What Makes a Dog a Giant?

If you have ever been captivated by the sight of a majestic large-breed dog like a Great Dane or Leonberger, then you are well acquainted with their extraordinary allure. These extra-large pups possess a captivating quality that touches all who encounter them. But what makes a dog a giant is more than sheer size.
Leonberger, standing in the snow

What is a Giant Dog?

While the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not have an official definition for  “giant breeds,” there are general guidelines to categorize them. A giant dog breed, also known as an extra-large dog breed, typically weighs over 100 pounds. This definition varies slightly from a large breed dog, which is usually defined as weighing between 45 and 100 lbs, with extra-large breeds weighing between 85 and 180+ lbs or being over 24 inches tall at the shoulders​​​​.

AKC Recognized Giant Breeds

The AKC categorizes the following breeds as giant breeds, typically ranging from 75 to 120+ pounds:

  1. Akita
  2. Anatolian Sheepdog
  3. Bernese Mountain Dog
  4. Bloodhound
  5. Borzoi
  6. Bullmastiff
  7. Great Dane
  8. Great Pyrenees
  9. Great Swiss Mountain Dog
  10. Irish Wolfhound
  11. Kuvasz
  12. Mastiff
  13. Neopolitan Mastiff
  14. Newfoundland
  15. Otter Hound
  16. Rottweiler
  17. Saint Bernard​​.
Saint Bernard getting loved on

While they have height and weight in common, the conformation of giant breed dogs can vary a lot depending on the job they were bred to do. Take the Bullmastiff, for example, bred as a fearless protector with a sturdy build and powerful muscles.

On the other hand, the Borzoi are sighthounds. They are built for speed, bred to chase hare, fox and wolf. Their elegant, slender silhouette could not be more different to that of more chunky Newfoundland.

The Newfoundland’s water rescue skills are legendary.  It has a massive body and webbed feet for optimal swimming and it’s thick flat coat has an oily, water-resistant quality.

And let’s not forget the Akita, known for its loyalty and strength, boasting a robust physique and a dignified presence. Each of these giant breeds has its own unique traits, highlighting the incredible diversity found within this category of dogs.

gentle giant

Gentle Giants Walk Among Us

The concept of “gentle giants” among giant dog breeds holds true in many cases. Despite their imposing size and sometimes fearsome appearance, many large and giant breeds are known for their calm, gentle, and affectionate nature. Breeds like Mastiffs, Great Danes, and others often display a mellow and patient temperament, making them ideal family pets and even therapy dogs in some cases.

For instance, the Bernese Mountain Dog is known for being mellow and patient, excelling in therapy work. The Irish Wolfhound, originally bred for hunting, is typically gentle and gets along well with children, strangers, and other dogs. Similarly, the Newfoundland is noted for its calm demeanor and is often happiest when with family, showing great suitability as a therapy dog.

However, it’s important to note that these breeds require proper training and socialization. Without it, they can develop behavioral issues due to their size. For example, a Leonberger, if not properly socialized and trained, can be difficult to manage because of its large size. The Great Dane, despite its affectionate nature, can also pose challenges if not adequately trained.

In conclusion, while many giant dog breeds are indeed “gentle giants,” their upbringing plays a crucial role in shaping their temperament and behavior. Proper training and socialization are key to ensuring these breeds live up to their affectionate and gentle reputation.