Do you have a large dog that most people mistake for a horse? Are you considering getting a large breed puppy? As a professional dog walker and pet sitter, some of my favorites to care for are the lovable, gentle giants! However, did you know that large dogs require special care due to their huge stature? Read on for tips and considerations on the bigger pooches, and how their care can be unique.
Puppyhood is pertinent. As professional dog walkers and pet sitters, we love to watch your pup grow! But large breed puppies grow differently than other dogs. Since their rate of growth is more rapid, proper nutrition is vital during their first year. They will need a special balance of lower fat, lower calcium, and selected protein ratios, to encourage an appropriate growth rate. Growing too fast too soon can cause body strain and long-term damage. Also remember, growth plates are fragile during puppyhood, and can be damaged with too much rigorous exercise. Be sure to avoid certain activities that cause too much stress on growing joints, such as running on concrete, or jumping up and off high surfaces. Puppies are notorious for being clumsy, so consider that you’re now going to have a gargantuan fumbling knucklehead bouncing around your home. This is important to note, particularly if you live in a smaller home, have children, or other small pets, as a large breed puppy may not be the best match for you.
Training is paramount. Your dog is not the only thing that is huge — training and socializing is enormously important! With great power, comes great responsibility. Behavioral challenges can become a Herculean task when dealing with a colossal pup. Be proactive and start training and socializing your super-sized pooch immediately. As a professional dog trainer, I’m always saddened when a family elects to euthanize a large breed dog for aggression or anxiety problems, simply because they cannot risk the dog hurting someone or something. Avoid this by implementing calm, benevolent leadership skills and positive-reinforcement based training to teach your giant to be a gentle one. Expose your humongous hound to everything and anything you will need to do throughout it’s life, so they adapt well and be accepting of these challenges.
Larger dog = Larger items (including larger bills!). Plan ahead financially if you want to own a large breed dog, as big dogs can create big expenses! They need larger beds, crates, and toys. Keep regular or small toys out of reach, so as not to create a choking hazard for your beast. Make sure collars and leashes are sturdy enough to support your strong hulk of a dog. Giant dogs also require more space, not only for living, but for transport as well (so consider the type of vehicle you have prior to getting a large dog). Obviously, our elephantine friends eat more food, so expect to spend more at the pet store too. Medication at the vet, and even basic preventatives like heartworm pills and flea & tick applications, can be more costly for larger sized pets, so be prepared.
Educate yourself on unique large breed health problems. Be a responsible pet owner, and be aware of the medical challenges large breed dogs face in order to provide the best care possible for your pet. Unfortunately, the larger the dog, the shorter the lifespan. Consider the heart-breaking fact that you may only have your gentle giant for less than 10 years. Increase their longevity with education, nutrition, plentiful exercise (hire a professional dog walker to help if needed!), and quality care. Large breed dogs are often candidates for bloat (or gastric torsion), so consider a slow-feeder bowl, interactive puzzle games, and raised dishes to reduce them from “inhaling” their food. Arthritis and joint problems can be common, especially as your big dog ages. Keep your large dog trim, and avoid obesity at all costs — extra pounds really weigh on arthritis and joints! Add natural supplements such as glucosamine and omega fatty acids to your pet’s daily diet to support joint health. Do research on breed-specific illnesses and common ailments. Be prepared and educate yourself, so you can offer the best life possible for your pet.
By Katelyn Schutz, CPDT