Wondering if getting a big dog would be a great addition to your family? A canine weighing 70 pounds or more is considered a large size dog. Life with a large dog means living with more of everything that comes with a dog: More hair, more food to buy and, let’s face it, more messes in the backyard to pick up. But the pet parents that adore them wouldn’t have it any other way.
Enthusiasts of the larger breeds and mixes say you won’t find a more intelligent, loyal companion animal. Getting in sync with these powerful canines provides an experience like no other. The following will delve into life with big dogs and what makes them the dog of choice for some pet parents.
Are large dogs easier to train than smaller dogs?
There’s a perception that large dogs are calmer and more obedient. Are large dogs predisposed to mellower personalities? Or is something else at work?
Consider the heritage
When you look at the heritage of your large dog, it more than likely comes from one of the working breeds (which include malamutes, boxers and German Shepherds) or sporting breeds (Labrador retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish setter). Perhaps this lend them a propensity to be highly trainable, quick to learn, and in tune with their humans, making them ideal companions for the home or when you’re out and about.
There’s the pack instinct
Some large breeds tend to get into the pack animal mindset, and you, his human, will definitely be an important member of his pack, perhaps even the leader. And as many pet parents will tell you, there’s something wonderful about being the pack leader of a large, powerful animal.
Don’t forget individual traits
As always, the dog will bring his unique personality to your home. For every mild-mannered large dog, you’ll find a highly spirited one with an extra-large personality — that proverbial bull in a China shop.
Science says large breeds are easier to potty train
When it comes to house training, size does make a difference in success. A recent poll of pet parents shows that 95% of large dogs are fully house trained, compared to 67% of smaller dogs. (That also means 33% of small dog owners are investing heavily in wipes and carpet cleaner.) Why is that? One theory is larger dogs have larger bladders, so they can “hold it” longer.
Science also says dog size influences training
Another explanation is that large dogs are better behaved than smaller dogs because smaller dogs often are treated differently. Research suggests that pet parents put in less time on obedience training with small dogs than they do with larger animals. They’re also less likely to participate in shared activities together, such as agility training.
And our attitude toward training has consequences on the dog’s behavior. That makes perfect sense. It’s cute when a little pup rears up to put his paws on your knees. But it’s not cute when a 100-pound dog puts their paws on your shoulders. OK, maybe it’s still cute, but you probably want to get that under control!
For purely practical reasons, parents of large dogs tend to be more focused on training and obedience. At the end of the day, bad manners are harder to live with in large pets.
[Download episode 89 of Raising Your Paws Podcast to hear more considerations when choosing between a large dog and and small dog.]
Bottom line: Can you commit to training?
As a pet parent, training is a huge consideration when it comes to deciding if a large dog is right for your family. Do you have the time and patience to focus on training, especially if your dog has a will to match his size?
Focus on voice control
When you have a larger pet, you’ll want to establish voice control early. This is critical with larger breeds, which is another reason why pet parents of these dogs may seem more focused on obedience and training. After all, if a smaller pet gets into mischief, you can simply walk over and pick them up in your arms. Try doing that with a strong, willful 70-pound, 85-pound or 100-pound dog. You won’t get very far!
Voice control lets you:
- Take control of tough situations: When he’s playing too rough at the dog park or giving in to temptation to bolt after that rabbit, voice control is key to getting that 90 pounds of fur, energy and determination to stop and return to you.
- Foster good pet manners: Much like picking up waste and bringing your barking dog indoors, establishing voice control with your large pet is part of being a courteous pet parent. Some people, children especially, get terrified when a large dog is running toward them.
- Feel accomplished: Maybe this is tapping into something primal and ancestral. But gaining the trust and loyalty of a large, powerful animal is deeply satisfying. So is successfully training him to respond to voice control.
Other things to know about life with large breeds
Large breeds are well-suited for outdoor living
If you’re the outdoorsy type who enjoys recreating in all kinds of weather, a large dog can be an ideal companion for hiking, biking and running. If they descend from working breeds or sporting breeds, long sessions of being active outdoors will put them in their element. With their long legs and expanded lung capacity, they’ll have the stamina to go the extra mile with you.
Large dogs offer a sense of protection
For some pet parents, having a large, powerful dog by their side brings a feeling of security to their lives and home. Protective breeds, such as boxers and German Shepherds, are intensely loyal and are willing to lay down their lives for you. Whether you’re home alone, on a camping trip, or taking a walk around the lake, nothing compares to that comforting feeling of having a friend by your side that truly has your back.
Sure, there are sacrifices when living with a pet that takes up more legroom. You have to get really good at keeping your counters clean. Exercise will be a commitment, but that’s true of any dog you live with. You’ll also want to think about your family’s ability to physically care for a larger pet if the breed tends to have hip and other mobility issues in his geriatric years. But when it comes down to it, these sacrifices are easily outweighed by having a furry best friend who only wants to please you.
Feeding your large-breed dog
When it comes to choosing the right diet for large breeds, it’s important to understand their unique nutritional needs. Not all dog foods are alike, which is why you’ll want to choose a high-quality diet that’s formulated for large breeds, from puppyhood all the way up through adulthood.
First and foremost, overnutrition is a risk in large breeds that are still growing. In puppies, excess calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D leads to excessive growth, contributing to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD). Even in adults, these minerals and vitamins need to be in balance to reduce the risk of orthopedic diseases that can accompany these breeds, such as hip dysplasia.
You’ll also want a diet that promotes gut health, because the last thing you want in a large dog is stool issues. The probiotics and prebiotics in NutriSource’s proprietary Good 4 Life system support digestion, facilitate the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and provide immune support to boost your pet’s natural defenses against aging, allergies and disease.
Finally, a nutrient-dense, bioavailable diet is key to fewer messes in the yard. Most commercial dog foods require 5 1/2 cups or more per feeding for a 100-pound dog. That simply means you’ll have more to pick up in the backyard. However, most nutrient-dense formulas from NutriSource require just 3 1/2 cups per day for a 100-pound dog. You’ll see the difference almost immediately.