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Pack of large dogs in forest

The essentials

  • Make sure you’re setting your pooch up for a healthy, happy life — It’s important to take inventory of your current lifestyle and hobbies while researching and considering these larger breeds, as some need more space and exercise than others.
  • Early training and socialization are key for big dogs — All dogs benefit tremendously from structure and discipline, but large breed dogs especially need to learn their boundaries while also respecting yours and others’.
  • Hip dysplasia and other health problems can be common in larger dogs — Research is key when considering any breed, so be prepared to work closely with your vet to keep your pup’s health in optimal shape.

1. Labrador retriever

A black lab sitting on the grass

Average Height: 22.5-24.5 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)

Average Weight: 54-80 lbs (male), 48-70 lbs (female)

Description: Happy, eager to please, and affectionate to a fault

Labs are very friendly and outgoing by nature and always come with boundless enthusiasm. They are highly intelligent and make excellent family pets, as they’re easy to train and great with young kids. They come in three conformation colors — yellow, black, and chocolate — all of which have historically been seen in dog shows. Labs are also known for their short, double coat and their affinity for water.

Be sure to look into whether you’d like an American lab or an English lab — English labs have wider, fuller chests and shorter legs, while American labs are slimmer, have a narrower head and longer muzzle, and an athletic frame. English labs tend to lead a more low-key lifestyle, while American labs are regarded to be more active with higher energy.

2. Pit Bull/Bully

American pit bull terrier

Average Height: 18–21 inches (male), 17–20 inches (female)

Average Weight: 56-80 lbs (male), 50-70 lbs (female)

Description: Sweet, loyal, and often misunderstood

The term “pit bull” often refers to American Pit Bull Terriers and other bulldog and/or “bully” breed mixes. Contrary to their reputation, pit bulls are affectionate, loyal, eager to please, and excellent companions when raised with love and proper training. They’re sturdy, muscular dogs with short, single-layer coats that can come in an array of colors and patterns.

Bully breeds tend to adapt to you, so if you lead a more active lifestyle, your pup will follow suit. If you’re a little bit more of a homebody, you’ll have the perfect cuddle bug to curl up with after a long day. But regardless of your lifestyle, this lovable breed will always bring a smile to your face!

3. German shepherd dog

German Shepherd Lying on ground

Average Height: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)

Average Weight: 65-90 lbs (male), 55-78 lbs (female)

Description: Alert, devoted, and sometimes somewhat silly

German shepherds are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and versatility. They excel in various roles, from working as police or service dogs to being loving family pets. That said, GSDs are also known to have a bit of a stubborn streak —  be sure to start training early and stick with it. They have just as much brain as they have brawn and beauty, so they require a lot of mental and physical activity. GSDs have medium to long double coats and have been known to shed quite a bit, so also be prepared with a good vacuum!

4. Golden retriever

Golden retriever sitting in the grass.

Average Height: 23-24 inches (male), 21.5-22.5 inches (female)

Average Weight: 60-80 lbs (male), 50-70 lbs (female)

Description: Jolly and playful, often with more energy than they know what to do with

Renowned for their friendly demeanor and gentle temperament, golden retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the United States due to their affectionate nature, especially toward their families, friends, and other pets. Your golden will be just as excited to watch your favorite shows with you on a Friday night as they will be the next day to go on a 5-mile walk. In other words, be prepared for just as many zoomies in the living room as naps on the couch!

Golden retrievers are known for their beautiful medium to long coats, but with such beauty comes quite a bit of shedding. Don’t be surprised to find golden strands in their wake everywhere they go, on your furniture, or as tumbleweeds accumulating in the corners of your home.

5. Boxer


Average Height: 23-25 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)

Average Weight: 50-74 lbs (male), 45-63 lbs (female)

Description: Athletic, devoted, and 100% always down for a good time

Likely to be voted “Goofiest Personality” of the larger breeds, boxers are energetic and devoted pups with a love for life. They are known for their endless enthusiasm and athleticism, making them perfect companions for active families. Playful is the name of the game here, so apartments or homes without a yard in which to get all that playfulness out may not be the best scenario for these friendly and cheerful pups.

With all the adventure, be sure to keep their adorable snout wrinkles clean, as they can be prone to skin infections if moisture stays trapped for too long.

6. American Staffordshire Terrier

An American Staffordshire terrier standing on a road.

Average Height: 18-19 inches (male), 17-18 inches (female)

Average Weight: 52-75 lbs (male), 45-65 lbs (female)

Description: Strong, social, and just a smidge stubborn

American Staffordshire Terriers are muscular in build and loyal above all else. With proper training and socialization, they can be loving family dogs as well. They are just as smart as they are confident, with plenty of good-natured personality to go with it. But because they’re also exceptionally social and active by nature, Staffies can become bored or lonely without enough stimuli. This can result in some behavioral issues such as chewing, digging, and escaping.

