I have to admit that, although I've come across many cute and lovable smaller dog breeds, my heart remains firmly in the large dog breed camp. I do understand that for many people their living arrangements don't allow them to have a large dog, with its accompanying need for exercise.
I'll look at small dog breeds in the next post but right now here are my 5 favorite large dog breeds.
The Afghan Hound
The Afghan Hound is elegance personified.
This unique, ancient dog breed has an appearance quite unlike any other.
The Afghan Hound has a dramatic silky coat and what could be described as an exotic face.
Its thin build and elegant, prancing walk remind you of nothing less than a top fashion-model strutting his or her stuff on the catwalk. As well as looking beautiful, Afghan enthusiasts describe their pet as both aloof and comical.
Hailing from Afghanistan, where the original name for the breed was Tazi, the Afghan is thought to date back to the pre-Christian era and is considered one of the oldest breeds of dog still contemporary.
Related to the greyhound, Afghans are remarkably fast and some owners meet to race them. They are nowhere near as dedicated to chasing a lure though, and Afghan races are more about having a bit of fun.
Some Afghan Hounds are very dignified, while some are altogether silly clowns. Others alternate happily between these two extremes.
Though quiet indoors, the Afghan Hound should not be left unsupervised for long periods of time without personal attention and running exercise, for they bore easily and then can become seriously destructive. They need both companionship and exercise.
Standoffish by nature, the Afghan Hound needs extensive exposure to people and unusual sights and sounds so that its caution does not become timidity. The Afghan is sociable with other dogs, but has strong hunting/prey instincts and so may chase smaller pets. This needs to be stopped immediately so that it doesn't become habitual.
Obedience training will control his bumptiousness and build his confidence, but you must be patient and persuasive, for the Afghan hunts by sight, not smell. Sighthounds are extremely sensitive to leash jerking. They can respond defensively if frightened.
Independent and not particularly eager to please, their stubbornness takes the form of resistance rather than wild disobedience. For example, they can brace their legs and refuse to walk.
Don't let your Afghan off-leash until totally trained, for they are blazingly fast and can gallop out of sight in seconds. Their high hipbones make them one of the most agile of all breeds and one of the best jumpers. Your fences should be at least 6 feet high, preferably 7 or 8 feet!
The Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd (also known as the Aussie) is a lovable medium sized working dog with a huge amount of energy, drive and loyalty.
Related to the Border Collie, it is an extremely intelligent, hard-working dog that is very easy to train.
While this dog is known as the Aussie it actually hails from the United States where it is used as a working dog. The Aussie has a coat that is straight to slightly wavy and they also have a naturally bobbed tail. They do tend to shed a fair bit so regular brushing is recommended especially when they shed heavily twice a year due to seasonal changes in the weather.
Aussies come in a variety of colors including blue merle, black, red merle and solid colours with or without white markings.
Their eyes can be a variety of colors including Blue Merle, Red Merle, Red, and Black.
Male Aussies usually weigh between 23 and 29 kg and stand at about 50-58 cm tall. Females should weigh about 14 to 20 kg and stand at 45 – 53 cm tall. The average life span of the Aussie is 13 to 15 years.
This breed is ideal for an active family because they love plenty of exercise and most of all they love to work. They are totally faithful to and protective of their human family.
The Great Dane
"That's not a large dog; this is a large dog" (paraphrasing Crocodile Dundee).
Great Danes are huge, powerful and elegant dogs. Males can reach 32 inches tall and weigh anywhere from about 100 to 120 pounds, while females may be 30 inches tall and weigh about 100 to 120 pounds (45 to 59 kilograms).
The Great Dane's massive head is narrow and flat on top. The eyebrows are prominent. The ears naturally drop forward. Cropping them to stand erect was once fashionable but is not so now. In addition, ear cropping and tail docking is now illegal in many jurisdictions. The neck is long and strong. The Great Dane's body is long, muscular and the front legs are straight. The tail is medium in length; it is thick at the base and tapers down to below the hocks.
Great Danes are light to average shedders. The coat is short and sleek and comes in a variety of colors including brindle or fawn, blue, black or harlequin, which has black patches over a white background.
The breed has poor longevity. Great Danes live only 6-8 years or even less.
The Great Dane, also known as the Apollo of dogs, is a giant breed. The Dane is German in origin, not Danish. The breed is thought to have been around for more than 400 years. Great Danes descend from mastiff-like dogs that were bred by German nobility to protect country estates and hunt wild boar.
In the 18th century, Great Danes were prestigious guardians of estates and carriages. They were also popular with the upper class for sport, as few other dogs could bring down a wild boar.
The Great Danes that were more like those we know today were developed in the 1800s. In 1880, the Germans banned the name "Great Dane" and called the breed "Deutsche Dogge," which means German mastiff. However, the breed continues to be called Great Dane in English speaking countries.
These dogs are primarily family pets and, despite their size, have become popular among city dwellers who keep them to help guard against robbers.
Great Danes are considered gentle giants. They are moderately playful, affectionate and good with children. They will guard their home. Great Danes generally get along with other animals, particularly if raised with them, but some individuals in the breed can be aggressive with dogs they do not know.
Great Danes are considered easy to train, but some Great Dane fanciers say that individuals can be stubborn learners.
Anyone who wants a Great Dane must be willing to accommodate this dog's great size. A Great Dane will eat far larger quantities of food than a small dog, so feeding is going to cost a lot more for a Great Dane than, say, for a Chihuahua or miniature Poodle.
