Dogs come in lots of different sizes and many owners have their preferences. If you like your dogs on the larger size, however, then this list of 32 big dog breeds that make sensible pets is sure to pique your interest.
Here we look at dogs that are sure to dominate your home while also proving to be wonderful pets to have around. For that reason, we’re not generally looking at breeds that are going to be very difficult to train or those which are happier out and about working because they’re not always pet-like material.
So let’s take a look at 32 big dog breeds that make sensible pets. Which one will you choose?
32 big dog breeds that make sensible pets
1. German Shepherd
German Shepherd dogs are the second most popular in the United States. They are also the third most intelligent breedaccording to the professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, Stanley Coren. With good training, German Shepherds make very sensible pets, proving to be well-mannered and great around children. They will also keep guard over your family, with females proving to be less aggressive than the males.
2. Irish Wolfhound
It’s hard not to fall in love with an Irish Wolfhound. They are known as gentle giants who get on wonderfully well with children. They are also rather introverted, bark little and only shed moderately which means you’re not constantly having to clean up. They will fit well into any family.
3. Border Collie
Medium-sized, the Border Collie is a working dog with a strong herding instinct and bags of energy. These canines are also sociable and love to be around people. Their extreme intelligence makes them easy to train but you will need to have a good think if you have a small home or young children around because they have a tendency to nip at their heels.
4. Afghan Hound
Afghan Hounds are among the oldest dog breeds in the world. They are also beautiful, regal-looking dogs who will bowl you over with their silliness. Sweet-natured and happy, they are wonderful, sensible family pets albeit a little stubborn, aloof and standoffish.
5. Doberman Pinscher
If you have the time and energy, you can’t go wrong with a Doberman Pinscher. They are easy to train and, as a family dog, patient and kind around children too. So while they are used as guard dogs and can be a little aggressive in the wrong situations, they are, at heart, gentle souls.
6. American Foxhound
Medium to large in size, American Foxhounds are speedy, energetic dogs so you need to keep your wits about you when going out and about with them. But while they are generally best suited to hunting and tracking thanks to their great sense of smell, they are also friendly and intelligent. The main problem arises if you’re away a lot. They crave company and can become depressed and destructive without it.
7. Great Dane
The Great Dane is one big dog. But the breed also has a big heart. Friendly, loyal and protective, this is a dog which doesn’t require a lot of exercise and is also easy to train. They really are a sensible choice, posing very few problems. It’s just a shame they have a shorter-than-average lifespan.
8. Bernese Mountain Dog
Although living for between six and eight years, you’ll remember every day you spend with a Bernese Mountain Dog. This energetic breed has an even-temper and a people-pleasing nature. They love playing with children and, while known to be loud on occasion which could annoy the neighbors, your main concern is how often you’re going to need to be handy with a vacuum cleaner because they’re high shedders.
9. Labrador Retriever
Hugely popular, Labrador Retrievers are perfect, sensible pets. If you have the energy to keep up with their high exercise demands then you will be rewarded in spades thanks to a dog that is kind, loyal and obedient. Great with kids and easily socialized, they’re among the least aggressive dogs towards humans and other dogs.
10. English Mastiff
As one of the largest of all dogs, English Mastiffs pretty much define the term gentle giant. While very drooly, they are well-behaved, easy to socialise and protective. Just make sure they are well-trained and bear in mind that they can easily knock and injure young children and frail people simply because of their size.
Spot a Bullmastiff in the street and you may feel you should cross the road. They look strong and they look like they could turn aggressive. But while you would find yourself well guarded at home with one, the breed is far less aggressive today than it once was and what you have today is a protective, loyal and calm dog that doesn’t shed much and loves to kick back and chill. Ideal for confident, experienced owners.
12. American Bulldog
American Bulldogs are often mistaken for pitbulls and that is sure to put some people off. But they are actually sensible pets. Yes, they have powerful jaws and they’re confident canines. But they are friendly and gentle too. They don’t live long — around 7.79 years on average — but they’re great with children and fit well in active households.
If you want a sensible pet to fit into a household with children, you may want to consider a Bloodhound. This is a canine who won’t mind being poked and prodded and who will tolerate having small bodies clambering over them. That’s not to say they will be compliant and do exactly as you ask. Bloodhounds do have a mind of their own and training needs to be handled well by an experienced owner.
14. Golden Retriever
Want a really effective guard dog to make sure that nobody ever comes near your property? Then you won't want a Golden Retriever. This breed is far too friendly for its own good sometimes but that also makes them as sensible as you can imagine a dog to be. Good with kids, intelligent and sociable.
15. Airdale Terrier
Woah! How big are these terriers? Well, you’re looking at 23 inches at shoulder height (58.42 cm). But don’t be scared. Airdale Terriers are gentle and smart. Nicknamed the “King of Terriers”, they are also adaptable, intelligent and energetic. Their high prey drive does mean you need to be watchful when out on walks.
