dog training, dog behavior, dog health

Large Breed Dogs:  Training is Not Optional

If you are one who thinks anything under 50 pounds is not really a dog, you are likely to choose one of the larger dog breeds for a pet.  The beautiful eyes of a retriever, the alert stance of a German Shepherd and the massive size of a Rottweiler appeal to large numbers of pet owners.  What is often forgotten in the excitement of choosing a puppy is the reality that for large breed dogs, training is not optional.

Puppies can learn basic obedience commands at quite a young age and will respond well to short periods of training.  Like children, pups have a short attention span and require several five to ten minute training sessions spaced throughout the day.  Pet owners must realize that the funny little guy tripping over his own feet in play will soon become over fifty pounds of muscle and instinct. 

If you are new to pet ownership or have not previously spent much time around large dogs, a female animal might be the best choice for you.  As a general rule, the females are more docile and gentle - and less likely to cause serious problems if not properly trained.  The point of teaching basic commands is to keep control over your pet and with a large breed this is crucial.  A dog that attacks smaller dogs or jumps on children is not going to endear you to your neighbors and visitors and could land you in court.

A trip to your local animal shelter will help you see what a big problem this is.  So many large dogs end up in shelters only because owners do not take the time to teach them good manners.  The owner of such a pet must be willing to take charge and be the alpha dog in the home.  Failure to do this can easily result in a pet that is destructive, disruptive and downright dangerous.

At the least, large breeds need to learn the commands of "come", "sit", "stay", "off" (also called "release") and "back".  These are easy to teach as long as you do it early when you can physically apply correction to the animal.  It is also very possible to adopt an adult of mixed breeding and successfully train them though they are already a good size - but this requires gentle but firm training.  When adopting a fully grown large breed dog the dog should be trained from the moment he enters your home so that he knows who is in charge and looks to you for guidance.  It will take him a few days to find his place, feel safe and become comfortable in your home - but even during that time it is wise to not allow any behavior that you do not want to see continued. 

Training a large breed dog is often easier than teaching an often more hyperactive small dog, especially if you have chosen one from the working breeds.  At no time should physical punishment be required in training, no matter what size animal you are working with.  For large breed dogs, gentle consistent training sessions are simply finding ways to let your pet know what you want and expect from him.  He wants to please you - it's up to you to each him how to do that.