A Great Dane must have room to move around and exercise, especially when he or she is young. Anyone wanting to keep a Great Dane in the city must be prepared to take the dog out for long walks every day. Great Danes must be obedience trained to ensure they are manageable when fully grown. You do NOT want your Great Dane jumping up on your grandparents when they come to visit!
A condition known as bloat, which involves gas buildup and possible twisting of the stomach, is a real possibility with a giant-breed dog such as the Great Dane. To prevent this potentially life-threatening problem, feed two or three small meals daily instead of one large one, and encourage the dog to rest for at least one hour after eating. Very large dogs also benefit from raised food bowls so they will not have to splay their legs to eat.
The Alaskan Malamute
The Alaskan Malamute stands 23 to 25 inches at the shoulder and weighs 75 to 85 pounds.
Everything about Mals suggests their origin as an arctic sled dog: The heavy bone, deep chest, powerful shoulders, and dense, weatherproof coat all scream, “I work hard for a living!”
But their almond-shaped brown eyes have an affectionate sparkle, suggesting Mals enjoy snuggling with their humans when the workday is done. Mals are pack animals. And in your family “pack,” the leader must be you.
An immensely strong, heavy-duty worker of spitz type, the Alaskan Malamute is an affectionate, loyal and playful but dignified dog recognizable by his well-furred plumed tail carried over the back, erect ears, and substantial bone.
If a Mal doesn’t respect you, he will wind up owning you instead of the other way around. Firm but loving training should begin in early puppyhood. That said, a well-behaved Mal is a joy to be with—playful, gentle, friendly, and great with kids.
In Northwestern Alaska, a tribe of Innuit, called the Mahlemuts, developed a breed of dog for hauling heavy loads in harsh weather and assisting with hunting. The dog they developed shares its ancestry with other arctic breeds such as the Samoyed of Russia, the Siberian Husky and the Eskimo dogs of Greenland and Labrador. However, the Mahlemuts dog was built not so much for speed, but for power. His impressive stature supports this fact. It has been stated that the Mahlemuts staked out bitches in heat so that wolves could interbreed with them. However, the Malamute is not a wolf hybrid and any breeding in that direction is strongly discouraged.
This is a large, solid dog with a thick weatherproof coat that can be black, grey, or red with distinctive white markings. In many ways, the Malamute is visually like his distant cousin the wolf. However, the Malamute is a domesticated dog and is not a wolf hybrid.
With their physical resemblance to wolves, most people assume Malamutes will be good guard dogs. Nothing can be further from the truth! They are extremely friendly, affectionate dogs even to complete strangers and they seldom bark! They are loyal and noble dogs but can display dominant behaviour to other dogs of the same sex. They will get on well with children but there should be supervision from an adult at all times. Whilst inherently gentle, Malamutes need to learn at an early age how fragile human children are in order to prevent accidental injuries.
As long as they have been introduced to other household pets from a young age, they will accept them. This breed should never be left alone as they are 'pack' dogs and can become sullen and withdrawn, causing behavioural problems. Owners should make allowances for the breed’s need to both howl and dig, providing an appropriate time and place to do both. Some breeders say the scavenging instinct is also strong in the Malamute and warn against a tendency to raid the bin. It is not recommend for novice dog owners to acquire this breed.
The Golden Retriever
Goldies seem to be the happiest of all dogs, wagging their tails as they walk along for no apparent reason.
They always seem to be smiling.
The Golden Retriever is a medium-large gun dog that was bred to retrieve shot waterfowl, such as ducks and upland game birds, during hunting and shooting parties.
The name "retriever" refers to the breed's ability to retrieve shot game undamaged due to their soft mouth. Golden retrievers have an instinctive love of water, and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards. One of the easiest ways to exercise a Goldie is to throw something into the water for them to retrieve. They will do it over and over again, like a Border Collie with a stick on dry land.
Golden Retrievers are a long-coated breed, with a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth in the outdoors, and an outer coat that lies flat against their bodies and repels water.
They are well suited to residency in suburban or country environments. They shed copiously, particularly at the change of seasons, and require fairly regular grooming. Fortunately, they love being groomed and will nudge the comb or brush to get you started.
The Golden Retriever was originally bred in Scotland in the mid-19th century and is one of the world’s favourite dog breeds with good reason. Originally bred as gun dogs, the Golden Retriever is a smart, trainable and friendly companion. Because of their intelligence, they make great working dogs and can be seen performing a number of different roles including seeing-eye dogs, hearing dogs, hunting & detection dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Golden Retrievers are large, strong dogs with thick coats which repel water. There are three main types of Golden Retrievers, which have arisen due to the breed’s widespread popularity. The British type has a wider, shorter muzzle, shorter legs and tail, a deeper chest and a blockier forehead. British Golden Retrievers tend to be gold or cream, but never red, mahogany or white. American Golden Retrievers are taller than British ones, lankier, and less stocky. Canadian types have thinner, darker coats and are generally taller and leaner than other types. Puppies of all types usually have a very light coat which darkens over time.
The breed has a double coat which sheds throughout the year but particularly around the change of the season. It has a thicker, water-repellent top coat and a soft undercoat to keep the dog cool in warmer months and warm in cooler months.
Healthy male Golden Retrievers weigh between 29 and 34 kg on average and stand at about 58 – 61 cm tall. Females weigh in at 27 – 32 kg and stand at 55 – 57 cm tall.
The average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is around 11-12 years.