The Unique Needs of Giant Breeds

We can all agree there’s a dog for everyone.  Whether you choose a mixed breed or a pure breed, dogs come in all shapes and sizes to appeal to what you’re looking for in a pet.

If you’ve chosen a giant pure breed or mixed breed dog, it’s important to know their needs differ from those of small and medium-sized dogs.

Giant breeds are unique.  They’re defined as a breed that weighs over 100 pounds.   That’s bigger than some people.  And huge dogs can have huge problems if you don’t take care of them properly.

With a life expectancy averaging 8 years, they don’t live as long as smaller dogs.  But with some awareness, your gentle giant can live a healthy, happy life… if not a super long one.

Giant dogs have different health issues and nutrition requirements than small and medium-sized dogs.  They even have different training and grooming needs.

Before buying or adopting one of these guys, be sure you know what’s involved.

Giant health conditions

Different breeds are predisposed to different health issues.  But the bigger the dog, the more health problems you’re likely to encounter.

Do your research!

Some large breeds are susceptible to heart problems, eyelid problems, bone cancer, spine problems and thyroid problems.

All giant breeds are prone to joint and ligament problems, arthritis, obesity and bloat (a deadly condition) because of their large frames.

Awareness of breed specific health issues will help you catch a problem early or possibly prevent one.

The most common problem in giant dogs is hip dysplasia, a painful and debilitating condition.

Strenuous exercise, exercising on hard surfaces, and obesity can increase the risk of getting it. It’s hereditary though.  If you’re buying a giant breed, ask the breeder for written hip certifications on both parents.

In addition, puppies under 3 months shouldn’t over exert themselves by taking part in your exercise regimen.

Even as an adult, strenuous exercise is not advisable for a dog this size.  If you’re getting a dog to be your running partner, a giant breed may not be the right choice.Speak to your vet.

As they grow, don’t let them get fat.  They’ll need space to exercise every day but it’s not likely they’ll be as high energy as a smaller dog.  Moderate—not strenuous—exercise is advisable for these guys.

But if you think getting a giant dog will allow you to skip out on exercising them, not only is your dog at risk of becoming obese, but you’ll soon find out that boredom can destroy your home.

A good portion of the health risk associated with giant dogs is the danger of growing too quickly. A puppy can go from a pound and a half at birth to 120 pounds by their first birthday.  That’s rapid growth and it can cause unstable joints.

Nutrition is important in this regard.  You never want to overfeed your giant puppy.  So no free-feeding.  And it’s critical to feed a diet that’s nutritionally balanced for the needs of a giant breed.

Giant nutrition

Feeding your dog a food that is intended for giant breeds is essential to keeping them healthy.  These dogs need the right combination of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus so their growth is slow and steady.  Sudden growth spurts add to the risk of health problems.

A puppy food like Husse’s Valp Maxi is formulated for the needs of a giant breed puppy.  It’s not only nutritionally balanced.  It also includes ingredients to support joint health like glucosamine, chondroitin and Omega 3 fatty acids.

When your puppy is full grown, it’s important you continue to feed a balanced giant breed foodHusse’s Optimal Giant and Lamm & Ris Giant (for sensitive stomachs) are formulated for a giant adult dog with the correct nutritional balance.

If you’re not sure your dog’s food has enough glucosamine, chondroitin or Omega 3 fatty acids, talk to your vet about supplementation.  Healthy joints depend on them.

And if you’re unsure of how much to feed your dog, ask your vet for the correct portion size to avoid rapid growth in a puppy or obesity in your adult dog.

Giant training

These huge breeds are some of the most loving and gentle dogs that exist.  But even the sweetest dog can be dangerous if they are unruly.

A 120-pound mush can hurt a person if they jump on them to greet them.  Or if they drag you down the street to get to the neighbor’s dog.

It’s all the more important to train your giant breed to prevent injury to you, friends and family, and your dog.  A sizable dog needs to know who’s boss.  You are the master and your dog needs to know that.

Start the training early to instill good habits from the start.  It’s a lot easier to teach the right behavior than to correct bad behaviors.  Especially once a dog has grown to be as big or bigger than you.

And because these dogs are so big, they can reach counters and access things that smaller dogs would never see.  This can be dangerous to them.  That dark chocolate Easter bunny sitting on your counter is lethal for a dog.

Be sure to find a reputable trainer to teach you positive training techniques that avoid any punishment.

The most important commands they’ll teach you are sit and stay, off, and leave-it.  You’ll also want to teach your dog he doesn’t get attention when he jumps and he needs to walk nicely on the leash.

A basic obedience class will teach you how to teach your dog to be a good citizen and family member. But you must practice every day and be consistent.

Giant grooming

Although grooming a dog is important no matter their size, grooming can be more challenging when your dog is as big as you.

As with any dog, start grooming early. When your puppy is young, get them used to the bath.  And play with their feet, ears and tail so they’re comfortable with you touching them when it’s time to groom.  And reward them with a special treat when you do so they associate being touched with pleasure.

Maintain their coat by brushing several times a week.  This is especially important if they’re double-coated like a Newfoundland.  If you don’t brush regularly, getting the matted fur out when you bathe them will be a nightmare.

Clean their ears once a week and brush their teeth daily. If you take care of “general maintenance” regularly then the occasional bath will be much simpler.

Brush them thoroughly to get out any matted fur before the bath.

It’s not likely you’ll be able to bathe your dog in your bathtub.  So plan for an outside bath.  Keep your dog on a leash to maintain control and use a collar earmarked for bath time so it won’t matter if it gets wet.

If you don’t have the space to bathe your big dog, many pet stores have self-serve pet washes. Even if you have the space, it’s a good way to avoid the mess in your home.

If your dog is double-coated, try diluting the shampoo, working it into the fur, rinsing and repeating.  It’s easier to get diluted shampoo through the coat than a big thick blob of shampoo.

Drying can take a while if you have a big double-coated dog.  Towel-dry well.  If you will use a hair dryer, be sure to put it on cool or use a pet dryer.

Big dogs need special nail clippers that can accommodate their sizable claws.  Clip small amounts off at a time to avoid cutting the quick (blood vessel in the nail).  And trim several times a month.

Be sure to get them used to paw handling when they’re young or you’ll be wrestling your full-grown 120-pound dog on mani/pedi day.  And don’t forget treats to distract and reward them.

Everything’s bigger with a giant

Expect not only your food budget to be bigger with a giant breed.  Everything needs to be bigger and more expensive with a dog that’s over 100 pounds.

Toys need to be tougher.  Leashes and collars need to be more durable.  Beds need to be larger, and food bowls need to be sturdier.  Budget accordingly!

And enjoy your big love of a dog!

What has your experience been with your gentle giant?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

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