Do you want a big dog? Here are some large breeds that make excellent pets.
If you're looking for a large, loving companion (with a little slobber involved!), you can't go wrong with an English mastiff. These massive dogs have been used as guardians for thousands of years, but they remain one of the sweetest breeds on the planet. English mastiffs don't require a lot of exercise either, but due to their large size, they are probably a better choice for owners with large backyards. Male dogs, for example, will measure over 30 inches at the shoulder and will weigh well over 100 pounds. The short coat is easy to maintain and is available in fawn, brindle, or apricot.
When you first meet an Afghan hound, it’s hard to believe that this beautiful, elegant dog with its gorgeous, flowing coat was once used to hunt gazelle and hares on the deserts of Afghanistan. But everything changed for these hardworking dogs when the first specimens were imported to England in the 1800s, where they quickly became hugely popular as show dogs and pets. Afghan hounds are prized for their long, silky coats and calm, friendly dispositions. They love to run and require regular exercise to keep them happy and fit. Male dogs will grow 27 inches tall; females are a bit shorter.
Happiness in a fur coat: That’s how you could describe a Bernese mountain dog. These big, blocky dogs are known for their soft tricolor coats and sweet outlook on life. Originally from Switzerland, they were bred to pull carts, which explains their strong, solid stature, and calm personality. Bernese mountain dogs (often called Berners) make great family pets that will patiently endure light roughhousing from the kids. They require moderate exercise and regular grooming to keep their thick coats looking good.
Can you imagine the misguided sheep that failed to move when a German shepherd asked them to? Originally bred as a sheepherder, the German shepherd’s intelligence and drive quickly made it one of the most popular breeds in the world. Equally at home in a military convoy or at the foot of your bed, a German shepherd makes an excellent family companion. It has a loyal, fun-loving personality and requires regular exercise and grooming. Early obedience training is recommended to challenge this dog’s high intelligence.
Nicknamed the “butcher's dog,” the rottweiler has been around since the Roman Empire, where it was bred to move cattle to market and guard them along the way. Today, it is beloved for its loyalty and intelligence. The rottweiler easily adapts to any role, from therapy dog to obedient pet to family clown. Its dense, short coat is easy to maintain and is always black with bold mahogany markings. These dogs require regular exercise and obedience training to keep them happy. It is also smart to socialize your puppy early so it will know it doesn’t have to worry about guarding you from strangers, dogs, or other pets.
Traveling through the Alps was a dangerous business before the era of modern transportation. That’s why the monks at the Saint Bernard Pass between Switzerland and Italy began using their dogs in search and rescue operations. These giant, red-and-white dogs quickly became known around the world as the Saint Bernard. Today, the Saint Bernard is more likely found in the backyard playing hide-and-seek with a gaggle of giggling children then it is on an icy mountaintop. Its sweet, happy personality makes it an excellent family pet as long as you have enough space for its massive body. Male Saint Bernards can often weigh almost 200 pounds, so a tiny apartment is not an option. Also, small children can be accidently knocked over by these big, bouncy dogs. Saint Bernards are available in both long- and short-haired coats. Early obedience training is recommended because an unruly adult Saint Bernard can be a bit like a bull in a china shop.
The Airedale terrier earned its nickname “the king of terriers” because of its height and oversize, regal personality. Like other terriers, the Airedale is a rollicking, frisky dog that is game for any family activity. The Airedale is an intelligent dog breed that was originally bred to hunt otter, but today the breed is used in all sorts of settings including police work, search and rescue, and obedience. Airedales were also used in WWI as messenger dogs. Airedales have a hard, wiry coat that requires regular care to keep it in top form. These dogs love to play and make great family pets, but like other terriers, they are hardwired as hunters and should be socialized with other dogs, cats and strangers at a young age. Regular exercise is also a must to prevent them from rearranging your furniture when you are not home.
Sometimes called the Pyrenean mountain dog, the Great Pyrenees is a living snowdrift of a dog. Prized for its loving nature and primarily white coats, the Pyr, as it is affectionately called, makes a surprisingly good pet for small homes. That’s because this breed doesn’t need a lot of exercise to stay fit. In fact, most Great Pyrenees are just as happy to snooze on your couch as they are to go for a jog. Bred as a flock guardian in the Pyrenees mountains, the Great Pyrenees prefers cool climates where its thick double coat will be put to good use. Regular brushing is essential to keeping the coat tangle-free and once a year the dog sheds its undercoat, so be sure your vacuum is in working order. Great Pyrenees like to roam, so a solid fence is required to keep your pet at home. Male Great Pyrenees can weigh as much as 150 pounds.
The largest of the poodle family, the standard poodle was originally used as a water retriever in Germany. It has a soft, water-resistant coat that is often clipped into different styles or cuts. These cuts have more to do with function than fashion, with longer hair left over the rib cage and joints to keep the dog warm when swimming in cold water. Standard poodles are very intelligent and make wonderful, almost humanlike companions. They enjoy learning new tricks and perform well in obedience and dog sports such as agility trials. Standard poodles love exercise and make willing jogging partners. Their nonshedding coats require regular trips to the groomer and are available in black, white, gray, brown, silver, cream, apricot, and café-au-lait.