Staffies are athletic and have a very strong frame, and sometimes they aren’t aware of just how rough they can be while playing with other dogs and humans. As with any larger dog, training to understand their boundaries and the boundaries of others is key!

7. Siberian husky

Siberian husky on a snowy landscape

Average Height: 21-23.5 inches (male), 20-22 inches (female)

Average Weight: 50-66 lbs (male), 40-55 lbs (female)

Description: Loyal, affectionate, and, according to TikTok, the most theatrical dog breed on the internet

Siberian huskies come with a beautiful, striking appearance and strong work ethic. They thrive in colder climates and are known for their endurance as sled dogs. The breed is friendly, but can sometimes be stubborn and just slightly dramatic. They’re mischievous by nature, requiring a decently high level of mental and physical stimuli — they’ll be sure to let you know with a bark or howl when they aren’t getting enough!

Also, huskies shed a lot. In fact, in addition to shedding year-round, they also blow their entire coats twice a year — once in the spring and then again in the fall. The shedding is worth the fluffy beautiful coat for many pet parents, though.

8. American bulldog

American bulldog sitting on grass

Average Height: 22-25 inches (males), 20-23 inches (females)

Average Weight: 55-85 lbs (male), 48-70 lbs (female)

Description: Protective and energetic, but known for a sweet, smiling face

American bulldogs are strong, muscular dogs with a keen protective instinct. They’re devoted to their humans and make excellent guardians for their families. Larger and taller than their English cousins from across the pond, American bulldogs tend to need a couple of different outlets to work off their energy.

These pups are not well-suited for long periods of alone time and have been known to get bored or anxious when left to their own devices for too long. Be sure to have ample time to spend with your American bulldog during the day!

9. English bulldog

English bulldog

Average Height: 14-15 inches

Average Weight: 45-64 lbs (male), 48-70 lbs (female)

Description: Laid-back, friendly, and completely aware of what they can get away with

English bulldogs are famous for their wrinkled face and gentle, sometimes mischievous disposition. They are great companions and thrive in a relaxed, indoor environment. That said, English bulldogs are a “flat-faced” or brachycephalic breed , which can come with several health risks that owners need to be aware of when bringing one of these adorable meatballs into their home.

These dogs don’t need as much exercise or stimulus as their American counterparts, so they make better apartment dogs or couch-potato partners.

10. Catahoula leopard dog

Catahoula leopard dog in the snow

Average Height: 22-24 inches

Average Weight: 50-70 lbs (male), 42-60 lbs (female)

Description: Athletic, thrives when there’s a job to do, and likely too smart for their own good

Catahoula leopard dogs exhibit a striking appearance, intelligence, and lots of protective instincts. They excel as working dogs and are often used for herding and hunting. It’s highly recommended that these dogs have ample space to work and play.

Although they can sometimes be wary of strangers, they make excellent companions for active families and outdoorsy types. Strict and consistent training is key for their naturally independent nature.

11. German shorthaired pointer

German shorthaired pointer on leash

Average Height: 23-25 inches (male), 21-23 inches (female)

Average Weight: 50-65 lbs (male), 41-56 lbs (female)

Description: Smart, hard-working, and “Most Likely to Stare at Birds”

GSPs have seen an explosion in popularity over the last decade. Versatile and highly athletic, these pups are also sought after for their intelligence, agility, and hunting instincts. They’re loyal to a fault and thrive in active households with plenty of space for daily exercise.

Please note, though, that GSPs are naturally prey-driven dogs and will need ample training and supervision if there are smaller pets in the household (i.e. cats, birds, rodents, etc.)

12. Doberman pinscher

Black Doberman pinscher standing standing in a field.

Average Height: 26-28 inches (male), 24-26 inches (female)

Average Weight: 68-90 lbs (male), 56-80 lbs (female)

Description: Lithe, alert, and undercover snuggle-bugs

Doberman pinschers are sleek and elegant, and their loyalty knows no bounds. Don’t let their reputation precede them — yes, they’re known as excellent guard dogs, but their love for and devotion to their humans make them an amazing fit for all types of families and lifestyles.

They’ll be first in line to go on a walk/run/hike with you and the first to snuggle up in your lap directly afterward. Early training and socialization will also go a long, long way for this affectionate breed.

