Big puppy Great Dane sitting next to a smaller working dog

The Biggest Dog Breeds Commonly Found In Australia

Do you live in a huge home? Do you enjoy outdoor hobbies? Are you convinced “bigger is better”? Then have a look at the biggest dog breeds.

We’ve made the ultimate guide to massive dog breeds that could fit your lifestyle. Ready for the best of the best?


What is Considered a Big Dog Breed?

“Big”, large or giant dog breeds are relative. According to the American Kennel Club, “big” dog breeds are those that are more than 60 cm tall and weigh more than 45 kgs. As a general rule, females tend to be slightly smaller and weigh less than their male counterparts.

Most large dog breeds are very active because they were initially bred as working dogs. Both due to their size and activity levels, the biggest dog breeds can feel like a lot to handle if you’ve never had a pup before. Training, socialization and consistent mental exercise are essential to keep these dogs happy!


What You Need To Know About Giant Dogs

Dogs are dogs, right? Well… it depends. Of course, all dogs will need a few common basics like food, water, exercise and love. But the specifics can vary a lot according to the breed and your dog’s size! Large dogs especially have a few specific needs that might surprise you if you’ve never had one before. Here’s what you should know about them:

Huge dogs need careful nutrition throughout their life

The largest dog breeds not only need a lot of high-quality food, they also need very specific portions. Because of their genetics, large dogs tend to grow very fast. On the flip side, puppies that grow too tall too fast can develop dangerous lifelong consequences like weaker bones and hyperflexible joints.

These two issues can cause troubles later in life and make you invest a lot in vets and orthopaedic specialists. To counteract this tendency, large-breed puppies have very specific caloric needs and can’t be fed “until they are completely full”.

Large and giant puppy breeds need to be fed a diet high in bioavailable calcium in the correct portion sizes. This means you’ll try to slow down their growth rate to ensure their bones are strong enough to support their adult weight. When in doubt, call your vet!

PRO TIP: Large and giant puppies should be weighed weekly to ensure they are eating enough (but not too much!) according to their size. Change their portions following their growth and use specific puppy food adapted to their adult size. Make sure your scale is big enough to fit them as they grow!

These pups need plenty of space

Are you considering adopting one of these massive dog breeds? Then make sure you have the space for it! Of course, some large dogs can be “lazier” than others, but they all need a minimum of space to not knock down your stuff every time they turn.

PRO TIP: Interested in a large dog breed that can live in an apartment? Here’s our ultimate list

Even if you own a low-energy dog, their stuff will need space as well. Toys, food bowls and beds will take up a lot of room in your home! If you don’t have a fenced-in backyard, you need to plan for daily walks and runs somewhere they can stretch their legs a bit. Consider these factors before adopting one of the dogs on this list!

Biggest size means a bigger cost

Big dogs can be expensive to care for. Before choosing to adopt a giant dog breed, please consider your budget and expenses. Of course, being a dog parent will always involve extra costs, but large-breed dog food, toys, and other supplies are usually more expensive than those for smaller dogs.

Just think about the food: 2kg of expensive dog food will last weeks with a Chihuahua, but a Great Dane will demolish that in a couple of days. In addition, medication for giant dogs is going to be more expensive.

On the other hand, large dogs usually need specific veterinarian equipment. Unfortunately, not all vet clinics—especially in cities—will have the tools to safely handle giant breeds. Many large dog owners need to shop around or travel to a vet who can accommodate their pup for X-rays, surgery, and other “normal” procedures.

Giant breeds have a higher risk for some conditions

As we already mentioned, diet during puppyhood can play a big role in your dog’s future health. But on top of orthopaedic issues, large dog breeds are statistically more likely to have other conditions.

For example, giant breeds are 20x likelier to have osteosarcoma than other pedigree breeds simply because of their size and weight. Issues like hip dysplasia, enlarged heart and other congenital heart diseases are also common because of their size and aren’t related to a specific large breed.

In addition, large dogs with a deep chest like Greyhounds and Great Danes are more likely to suffer from bloat, a life-threatening condition that happens when the stomach fills with air and then twists over itself. In fact, according to research bloat (or gastric dilation-volvulus, A.K.A GDV) is the main cause of death among Great Danes []

PRO TIP: If you adopt a breed that is more prone to bloating, it’s important to keep their meals on a constant schedule. You should also make sure your dog rests for at least 40 minutes after eating before engaging in any type of physical activity.


