What It’s Like to Live With Big Dog Breeds
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.
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!
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."
Look Before Leaping Into Adopting a Giant Schnauzer
Teresa Davila shares her Salem, Wisc., home with three Giant Schnauzers — Rica, Elvis and Tank. Yet in her role as a volunteer for the national HT-Z Giant Schnauzer Rescue, she does everything that she can to talk people out of adopting this challenging breed.
"This is definitely not a breed for everyone," says Davila, who constantly fields calls from people needing to surrender their dogs.
Davila's first Giant Schnauzer caused more than $10,000 in property damage to her home before she properly educated herself on how to train and guide the headstrong, high-energy breed.
"I describe them as a thinking person's dog because the Giant Schnauzer will think about everything you're doing, and about every command you give them, before acting," says Davila. "Watching them move is like looking at an Arabian horse — both have such a show presence."
Other concerns to consider: Giant Schnauzers weigh between 85 and 95 pounds, so they're not suitable for apartment living. They're also powerful runners who may nip as a result of herding instincts — and they are not big into having a lot of canine pals.
"Their loyalty is fierce, and they make for a fabulous home security system," adds Davila, alluding to the fact that these dogs will bark loudly if someone unknown dares to ring the doorbell. "And expect to be thoroughly interviewed by a breeder because this is a high-energy dog who needs focus and plenty of activities."
Meet the Sweet (and Slobbery!) Saint Bernard
For 45 years, Beverly Nosiglia has been hounded by packs of Saint Bernards.
"Saint Bernards are devoted, loyal, calm and just a delight," says Nosiglia, a veteran American Kennel Club judge. "Don't expect to get up quickly from your chair because this is a breed that's happy to lie down on your feet for hours. And we're talking about dogs who weigh between 145 and 155 pounds for females, and 180 to 190 pounds for males."
Her family operates the Beric Kennel on a two-acre property in Romulus, N.Y. In addition to spacious kennels with large runs, her pack of Saint Bernards have access to the family's two-car garage, which has been converted into an air-conditioned "canine condo," complete with a bathing station.
If you're smitten by this breed, be prepared not to throw in the towel, but to bring a towel, thanks to the breed's tendency to drool. There's also something else you'll see a lot of — kibble. Each of Nosiglia's Saint Bernards consumes eight cups of food a day!
There are some other caveats to this canine. "Sadly, they are prone to bone cancer, hip dysplasia and seizures, and they only live, on average, 8 or 9 years," says Nosiglia. "They need access to the outdoors, where they can play, run and bounce. And they give off a lot of body heat. But they live to please you."