The definition of a large-sized dog may depend on perspective. If you’ve had Chihuahuas and buy a Pointer, you think he’s huge. If you’ve had Newfoundlands and then add a German Shepherd, you may name her Tiny Tippy Toes. Okay well maybe not. My Shepherds would abandon ship if given silly names. But for our purposes, let’s define large dog breeds (not giant breeds) as weighing about 60 to 90 pounds. Now within a breed, females are often smaller than males, but I can’t categorize one gender as Large and the other as Medium so if it’s a big boy – it’s a big dog breed!
Whether the below breeds tend toward averaging 60 or 90 pounds, they all have a larger than life presence as well as physique.
1. Labrador Retrievers
Consistently the Labrador Retriever holds the #1 spot in the American Kennel Club’s popularity rankings. With males weighing typically 65 to 80 pounds, and females about 55 to 70 pounds, Labs are sporty and strong, yet generally agreeable with people and other dogs. They rock the world in dock diving, field trials, rally, obedience, and tracking, as well as search and rescue, explosive detection, and service work. Where did all this enthusiastic competence come from? Early Labs worked all day with fisherman, and yet needed energy for evening family playtimes too. Today’s Lab has gusto for any activity, and that goes double if the activity includes water and retrieving.
2. German Shepherds
Dante, courtesy Deborah Stern
A heroic working dog and a loving family companion, the German Shepherd sits #2 in the AKC’s popularity rankings. Captain Max von Stephanitz developed the German Shepherd in the early 20th century specifically for brainpower and usefulness. After WWI, American soldiers returned with stories about the remarkable hard-working German dogs that guarded, served as sentries, and delivered messages. Rin-Tin-Tin movies contributed to the breed’s popularity. Today the Shepherd (about 50 to 70 pounds for females, 65 to 85 for males) still excels in military and police work, and also collects accolades in tracking, personal protection, search and rescue work, herding, guiding, and any canine job imaginable. The only job a Shepherd may fail is welcoming newcomers: Most GSDs don’t make friends indiscriminately. My own shepherd stares at newcomers trying to engage her with aYou must have mistaken me for someone who gives a darn look. But with family, GSDs are deeply loyal and protective.
3. Golden Retrievers
Tanq, Courtesy Geri Yaccino
Friendly, fun-loving families dog with a sporty history, Golden Retrievers are the third most popular breed in the AKC’s rankings. Goldens were developed in Scotland by Lord Tweedmouth (let’s picture him wearing tweed, whether he did or not)as a gundog to retrieve fowl. Today’s Golden (about 60 to 75 pounds) wows his family with affection and love, and can excel in search and rescue, hunting, and therapy work. He can also swim, dock dive, race through agility courses, and keep a smile on his face throughout any activity. And Goldens were taught to retrieve birds without mauling them, so their gentle mouths make them a good choice for families with children. Just don’t expect a Golden to chase away strangers; most adore the world.
4. Standard Poodles
The Poodle is ranked #7 on the AKC’s popularity list, but that includes all 3 sizes of Poodles: standard, miniature and toy. Here we’ll focus on the Standard Poodle (weighing about 45 to 70 pounds for males, 45 to 60 pounds for females). The breed originated in Germany as a water retriever. No jokes about his hair-do permitted. His stylish clip was designed to facilitate swimming and protect vital organs from cold. And don’t underestimate the Poodle’s working ability simply because he’s elegant. In the 1940’s, Standard Poodles were even classified as war dogs by the US Army, noting the Poodle’s keen senses and aptitude for learning. (Servicemen weren’t as enamored with the Poodle’s coat, which required regular trims). The army used Poodles on the home front guarding plants and military installations. These days the smart and capable Poodle bonds nicely with all members of his family, and excels in agility, tracking, and obedience. Although not a classic guard dog, most will sound an alarm when newcomers arrive.