16. Alaskan Malamute
When you’re talking about sensible dogs then you need to be, you know, sensible. And if you’re watching the pennies then maybe this one isn’t going to be high on your list because they are among the 32 most expensive dog breeds. If you have the money though, this breed is delightful once they know that you are boss.
17. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
The Swissy as it’s also known originated in the Swiss Alps. The breed is known for its work ethic and for being strong and, as pets, they’re very well suited to outdoor life. Adventurers should definitely consider this dog but owners will need to be determined during training because the breed has a stubborn streak.
Borzois have been compared to cats because of the dignified way in which they carry themselves. They are also very quiet and well-mannered. Be prepared to put in some legwork, however, since this breed needs ongoing training. You should also be aware that Borzois are sensitive souls. Keep them on a leash when going out for walks.
If you don’t mind a dog which makes a lot of noise then you would welcome an Otterhound with open arms. Likewise if you love swimming, then an Otterhound is going to start ticking boxes. As the name suggests, these dogs were bred to hunt otters and they have webbed feet that mean they’re great in water. Their playful nature makes them very popular and you’ll find they’re easy to train too.
Boxers are so loyal, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one heartbreakingly waited for weeks in an empty house after his family abandoned him. But that’s the measure of this breed: one that is incredibly protective and capable of forming strong family bonds. A wonderful, sensible family pet.
21. Gordon Setter
If you live in a remote part of the world and have to put up with terrible weather, then you would have a fabulous companion with a Gordon Setter around the home. This breed has both brains and beauty and while they're great with strangers, with early socialisation, problems such as aggressive dog behavior are soon overcome.
22. Saint Bernard
As one the largest dog breeds in the world, Saint Bernards can reach up to 180lbs in weight and 30 inches in height. For all that size, however, they’re also very cute. One look at this beloved breed and you can tell that it’s a friendly sort and that is borne out in its personality. The downsides are that they’re expensive and their coats need regular maintenance.
23. Giant Schnauzer
These dogs are rare but they sure are worth having around. An imposing 27.5 inches at the shoulder and weighing up to 95 pounds, they are friendly and courageous if trained correctly and they also make for wonderful guard dogs. Want to gain more sensible points? This breed is hypoallergenic so that’ll help combat canine-related sniffles.
24. Old English Sheepdog
If you could easily stare into those eyes, you’d be looking at one of the smartest dog breeds. As such, you need to make sure that you keep Old English Sheepdogs mentally and physically stimulated but if you can put up with that while keeping its coat in trim, you’ll have fun shaggy goofball on your hands.
25. Scottish Deerhound
Assuming you have lots of space in which to allow a dog to roam, a Scottish Deerhound is a sensible choice. This rare breed is so wonderful, one was actually crowned National Dog Show winner twice in a row. Well known for being lazy yet eager to please, you’ll howl with delight if you take one on board.
One of the greatest skills of this breed is the ability to leap as high as six feet. And while that may not exactly put it in the bracket of sensible dog, the fact that it’s highly affectionate and great with kids and adults undoubtedly will. Weimaraner’s will feel right at home in your family and you’ll leap for joy having this breed around.
Here we have a breed that weighs up to 150lbs and that might be put to good use. Given their sweet nature, Newfoundlands are sensible pets to have around children and because they are trusting you can bet that will rub along just fine with both people and other dogs. According to accredited dog trainer and canine behaviorist Will Atherton, Newfoundland’s are a top choice for new owners wanting a large dog.
28. Irish Setter
Irish Setters are perfect pets known for their playfulness and ability to strike up cute close companionships with people. They are eager to please and appear to be always on the go so they’ll certainly help to keep you fit. But they do tend to suffer from separation anxiety when left alone for long periods.
29. Berger Picard
Active owners alert! For anyone wanting a large dog that will encourage them to keep fit then the Berger Picard is among them. While stubborn and in need of early socialisation and training, this breed is nonetheless one to consider if only because they have such cute long ears that point to the sky.
30. Great Pyrenees
These dogs can grow. And grow. In September 2022, a 10-month-old Great Pyrenees swept the internet because he already weighed a staggering 86lb. Anyway, if you love on a farm, want a mild-mannered family pet and relish the chance of overcoming this breed’s stubborn nature then you’ve found your ideal sensible pet.
We’d say Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sensible chap and he has a Leonberger so who are we to argue? This breed is calm and quiet and it loves being with their owners outside. Leonbergers are also big, with males weighing up to 150lbs and growing as much as 31.5 inches tall. A good match for the former Governator we’d say,
32. Rhodesian Ridgeback
Big dogs can be very noisy. Not the Rhodesian Ridgeback — it’s as quiet as they come. Easy to train and very affectionate, you’ll find this breed a sensible choice given how gentle it can be. Not bad for a dog that was originally bred to hunt lions and other large game but be aware that they can be domineering and need a firm steer.
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David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.