What It's Like to Live With Big Dog Breeds

When you share your home with a dog who's larger than a pack of Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers combined, you need to think big — and act big.

We're talking about canines incapable of playing hide-and-seek under the bed or being content with just one cup of chow. And forget about trying to fit them into a normal-sized crate in your sedan.

But it can be done — and quite successfully. We reached out to four lifetime lovers of large breeds to share their tall (and big) tales.

Photo by Dale Porter
Nani rides the surf with her owner, Peter Noll.

Hanging 20 With Nani the Surfing Bernese Mountain Dog

She's as big as a mountain, with a sizable sweet temperament to match — and Nani likes nothing more than jumping on a surfboard with her owner, Peter Noll, at dog beaches throughout San Diego, Calif.

The duo even helped to create the So Cal Surf Dogs, a group comprised of owners who ride the waves with their dogs to raise money for animal charities. Nani's kid sister, Kiki, also a Bernese Mountain Dog, often watches from shore.

Noll, an architect, and his wife, Gabi, fell for the tricolored breed during a trip to Munich, Germany.

"We love this breed for so many reasons," says Noll. "They are loyal, affectionate and smart but slow. I say that in a good way because they think things through before taking action."

The downsides? Noll sighs as he rattles them off: a short lifespan (the average is 7 to 8 years), a high risk for cancer, a propensity to develop hip dysplasia and a super-shedding capacity — which is why Noll advises potential owners to invest in a seriously powerful vacuum!

Photo by Arden Moore

Fighting Canine Cancer With Brewster the Great Dane

Brewster, hailed as the world's tallest puppy, could easily see eye-to-eye with most NBA players when standing up on his back paws. The Great Dane measures 7 feet from the tip of his front paws to the tip of his tail. Just ask his owner — she's measured him.

To keep tabs on the dog's weight, his owner, Sandy Hall, must use a feed store scale because the one in the vet's office doesn't tick past 200 pounds, and Brewster (shown right) hovers around 215.

Brewster lives with two other Great Danes, Maddie and Sonnet — and they all enjoy romping on Hall's two-acre homestead in Nevada, Calif.

"I find Great Danes to be the sweetest, smartest, funniest and best looking," says Hall. "I love watching them run — it is pure elegance. And I love their size, and their short hair that doesn't shed much."

After his famous Uncle Gibson — who once ruled as the world's tallest dog — succumbed to bone cancer, Brewster picked up Gibson's duties as a spokesdog for the annual Pet Cancer Awareness Campaign, touring the country with Hall to raise awareness and funds for the Morris Animal Foundation.

According to Hall, there are some drawbacks to the breed that potential owners need to consider, including big food bills (Brewster consumes seven cups of dry food a day!), big veterinary bills to treat health conditions like cancer, heart disease and joint diseases — and, sadly, relatively short lives of under 10 years, on average.

If you're thinking of getting a Great Dane puppy, try to learn as much as possible about the pup's parents and grandparents. Although there are no guarantees, favorable medical screening test results for things like hip dysplasia, heart disease and thyroid disease could mean a reduced risk of these conditions for your dog.

"And Great Dane–proof your house," advises Hall. "Forget about having anything on tables or mounting low-level pictures, because these fun, furry freight trains like to get into mischief."

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