Getting a puppy of one of the giant breeds: What to consider?

There are a number of dog breeds that fall into the giant category. We may know and see a lot of them. How do these dogs differ from the mid-sized or even smaller breeds? And what do they need in terms of nutrition, raising and home? On this topic, we spoke with the breeder Jaromíra Sojková.

What is the characteristic of a giant dog breed?

The main characteristic is, of course, their size, which goes hand in hand with robust bones, large joints and requirements in terms of nutrition, movement, posture and more.


Which specific breeds fall into this category?
Of the breeds that our club of Swiss Mountain Dogs covers, I could name the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The category also includes all Mastiffs, various large bulls, Bernardines, Danes, herding breeds, wolfhounds and the Newfoundland dog.


What are the specifics associated with the care of giant breeds?

This is difficult to generalize and it varies from breed to breed. It is difficult to compare a mastiff with a wolfhound or a Bernardine with a Bernese Mountain Dog. From a layman’s point of view, the specifics can be the following: giant breeds require more feed, have a shorter lifespan, have high demands on joint support, all veterinary care is more demanding, and, most importantly, activity must not be overdone in the early ages.


If we decide to get a giant dog, what should we prepare for?

If we have no experience with these dog breeds, we need to address a number of things. The dog should have a spacious pen outside, which will be his home. Inside the pen, there should be a large doghouse. For some mountain breeds or very hairy breeds, the doghouse does not have to be insulated.
If we have a garden, and the dog will have free access to it, we need to reckon with the fact that we will have to say goodbye to flowers, shrubs and more for the first two years. On the other hand, the garden will be riddled with holes. Dogs dig these mainly in the summer to cool off. Of course, we will have to count on higher financial demands for nutrition, veterinary care and more. If we want to travel with the dog in a car, the car will have to be spacious enough.


Do dogs of giant breeds require some special nutrition for joints and bones?

Most of the dry dog food produced today includes a balanced distribution of nutrients and phosphorus and calcium. That’s I wouldn’t worry about the bones.
But joints need to be taken care of. Large and giant breeds grow very fast, almost too fast. Their joints need to adapt to this growth. I would definitely recommend giving the dog joint support nutrition from the third month of age, up to a year and then in two to three-month-long treatments.


Can dogs of giant breeds live in an apartment or do they have to live in a garden with enough space for movement?

If the dog gets regular and long enough walks, I see no problem with him living in an apartment. Dogs sleep most of the day, so they have no problem with sleeping until their owners get home and go for a walk with them. Here I emphasize that little puppies should not go for long walks. It is recommended to add the load gradually.

However, once again, everything depends on the breed. For example, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a purely family type and is the happiest when he spends as much time as possible with his family. This, on the other hand, does not apply to breeds that were bred for independent activities such as herding, hunting and guarding.
This may be a problem in the summer if the family lives in an apartment building where the apartments get hot. But no dog should endure such conditions, regardless of size.


To what dietary specifics should we prepare ourselves? Do giant breeds require any special food?

It is definitely recommended to give the dog food that is specifically intended for him, which should not be a problem, since most brands already have such offerings. I would put the greatest emphasis on the right feed at the time of growth, which can be very fast, and, therefore, having the right dog food is important.


How long and frequent should physical activities for giant breeds be?

This again depends on the breed, but in general, large breeds don’t require physical activity as much as, for example, medium active breeds. If we train with them, they are able to walk longer distances in adulthood, but not quickly. I would leave this to the dog, but in any case, more demanding activities are better to do at a later age.


How can giant breeds be used?

There are so many possibilities that I definitely won’t be able to name them all here.
These dogs can be used in many canine sports. For example, the Newfoundland dog is great for water rescue work. Many Bernese Mountain Dogs are involved in all-round sports training and all kinds of rescue activities. Large dogs can guard land, businesses, homes. Some large breeds can do dancing or herding. Of course, these breeds are not built for sports based on speed and action, such as agility, flyball, pulling, dogfrisbee, dogtrekking and others.
And then there are people who have a large dog as a huge pet and a family member.


Are there any differences in the need for appropriate training for giant breeds? What should one be prepared for in this regard?

Not at an early age, but basic training and socialization are necessary for all dog breeds, from Chihuahuas to Bernardines. A dog should be able to wait and come when called. The rest depends on what the owners want to do with their dogs, what are their options, how active they are and many other factors. There really is no generalization in this, since there are many large and giant breeds, and each breed has been bred for different purposes.

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