Pet Wellness Guides > Large Dog Breeds | Ultimate Guide to Large Dogs

Large Dog Breeds | Ultimate Guide to Large Dogs

Posted: 11/06/2023 | BY: Erin Cain | Categories: Uncategorized

You’ve decided to bring a dog into your life and home, and not just any dog, but a large dog breed. The definition of “large” when it comes to dog breeds is often up for debate; some people view a Golden Retriever as a large dog while others see a Mastiff or Newfoundland as their idea of a big canine breed.

Regardless of your definition of “large,” if a big dog is your kind of dog, you’re in luck. There are plenty of wonderful large dog breeds to choose from who can match your needs and lifestyle.

Before you bring a big dog into your life, you should consider the benefits of owning a larger canine as well as some advice about what to expect.

Our ultimate guide can help you familiarize yourself with what life with a large dog breed is like, and which breed might be the right one for you.

The upsides of owning a large dog

Aside from their unfailing loyalty and companionship, large dogs offer more to their pet parents than they may initially think. Here are some of the top benefits of large dog breeds:

Large breed dogs make for excellent outdoor companions

If you envision spending some downtime hiking trails or jogging a few miles, don’t do it alone: take your large breed dog with you! Most large dog breeds have the stamina and energy to keep up with you when you are exercising and love to partake in new outdoor adventures, like picnics, camping, and swimming.

Many large dog breeds were bred to be hunters or trackers; as such, they have a keen sense of smell and enjoy being outside with their favorite person. Regular activity is a must with large breeds, and if you’re looking for an exercise companion, you’ll never walk or run alone with a big dog at your side.

Some large dog breeds don’t need lots of exercise

While large dog breeds do love adventuring and exploring, most of them don’t need miles of activity every day. For most bigger dogs, one longer walk daily and some mental stimulation indoors is enough to keep them happy and healthy.

Some breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, were bred to retrieve and herd and do require regular exercise throughout the day. Other breeds, like German Shepherds, were bred to be guard dogs and therefore are hard-wired to sit around and observe their surroundings.

While daily exercise is part of life with a large breed dog, they don’t always require as much exercise as some people may think. If you want a big dog who doesn’t have demanding exercise needs, do some research and find the breed who will love to loaf around the house more than run around outside.

Large dog breeds can provide you with a sense of security

Big dogs often have equally big barks, and those two factors tend to get the attention of any strangers walking past a home with a large dog. A true guard dog needs to be specially and carefully trained, but if having an imposing dog alongside you makes you feel more secure, then you’ve got your pick of the litter to choose from with these big dogs.

While most people will steer clear of a barking German Shepherd, keep in mind that other large breeds, like the Golden Retriever, may also have a loud bark but are more likely to greet an intruder than attack them.

Common Health Issues with Large Dog Breeds

One of the most important aspects of caring for a large dog breed is to make sure you are aware of any potential health conditions they may be at risk for. The following health issues are common to large dog breeds.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a common orthopedic condition that happens when the ball and socket joint of your dog’s hip(s) is malformed. The condition results in the bones grinding against one another. Many dogs will display signs of the condition as young as 4 months of age. Signs include pain, a “looseness” of the hips and a reluctance to get up, climb stairs or be very active. Treatment options will depend on the severity of the condition.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is caused when there is abnormal growth at the elbow joint. This is a painful condition that results in fluid buildup at the joint. Genetics is usually responsible for the condition, although rapid growth is also sometimes a culprit. Symptoms may begin to appear between 4 and 12 months of age. Surgery is sometimes recommended, though milder cases may be treated with medical management.


Bloat, also referred to as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. When bloat occurs, the stomach twists and fills with gas. Bloat typically occurs when a dog has eaten or drank large volumes and then becomes active soon afterwards. This amount in the stomach and the sudden activity is what “flips” the stomach.

Symptoms of bloat include appearance of a swollen stomach, unproductive vomiting (they vomit over and over but nothing comes out), drooling and panting. Dogs who show these symptoms must be brought to their vet or emergency clinic immediately.


Five Popular Large Dog Breeds

When it comes to dog breeds, there are 72 purebred large breed dogs to choose from, not counting crossbreeds and mixed breeds. Where should you start to find the right large breed dog for you? Kick-off your search here with information on five of the most popular large dog breeds:

Golden Retriever

Well-known for their friendly smiles, gentle natures, and unmistakable gold-colored coats, the Golden Retriever is a popular standout amongst large dog breeds. This family-friendly dog is smart, easily trainable, and eager to please. Sensitive and extremely affectionate, the Golden Retriever is a joy to have as a canine companion.

