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Big Dogs and Little Kids

Updated on January 11, 2012

giant dog breeds - best dogs for kids

I love big dog breeds. In fact, I like really big dog breeds – giant dog breeds. I’ve owned and worked with many different dog breeds, but I just think there’s something really special about big dogs that makes them the very best dogs. The large dog breeds I’ve known personally have all been wonderful pets. They’re laid back and calm, with super sweet dispositions.

Most large breed dogs love their human families, and they dote on kids. They often seem to think it’s their personal responsibility to look after and protect their little humans. In fact, our big dogs also seem to think it’s up to them to keep the grandkids happy and entertained. When the grands are at our house, our giant dogs – Great Danes – just can’t get enough of the children.

I find it ironic that many well-meaning parents choose a small breed dog for their young children. I understand their thinking, of course – small kid, small dog. But that’s definitely not always the best strategy. Many small dog breeds have nasty attitudes, and some are snappy with kids. Oftentimes, it’s not really the dogs’ fault. Little dogs have to protect themselves with some kids. Let’s face it – little kids aren’t always exactly gentle with animals. An intentional or unintentional slap from a toddler might be painful to a Chihuahua, for example, while to large breed dogs, the slap would feel more like a love tap. Most giant dog breeds are extremely patient with kids, and the poking and prodding don’t seem to bother them at all.

Below, I discuss some of the best dogs for kids among the giant dog breeds.

The best family dogs:

Great Danes and kids - natural companions!
Great Danes and kids - natural companions!
Danes are my pick among giant dog breeds. In fact, they're my favorite of ALL dog breeds!
Danes are my pick among giant dog breeds. In fact, they're my favorite of ALL dog breeds!
From my experience, Danes make the best family dogs.
From my experience, Danes make the best family dogs.

Great Dane and baby:

Great Dane

Of all the giant dog breeds in the world, my number one choice is the Great Dane. I had Danes when my three kids were growing up, and I have Danes now, when I have young grandchildren. Danes are extremely affectionate, and as noted above, they’re totally devoted to their human kids. The Great Danes I’ve known will go out of their way to protect “their” children from danger – whether real or perceived. Like most puppies, Dane pups are playful, and some never really outgrow their playful attitude, although adults usually prefer a more “toned down” type of play.

Great Danes are tall dogs – often the tallest of all dog breeds. Males can measure more than 35 inches at the withers. The tallest dog in the world is a Great Dane named George, and he’s 43 inches tall at the shoulder.

Great Danes are clean and easy to potty train. Some members of the breed drool, while others don’t. We have two males, and one never drools. The other one drools only when he watches us eat. These big dogs shed throughout the year, but they shed more in the spring and autumn months. Their short coats are easy to take care of with just a few good brushings a week.

Mastiff and baby:


When it comes to the heaviest of large dog breeds, the Mastiff is usually at the top of the scale. They can weigh over 250 pounds. They’re not as tall as some of the other giant dog breeds, but they’re heavier of bone and muscle mass. Males usually measure thirty inches or so, while females are a bit shorter at the withers.

While Mastiff puppies might be very playful, adult dogs are generally quiet and very calm. These big dogs are affectionate and loving, and they’re very patient with children. In fact, you might find yourself having to protect the dog from the kids. A Mastiff might not let you know when a child is actually hurting it. They’ll often just “lie there and take it.”

The typical Mastiff is very protective, although it’s rarely aggressive. When the dog perceives a threat to its family members, it will usually place itself between the family and the threat. If the threat persists, the Mastiff might offer a deep, mincing-sounding growl. This reverberating growl, along with the immense size of the canine, is often enough to dissuade even the most ardent aggressor.

Irish wolfhound meets strange kids:

Irish wolfhound

Even though their name sounds rather threatening, Irish wolfhounds are among the most docile of giant dog breeds. Males usually measure over 32 inches tall and have an average weight of around 130 pounds. Historically bred as sight hounds, these big dogs are built for speed, with long, lean bodies. Although a few members of this dog breed might be clumsy, most aren’t. in fact, it often seems like they’re totally aware of their giant size and conduct themselves accordingly.

