Car ramps are a fantastic idea, but introduce them at an early age so that your dog is used to them as they grow to full size. A steep ramp to a full grown giant breed dog is a little daunting!
Using a car harness or having your dog in the back part of the car with a dividing netting is essential for safety of your dog and yourselves. Again, please introduce this early so it is normal for them.
Socialising is a critical part of growing up for any dog, but even more so for the giant breeds. The reality is that giant (or large) breed dogs get no second chances when it comes to appropriate behavior. You should expose your dog to as many different situations as possible early on in life. The most impressionable period for a dog is the first 6 months of life – I often say to clients that you should make a bigger effort in the early days than you may intend to going forward as this is when it counts.
Doggy Daycare is also a great option for socialising young dogs. It is important to check them out first as giant breeds are quite clumsy and a softer surface to play on is definitely preferable.
Some other social things to consider from an early age include no jumping, and most would say no licking! The logistics of these behaviours in full grown doggies are a little less desirable!
Giant breeds should always be walked on a harness. This helps to spread the load across the chest and shoulders if ever they pull – which they shouldn’t! Again introduce it from day 1 so that they learn while you are stronger how to walk well. Exercise should be limited for the first year and avoid walking on concrete and other hard surfaces wherever possible. The skeletons of these breeds do an enormous amount of growing in a very short time and are much more sensitive to damage during this period. A giant breed dog is not fully grown until 2 years of age, however the majority of growth tends to be in the first year.
There are many different recommendations out there for the right time to desex. It is important you are comfortable with the decision you make. There is extensive research and literature that supports desexing anytime from 6 months to 2 years depending on what you read. We recommend desexing giant breeds before 9 months of age. Some of the major benefits of this include assessing for hip dysplasia with radiographs, performing a gastropexy (**link to surgery), significant reduction in mammary cancer later in life for females, and limiting the development sexual behaviours. There has been some concern over increased chance of cranial cruciate ligament disease in desexed dogs, however further research has confirmed this is very much multifactorial and cannot be conclusively linked with desexing at 9 months.
A comfortable bed is very important for long term management of joint health and besides, who doesn’t want a comfy bed? Beds should have thick padding, be in a warm environment during the cold weather, no drafts, be easy to get into and out of and being easy to keep clean is always a bonus.
Bedding is a key factor in reducing arthritis and pressure sores in older dogs. Both these conditions develop over extended periods of time so must be considered from an early age.
Jackets in winter are also worth considering for the thin coated breeds such as Great Danes.
As expected, insurance is essential for these breeds especially but really nowadays with any dog. There is no doubt that the veterinary world has come a long way in our ability to manage and treat many conditions, but this comes at a price which is often less attractive. We can set you up with 4 weeks free insurance with Petplan who will then give you the option to continue. This is a good buffer while you work out who you want to sign up with. However, the key is to sign up early before your dog has any pre-existing conditions which would then be excluded from the policy. Please read our insurance information section for more details on choosing an insurance company.
The right diet is critical for these giant dogs and must be right from the start. Breeders will often recommend home cooked meals and supplements. While these are okay, and the dogs will usually love them, without scientific testing it is very hard to achieve a properly balanced diet. We recommend feeding a commercial diet specific for giant breed puppies. Consider any of ‘Hills’, ‘Eukanuba’, ‘Royal Canin’ and ‘Advance’. We can order in any food that you need, and all of the food that we sell comes with a money back guarantee. This can be important if a food does not agree with your dog, with regards to either palatability or stool consistency!
Dental hygiene is another long term factor to consider. Dental health plays a major role in overall wellbeing and can impact on many body systems. Consider something for your dog to chew on! What we recommend is one of the many dental chews now available. We have great success with ‘Oravet’ chews or, once they are fully grown, the ‘Hills T/D’ (teeth diet) works very well to maintain dental hygiene.