This breed does need daily exercise and consistent, patient training, and time with their human family. Goldens bond so strongly with their owners that they can become lonely and suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long. The Golden Retriever loves her people, so if you are not home often, this large dog breed might not be your best choice.

The Golden Retriever has a double-coat and frequently sheds. Be prepared to brush your Golden often and have her professionally groomed every month.

Height: 21 – 24 inches

Weight: 65 – 75 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10 – 12 years

Bernese Mountain Dog

Loving and easygoing, the strikingly beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog is an ideal family pet due to his calm temperament and gentle nature. Large and sturdy, the Bernese was initially bred to be a watchdog and to herd cattle but is now known for his wavy tri-color coat and excellent disposition. This breed displays unconditional loyalty and love to his family, especially children. With appropriate socialization and training, the Bernese Mountain Dog is by far one of the friendliest dog breeds.

This large breed dog has a high energy level, so you should choose this breed for your home if you have space for the Bernese to run and you have the time necessary to give him the exercise he needs to be happy. The Bernese is the perfect companion for people who enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, camping, or walking.

The Bernese’s rough double-coat means this breed is prone to shedding year-round, and his coat will require regular care. Daily brushing and weekly grooming are the general rules for this large breed dog.

Height: 23 – 28 inches

Weight: 70 – 115 pounds

Life Expectancy: 6 – 10 years

Labrador Retriever

Known as the most popular dog breed worldwide, the Labrador Retriever has rightfully earned that prestigious title. Loyal, energetic, and family-friendly are just the first adjectives that come to mind with this affectionate large dog breed. With three available coat colors — yellow, black, and chocolate — the Labrador is universally recognizable for her engaging smile and enthusiastic approach to life.

This happy breed bonds with her people and craves their company; therefore, if you are away from home for long periods, the Labrador may not fit with your lifestyle. This dog wants to be a part of her family’s daily activities and is especially fond of children. The Labrador also needs a decent amount of exercise and at least one longer, brisk walk per day as this breed can quickly gain weight.

The Labrador may have a short, water-repellent coat, but that doesn’t stop her from shedding.  Regular brushing and grooming are a must with this breed.

Height: 22 – 25 inches

Weight: 55 – 80 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10 – 13 years

German Shepherd

The handsome German Shepherd is a low-maintenance large dog breed. Bred for their intelligence and work ethic, the German Shepherd is the breed of choice for police and military training as well as seeing-eye guide and service. The German Shepherd is highly trainable, obedient, and fiercely protective of his family. When well-trained and socialized, this large dog breed makes for an excellent companion for homes with older children, although they are often aloof toward strangers.

A German Shepherd pet parent should plan to give their dog plenty of exercise, especially of the mental variety. German Shepherds are amongst the smartest dogs, and they require mental stimulation to be happy and content. Obedience training, agility training, and tracking are ways to incorporate both physical and mental exercise in your dog’s life.

German Shepherds have a thick coat and long, bushy tail. As such, they tend to shed in vast quantities. Grab a pet vacuum and make sure you regularly brush and groom your German Shepherd to keep his coat healthy and your home relatively hair-free.

Height: 23 – 25 inches

Weight: 60 – 85 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10 – 14 years


For the ultimate active large dog breed, look no further than the Weimaraner. Known as the “Silver Ghost” due to her remarkable silver-grey coat, the Weimaraner is a sleek, lean, athletic large breed dog. If you want a companion to accompany you on a long run on the road or the trail, this is the dog breed for you.

The Weimaraner breed has lots of energy to burn, and a pet parent must take this into account before bringing this breed into their home. Weimaraners need extensive physical exercise, but on account of their sharp intelligence, mental stimulation is a requirement as well. While this breed is high-maintenance in this department, in return you get a sensitive, loving, loyal canine who will bond strongly with you.

Weimaraners may have short hair or long hair. The short-haired dogs are easy to brush and groom while the longer-haired members of the breed need regular brushing and grooming to keep up with shedding hair.

Height: 23 – 27 inches

Weight: 55 – 88 pounds

Life Expectancy: 11 – 13 years

Pick Your Large Dog Breed

There are plenty of other large dog breeds to learn about, but you can start your search here with these five popular dog breeds to see if they provide the canine companionship you want.

Large dog breeds are gentle, loving, and family-oriented, and above all, loyal companions. If you are going to add a dog to your family, consider a large dog who will walk happily at your side every step of the way.


If smaller breeds of dog are more for you, read our ultimate guide on small dog breeds here.


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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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