Shirley Culpin

Living with a large breed dog can be a varied experience, depending on your canine companion’s breed and size. While some folks consider a Golden Retriever ‘large’, others think more in the realm of a Russian Wolfhound or a Neapolitan Mastiff. Regardless of your interpretation of ‘large’, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration before bringing a large or giant breed of dog into your life.

Big dog, big voice
One of the biggest advantages of a large dog is the security factor. Even if you aren’t particularly feeling in need of protection and this is not one of your concerns when choosing a larger breed, big dogs tend to incite caution among those who might be considering causing you grief of one sort or another. Large dogs have big voices, and their often larger-than-life physical presence can act as a definite deterrent.

Great outdoor companions

Larger dogs are generally good for prolonged outdoor excursions. If you enjoy hiking, camping or other outdoor activities they are always keen to tag along, keep you company and, perhaps, deter wildlife from harassing you. They might, however, not be such a great fit in your canoe or kayak!

Bigger size means more food

Pet parents of larger dogs must expect to spend more on food for their canine buddies – and they will also be cleaning up larger quantities of doggy-doo. Some big dogs are slobberers, which means you will need to find a good place to put a water bowl or bucket where watery slime won’t ruin floor surfaces or cause slipping accidents.

Larger spaces

Generally speaking, the larger your dog the bigger everything to do with him will need to be. A bigger bed for him will take up more space in your house. He will require a more spacious, more expensive crate, and you will need a larger vehicle to accommodate him if you want to take him places. While pet parents of toy dog breeds can get away with a smart car, it’s highly unlikely that you would ever manage to squash a St. Bernard into one. If you allow your canine buddies on your furniture, you might need to be prepared to buy more. We recently looked after two Borzoi (Russian Wolfhounds) who occupied, between them, all of the love seat and 75 percent of the sofa in our living room.

A more secure yard

As with everything ‘large’, bigger dogs require higher, sturdier and more secure fencing if you want to keep them safe at home. Depending on the height and weight of your canine companion you should consider a minimum of five to six feet in height for any fencing in areas where he will be allowed on your property. And while a simple enclosure of chicken wire will suffice to contain a small dog, a large dog can easily barge through something so flimsy. Solid wood or sturdy no-climb wire fencing is ideal for containment of larger dogs.

Grooming costs and pet hair

The amount of dog hair that will infiltrate your home and closets will depend, of course, on the type of coat your large dog has and how often he gets groomed. Be prepared to spend more at the groomers if you go the professional route for bathing and grooming services. Big dogs require more warm water, more shampoo, and more drying time.

Obedience is key

Early, consistent obedience training is a must if you want to enjoy a happy long-term relationship with your large dog. There is nothing worse (or more embarrassing) than being hauled around by your dog as he eagerly investigates his surroundings or strains to meet a new canine friend. Big dogs have a lot of strength that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Large breed lifespan

Perhaps the one true drawback to owning a large dog is their lifespan. Depending on the breed you choose you may have as little as seven or eight years with them, whereas smaller breeds often live well into their late teens. This doesn’t, of course, apply to all large dogs – one of our Irish Setters lived to be 15½ years old, with most of our dogs – both Irish Setters and Dalmatians – averaging out at about 13-14 years before we lost them.
In the end, large dogs tend to have big, adoring hearts that will envelop you and your family in love. And, they make the best bed-warmers ever – although you may need a king-sized bed to accommodate both you and them!

(Shirley Culpin has been involved with the purebred dog world for 45 years. Her Irish Setters have won many Best in Show awards, top obedience accolades, field titles and advanced agility titles. She remains active in dog volunteer work and through her ‘Home Away from Home’ dog sitting service.)