6 Things You Learn When You Bring Home A Big Dog

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins

Becoming a dog mom is quite the adventure — becoming a big dog mom is a supersized one. My husband and I welcomed Cannoli, a 140-pound Saint Bernard, into our home last April, and we’ve learned a lot over the past year about the big responsibility that comes with making a large dog a part of our pack. Here’s just a snippet of all she’s taught us:

They think they’re lap dogs — no matter their size 

Large breed dogs may not be able to curl up into a ball in your lap, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be close to the people they love. That’s why “the lean” (where they lean their body weight up against you) is a popular way bigger pups show their affection. Of course, when they’re as big as say, a Saint Bernard, that lean can easily turn into a sit, directly on top of you. It feels just as silly as it looks to have a 140-pound pup sit on you, but from her big smile and tail wag, I can tell there’s no place she’d rather get comfy.

They have big appetites 

Large breed dogs eat anywhere from 2 ¾ cups to more than 6 cups of dog food every day, depending on their weight, breed and appetite. Compare that to a toy breed, which might eat as little as ⅛ cup throughout the day, and you’ll be wondering where your big pup is storing all that food. It’s not only more food that big dogs need, though: because of their accelerated growth rate, they can be more susceptible to nutritional imbalances — especially as growing puppies. Because of that, their food should be lower in fat than other puppy food, and the first ingredient should be a whole protein.

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Photo Courtesy IAMS

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You’ll share your furniture willingly

“Cannoli won’t sleep in the bed with us,” was a popular refrain between my husband and I while we were crate training. For one, our queen size bed really only fits two adults, and two, our cats already had free reign over what little space was left. But as Cannoli started to grow larger, and as she grew closer and closer to us, she hated sleeping apart from her pack — cat siblings included. In fact, because dogs are pack animals, they see being apart from their families as a bad thing, and separation anxiety is a common problem. One sleepless night led to another, and we bought Cannoli her own bed for our bedroom. But soon, that wasn’t enough. Come morning, she was hopping into our bed for cuddles, and there wasn’t much we could do about it — except invest in a king-sized mattress, which (spoiler alert) we did. Now, as crowded as our bed may be, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins

Getting them exercise will be a big priority

All dogs need exercise, but how much depends on their age, energy levels and breed. For big dogs, though, exercise is especially important for their joint health. Because many large breeds are more prone to joint disorders like hip and elbow dysplasia, maintaining a healthy weight is key, as being overweight can exacerbate these issues. Beyond the health benefits, though, I’ve learned that my big pup sleeps more soundly and eats more regularly after a hike or romp at the dog park, so we’ve made getting outside more part of our routine.

Soft toys don’t stand a chance 

When I’m handing Cannoli a treat, she’s as gentle as can be — which made it all the more surprising when she popped the squeaker in every one of her puppy toys at 5 months old. On average, a dog’s jaw can exert about 320 pounds of pressure, compared to 120 pounds for humans and 600 pounds for a great white shark, but that amount can increase or decrease depending on the size of the pup. Because of that, we started getting Cannoli durable chew toys made out of hard nylon, which seemed downright indestructible, but even those need to be replaced after a few weeks of good chewing. Keeping a rotation of them in the house is especially important: besides being more enticing to chew on than furniture or shoes, chew toys help clean her teeth and can calm her down if she’s feeling stressed or anxious.

Photo: Shutterstock; Design: Rebecca Hoskins

They turn heads wherever they go

From questions like “Who’s walking who?” to “How much food does she eat?”, a big dog gets a lot of attention on walks, outings and even car rides. It’s always fun to see how many people are excited to meet a giant, fluffy dog like Cannoli. Luckily, she’s always just as excited to meet them, too. (Sometimes, a little too excited — we’re still working on leash manners.) Simply put: big dogs become the center of attention wherever they go, and they manage to put a smile on everyone’s face with their even bigger personalities.