out our top 10 large companion dog breed picks and our guide to feeding and grooming large breeds.

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