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Top 10 Gentle Giants: Dog Breeds Perfect for Families with Kids

Written by: Arlene D.
| Published on February 19, 2024

The phrase “gentle giant” is often used to describe those large dog breeds that, despite their intimidating size, are as affectionate and gentle as the smallest lap dogs. These breeds are the perfect contradiction, combining the protective presence of a sizable animal with the loving nature of a family pet. Families with children often find these dogs to be wonderful companions, as their nurturing instincts and patient demeanor make them excellent playmates and guardians for little ones. From their calm temperament to their unwavering loyalty, gentle giants have a special place in the hearts of those who love big dogs. In this article, we will explore the top 10 dog breeds that are not only imposing in stature but also incredibly soft-hearted, making them perfect for families with kids. These breeds exemplify the unique blend of strength and gentleness, proving that sometimes, the biggest hearts come in the largest packages.

1. Newfoundland

Newfoundlands are the epitome of the gentle giant. Originating from Canada, these dogs were bred to help haul nets for fishermen and rescue people at risk of drowning, which speaks volumes about their gentle, helpful nature. Their thick, water-resistant coat makes them look even larger than they are, but it’s their sweet temperament that truly sets them apart. Newfoundlands are known for their patience and affinity for children, often being referred to as “nanny dogs” because of their protective and nurturing behavior. They excel in water rescue and other canine sports that utilize their strength and intelligence, but they are equally content being at home, offering cuddles and companionship. For a family with enough space for this large breed, a Newfoundland offers unmatched affection and a gentle, protective presence in a home with children.

2. Saint Bernard

Saint Bernards are famous for their role as alpine rescuers, able to navigate through deep snow to find and save lost travelers. This noble history reflects their kind nature and dedication to helping others. Standing tall and imposing, they possess a calm demeanor and a friendly personality that makes them excellent family pets. Their tolerance and gentle nature make them particularly good with children, with whom they are patient and protective. Despite their size, Saint Bernards are adaptable and can live comfortably in both large homes and apartments, provided they have enough space to stretch out. Their loving presence and steady temperament make them a comforting companion for kids, offering both security and friendship.

3. Leonberger

Leonbergers are a majestic breed, known for their lion-like appearance and gentle personality. They were originally bred as a symbol of the town of Leonberg in Germany, mixing the best traits of Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, and Great Pyrenees. Leonbergers are incredibly versatile, excelling in tasks that range from water rescue to therapy work. They have a deep bark and a large size that can serve as a deterrent to strangers, yet they are known for their warmth and affection towards their family, especially children. Leonbergers are playful and enjoy being part of all family activities, making them an excellent choice for active families looking for a large, loving dog.

4. Irish Wolfhound

Irish Wolfhounds are one of the tallest dog breeds, with a commanding presence and a graceful demeanor. Despite their impressive size and history as hunters, they are remarkably gentle and friendly. Irish Wolfhounds are known for their patience and kindness towards children and adults alike. They have a laid-back personality that makes them well-suited to family life, where they can be both a loyal protector and a gentle playmate. Their calm nature does not negate their need for regular exercise; they love to stretch their legs and explore. For families with enough space to accommodate their size, Irish Wolfhounds offer companionship, protection, and a gentle spirit that is hard to match.

5. Great Dane

Great Danes are often referred to as “gentle giants” for their loving nature and towering height. Despite their imposing size, they are one of the most gentle dog breeds, known for their friendliness, patience, and affection towards their family. Great Danes are incredibly loyal and form strong bonds with their owners, including children, with whom they are gentle and protective. They require regular exercise to maintain their health but are surprisingly adaptable to living in smaller spaces, as long as they have room to stretch out. Their even temperament and loving nature make them excellent companions for families, providing both a sense of security and a source of unconditional love.

6. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dogs are strikingly beautiful, with a tri-colored coat and a sturdy build. They were originally bred in Switzerland for farm work, which contributes to their strength, intelligence, and gentle demeanor. Bernese Mountain Dogs are known for their loyalty, affection, and especially their patience with children. They enjoy being part of the family’s activities, whether it’s a quiet evening at home or an outdoor adventure. Their calmness and willingness to please make them great companions for families looking for a large, loving dog. Bernese Mountain Dogs do best in homes where they can have plenty of space to roam and play, and in return, they offer unwavering companionship and protection.

7. Mastiff

Mastiffs are one of the oldest and most dignified breeds, known for their massive size and gentle nature. They are natural guardians who are devoted to their families, showing particular gentleness towards children. Mastiffs are calm and patient, making them excellent companions for kids, offering both protection and a soft place to lean on. Despite their protective instincts, they are not aggressive and prefer to use their size and presence as a deterrent. Mastiffs require regular, moderate exercise and enjoy being part of the family’s daily activities. For families with the space to accommodate their size, Mastiffs provide a loving, gentle presence that enriches the home with loyalty and affection.

8. Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamutes are affectionate, friendly, and sociable dogs, known for their formidable strength and endurance. Originally bred for hauling heavy freight as sled dogs, they have a natural inclination for hard work and enjoy activities that involve pulling, which can include playing with children. Despite their size, they have a reputation for being loving family pets, showing patience and gentleness with children. Malamutes are highly social animals that thrive on companionship, both with humans and other dogs. Their thick, double coat requires regular grooming, especially during shedding season. They’re best suited to families who can provide them with ample space to roam and plenty of exercise to keep them healthy and content. Alaskan Malamutes’ playful nature and affectionate demeanor make them unexpected yet excellent companions for families with kids, offering both protection and a playful friend.

9. Dogue de Bordeaux

The Dogue de Bordeaux, also known as the French Mastiff, is a powerful breed with a very muscular build, known for its deep affection for family and particularly gentle nature with children. Despite their somewhat imposing presence, these dogs are known for being incredibly sweet-natured and patient with the youngest members of the family. The Dogue de Bordeaux is a devoted companion, often forming an unbreakable bond with its owners. They are relatively low-energy dogs but do require regular walks to maintain their health. Their calm demeanor makes them well-suited to a variety of living situations, from large homes with yards to more compact living spaces, as long as they have space to relax and stretch out. With proper training and socialization, the Dogue de Bordeaux can be a gentle, loving, and protective addition to any home, making them a fantastic choice for families with children looking for a large breed dog.

10. Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees)

The Pyrenean Mountain Dog, or Great Pyrenees, is known for its impressive size and majestic white coat. Originally bred to guard sheep on mountain slopes, they are courageous and devoted, with a gentle and affectionate nature towards their family. Great Pyrenees are patient and protective, making them excellent companions for children. They possess a calm demeanor and a quiet confidence that provides a sense of security. While they are independent and strong-willed, they respond well to positive, consistent training. Great Pyrenees make loving family pets, offering protection and gentle companionship in a large, fluffy package.

Gentle giants bring a unique combination of protection, loyalty, and tenderness to families, making them ideal companions for those with children. These breeds exemplify the beauty of forming deep bonds with large dogs, whose size is matched only by their love for their human family members. When choosing a gentle giant for your family, consider your living space, lifestyle, and the time you can dedicate to training and exercise. In return, these magnificent breeds will provide your family with unconditional love, laughter, and the protective presence of a loyal friend.