What Is The Biggest Dog Breed?

According to official records, the largest dog registered was a Great Dane. Different pups have held the title, but the latest one was Freddy with 103.5 cm [2].

Great Danes are generally taller than 70 cm and are one of the oldest dog breeds in existence: they date back to around 3000 BC! This dog was bred by German royalty by crossing Mastiff-type pups with Irish Wolfhounds. The result is a giant pup with imposing looks but a heart of gold.


The Biggest Dog Breeds

Interested in adopting one of these gentle giants? Here are the biggest dog breeds you can choose from:

Great Dane

Big Great Dane

Of course, we couldn’t have a list of massive dogs without counting the Great Dane. As we already mentioned, Great Danes have repeatedly won the Guinness Record as the world largest dog [2]. Males are usually taller than 75 cm to the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller standing at around 72 cm to the shoulder.

These gentle giants were initially created to help in bear and boar hunting. That’s why they have those powerful jaws and can run relatively fast! They were also used as protectors, although we know now this is one of the gentlest breeds there is. Great Danes are very sensitive, so you can’t treat them roughly!

If you’re considering adopting this breed, keep in mind your space. These are large, drooly dogs that can stink up your home: they love sleeping on the couch, will drool all over your furniture and tend to fart A LOT.

Sounds like your cup of tea? Then we recommend adoption. Many Great Danes are abandoned every year by irresponsible owners that didn’t consider the effort involved in owning this breed. We recommend you contact your local shelter or breed-specific rescue to get to know dogs that are up for adoption:

Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhound Sitting Down

Another giant, Irish Wolfhounds are typically very large. They were created to fight wolf populations in 15th-century Ireland, so they can become great watchdogs! These dogs are fiercely independent, so if you’re expecting blind obedience they aren’t the right pick. Wolfhounds don’t do well with harsh corrections, so sticking to positive reinforcement and gentle redirection is the only way to train them.

Although slightly leaner than Great Danes, they are still imposing: they are generally taller than 60 cm to the shoulder and weigh at least 55 kg!

Despite their strong prey drive, this breed does great with both children and other dogs. Because of their size, they need to have an adult handler and be exposed to consistent socialization since puppyhood. This is a loyal breed that is devoted to their pack and won’t hesitate to defend their family.

Interested in an Irish Wolfhound? Then we strongly recommend adopting or fostering. Many of these dogs are surrendered because families aren’t ready for the time and energy commitment this breed needs. Check out your local rescues and breed associations to get to know adoptable pups:

Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff

These imposing pups are the epitome of gentle giants. Although they were bred to protect livestock and won’t hesitate to attack if needed, these fierce dogs are intensely loyal to their pack and love a good cuddle.

Tibetan Mastiff are huge dogs with an independent streak. They enjoy spending time with their people and have a strong pack mentality. They are natural protectors with a strong prey drive, so consistent socialization and training are a must throughout their lives. In general, Tibetan Mastiffs do better with larger dogs and older children, mainly because they don’t know their own size and can easily trample little ones.

Despite their imposing looks and fierce character, these dogs are softies. They don’t do well with stern training and need lots of positive reinforcement to be happy. They also need consistent exercise to keep them at a healthy weight and are more likely to suffer from hip dysplasia even at a young age.

Are you considering this breed? Then we recommend fostering, especially if you’ve never had a dog before. Tibetan Mastiffs can be great companions but need consistent training and a lot of energy, so fostering can be a great way of trying your hand at dog ownership without the long-term commitment.

Check out these Australian rescue groups to see what dogs are available for fostering:

Kangal

Kangal

The Kangal is still very rare, but it’s still one of the largest dog breeds out there. This dog was originally developed in Turkey to help guard and herd sheep. They were created to defend their herd against bears, jackals and wolves, so their protective instincts are very powerful.

Measuring at least 75 cm tall and weighing between 55 and 65 kg, it’s easy to see how these powerful creatures could handle wild predators! While on the job, Kangals are focused and serious. Once they’re relaxed and at home, they’ll enjoy a good cuddle on the couch.

Of course, this breed needs lots of training and exercise if you don’t have a herd of sheep for them to protect. If that’s the case, you’ll have to provide a structured exercise schedule, plenty of training opportunities and challenging mind games to ensure they stay happy and well-behaved.

