Important Tips on How to Take Care of a Large Breed Dog

This post may contain affiliate links.
Thank you for visiting Cori's Cozy Corner! Please make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our E-mails!

Owning a dog is one thing but owning a big dog is an entirely different challenge. Not all canines are created equally and the largest dogs require a level of care that many owners find surprising and even a little intimidating.

Big Dogs Need Large Spaces

This tip seems like a no-brainer, but many owners underestimate the space required to raise a large breed dog. You don’t need a ten-acre farm, but a ten by ten patio is not going to cut it.  Big dogs need room to roam, or at least be able to run for short distances. Most are not the most graceful of athletes, especially when young, so make sure they have plenty of runway to get up to speed.

Many owners successfully raise large dogs in smaller spaces by taking advantage of public areas such as parks to make sure their pet gets the exercise it needs. Dog parks are the best option as they provide an off-leash environment and plenty of opportunity for socialization.

Size matters when raising a large dog. Everything for your dog should be appropriately sized. Otherwise, you won’t necessarily get the intended results. This includes dog beds, toys, leashes, and other accessories. It is especially important to properly size training aids such as dog muzzles to ensure your pet can learn new behaviors safely.

Large Dogs Respond Well to Positive Reinforcement Training

One mistake many owners make with large breeds is assuming their training must be more physical due to the size of the animal. This is not true. Large breeds tend to be very sensitive and may develop resentment when the trainer is too firm. A gentle touch and positive reinforcement will reap far greater rewards.

The most important component to training large breeds is early familiarity. When your dog is still a puppy, spend time just playfully wrestling and touching your pet’s paws, belly, and face. Acclimating your dog to being touched in these areas will make veterinarian and grooming visits much more pleasant for years to come.

Walking a large breed dog who pulls hard on the leash is not fun. Start your leash training early and be consistent in your expectations. Most dogs can be taught to heel by eighteen months if worked with on a weekly basis. Incorporate other basic skills into your regimen such as sitting and staying on command.  The result will be a much more pleasant and controlled experience when your dog is in public or confronting visitors to your home.

Health Concerns Specific to Large Breeds

Although they appear robust and powerful, many large breeds produce fragile animals with significant health problems. Most issues can be addressed through proper diet and exercise, but some contribute to the lack of longevity which plagues many of the largest types of dogs.

Bloat can occur in any breed, but it is more common with larger dogs. Bloat is an internal build-up of gas resulting in a distended stomach and abdomen.  Bloat is serious. It has been known to be fatal and strikes rapidly.

Bloat is caused by:

  • Overeating
  • Eating too fast and swallowing air
  • Strenuous exercise soon after eating

Most dogs that suffer from bloat are deep chested, more than seven years old, and have a history of bloat in their family. Bloat triggers also include anxiety and poor coping skills, poor diet, and reactions to certain medications.

Joint health is a major concern with large dogs.  Most big breeds are susceptible to issues with their joints including hip dysplasia. To prevent such problems from occurring, care must be taken with large breed dogs from the time they are puppies to prevent injury. Do not exercise your larger dog on hard surfaces until fully mature and do not encourage leaping from heights such as tables or pickup beds.

Big dogs also suffer from more instances of heart disease than smaller breeds. It is thought that almost 10% of all large dogs die from heart failure, particularly Canine Congestive Heart Failure. This is why it is of particular importance that large breeds remain at a healthy weight and exercise regularly.

What to Feed a Large Dog

A large breed dog is different than an obese dog. If you allow your large breed dog to become overweight, you are taking years off your pet’s life. Large breed dogs are susceptible to joint disease and heart problems.  Neither of these things is helped by obesity.

When a large breed dog is young, it will require a lot of calories. Large dogs grow quickly and eat massive amounts of food. But, soon enough this intake slows as the dog stops growing and becomes less active. Monitoring this change in metabolism is critical to maintaining the health of your dog.  Often owners fail to notice when their pet slows down and do not adjust their portions accordingly.

Once your dog is mature, the number of calories consumed will depend heavily on activity level. But, the quality of the food should not change. Dogs do best with food composed of natural protein sources with little filler. Once a dog begins to age, many quality dog foods carry a line designed specifically for older dogs which include supplements to promote continued joint health.

Exercise and Activity Will Keep Your Large Dog Healthy

Many large breed dogs do not receive enough exercise; as a result the quality and length of their life suffers. Large dogs need daily exercise to thrive.

As puppies, large dogs have a tremendous amount of energy. They will require several short walks every day. As your dog grows older, these needs will change. Walking once each day will suffice for exercise.  Elderly large dogs still benefit from daily exercise, despite their low activity levels. Even a short walk at a slow pace is better than no exercise.

Large dogs are amazing to own. They are capable of fierce loyalty and can be incredible companions.  But as with all breeds, large dogs have special needs due to their size and breeding history. Knowing what to expect and what to will arm you with the information you need to raise a healthy large dog you can enjoy for years to come.

Author Bio:

Anna Smith resides in beautiful Santa Monica, CA, where she works as a Pet Nutrition Expert in a leading retail pet store. She is responsible for nutritional strategies for different breeds and development of new products on the market in compliance with Association of American Feed Control Officials. Anna’s passions are education about proven methods and best practices in the industry and her dog Max, who is always well-fed. She also helps curate contents for


Cori's Cozy Corner Disclosure Policy