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What Is Considered a Large Dog

What Is Considered a Large Dog

The size variation in the dog world is mind-boggling. On one end of the spectrum, you have a Chihuahua that can be tucked under your arm, and on the other, a Great Dane that can tower over a small child. A full-grown Yorkshire Terrier typically weighs slightly more than a loaf of bread, while a Newfoundland can weigh as much as a refrigerator.

This size difference determines which pup fits who. For instance, a Toy Poodle or a Pug is a great fit if you live in an apartment. But if you have a large house and a love for the outdoors, a large dog like a Bernese Mountain Dog or an Irish Wolfhound is your ideal companion. So, what kind of dog are you drawn to? Here is all about the different dog size categories.

Understanding Dog Size Categories

The size difference between dog breeds results from selective breeding by humans over thousands of years. For instance, when humans needed a small, agile dog to navigate tight spaces and hunt rodents, they would breed the smaller dogs from their pack, slowly amplifying those smaller-size genes over generations.

A good example is the Jack Russell Terriers, which were bred with small stature and boundless energy to flush out foxes from their dens. On the other hand, if a task required strength and power, such as guarding livestock or pulling heavy carts, humans would breed the larger dogs in their pack.

This breeding led to giant breeds like the Great Dane, the Saint Bernard, and the Mastiff. These large dog breeds have a ton to offer, and their working history is a big part of their charm. They're like living pieces of history, bred for tasks requiring intelligence, strength, and loyalty.

For example, Saint Bernards helped rescue lost travelers, Border Collies for herding, and Great Danes for guarding. But it's easy to get caught up in the moment when you see a furry friend and think, wow, that's a big dog, whereas it's an overweight medium dog breed!

Luckily, the dog world has its own sizing system, like that of the clothes, but way less confusing. If you go by these standards, here are the weight and height ranges to expect in large dogs and their growth and lifespan patterns. 

Weight and Height

The American Kennel Club doesn't have strict weight or height cutoffs but generally considers any breed weighing over 50 pounds to be large. However, there's a wide spectrum of sizes, and large dogs are categorized into two.

Those weighing 50 to 100 pounds are considered large breeds, while those weighing over 100 pounds are considered giant breeds. The English Mastiff, for example, holds the title of heaviest dog breed, with some males reaching a whopping 230 pounds. Such dogs fall under the giant category.

So, to be considered a large dog but not a giant, it should weigh between 50 and 100 pounds. In most cases, these dogs will have a shoulder height of 24 to 27 inches. Note that sometimes there are weight and size variations depending on the diet and sex of the dog, but that doesn't mean it falls into a different category.

For example, if a male dog weighs 105 pounds and a female dog of the same breed weighs 95 pounds, the breed is considered large, even if the male breaches the 100-pound mark towards the giant category. Some of the large dog breeds include:

Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are total sweethearts. They're like giant teddy bears come to life. It's one of the furry friends that will follow you around the house, always down for a cuddle or a playful nudge with its big, wet nose.

Their loyalty is legendary. These dogs were bred to work alongside their humans in the Swiss Alps, herding cattle and pulling carts. The dogs are large, with males weighing a hefty 80 to 115 pounds and females weighing between 70 and 95 pounds.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are hugely popular, consistently ranking at the top of breed registries worldwide. It's no wonder, really, when you consider how much they bring to the table. They are intelligent canines that are able to learn commands quickly and retain them for a long time.

As a result, they are incredibly trainable, which is why they're so sought-after for jobs like police work, search and rescue, and service animals for people with disabilities. But they're not all work and no play. German Shepherds are also loyal and affectionate with their families.

They love to play fetch, go for jogs, and cuddle up on the couch. Like Bernese Mountain Dogs, German Shepherds are definitely not lightweight pups. They're solidly built working dogs, with males tipping the scales at 75 to 90 pounds and females ranging from 50 to 70 pounds.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are like sunshine wrapped in fur. Their friendly and playful personalities make them irresistible companions, especially for families. They are goofy, golden goofballs who are always down for a game of fetch or a cuddle on the couch. But their talents go far beyond playtime.

Their intelligence makes them easily trainable and can help in things like providing emotional support and companionship to people in hospitals, schools, and retirement homes. Male Golden Retrievers weigh around 65 to 75 pounds, while females come a bit lighter at around 55 to 65 pounds.

Health and Care

Large dog breeds have specific care needs that differ from those of their smaller counterparts. It's like building a skyscraper versus a quaint cottage - you need different materials and a stronger foundation for the bigger project. Here are some health and care tips for large breeds.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin Rich Foods

Large dog breeds are especially susceptible to joint problems due to their large size and heavy weight. It's like carrying around a backpack full of groceries all day long – that's kind of what it's like for a giant dog's joints.

Glucosamine is a building block of healthy cartilage, which acts like a cushion between bones in the joints. It helps maintain the integrity of that cushion, reducing pain and stiffness. Chondroitin helps the cartilage attract and retain water, keeping joints lubricated and flexible.

Giving large dog breeds food rich in glucosamine and chondroitin helps prevent the breakdown of cartilage, reducing the chances of bone and joint health problems such as arthritis.

Calcium and Phosphorus Intake Control

Calcium is the building block of strong bones, and growing giants need plenty of it. However, too much calcium and phosphorus in a large breed puppy's diet can disrupt bone growth, leading to skeletal problems like osteochondrosis dissecans.

So, go for dog food specifically formulated for large breeds, with a controlled calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of around 1.1:1 to 1.4:1. This ratio helps control the rate of bone growth and development, preventing bone structure issues.

Portion Control

It's easy to overfeed a big dog with those cute begging eyes. Resist the urge! Remember that large dogs already have a lot of weight to carry on their joints. Extra pounds put additional stress on their hips, elbows, and knees. At the same time, large dogs are prone to obesity. So, control the portion sizes.


Most large dog breeds were originally bred for working purposes, and that drive to work is still deeply ingrained in them. Failing to exercise them creates the same feeling as if you were stuck in a tiny house all day with nothing to do. Take the dog for regular exercise.

The exercise helps large dogs maintain a healthy weight, build strong muscles and bones, and improve their cardiovascular health. It's like going to the gym but way more fun. The exercise also provides mental stimulation, keeping them from getting bored and developing destructive behaviors like chewing furniture.  

Aim for at least one good walk a day, lasting 30 minutes to an hour. If you're an active person, consider incorporating your dog into your running routine. Just be sure to gradually increase the distance and intensity to avoid injuries.

Growth and Lifespan

Large dog breeds, while undeniably majestic companions, tend to have shorter lifespans compared to their smaller counterparts. It's a trade-off – you get a giant cuddle buddy but for a shorter time. On average, large dog breeds live between 8 and 13 years. Here are the main reasons behind the shorter lifespans.

  • Large dog breeds shoot up like beanstalks! Their fast growth puts stress on their bodies, especially their hearts and joints.
  • Their large size itself can be a burden. Imagine carrying around that much weight all day! It can lead to issues like heart problems and musculoskeletal strain.
  • There is a rapid growth spurt when the dogs are between 1 and 2 years old. Any dietary issues, such as uncontrolled calcium and phosphorus intake during this time, significantly affect their lives.
  • Large dogs are prone to obesity, which restricts their breathing and weakens the immune system.

Final Thoughts

Large dogs are like living teddy bears but way more entertaining. They are loyal and affectionate companions, always happy to see you, eager to join you on adventures, and happy to provide a furry shoulder to cry on. Just remember that these dogs need a proper diet and controlled portion size for proper bone development and to prevent obesity.