There are a great many dog owners and lovers that are attracted to the giant breeds of dogs. These dogs typically weigh in excess of 75 to 100 pounds when fully mature and some may even be closer to 200, especially the very largest of the males. In almost all large breeds males will be somewhat heavier and taller than the females and in most there is a slight difference in the head of the two sexes. In very general terms females tend to have finer features and slightly smaller heads and bodies, although they are often almost the same height. In turn males tend to be heavier through the body and also wider and larger through the head, neck and jaw area.
While there are no specific or hard and fast rules about what makes a giant breed, these largest of large dog breeds tend to have calm personalities, slow growth rates, shorter life spans and more difficulty with some skeletal and muscular problems if not properly fed and managed especially during their growing years. However, owners of these large breeds can state just as many benefits to owning this loyal, lovable and impressive looking dogs.
The following are the four most popular giant breeds based on registration numbers through the various associations, organizations and registries. These dogs don't make it to the top 10of the AKC list because of the challenges in owning these canines in the city and urban areas. This list does change from year to year as specific breeds become more or less popular. Not surprisingly the giant breeds tend to stay fairly consistent in numbers since they certainly aren't a dog that is suitable to many crowded or small living areas.
Many people consider the Great Dane to be the most regal of all the giant breeds. They are not originally from Denmark or anywhere in the Netherlands; rather they were originally bred in Germany. These dogs were likely developed by crossing an ancient and extinct Molosser type dog with Greyhounds. The resulting powerful yet agile dog has been a very popular breed throughout history.
The average Great Dane will weigh in at up to 200 pounds for males and a mere 130 pounds for females. Their shoulder height can be up to 34 inches. Coats come in a variety of colors from tans and fawns through to brindles, solid black, blue and brown colors as well as merles. The striking harlequin coloration is black and white with irregular patches over the coat. Merles are relatively rare and are not considered show quality simply because of the coat coloration.
Overall the Great Dane is a very loyal, protective and gentle dog. Surprisingly they can be very playful and almost puppy-like well into their adult years. They are great with children but do need to be obedience trained early because of their large size and weight. Socialization is also important with these dogs. While not a problem barker they will bark when they are confronted with a stranger or something new in their environment. They are naturally guard dogs and few people are going to attempt to get by a Great Dane once he or she is on the defensive.
The Great Pyrenees is a true cold weather dog. They are all white in color and have a very profuse and heavy double coat. The longer outer coat can be slightly wavy and the inner coat is thick, soft and wooly. The Great Pyrenees has been bred for centuries as a flock guardian and as such it is naturally very protective and loyal to his or her family. Not a highly playful dog once mature, the Great Pyrenees is best described as steadfast and loyal. They love children and bond very strongly with a family, often making them difficult to rehome.
Generally the Great Pyrenees matures at a height of about 27 inches at the shoulder and a weight of up to 100 pounds for males. Females usually mature at about 85 pounds. Their thick, heavy coats makes these dogs unsuitable for hot climates plus they are very heavy shedders, making them a challenge to have indoors. The thick double coat will completely shed out once a year and will lead to massive amounts of hair over the yard, house and anywhere else the dog goes.
Almost the color opposite of the Great Pyrenees, the Newfoundland Dog is all black, bronze or sometimes even gray. Landseer is a coloration of black with heavy white marking on the chest, feet and tail that is very popular in some areas. The Newfoundland has a very dense, heavy double coat that also sheds profusely. Like the Great Pyrenees they are not recommended in hot climates or if confined to small spaces.
The Newfie is a true water dog and loves to swim and has a naturally oily outer and inner coat. These dogs are great with children and are relatively slow moving and thoughtful, not prone to rambunctious or silly behavior. They are very good protectors and watchdogs but also very accepting of people and animals once they see that they pose no threat.
Mature weight of the Newfoundland Dog ranges from between 100 to 200 pounds with males at the larger end of the scale. The average height at the shoulder is approximately 25 to 29 inches.
All of the modern Mastiffs originated with the Molosser dogs. These are also one of the original breeds used to create the Great Dane and most of the other fighting and bull baiting breeds that were popular at the turn of the century. The modern Mastiff is actually recognized as several different breeds including the Old English Mastiff, the Neopolitan Mastiff and the Bullmastiff.
In general all mastiff dog types have a gentle giant type personality but they are also fiercely loyal and protective of their property and their families. They will defend using physical aggression and they can be rather dominant and independent in nature. Most of the mastiff types and breeds are rather dog-aggressive, however with regular socialization and obedience training this trait can be minimized. They are wonderful if raised with other dogs, cats and animals from puppies.
The mastiff type of dog is typically very good with children and has endless patience with kids. They are not highly playful but they are content to just watch what the kids are doing and keep everyone safe. Mastiffs are often mistaken for other breeds, some which have a bad reputation for aggression. Early training and socialization is important to avoid this misunderstanding with regards to the dog's behavior.