Ranked #8 in AKC breed popularity, the Boxer is sometimes considered a medium-sized dog. But in my weight class designations, I have them boxing with the big boys. For while they’re compact and muscular, males typically weigh about 65 pounds and females 55 pounds. Although an athletic breed, any image of a Boxer up on his back legs boxing is likely fiction. Developed in 19th century Germany, Boxers guarded, worked in circuses, and served police. During the world wars, Boxers delivering messages, carried packs, and guarded camp. Today’s Boxer is game for any type of fun, and generally drawn to playing with children. Some don’t care for same-sex dogs. (This may be where the boxing begins!)
The AKC 2014 popularity list places the Rottweiler #10. A breed with a long history, the Rottie’s predecessors guarded the cattle of ancient armies. In more modern times, Rotties were developed as all-around German farm dogs. Now Rotties aren’t a giant breed, but they’re arguably larger than most of the breeds in our weight class: Males weigh about 100 pounds; females about 90 pounds. With great strength and size Rotties pulled carts for famers who couldn’t afford horses and cattle. In the world wars, Rottweilers were taken off farms to haul carts for the military. The breed is known for adaptability, endurance, and the desire to keep his family safe. The powerful Rottie thrives with energetic walks and exercise, and aces dog sports such as obedience, rally, and weight pulling. Although most accept the family’s other animals, some won’t tolerate same-sex dogs. Not usually the dog park social butterflies, Rotties show reserve around new dogs.
7. German Shorthaired Pointers
With males weighing 60 to 70 pounds, and females generally 45 to 60, the German Shorthaired Pointer was developed in Germany as a multi-purpose dog. After all, why develop one breed to point, one to retrieve, another to trail game, when the GSP could do it all. Along with all-around sportiness, the GSP was bred for good-natured companionship. Today’s athletic GSP loves exercise and family fun. Deemed a canine triathlete, GSPs are strong swimmers and runners (he can’t usually ride a bike, so he’s missing one piece of the Triathlete designation). They tend to get along with other dogs in general. Are they guard dogs extraordinaire? Not really. Some bark at newcomers, but most are too friendly to chase anyone away.
8. Siberian Huskies
The Siberian Husky, #13 in AKC popularity, straddles the border between medium and large sized dogs (males weigh about 60; females about 50), but we’ll let them sit with the big boys. After all, when they’re blowing coat, they seem to take up twice as much space. Generally friendly to all, Siberians were bred long ago by the Chukchi people for the critical job of providing transportation. The dogs needed to be gentle since they lived and slept with the family for warmth (thus cold nights became known as “three dog nights”). Cheerful and exuberant about exploring, Siberians need vigorous exercise. While trainable, Siberians are often skeptical about the human preoccupation with “obeying.” Their independence leads them to seek adventure rather than hold a down stay.
Herr Doberman of early 19th century Germany would be pleased to see his breed, the Doberman, holding the #14 place in 2014 popularity. Dobermann, a tax collector, animal control supervisor, and night watchman, developed the breed as a companion and loyal guard. Putting the Dobe’s sentry skills to good use, American Marines employed Dobes in WWII in the pacific to alert them of possible ambush. In fact, a war dog memorial (“Always Faithful”) stands in Guam, honoring the Dobes that died in service. Nowadays the Dobe is used less in military and police roles, and more as a companion and family protector. Although tough, protective, and smart, the Dobe is also affectionate, loving, and a tad mushy with his beloved family members (don’t tell him I said that!).
10. Australian Shepherds
Developed not in Australia but in America, the Australian Shepherd holds the #18 most popular breed ranking for good reason. Developed for herding livestock with a tough, hands-on approach, an Aussie’s energy can at times seem endless (We took our daughter’s Aussie hiking all day in Colorado, and I wasn’t thrilled he still wanted his after dinner walk). Trainable, energetic, intense, and highly biddable, Aussies thrive in any family that loves activity. They can dominate the podium in agility, and they also excel in herding events, rally, obedience, and freestyle. Most socialized Aussies get along nicely with other animals in the family and do well around children. With acute situational awareness(“where are my sheep? who’s bothering my sheep? who’s that? what’s that?”), the Aussie generally alerts, alerts, and alerts (!) the family to newcomers.