10 Best Big Dogs to Keep as Pets: Gentle Giants for Your Family

Are you considering adding a furry friend to your family, but prefer a larger breed? Big dogs can make wonderful companions, offering a unique blend of strength, loyalty, and often surprising gentleness. In this blog post, we'll explore ten of the best large dog breeds that could be the perfect fit for your household. Let's dive in and meet these lovable giants!

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

Let's start with America's favorite dog breed for the past 30 years - the Labrador Retriever. These friendly, outgoing pups are known for their boundless energy and affectionate nature. Labs typically weigh between 55-80 pounds, making them a substantial but not overwhelming presence in your home.

Why choose a Lab? They're incredibly versatile. Whether you're an active family that loves outdoor adventures or a more laid-back household, Labs adapt well to various lifestyles. They're patient with children, eager to please, and relatively easy to train. Their short coat is also fairly low-maintenance, though they do shed seasonally.

One thing to keep in mind: Labs have a lot of energy, especially in their younger years. They thrive with regular exercise and mental stimulation. If you're ready for daily walks, play sessions, and maybe some swimming (Labs love water!), a Labrador could be your perfect match.

2. German Shepherd

German Shepherd

Next up is the German Shepherd, a breed renowned for its intelligence, loyalty, and versatility. These dogs typically weigh between 50-90 pounds and have a noble, alert presence that can be both reassuring and impressive.

Why consider a German Shepherd? If you're looking for a dog that's not just a pet but a true companion and protector, this breed fits the bill. They're highly trainable and excel in various roles, from family guardian to service dog. German Shepherds are also great with children when properly socialized, forming strong bonds with their family members.

However, it's important to note that German Shepherds require a good deal of mental and physical stimulation. They're working dogs at heart and need a job to do, even if that job is just learning new tricks or participating in dog sports. Early socialization and consistent training are crucial to ensure they grow into well-mannered adults.

3. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

Similar to their Labrador cousins, Golden Retrievers are beloved for their friendly, patient nature and stunning golden coats. These dogs typically weigh between 55-75 pounds and have a gentle, intelligent expression that's hard to resist.

Why might a Golden Retriever be right for you? If you're looking for a dog that seems to radiate happiness and love, look no further. Goldens are known for their "smiling" expressions and wagging tails. They're excellent with children, patient with other pets, and generally easy to train thanks to their eager-to-please nature.

Goldens do require regular grooming to keep their beautiful coats in good condition, and like Labs, they have fairly high energy levels, especially as young dogs. They thrive in active households where they can participate in family activities, from hikes to beach days.

4. Great Dane

Great Dane

Now we're moving into truly giant territory. Great Danes, often called "gentle giants," can weigh anywhere from 110-175 pounds. Despite their imposing size, they're known for their patient, friendly nature.

Why consider a Great Dane? If you want a dog that makes a statement just by being in the room, a Dane might be for you. They're surprisingly good in smaller spaces (as long as they get enough exercise) because they're generally calm and low-energy indoors. Great Danes are patient with children and often form strong bonds with their family members.

However, their size does come with some considerations. They eat a lot, which means higher food costs. They also have shorter lifespans compared to smaller breeds, typically living 7-10 years. And while they're not high-energy, they do need regular exercise to maintain their health.

5. Newfoundland


Newfoundlands, or "Newfies," are large, fluffy dogs weighing between 100-150 pounds. They're known for their sweet nature and patience, often described as "nanny dogs" for their gentle interaction with children.

Why might a Newfoundland suit your family? If you want a large, cuddly dog with a calm demeanor, a Newfie could be perfect. They're known for their loyalty and protective nature, making them excellent family guardians without being aggressive. Newfoundlands are also famous for their swimming abilities and have been used as water rescue dogs.

Keep in mind that Newfies drool... a lot. They also have thick double coats that require regular grooming. Despite their size, they're not high-energy dogs but do need regular moderate exercise to stay healthy.

6. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs, or "Berners," are large, tri-colored dogs weighing between 70-115 pounds. They're known for their striking appearance and gentle, loyal nature.

Why consider a Berner? These dogs are calm, patient, and great with children, making them excellent family pets. They're also comfortable in cold weather thanks to their thick coats, so they're great companions for families in cooler climates who enjoy outdoor activities year-round.

Berners do shed quite a bit and require regular grooming. They're generally easygoing but need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Unfortunately, like many large breeds, they have relatively short lifespans, typically 7-10 years.

7. Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are the tallest of all dog breeds, standing up to 32 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 105-120 pounds. Despite their imposing size, they're known for their gentle, laid-back nature.

Why might an Irish Wolfhound be right for you? If you want a large dog that's generally calm and easygoing, this could be your breed. They're patient with children and generally good with other pets. Despite their size, they don't require as much exercise as some smaller breeds, though daily walks are still important.

However, their size means they take up a lot of space and eat a lot of food. They also have relatively short lifespans, typically 6-8 years. Their wiry coats require regular brushing but are otherwise fairly low-maintenance.

8. Saint Bernard

Saint Bernards are large, muscular dogs weighing between 120-180 pounds. They're famous for their history as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps and are known for their patient, gentle nature.

