Who says good things come in small packages? Some of us like our puppy affection to be outsized. These big-dog breeds will provide you with a lot to love.

By Chad Taylor
August 24, 2020
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Sometimes you just need to act like you’re at McDonalds in the early ‘00s and say “Supersize me.” Even if you’re talking about dogs, not french fries. 

Big dogs aren’t for everyone. They take up space, they eat a lot, and they tend to drool. But if you’ve got the stamina and confidence to handle their big motors and big hearts, these giant boys and girls provide an extra amount of doggo to love!

“I will sometimes caution first-time pet owners against larger dogs,” says Dennis Riordan, DVM, of the Riordan Pet Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. “There’s more caretaking that can go into them, in terms of feeding, in terms of health care, in terms of training. But with that said, especially for people with active lifestyles, bigger breeds are much more adaptable and accessible.”

Couch potatoes. Athletes. Working dogs, and dogs who just want to cuddle. No matter who you are or what your lifestyle is like, there’s a giant dog that can fit right in. All you need to do is stock up on the kibble and make sure you’ve got an extra-large amount of affection to provide. Here are some big-dog breeds to look into. 

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Leonberger  

If you’re looking for a giant dog, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Leo. Standing almost 3 feet tall and weighing more than your average high school sophomore, these big-hearted giants were used as draught animals during the World Wars, pulling ammunition carts across the fields of Europe. Originally bred as a companion animal, the Leonberger wants nothing more than to be the world’s largest lap dog. Just be sure you’ve got plenty of space for him to roam and plenty of time for brushing that long, dense, waterproof coat!

Great Dane  

Like we could have a list of best giant dogs and leave Scooby Doo off of the lineup! One of the most popular dogs in the U.S. for years now, Great Danes are huge, friendly, and have a well-earned reputation as loving family dogs that are especially good with children. While they’re too timid to be considered hardworking watch dogs, their mere presence is usually enough to deter would-be intruders.

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Newfoundland  

With size to spare and a big heart to match, Newfies have long been known for their sweet temperament and patience with children. This tolerance, paired with their natural herding and protection instincts, has earned them a reputation as “nanny dogs.” Newfoundlands are also surprisingly agile for large dogs, excelling in agility, flyball, and rally competitions.

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Afghan Hound

Far and away the “smallest” dog on this list, fully grown Afghans tend to top out right around 60 pounds. They are, however, tall, slender, elegant dogs, standing around 2 1/2 feet tall and looking a bit like Cher, circa 1965. Natural sight hunters with a lot of stamina, Afghans need more exercise than many of the dogs on this list and thus are not going to be a perfect fit for every owner. But for people whose lifestyle matches this breed, there are few better dogs.

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Irish Wolfhound  

The tallest of all the AKC breeds—the breed standard for their height simply says “30 inches minimum”—the Irish wolfhound is sure to get you noticed wherever you take him. These truly huge dogs are also every bit as big-hearted, generally being considered far too sweet to serve as effective guard dogs, but serving as loyal, affectionate family companions to anyone with the space to house them. Like the Afghan, Irish wolfhounds are sight hunters who require a lot of fenced-in space to exercise and keep healthy.

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Saint Bernard  

Along with the Great Dane, the Saint Bernard is probably among the first breeds people think of when they consider big dogs. These loyal, reliable giants can get close to 200 pounds when fully grown and come with thick, soft fur that enhances their extra-full appearance. One of the most recognizable, famous breeds in the world, the Saint Bernard was a welcome sight for lost Alpine travellers, thanks to their massive stamina reserves, steadfast personality, and friendly demeanor.

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Great Pyrenees  

Breathtakingly beautiful with their soft, fluffy, snow-white coats, the Great Pyrenees are not a dog that you forget meeting. Blessed with huge strength and a keen mind, they were originally used to protect roaming flocks. Today they are still prized guard dogs, thanks to their ability to learn commands and understand what territory is “theirs.”

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Anatolian Shepherd Dog  

Another handsome brick house of a dog, full-grown Anatolians can check in north of 150 pounds. While their buff coats and friendly faces have made converts of many a dog owner, the trait that has long made them stand out is their legendary loyalty: When 2018 wildfires destroyed a neighborhood in Paradise, California, an Anatolian named Madison stayed in the burned wreckage of his home for a month, until his family could return to the neighborhood to collect him.

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Black-and-Tan Coonhound  

Maybe it’s because I grew up with The Fox and the Hound and The Aristocats, but I think every Black-and-Tan Coonhound looks like it should sound like Pat Buttram. Easy-going, brave, and an extremely adept tracker, these dogs have been favorites of hunters for decades. They are just as happy to be couch potatoes and family pets as well.

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Weimaraner  

Genuinely beautiful, the Weimaraner is an athletic, graceful, elegant dog with captivating amber or blue-grey eyes. Easy to care for and groom, the Weimaraner needs a healthy amount of exercise and would much rather take part in an agility or flyball competition than spend endless days on the couch. For people with active lifestyles or large yards to roam, these dogs are excellent choices.

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Mastiff  

This is it. The biggest of the big. The strongest of the strong. The alpha and omega of “huge dog.” A fully grown male mastiff will stand somewhere between 2 1/2 and 3 feet tall and tip the scales right around 230 pounds. Incredibly strong and, well, massive, they’re tireless workers and imposing watch dogs. They’re also blessed with some of the softest, most loveable faces you’ve ever seen and are well-known for their affable, easygoing personalities. Very visual communicators, mastiffs thrive on eye contact and direct instruction and have shown themselves to be highly trainable—a big plus for a dog this huge!