Any veterinary professional will tell you that it isn’t the big dogs you have to look out for; it’s the little dogs that are the grumpiest. While the average person may shy away from the massive Mastiffs and the lumbering Labradors, it’s actually the tinier breeds that are known for their sassy attitudes. You might be surprised to learn that some of the largest dog breeds are actually sweet and gentle! If you want a dog that’s large and in charge with the personality of a lamb, consider one of the following breeds for your family.
When you think of a large breed dog, a Great Dane probably comes to mind almost immediately. The sheer size of a Dane can be intimidating, but their stature shouldn’t make your nervous. The average Great Dane can weigh anywhere between 90 pounds to a whopping 190 pounds. A lot of their weight is due to their height, which can top out at 32 inches at the shoulder. Danes were originally bred to hunt boar, but they were later used as “estate guardians”. Like any dog, this breed can be trained as a guard dog, but they’re more content to lounge around on furniture or play with their family members. Great Danes are exceptional with children, but they do have to be taught how to be gentle with family members that are smaller than they are.
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is a member of the working breed group because they were originally bred to herd animals and serve as guardians for herds of livestock. This is an extremely calm breed, but they do appreciate having a job to do. Some owners and breeders train their dogs to herd sheep, pull carts, or participate in agility trials. While not as large as some of the bigger “giant” breeds, Bernese Mountain dogs are more sturdy than they are tall. Their average weight can vary between 65 and 120 pounds with female dogs being on the lower end of this scale. If you think this fluffy dog would make a good member of your family, just ensure you have a yard and plenty of people to love on this sweet breed.
If you came upon a purebred Bullmastiff on the streets, you might want to turn around and run for safety. While their height and girth make them seem more like a nightmare than a cuddle buddy, these dogs are one of the quietest, gentle breeds out there. You’d be hard pressed to find a mastiff that doesn’t just want to lay on the couch and share your lap. A “small” mastiff comes in at 100 or more pounds while large males can easily push 200 pounds. Mastiffs were originally bred to be the gamekeepers of their owners’ large English estates. They are incredibly loyal to their family, but they may be standoffish (not aggressive) to strangers.
Did You Know? It’s hard to find accurate statistics on the largest Bullmastiff on record, but one of the largest was a mastiff named Kell who weighed
at least 294 pounds before she passed away.
This big white dog can typically be found in pastures with sheep, goats, or other livestock. Their original–and current–purpose as a breed is to guard smaller livestock against predators like coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions. While innately protective of their charges, they rarely display any aggression towards humans. The breed is excellent with children and very careful to be gentle with their smaller family members. They’re quite large by nature with larger males weighing as much as 160 pounds. If you are planning on getting a Pyrenees for your family, they do need plenty of exercise, but they’re also content to rest quietly at your feet.
The name may not exude thoughts of gentleness, but these tall, lanky dogs are very docile. Despite their size, they can be trusted with children and small animals of all kinds. The breed was originally bred to hunt wolves and act as guards for their families, but their guardian skills are almost non-existent. If you’re looking for a guard dog, you will be relying solely on their size to intimidate any intruders. They don’t weigh as much as some large breed dogs because of their sleek, almost deer-like build. They can still weigh as much as 150 pounds, but they can remain under 100 pounds if the dog is on the smaller size.
Did You Know? An Irish Wolfhound standing on its hind legs can be as tall as 7 feet!
These big, black dogs are giant bundles of hair and love. You’d be hard-pressed to find a gentler dog out there. They not only look like a massive teddy bear, they are as sweet as one, too. Their heads are very wide, and their necks and backs are very broad and sturdy. The breed’s size was and still is used for very practical purposes. This is very much a water breed, and in the 19th century, they regularly hauled in boat lines, brought in fishing nets, and retrieved anything that fell overboard from their master’s ship. If a Newfoundland is used presently for work, they’re often trained as water rescue dogs, pulling in humans that are drowning. Newfoundlands are considered a working dog, but they’re quiet enough that they’re content to simply lounge around the house and go for short walks for exercise. Males can weigh from 130 to 150 pounds and females come in at 100 to 120 pounds.
Did You Know? In 1919, a Newfoundland was awarded a gold medal after he pulled a lifeboat filled with 20 people to shore.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
This breed is a working dog, but they are very easy-going. As the name indicates, they originated in Switzerland, and they were known as the poor man’s horse because of their ability to pull small carts. They love children of all ages, and they typically do very well with pets of any species. They are cautious of strangers and are known for alerting their family to potential dangers. This very rarely translates into aggression, though. As a breed, they are slow to mature, so be prepared for a puppy-minded dog for at least two years. If they get plenty of exercise, they make excellent apartment dogs. You can expect your Greater Swiss to weigh anywhere from 130 to 135 pounds while standing at least 23 inches at the shoulder.
If you’ve seen the movie Beethoven, then you know Saint Bernards are slightly clumsy but completely loveable. It isn’t very often that you’ll see an aggressive Bernard, instead seeing a dog that loves almost everyone they meet. Bernards were bred to serve as avalanche rescue dogs, so their owners needed a calm, levelheaded temperament that didn’t interfere with their strength. Saint Bernards can get absolutely humongous with some of them getting as big as 264 pounds!
Leonbergers aren’t necessarily calm; as a working breed, they thrive with plenty of exercise or a job. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t kind and gentle. These dogs naturally love everybody, but their true loyalty lies with their family. They’re lauded as livestock guardians and family dogs because they simply walk away from overwhelming situations instead of becoming aggressive. If you want a larger dog, get a male because they usually weigh around 170 pounds.
Like their Bullmastiff cousin, these dogs are literal giants. While they’re very sweet to most people they meet, their size makes them excellent guard dogs. For people who are familiar with the breed, they know that these dogs would rather take a nap than bark at strangers. The biggest English Mastiff on record weighed an incredible 343 pounds!
If you’re craving a dog that’s the size of a small pony but has the personality of a sweet old grandpa, there are plenty of breeds to choose from. Contrary to popular belief, most giant breeds need just a small amount of exercise before they’re content to take part in a satisfying cuddle puddle.