Every dog needs exercise and big dogs are no exception.
While there are many ways to exercise big dogs, one of the more popular ways is to take them for a walk.
Not only is walking good exercise for dogs of all sizes but it’s a good way for dog owners to get their steps in and it’s a fantastic way to bond with your dog.
I’ve always loved taking my big dogs for a walk, especially on a cool crisp fall day.
However, walking a big dog can sometimes present a handful of unique challenges to people who are owned by a giant breed dog.
Some of the challenges I’ve faced walking a big dog are a lack of big dog-friendly walking gear, small dog aggression, injuries, and the constant interference of strangers.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common issues that big dog owners face when walking their dogs.
But before we get to that, let’s clear up what I’m referring to as a “big dog”.
To me, a big dog is a dog that is put into the giant breed category because they weigh over 100 pounds.
A few of the giant breeds that come to mind are:
- St. Bernards
- Great Danes
- Great Pyrenees
- Irish Wolfhounds
- Bull Mastiffs
- English Mastiffs
- Neapolitan Mastiff
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- + a few more
Bigs Dogs HAVE to Be Well Trained
This isn’t so much a con as it is a fact.
Big dog owners spend a copious amount training their dogs to be well-behaved at home and in public.
Safety is always a concern for not only our dogs but also ourselves, other dogs, children and adults.
We don’t have the luxury of picking our dogs up and carrying them away from an unsafe situation.
We have to rely on our training to make sure that there are no unsafe situations.
Walking a Big Dog Draws A Crowd
No matter what giant breed you have, if your dog is over one hundred pounds, people are going to gawk and talk.
People who don’t have dogs or those who have small dogs are curious about big dogs.
They have a lot of questions and opinions about your giant breed dog and many people don’t hold back when voicing them.
This is one of the many reasons why big dogs need to be trained well because strangers are always approaching them.
Big dog owners rely on training to make these interactions go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved.
We have to stand there and pray to the powers up above that no one does anything stupid.
Big dogs also draw in a lot of unnecessary things that people do to those of us walking our dogs like beeping as they drive by, pulling off on the side of the road to ask questions and approaching our dogs without asking first.
This is why walking a big dog is not the ideal activity for an introvert who prefers to keep their interaction with people to a minimum.
Giant Breed Dogs Need Protection
People often assume that all big dogs are good protection or guard dogs and nothing could be further from the truth.
Newfoundlands and many other big dog breeds don’t like conflict and will try their best to avoid it.
They’ll do this by not making eye contact, turning their head, or standing/sitting still.
Most little dogs have big dog fear and Newfies don’t want any of that heat but many small dog owners think it’s funny when their little dog verbally attacks and bites a big dog.
This is why many times, owners of large breed dogs will step in front of their dog if a small dog is approaching them.
We use our body as a shield to not only protect our dog but also yours.
Your little dog doesn’t want to be friends with my big dog and my big dog is terrified of your little dog.
It’s not funny to let a dog bite another dog no matter the size.
Stop putting your dog and my dog in that situation.
The same thing goes for young children.
If a young child is running towards my big dog with their dirty little sticky fingers flying in front of their face, I’m going to block that interaction immediately.
Again, I’m protecting my dog and your child.
Big Dogs Are Always Blamed
No matter what, if a big dog is interacting with a small dog and something goes wrong, it’s immediately the big dog’s fault.
For instance, if a small dog is biting a big dog’s ankle and the big dog swats the little terror away and gets hurt, it’s the big dog’s fault.
My big dog could do a lot of damage to a smaller dog, but he doesn’t because we train for these interactions.
Small dogs should not get a free pass for lack of training by their owners.
It is not okay for your little dog to be aggressive to my big dog and expect my dog not to defend himself.
I mean, he won’t defend himself, he’ll let me do that for him but now he’s traumatized and while you get to pick your small dog up and walk away, I have to spend an undetermined amount of time trying to convince my dog that it’s safe to walk home.
Reaction Time Matters
Big dog owners are always aware of their surroundings because they always need to be prepared.
My giant breed dogs outweigh me by 50 pounds and I know they can drag me down the street so I am constantly looking in all directions.
I’m looking for wildlife, bikers, other dog walkers and off-leash dogs.
Anything in our path that could potentially lead to a problem.
If a potential problem is detected I’m automatically in training mode and crossing my fingers that I’m able to diffuse any bad response.
Some big dogs can spook easily and even though they can be predictable, sometimes their judgment of a situation can be off.
If a potential problem isn’t detected, we only have time to react which can either go smoothly because we’ve been through this before and our bodies naturally take over OR, it’s a disaster of epic proportions.
Off Leash Dogs Are A Big Dog Owner’s Nightmare
This might be just me but if I’m going somewhere that is for leashed dogs, I expect all dogs to be on a leash.
If I see an off-leash dog, my palms are going to break out into a frothy sweat and my anxiety is going to go through the roof.
I don’t care if your 50-pound dog is friendly or not, I don’t want it near my dog while you are 500 feet away listening to your Air Pods.
If you’ve ever been pulled down before because of a loose dog, you know where I’m coming from and you want to avoid that incident repeating itself at all costs.
I am so tired of dog owners not respecting each other.
I sometimes walk the Newfies at an outdoor track.
Several signs read, “Dogs must be on a leash” and “Please pick up after your dog”.
The track is a mile long and there is frequently a lady there that power walks the track with her off-leash dog.
The dog is a Pointer and is very energetic.
I’m sure he’s friendly but the dog is always at least 500 feet in front of his owner and he’s all over the place.
I’ve exchanged words with this dog owner a few times and she just doesn’t care.
I’m an expect-the-worst-case scenario type of person so her lack of responsibility screws my dog out of a walk because my anxiety just can’t deal with it and I always leave, pissed off.
Big Dog Owner Injuries
According to recent studies, dog walking injuries are on the rise regardless of their size but owners of big dogs have been dealing with these types of injuries for decades.
Common injuries caused by walking a big dog are usually:
- broken or sprained finger
- sprained wrist
- broken or sprained foot/ankle
- shoulder sprains
I’ve had my fair share of sprained fingers, shoulder sprains and broken toes over the years from walking my big dogs.
My finger sprains are usually my thumb because I wrap the leash around it, which I know is not recommended.
My shoulder sprain came from being dragged down when an off-leash dog charged us.
And I’ve also had many sprained (maybe broken) toes over the years.
Stop, Plop and Don’t Move
Newfoundlands and Mastiffs are notorious for deciding in the middle of a walk that they no longer want to continue.
Usually, they’ll just plop down in the middle of the sidewalk and refuse to move.
No amount of bribing can change their mind so owners are left to just wait it out or call someone to come pick them up.
There is no amount of training or treats to reverse this decision.
Big Dog Walking Supplies Are Big
It can be tough to find a proper walking harness, collar or leash for a giant breed dog.
Many pet stores view an XXL size as up to 80-100 pounds but giant breed dogs go well above that range.
Usually, owners of big dogs have to look to a specialty store or place a custom order which can get expensive.
You also have to carry a full-on bag of treats, giant poop bags, a jug of water and a stainless steel bowl because most pet companies don’t think that big dogs need a travel bowl bigger than a coffee cup.
No matter how many obstacles there are out there in the wide world of walking big dogs, I’m never going to let them keep me from putting on my walking shoes and hitting the pavement with my Newfies.
So tell me, if you walk a big dog, what are some of the challenges you’ve had?