13. Black mouth cur

Black mouth cur exercise

Average Height: 18-24 inches

Average Weight: 45-67 lbs (male), 40-60 lbs (female)

Description: Protective, independent, and boasting an impressive work ethic

Black mouth curs are hardworking and loyal and have a very protective nature. A breed this active requires a great deal of exercise, which is why they excel in various outdoor activities and are often used as hunting dogs.

It should be taken into consideration that these dogs can be territorial and won’t hesitate to alert and protect their family from perceived threats. It’s extremely important to start socialization training as early as possible.

Fun fact: “Old Yeller” of silver screen fame was a black mouth cur.

14. Weimaraner

Weimaraner in grass

Average Height: 25-27 inches (male), 23-25 inches (female)

Average Weight: 60-80 lbs (male), 50-70 lbs (female)

Description: Sporty, energetic, and may chew on your furniture if you can’t keep up

With a striking silver coat and boundless energy, the Weimaraner, or “gray ghost,” thrives in active environments and can quite literally run for hours. They are extremely affectionate toward their family and other humans they know, albeit a little aloof or suspicious around strangers.

Their intelligence and athleticism make this breed quick to learn and eager to please, but they can also bore easily as a result, so make sure your pup gets plenty of stimulation throughout the day.

15. Dalmatian

Average Height: 19-24 inches

Average Weight: 50-68 lbs (male), 40-58 lbs (female)

Description: Highly active, loyal, and likely will always be the coolest pup at the party

There are 101 reasons to love Dalmatians — the first being their instantly recognizable and distinctive spots. Energetic and outgoing, this breed thrives in active environments with plenty of stimulation.

They can make excellent family pets, although some breed experts will caution that their temperament and energy levels may be a bit too much around small children. Be sure to enroll your Dalmatian into training early on to help with this.

16. Greyhound

English Greyhound running

Average Height: 28-30 inches (male), 27-28 inches (female)

Average Weight: 58-75 lbs (male), 45-62 lbs (female)

Description: Docile, affectionate, and built for speed

Although famed for being the fastest dog breed in the world, greyhounds are much better known among their owners for their mild and sensitive personalities. Contrary to their racing image, they’re gentle and low-key pets with an independent nature that may require a little more training than other breeds.

Although greyhounds are often categorized among the least aggressive dog breeds, they’re still extremely prey-driven by nature, so it’s important to keep that in mind when around other pets or animals.

17. Akita

Akita exercise

Average Height: 26-28 inches (male), 24-26 inches (female)

Average Weight: 65-95 lbs (male), 56-85 lbs (female)

Description: Aloof, intelligent, and the self-proclaimed guardian of their human’s galaxy

Akitas are known for their noble and dignified demeanor. Originally bred for bear hunting, they are devoted and extremely protective, making excellent guard dogs. It’s important to note that this breed is very wary of strangers and can be unyielding with other animals.

Underneath their fastidious temperament, though, is a bit of a goofball that lives for the companionship of their owners and families. This is another breed that requires early and consistent socialization training.

18. Alaskan malamute

Alaskan Malamute on a hill

Average Height: 25 inches (male), 23 inches (female)

Average Weight: 65-100 lbs (male), 55-88 lbs (female)

Description: Strong, affectionate, and irresistibly floofy

The first word that usually comes to mind for Alaskan Malamutes? Hair. And lots of it! But these gorgeous floofs are also strong, smart, and extremely affectionate. They are similar to huskies, though much larger and typically less vocal about their feelings.

Bred to pull heavy loads, they are pack dogs by nature and thrive in colder climates. Lots of exercise and socialization are required for a happy and fulfilled life.

19. Bloodhound

bloodhound looking at the camera

Average Height: 25-27 inches (male), 23-25 inches (female)

Average Weight: 60-100 lbs (male), 55-88 lbs (female)

Description: Even-keeled, smart, but more energetic than you think!

Bloodhounds are one of those dog breeds that can adapt to any lifestyle. They’re famous for their floppy ears, trademark howl, and keen tracking abilities, but they also make a great choice for all kinds of family environments and lifestyles. Between their incredible sense of smell and even-tempered nature, they’re gentle and affectionate and have a particular affinity for kids.

You’ve likely seen them lounging on a front porch or napping in a backyard on TV or in the movies, but be advised that this breed still requires lots of regular exercise and stimulation in real life!

Benefits of owning large breed dogs

  • Protection and security – Big dogs are renowned as guardians and protectors because of their size and bark. Breeds like German shepherds, Dobermans, and AmStaffs are often used for security purposes for this reason.
  • Active lifestyle – Larger dogs typically require more exercise, which can encourage their owners to lead a more active lifestyle, too! Going for walks, hikes, or runs with a big dog can be a strong motivator for physical fitness.
  • Companionship – Like all dogs, big breeds offer companionship and unconditional love. Their larger size can make them seem even more like a member of the family, offering comfort and emotional support.
  • Training opportunities – Many larger dog breeds are highly intelligent and trainable. They can excel in various dog sports and activities, such as agility, hunting, obedience, and search and rescue work.
  • Warmth and snuggling – Apart from being some of the best cuddlers ever, bigger dogs generate more body heat, which can be particularly comforting in colder climates or for someone who enjoys cuddling up with a warm, furry friend.
  • Outdoor adventures – Big dogs are great companions for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, and exploring the wilderness. They are typically better suited for rough terrain and can handle longer distances.
  • Improved social interactions – Big dogs are awesome conversation starters! They can help their owners meet new people just with their looks, whether it’s in the neighborhood, at the park, or at dog-related events.
  • Learning responsibility – Caring for a larger animal can teach owners responsibility, especially children. The need for regular exercise, grooming, and healthcare can help instill a sense of discipline and care.
  • Impressive presence – There is an undeniable aesthetic and majestic presence that large dogs have. Breeds like the malamutes, Dobermans, and bloodhounds have dignified appearances that many owners appreciate.
  • Versatility – Many large dogs are bred for work and can serve in versatile roles, from farm dogs to therapy dogs to service animals.

It’s important to note that larger dogs also come with additional considerations such as higher costs for food, the potential for higher veterinary bills, more space needed at home and during travel, and often a shorter lifespan compared to smaller breeds. Responsible ownership means ensuring you are prepared to meet the needs of a large dog, both physically and financially.

Health factors to consider with big dogs

  • Joint issues – Due to their size and weight, large dogs are prone to joint problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and arthritis. Fortunately, these can be mitigated somewhat by proper nutrition, joint supplements, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular, gentle exercise.
  • Bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus) – Large breeds with barrel chests, like German shepherds, boxers, and Weimaraners are at a higher risk of bloat or GVD, which is a rapid, life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention. Preventive measures include feeding smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding vigorous exercise around meal times.
  • Heart conditions – Some large breeds are predisposed to heart conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are important to catch any signs of heart disease early.
  • Bone cancer (Osteosarcoma) – Unfortunately, large breed dogs are at an increased risk for bone cancer. This condition can be aggressive and often requires extensive treatment, including amputation and chemotherapy.
  • Obesity – Large dogs can become overweight or obese if they are overfed and under-exercised. Excess weight can exacerbate joint problems and lead to other health issues like diabetes.
  • Growth-related issues – Because large breed puppies grow rapidly, they are susceptible to disorders related to improper growth rates. Ensuring that they have a proper diet formulated for large-breed puppies is critical.
  • Lifespan – Large breeds often have shorter lifespans than their smaller counterparts, so age-related issues may arise sooner.

To mitigate these health risks, it is essential to work closely with a veterinarian who has experience with large-breed dogs. They can guide you on proper nutrition, appropriate exercise routines, early symptom detection, and overall care to ensure your large dog stays as healthy as possible throughout its life. Regular check-ups and screenings are important to catch any health issues early (and when they are most treatable).

Choosing the right breed for you

Each of these 19 dog breeds has unique characteristics and qualities, making them suitable for a variety of different types of families and lifestyles. When choosing a dog, it’s essential to consider your preferences, activity level, and living situation to find the perfect furry companion. With the right care and training, any of these breeds can become a beloved member of your family, offering a strong sense of loyalty, companionship, and unconditional love for years to come.

Frequently asked questions

What determines if a dog is a large breed?

A good rule of thumb for this classification is a breed standard of 50 pounds and above in average weight and/or 21 inches or taller in average height.

What are the most common/popular large dog breeds?

Labs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, poodle mixes, and bully breeds almost always are in the top ten most popular large dog breeds in the United States.

Can I still get a large dog if I live in a small apartment?

You can! However, it’s important to thoroughly research and take into consideration that large dog breeds tend to need a lot of mental and physical stimuli, and that usually starts with plenty of room to run and play. Although most breeders will recommend having enough space in at least a front or backyard, an apartment can be doable for big dog lovers depending on how active their lifestyle is.

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a skeletal condition that affects hip joint function. It happens when the ball and socket in the hip either don’t fit together naturally or don’t develop properly, resulting in deterioration and eventual loss of function in the joint and arthritis.

Why is hip dysplasia so common in large breeds?

Although it has been seen in small dog breeds, this condition commonly affects larger breeds due to factors like excessive growth rate and improper weight or mass.  More often than not it begins with genetics; however, it’s classified as a developmental condition that’s contingent on muscle mass, hormones, exercise, environment, and nutrition.