The term “gentle giant” comes to mind whenever you meet a Great Dane. Pound for pound, the Great Dane is one of the most charming breeds, with a friendly, outgoing personality that makes it a great pet for anyone who has enough room in his or her home to accommodate its massive frame. Bred originally to hunt wild boar, the Great Dane has become a top-notch companion dog that requires less exercise than you might think. Although Great Danes do need a good romp to wear them out, they quickly settle down to nap on the living room couch. Their short, dense coat is easy to maintain and comes in brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin (black and white), and mantle (white base with a second color over most of the body).
Seeing spots before your eyes is nothing new if you own a dalmatian. These handsome dogs are famous for their black- or liver-spotted coats and their athletic personalities. Originally from Croatia, dalmatians were once trained to run alongside horse-drawn carriages, making a clear path for the horses to pass. Because they remain an active breed, dalmatians require a lot of exercise and make willing jogging partners. They have a sweet personality, love to play, and won’t get worn out by busy children. Because dalmatians are always eager to run, early obedience training is a must to prevent them from accidently bolting into traffic. The dalmatian's coat is short, dense, and easy to maintain.
Boxer owners often say that once you own a boxer, you’ll never own another breed. They love this handsome dog as much for its goofy, friendly personality as they do for his cute pushed-in face and tightly muscled body. Boxers are a happy breed and, if they could pull it off, would sit on their owner’s lap all day long. They make excellent companions for children, although they might be a bit too rambunctious for toddlers. Boxers require regular exercise to keep them fit and happy, so a daily run is a must. Early obedience training is recommended because some dogs can become a bit too overprotective of their families if they are not socialized when young. Overall, a boxer is a fun-loving, loyal, reliable pet. They are available in fawn or brindle coats. White boxers exist but are not recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Affectionately nicknamed the “gray ghost” because of its spectacular silvery-gray coat, the Weimaraner is an all-around family and hunting dog that was catapulted into the world of arts and culture by the photographer William Wegman. His fanciful photos of his Weimaraner Man Ray (and later Fay Ray) appear in museums and galleries around the world. The Weimaraner is an intelligent breed that makes a great pet for active families. It requires daily exercise and excels at obedience training that challenges its mind and body. Weimaraners have short, easily managed coats that can vary from mouse-gray to silver-gray in color.
Equally at home on the hearth or on the hunt, the English setter makes a terrific family pet. These gorgeous dogs are prized for their super personalities and beautifully marked, flowing white coats lightly spotted or flecked in a variety of colors and patterns. English setters are true family dogs that want to be with their owners as much as possible. Outdoors, English setters require a daily run, but once indoors, they settle down quickly and fall asleep at your feet. Regular grooming is a must to keep their coat from matting.
To the early Siberian tribes, the Siberian husky was more than just a dog; it was an essential partner in their survival, providing them with their only mode of transportation by pulling their sleds through the ice-packed wilderness. Eventually, this hardy, easygoing breed was “discovered” by the rest of the world and quickly became a popular pet and companion. Siberian huskies are an active, alert breed that does well with children but requires regular exercise to keep them happy. They have a beautiful, soft double coat that needs weekly brushing, especially when the dense undercoat sheds in the spring. Siberian huskies are a very friendly breed, but they should be socialized with other dogs, cats, or pets while they are still puppies.
Describing a rough collie is easy: Just say “Lassie” and chances are, no matter where you are in the world, people will know what breed you are talking about. Developed in the Scottish Highlands as a hardworking herding dog, the rough collie jumped into the public's eye when the television series Lassie was broadcast. Always brilliant and able to save her costars (the original Lassie was actually a boy), Lassie eventually became the only dog to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Like Lassie, rough collies are all intelligent, warmhearted dogs that make great family pets. They need regular exercise but are just as willing to curl up at your bedside. The rough collie also comes in four colors: sable and white, tricolor, blue merle, and white. Obedience training is recommended because the breed has a tendency to bark when bored.
Probably the most well-known dog breed on the planet, the Labrador retriever is beloved for its intelligence, easy-care manner, and willingness to please. Commonly called “Labs” the Labrador retriever excels at hunting as well as search and rescue, Seeing Eye, and therapy work. Natural-born swimmers, Labs have webbed feet and a thick, rudderlike tail that helps them retrieve ducks (or tossed tennis balls) in the water. Their thick, short coat is easy to maintain and is available in black, yellow, or chocolate. Regular exercise is required to keep the dog fit because this breed likes to eat.
The happy, hardworking golden retriever first appeared in Scotland in the 1800s. It was bred as a hunting dog to retrieve game birds shot over land or water. In the years since, golden retriever's calm, confident, and friendly attitude (not to mention its beautiful golden coat) has endeared the breed to families around the world. A loving and trusted member of the household, golden retrievers love children and enjoy dog sports such as obedience, agility, and flyball. Golden retrievers also excel at search and rescue, Seeing Eye, and therapy work. Their lush coat requires a weekly brushing to keep it in top form.