Why consider a Saint Bernard? If you want a big, cuddly dog with a calm demeanor, a Saint Bernard might be perfect. They're excellent with children and are generally easy-going and low-energy indoors. They're also loyal and protective of their families without being aggressive.

Keep in mind that Saint Bernards drool quite a bit and shed heavily twice a year. They're not suited for hot climates due to their thick coats. While they don't need intense exercise, regular moderate activity is important to keep them healthy.

9. Mastiff

Mastiffs are massive dogs, with males potentially weighing up to 230 pounds. Despite their intimidating size, they're known for being gentle giants with a calm, loving nature.

Why might a Mastiff suit your family? If you want a large, imposing dog that's actually a big softie, a Mastiff could be ideal. They're patient with children and generally good with other pets when properly socialized. They're also relatively low-energy indoors, making them suitable for less active families.

However, their size means they eat a lot and take up a lot of space. They also drool considerably. While they don't need intense exercise, regular walks are important to maintain their health. Early training and socialization are crucial due to their size and strength.

10. Leonberger

Last but not least, we have the Leonberger, a large breed weighing between 90-170 pounds. These dogs are known for their lion-like mane and gentle, patient nature.

Why consider a Leonberger? If you want a large, fluffy dog that's great with children and generally calm, a Leo might be perfect. They're loyal, loving, and often form strong bonds with their family members. They're also versatile, enjoying everything from swimming to pulling carts.

Leonbergers do require quite a bit of grooming to maintain their impressive coats. They're generally calm indoors but need regular exercise to stay healthy and happy. Early socialization and training are important due to their size and strength.

FAQ about Raising a Large Dog

How much food does a large breed dog really need?


Large breed dogs typically require more food than smaller breeds, but the exact amount varies based on factors like age, activity level, and metabolism. For example, an adult Great Dane might need 6-10 cups of food daily, while a Labrador Retriever may need 3-5 cups. It's crucial to follow feeding guidelines for your specific breed and adjust based on your dog's individual needs. Overfeeding can lead to obesity, which is particularly problematic for large breeds due to increased stress on their joints. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the optimal feeding plan, and consider special large breed formulas that provide balanced nutrition for bigger dogs.

Are dog gates effective for large breeds, and what should I look for when buying one?


Dog gates can be effective for large breeds, but you need to choose carefully. Look for gates specifically designed for large dogs, which are typically taller (at least 36 inches) and sturdier than standard gates. Opt for gates made of durable materials like metal or hardwood that can withstand the weight and strength of a large dog. Pressure-mounted gates aren't usually suitable for big breeds; instead, choose hardware-mounted options for better security. Some gates come with small doors for human passage, which can be convenient. Remember, determined dogs might still find ways around gates, so training is essential. Measure your doorways carefully before purchasing, and consider expandable gates for wider openings.

How can I ensure my large breed puppy grows at a healthy rate?

Controlling the growth rate of large breed puppies is crucial for their long-term health. Rapid growth can lead to skeletal problems and increase the risk of conditions like hip dysplasia. Feed your puppy a large breed puppy formula, which is specially balanced to promote slow, steady growth. Avoid overfeeding or supplementing with additional calcium, as this can cause skeletal issues. Regular weigh-ins and body condition assessments with your vet are important to ensure your puppy is growing at an appropriate rate. Exercise should be moderate - avoid high-impact activities until your dog's growth plates have closed. Remember, large breeds take longer to reach full maturity, often 18-24 months, so patience is key.

What are the specific exercise needs of large breed dogs?

While exercise needs vary among large breeds, most require regular, moderate activity to maintain health and prevent obesity. Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, split into multiple sessions. Activities should be low-impact, especially for puppies and seniors, to protect their joints. Swimming is excellent for large breeds as it provides resistance without stress on joints. Mental stimulation is equally important - puzzle toys and training sessions can help tire out your dog. Be cautious about over-exercising, particularly in hot weather, as large breeds can overheat more easily. Always monitor your dog for signs of fatigue or distress during exercise, and adjust the intensity and duration as needed.

How can I manage the shedding and grooming needs of a large breed dog?

Managing shedding in large breeds can be challenging due to the sheer volume of fur. Establish a regular grooming routine - daily brushing for long-haired breeds, 2-3 times a week for short-haired breeds. Invest in quality grooming tools like slicker brushes, undercoat rakes, and high-velocity dryers for efficient de-shedding. Regular baths (every 4-8 weeks) can help control shedding, but don't overdo it as this can dry out their skin. Consider professional grooming services for thorough cleanings and coat trims. Vacuum frequently and use furniture covers to manage fur in your home. A high-quality diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can promote a healthy coat and potentially reduce excessive shedding.


Choosing to bring a large dog into your family is a big decision - literally and figuratively! While these gentle giants can offer immense love, loyalty, and companionship, they also come with unique challenges. Higher food costs, the need for space, and sometimes shorter lifespans are factors to consider.

Remember, regardless of the breed you choose, every dog is an individual with its own personality. It's crucial to meet and interact with a dog before deciding to bring it into your home. Also, consider adopting from a rescue or shelter - many of these breeds and their mixes can be found in need of loving homes.

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