PRO TIP: Kangals have the strongest bite recorded among dogs! If you’re interested in the breed, reinforcing essential cues like “release” is essential. Only use positive, reward-based training to teach a Kangal any new cue!

The Kangal is very loyal to its own family, including children, but doesn’t tolerate strangers. You should have a strong track record of dog training before attempting to add this pup to the family.

Interested in this breed? While there aren’t any local breed-specific rescues for Kangals in Australia, you might find a similar dog at the RSPCA or other working dog rescues.

Newfoundland

Newfoundland

Have you ever wanted a real-life teddy bear? The Newfoundland might be the right dog for you! This fluffy pup is known for excelling at rescue missions in difficult terrain and water.

This breed is famous for their courage: brave is their second name! These pups are fiercely devoted to their family and love spending time in water all year round. They have a thick, waterproof coat that makes it possible to take a swim in icy Canadian lakes. Newfoundlands are beautiful dogs, passionate about their family and ready to defend them if needed.

Newfoundland dogs do better in active homes where they can get the exercise, training and attention they need to thrive. Still unsure? We recommend fostering first. That way, you’ll get a real feel of what being a Newfoundland parent is like, without the 10-year commitment. To get to know adoptable pups, check these breed-specific rescue groups in Australia:

Leonberger

Leonberger

This German dog has a size to match his huge heart. Leonberger dogs are mastiff-type pups bred to guard and watch the home of European royals. Afterwards, the breed became a full-blown farm dog to protect livestock. Nowadays, this breed excels at canine sports (including agility) and enjoy playing in water.

Leonbergers are giant dogs that need tons of exercise to stay happy: at least 40 minutes of moderate exercise every day! On the other hand, this breed also needs a generously sized home. According to professional breeders, Leonbergers can become excessively territorial if confined to a small space, which can result in serious troubles down the road.

Interested in this breed? While there are no breed-specific rescues for Leonbergers, the RSPCA might be able to show you Leonbergers in need of a home.


Final Thoughts

Adopting a giant dog breed can feel intimidating, especially if you’ve never owned a pup before! No worries, with the right training and tons of exercise, large dogs can easily adjust to life as pets. The key is staying consistent and sticking to positive reinforcement: it’s the best way to create strong bonds with the newest member of the family!

Have you ever had a giant dog? Do you prefer them to smaller pups? Let us know in the comments below!

Related: Where To Buy A Dog In Australia.

References

  1. Teng, Kendy T., et al. "Trends in popularity of some morphological traits of purebred dogs in Australia." Canine genetics and epidemiology 3.1 (2016): 1-9.  https://cgejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40575-016-0032-2?app=syndication&
  2. Thorne, Dan (2021) Freddy, the world’s tallest dog, dies aged 8. Guinness World Records. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/news/2021/1/freddy-the-worlds-tallest-dog-dies-aged-8-646998
  3. Gibbons SE, Macias C, Tonzing MA, Pinchbeck GL, McKee WM. Patellar luxation in 70 large breed dogs. J Small Anim Pract. 2006;47(1):3–9. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172918
  4. Rice, Dan. Big dog breeds. Barron's, 2001. https://agris.fao.org/agris-search/search.do?recordID=US201300071905
  5. Messerschmidt DA. The Tibetan Mastiff: canine sentinels of the range. Rangelands Archives. 1983 Aug 1;5(4):172-4. https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/rangelands/article/download/11819/11092
  6. Turner TC. Irish and Russian Wolfhounds. Art & Life. 1920 Jan 1;11(7):387-91. 1.%09https:/ia803201.us.archive.org/29/items/jstor-20543135/20543135.pdf
  7. Rogerson JH. Newfoundland dog: history, care, feeding, standard of perfection, show points. https://qspace.library.queensu.ca/bitstream/handle/1974/11906/newfoundlanddogh00roge.pdf?sequence=1
  8. Yilmaz, O. "Turkish kangal (Karabash) shepherd dog." Impress Printing Comp. Ankara (Turkey) (2007). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Orhan-Yilmaz-3/publication/263468806_Turkish_Kangal_Karabash_Shepherd_Dog_in_English/links/0046353affff125d25000000/Turkish-Kangal-Karabash-Shepherd-Dog-in-English.pdf
Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is a dog lover & anthropologist. She enjoys writing content that will actually help people understand their dogs better. Eloisa is able to use her expertise to write informative posts on canine behaviour and training.

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