7 Misconceptions About Big Dogs

Discover the truth about big dogs, from debunking myths around aggression and lifespan to exploring space, exercise, and training requirements.

Dec 11, 2023By Natasha Elder
misconceptions about big dogs

There’s no way around it: big dogs often get the short end of the stick. A lot of the time, people don’t even consider adopting a big dog because they have preconceived ideas about what life with a giant canine is like.

After all, big dogs are more aggressive, have insane exercise requirements, require loads of space, and are known to display destructive behavior. Right? Wrong. Without further ado, let’s separate fact from fiction, bust myths, and break down seven misconceptions about big dogs.

Size Equals Aggression

big dog licking lips close up
Image credit: James Barker on Unsplash

Perhaps the biggest misconception about big dogs is that they’re inherently more aggressive than smaller dogs. No matter which way you slice it, this statement is just not true. When it comes to aggression, nurture typically plays a much larger role than nature does.

Admittedly, big dogs come across as more aggressive when they do display aggression. This is simply because their barks are louder, their growls deeper, and their bite will obviously be more painful than the bite of a smaller dog. In other words, you notice it more. A big dog is no more likely to bite you than a small dog, but it’s easy to guess which one you’d opt to be bitten by if you had to choose.

Big Dogs Live Longer Than Small Dogs

big dog small dog chihuahua great dane
Image credit: Pexels

Many people believe that big dogs live longer than small dogs just because they’re bigger. This is false. In the wider animal kingdom, this is true, but not in the canine kingdom. Here, smaller breeds live longer than bigger breeds. While specific life expectancy varies from breed to breed, big dogs typically live for nine to 12 years, while the lifespan of a smaller dog averages 10 to 15 years.

Several factors are to blame for this, and studies around this “evolutionary puzzle” are ongoing. In a nutshell, bigger breeds grow faster, and therefore, age faster. To support their larger size, their heart has to work harder. Another possible explanation is that smaller dogs are thought to live longer because they have faster metabolisms and are less likely to experience nutritional deficiencies.

Big Dogs Need a Lot of Space

great dane on couch
Image credit: Wikimedia

Admittedly, this one is kind of true when it comes to giant dog breeds specifically, because you can’t really have a massive Great Dane or a Saint Bernard comfortably hole up in your studio apartment. But, generally speaking, having a big dog doesn’t mean you need a big amount of space.

Sure, big dogs equal less available space on your couch. But, by that logic, it also means there’s more of them to love. Dogs of all breeds can adapt well to living spaces of any size, provided that they get enough exercise. Speaking of…

Bigger Dogs Require More Exercise

big dogs standing in field
Image credit: Moula Dad

How much exercise does a dog need? The answer to this question is not super straightforward and lies in the breed, age, temperament, and living space of a dog, not their size. The individual needs of the dog should be more influential on how much exercise they get than their breed. Is your dog a barking ball of boundless energy or the perfect picture of a couch potato?

Dogs, regardless of their size, need exercise to keep their muscles strong, joints supported, and weight managed. Physical benefits of adequate exercise aside, your dog will be more mentally and emotionally stimulated, and your bond will be strengthened.

Big Dogs Make the Best Guard Dogs

german shepherd dog attacking training
Image credit:Pexels

Another misconception about big dogs is that they instantly make great guard dogs. While it’s true that a possible intruder may instinctively be more wary of a rottweiler than they would a chihuahua, size doesn’t have anything to do with a dog’s capability of guarding a home.

Some breeds are better suited to being guard dogs, but that’s got to do with a dog’s breeding and not how big it is. A dog’s ability to guard your home is not determined by its size. Instead, these are the key characteristics of a good guard dog:

  • Very territorial
  • Strong protection instincts
  • Extreme sense of loyalty
  • Breed-specific typical temperament
  • Trainability
  • Dominant personality
  • Intolerant of strangers

It’s Harder to Train Big Dogs

dog attack training guard
Image credit: PickPik

Size doesn’t determine trainability. Big dogs can be just as trainable as small dogs – sometimes even more so. In fact, how difficult training a dog is has more to do with you (the human) than it does with them (the perfect poochie poo).

In saying that, big dogs NEED to be trained more than smaller dogs, so it can feel more intense for the person doing the training. Think of it this way: it’s funny and cute when a little dog excitedly jumps up at you in greeting, but it’s a threat of bodily injury when a big dog does. So, it’s way more evident when a big dog is not properly trained.

Bigger Dogs Tend to Be More Destructive

saint bernard big dog tongue
Image credit:Vlad Rudkov on Unsplash

Maybe we have films like “Marley and Me” to thank for this last misconception, but there’s this notion that big dogs are more likely to be destructive than smaller dogs. Destructive chewing is one of the most common behavioral problems in dogs, and this bad behavior doesn’t discriminate based on the size of a dog.

This is an instance where size doesn’t matter. A big dog isn’t any more or less destructive than a small dog. Destructive behavior in dogs doesn’t have anything to do with the size of the dog, but is rather influenced by factors like:

  • Boredom
  • Not being trained properly
  • Separation anxiety
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Seeking more attention
  • Not having enough chew toys
  • Teething (this is specific to puppies and should end by the time they’re six months old)

Dispelling these seven misconceptions about big dogs is crucial in promoting a more accurate understanding of these gentle giants. By addressing these myths, we can encourage responsible ownership, better care, and a deeper appreciation for the many wonderful qualities that big dogs bring to our lives.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership