Big Dog Basics: Everyday Issues For People With Giant Breeds

Mastiff, Newfoundland and Great Dane split
Animal Photography
Giant breeds like Mastiffs (left), Newfoundlands (center) and Great Danes (right) can be great companions, but there are few things you need to take into consideration because of their size.

Thinking of sharing your life with a Great Dane, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound or other giant breed? While these giant breeds can make great companions, there are a few things you need to think about before you commit. For starters, they eat more and take up more space — like most of the bed and all of the sofa. And they can pull you off your feet if they're out on a walk and see something interesting off in the distance. 

Giant breeds can also have health problems related to their size. Plus, their medications and medical bills can be more expensive. Emergencies aside, though, just living with them on a day-to-day basis can pose problems you might never have thought of. Here are a few things you should know before you go big.

Counters, Floors and — Ceilings???

Your giant breed may be the most well-mannered dog in his playgroup, but he's still prone to accidents. Plan on removing breakables from coffee tables or other areas that are at dog height. A Great Dane’s tail can sweep them onto the floor with a single wag.

In addition, food will no longer be safe on your kitchen counters or dining room table. Some tall dogs are notable counter surfers, since everything is at nose level for them. They may be prone to helping themselves to the roast beef you just pulled out of the oven, the stick of butter left out to soften, the muffins you baked for breakfast, the roast you're waiting to carve — you get the idea. Experienced giant-breed aficionados store the trash can on top of the refrigerator and place food well out of reach when they aren’t there to supervise.

Your giant breed can also make a mess down low. You've seen the guy at the fast-food restaurant wolfing down his burger and getting it all over himself and the table. That gives you a pretty good idea of what your Otterhound — and your kitchen — might look like after a meal.

Sure, there must be some giant dogs who are dainty diners, but for the most part you can expect that your big fella will need to have a good face-washing after eating or drinking, especially if he has a beard or other facial furnishings. Keep a hand towel handy for wiping faces and a comb at the ready to remove food debris.

And the counters and floors aren't the limit for giant breed messes — even the ceiling can be an issue. How is that possible, you ask? One word: drool. Newfoundlands, Bloodhounds, Saint Bernards and other droolmeisters can fling gobs of saliva to heights you never imagined. Be prepared to repaint ceilings and walls every two to three years — or learn to live with the the stalactite look.

Diet For a Big Dog

It’s a given that giant breeds eat more than their normal-size brethren, although you’ll probably find that they require less food than you expect. They do, however, have some special dietary needs, especially as pups and adolescents.

It’s easy to think that giant-breed puppies need to pack on the pounds to reach their full growth, but just the opposite is true. A slow and uniform growth rate produces adult dogs with healthier joints.

To help avoid problems, talk to your veterinarian about the best diet choice and feeding regimen for your pup as well as the timeline for switching to an adult food — usually sometime between 12 and 24 months.

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