Wolfhounds are calm and quiet and are rarely aggressive. They thrive on love and affection from their human families, but they might be rather aloof with strangers. Easy going by nature, many Irish wolfhounds have a deeply ingrained protective side that will come out when a family member is truly threatened.

Irish wolfhounds are great with kids. Outdoors, they’re always ready for a game of chase, but indoors, they’re calm and quiet. Although wolfhounds are loyal and devoted, they can be stubborn. Because of their history as distance hunters, many members of the breed tend to think for themselves.

Newfoundland and baby:


The Newfoundland is usually included among giant dog breeds. A male is usually around 28 inches tall and might weigh more than 150 pounds. Newfies have a charming “teddy bear” appearance, and their temperament often matches. Newfoundlands are sweet, affectionate, and loyal. They’re especially good with children, too. Remember the dog in Peter Pan? Nana was a Newfie! More specifically, Nana was a Landseer, a black-and-white version of the Newfie.

Newfoundlands love humans, and they’ve been known to rescue people from drowning. They seem to have an innate desire to rescue and protect their human pack. They’re gentle and patient with kids and are usually friendly with strangers, as long as they don’t see the strangers as a threat to their family. Newfies are also smart and easy to train.

These big dogs have thick double coats that shed heavily in the spring. They don’t do well living outdoors in hot climates. On the “drool scale,” Newfies are moderates. They drool some, but they don't drool as much as some other large dog breeds and giant dog breeds.

Dogue de Bordeaux and toddler:

Dogue de Bordeaux

These large dogs have massive heads the largest in the canine world. Males are generally around 26 inches tall, weighing in at around 140 pounds. The Dogue de Bordeaux is powerful and strong-willed, so it might not be the best choice for inexperienced dog owners. If you don’t establish yourself as pack leader, these large dogs will try to assume the role themselves.

The Dogue de Bordeaux is a great watchdog, and it’s also very protective of its human family. They’re often aloof and suspicious when it comes to strangers, at least until they realize that their human pack isn’t threatened.

These large dogs are usually excellent with kids. They’re calm, quiet, and patient, and they’re usually laid back indoors. They can be stubborn, so early training is essential. Their short coats are easy to care for, but the Dogue de Bordeaux is a champion when it comes to drooling. Unfortunately, like some other giant dog breeds, these dogs have a very short life span – less than six years, on average.

Saint Bernard loves baby:

Saint Bernard

Perhaps the most iconic of giant dog breeds, the Saint Bernard comes in two coat types: long coat and short coat. A male might be more than 27 inches tall and weigh more than 170 pounds. St. Bernards have sweet temperaments and aren’t normally aggressive, but they’ll usually let you know when someone or something is approaching. Once the dogs recognize your friends, the Saints will welcome them into your home.

St. Bernards are very devoted to their human families, and most members of the breed live to please. Because of this, most Saints are easy to train. They usually catch on quickly to commands, but training should start early. Puppies are much easier to handle than huge adults are!

Like several other giant dog breeds, Saints love kids. They’ve very gentle and docile with little ones, and most of these large dogs are pretty unflappable. Saints drool some, but not usually as much as the real champion droolers of some of the other big dog breeds. This breed generally sheds twice a year, in the spring and fall.

Living with giant dog breeds

Most – but not all – members of the giant dog breeds discussed are great with kids. It’s important to remember, however, that not every individual dog of the large dog breeds mentioned will be good with children. All animals can be unpredictable, no matter how docile they might seem. Practically every dog has its tolerance threshold and will take only so much abuse. And kids can be abusive, often without meaning to be so. Teach your children to be respectful of dogs and other animals. You should never leave a small child unattended with any dog – large dog breeds, big dog breeds, giant dog breeds, or any dog breeds!


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