Living with a large breed dog can be a varied experience, depending on your canine companion’s breed and size. While some folks consider a Golden Retriever ‘large’, others think more in the realm of a Russian Wolfhound or Neapolitan Mastiff. Regardless of your interpretation of ‘large’, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration before owning a large dog:
Big dog, big voice
One of the biggest advantages of a large dog is the security factor. Even if you aren’t particularly feeling in need of protection and this is not one of your concerns when choosing a larger breed, big dogs tend to incite caution among those who might be considering causing you grief of one sort or another. Large dogs have big voices, and their often larger-than-life physical presence can act as a definite deterrent.
Great outdoor companions
Larger dogs are generally good for prolonged outdoor excursions. If you enjoy hiking, camping or other outdoor activities they are always keen to tag along, keep you company and, perhaps, deter wildlife from harassing you. They might, however, not be such a great fit in your canoe or kayak!
Generally speaking, the larger your dog the bigger everything to do with him will need to be. A bigger bed for him will take up more space in your house. He will require a more spacious, more expensive crate, and you will need a larger vehicle to accommodate him if you want to take him places. While toy dog owners can get away with a Smart Car, it’s highly unlikely that you would ever manage to squash a St. Bernard into one.
If you allow your canine buddies on your furniture, you might need to be prepared to buy more. We recently looked after two Borzoi (Russian Wolfhounds) who occupied, between them, all of the love seat and 75% of the sofa in our living room.
A more secure yard
As with everything ‘large’, bigger dogs require higher, sturdier and more secure fencing if you want to keep them safe at home.
Depending on the height and weight of your canine companion you should consider a minimum of five to six feet in height for any fencing in areas where he will be allowed on your property.
And while a simple enclosure of chicken wire will suffice to contain a small dog, a large dog can easily barge through something so flimsy. Solid wood or sturdy no-climb wire fencing is ideal for the containment of larger dogs.
Obedience is key
Early, consistent obedience training is a must if you want to enjoy a happy long-term relationship with your large dog. DogWise.com is a great website with tons of recommendations for dog training books that can help you with this obedience training.
There is nothing worse (or more embarrassing) than being hauled around by your dog as he eagerly investigates his surroundings or strains to meet a new canine friend. Big dogs have a lot of strength that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Grooming costs and pet hair
The amount of dog hair that will infiltrate your home and closets will depend, of course, on the type of coat your large dog has and how often he gets groomed. Be prepared to spend more at the groomers if you go the professional route for bathing and grooming services. Owning a large dog requires more warm water, more shampoo, and more drying time.
Bigger size means more food
Owners of larger dogs must expect to spend more on food for their canine buddies – and they will also be cleaning up larger quantities of doggy-doo. Some big dogs are slobberers, which means you will need to find a good place to put a water bowl or bucket where watery slime won’t ruin floor surfaces or cause slipping accidents.
Large breed lifespans
Perhaps the one true drawback to owning a large dog is their lifespan. Depending on the breed you choose you may have as little as seven or eight years with them, whereas smaller breeds often live well into their late teens. It’s important to remember that every year of owning a large dog should be enjoyed, because there are a typically fewer years overall to savour.
This doesn’t, of course, apply to all large dogs – one of our Irish Setters lived to be 15 1/2 years old, with most of our dogs – both Irish Setters and Dalmatians – averaging out at about 13-14 years before we said goodbye.
In the end, large dogs tend to have big, adoring hearts that will envelop you and your family in love. And, they make the best bed-warmers ever – although you may need a king-sized bed to accommodate both you and them!
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