Giant breed dogs are known to be docile, have huge loving hearts, and even bigger personalities. There is no official definition or guideline of what breeds are considered giant breed. A general guideline is any breed that is 100 lbs or more at full size. Some common examples of giant breed dogs are Great Dane, Leonberger, Newfoundland, St Bernard, Great Pyrenees Mountain dog and many of the mastiff breeds.
Giant breed dogs are actually less robust than smaller dogs and more fragile than they look. they are prone to some issues and limitations.
Both nutrition and exercise are very important when it comes to the giant breed dogs. The Giant Breed dogs are more prone to joint issues than dogs with small frames. It is especially important to exercise regularly and help them maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and inactivity are the leading risk factors for joint problems. Also, keeping their muscles strong to help support their joints is a good idea. Read “muscle and strengthening exercise for dogs” for more on this topic.
When giant breed dogs are puppies, their bones are not fully grown. Their body is working hard to create a strong structure to support their large frame. It is advised to not run them on hard surfaces or do any activity that is high impact. Refer to “Exercising a puppy” for more information on this topic. Even as an adult it is still important to not do activities that put stress and strain on their bones and joints. The best exercise for the giant breed dogs is generally regular moderate exercise. This includes shorter distance walks, play with other dogs and a good game of fetch. Many of the Giant Breed dogs are water dogs so swimming is excellent as it is low impact and gives them a good workout at the same time.
Another limitation to consider with the Giant breed dogs is that they can be prone to bloat. Bloat is a life-threatening emergency that needs to be addressed by a veterinarian immediately. There are two types of bloat. Firstly, gastric dilation, which is when the stomach fills and distends with gas and fluid. the second is volvulus which is when the distended stomach rotates around itself.
Symptoms of bloat are a bloated appearance and enlarged abdomen, and in addition, anxiety, pacing, profuse salivation, and unproductive attempt to vomit. It is also very painful and your dog. If for any reason you suspect bloat, see veterinary help immediately.
Ways to minimize the risk of bloat in a giant breed are
Dog breaking meals down into 2-3 portions a day
Feeding from a raised bowl
Restrict access to water for one hour before and after meals
No exercise for one hour before and after meals – learn more here.
Not allowing your dog to eat too fast
Having water available to keep them hydrated so they don’t need to drink too much at one time.
Providing mental stimulation for your Giant Breed dog is just as important as physical exercise to keep their minds alert and to prevent boredom that may lead to destructive behavior. Read “Mental enrichment and Mind Stimulation for dogs” for more information this topic.
Breed Specific exercise recommendations.
It is difficult to give a definitive guide or outline on how to exercise a giant breed dog as the requirements vary from breed to breed and even between individual dogs of the same breed. Typically, a larger example of a certain breed tends to be less active than a smaller example of the same breed. We will look at some of the Giant Breed dogs and outline the activities and exercise that is best for them. In most cases, moderate low impact daily exercise with added mental stimulation will keep a giant breed dog happy and healthy. Social play with other dogs is a good idea, but just keep in mind that the Giant breed dog will tire quicker than the other smaller dogs.
The Giant breed dog is also very adept at pulling so you can include some cart pulling type exercise if you desire.
Newfoundlands can sometimes be considered a little lazy and may become a couch potato.Ensure that they do get exercise on a daily basis to maintain a healthy weight and to keep muscles and joints functioning at there best. This can include moderate walks or short periods of play. Being a water dog, most Newfoundlands love the water, so give them the opportunity to swim whenever possible. Also, include mental stimulation to prevent boredom such as puzzle toys or scenting games.
For a full guide to Newfoundland exercise see here.
Daily walks are highly recommended with Great Danes and offer mental stimulation and socialization. A half hour to 1-hour walk should be planned at least once a day. Keep in mind that the pace a human walks will only allow a Great Dane to slowly lumber along requiring a longer walk and more time. Jogging with a Dane will actually allow it to gait at a natural aerobic pace. If they are showing signs of tiring that is probably sufficient for that day. For Great Dane Exercise requirements see here.
As with the other giant breed dogs, the Saint Bernards exercise needs are moderate and a twenty to thirty-minute walk with mental stimulation and socialization added in will be enough. Many Saint Bernards are keen swimmers, so take the opportunity to take them swimming whenever possible.
Leonbergers are calm and quiet dogs, but they are not lethargic. They require daily exercise thanks to their high energy drive. They are also strong swimmers, so swimming when possible is recommended. A daily walk at a moderate pace and a period of play with people and other animals should be adequate to satisfy their needs.
For a full guide to Leonberger exercise see here.
As with the other giant breed dogs, be careful not to overwork your Mastiff. A daily walk of around half an hour with allowance for mental stimulation and social interaction should be sufficient. For Bullmastiff exercise requirements see here.
The exercise requirements of the Giant breed dogs can vary from breed to breed and even from individual to individual. In general, their exercise needs are moderate with a daily walk, mental enrichment, and social interaction being sufficient. The giant breed dog will tire quicker than smaller dogs so if they are starting to fatigue end the walk or exercise and allow them to rest.
Many of the giant breed dogs are a keen swimmer, so include swimming in their activities as it is a low impact activity that will give them a good workout with stress on the joints.
Also be aware of the risk of bloat in the giant breed dog and don’t feed an hour before and after exercise.
Recommended for giant breeds