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11 Dog Breeds That Are Gentle Giants

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on May 19, 2015

When it comes to choosing a dog, most people will judge a book by its cover and decide what kind of temperament the dog has just by its looks alone. But, as the saying goes, what’s inside might be very different – and much sweeter – than what’s outside. This list contains 11 large dog breeds you probably thought were big, tough cookies but are actually surprisingly gentle giants.

Some dogs are known as couch potatoes and sweet peas, while others are constantly on the move or on the alert. One thing is true though: this doesn’t necessarily have to do with their size.


#1 – Great Dane


This German Mastiff is widely known for its overwhelming size, but the breed is considered to be one of the “gentle giants” of the dog world. Great Danes are very social dogs and are even known to be friendly towards other animals, including cats.

#2 – Bernese Mountain Dog


The Bernese Mountain Dog is a very large carting dog from Switzerland. Although males can weigh upwards of 120 pounds, they’re far from giant brutes. Berners, as they’re lovingly called, are very gentle, considerate dogs. 

#3 – Bullmastiff


The Bullmastiff is a large, very imposing guardian breed. Despite its origin and its natural tendency to be wary of strangers, the breed is very soft and affectionate with its family and those it accepts as friends. Though large, they are relatively lazy dogs and make excellent apartment dwellers. 

#4 – Newfoundland


The Newfoundland spent its early days as a water rescue dog in Canada. To do this job, it had to be both powerful and docile – traits the breed maintains today. Despite its intimidating size, Newfoundlands are very social, gentle animals that make great family companions

#5 – American Pit Bull Terrier


Although the breed has suffered a tremendously bloody origin and maintains a poor reputation today, the American Pit Bull Terrier is known to many as one of the most affectionate dog breeds around. They are very powerful, athletic dogs that are surprisingly docile towards people and other animals alike. 

#6 – Greyhound


This large sighthound is known for being one of the fastest dog breeds and even one of the fastest mammals in the world. They have excelled at both hunting and racing and certainly know how to handle a hard working life. That said, the breed is surprisingly lazy and prefers to spend its time on the couch than in the field. Greyhounds are very docile, although caution should be taken around smaller animals. 

#7 – English Mastiff


The English Mastiff is a very large dog originally used as a property guardian. It’s an excellent guard dog based on appearance alone and it’s a good thing, because the breed is actually very sweet and gentle. Despite its size, they make great family companions. 

#8 – Saint Bernard


The Saint Bernard was originally used as an avalanche rescue dog, work that required both strength of body and mind. Because of this, it maintains its large, powerful body and gentle demeanor that made it such a great worker. The breed is very social and makes a great companion. 

#9 – Leonberger


The Leonberger is a large working dog from Germany that was bred to look like the lion on Leonberg, Germany’s town crest. Despite its lion-like appearance, the Leonberger is a stable, docile breed. In fact, its temperament is what breeders and enthusiasts pride the most. 

#10 – Great Pyrenees


This giant livestock guardian looks dangerous but is one of the gentle giants of the dog world. Males will reach up to 130 pounds and may be wary of strangers, but the breed is very social and affectionate towards its family. 

#11 – Irish Wolfhound


One of the largest dog breeds in existence, the Irish Wolfhound was bred to hunt and kill wolves. Standing 32 inches tall at the withers and reaching 120 pounds, the Irish Wolfhound is a large, powerful breed that can be very imposing. That said, they are actually quite gentle and affectionate dogs. 

Finding The Right Large Dog Breeds For You

While all of this is certainly proof big doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it’s important to do a little research on breed particulars before adopting. The dog you ultimately choose as your friend for life will depend on many factors, including your living space, your work schedule, other family members, and your experience with dogs.

For tips on choosing the right dog for you and your family, check out the American Kennel Club’s dog breed selector. Learn how to find any breed to rescue here.

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