You may be surprised to learn that many of the most friendly and gentle dogs are large and giant breeds. The dog world fondly refers to these as the ‘Gentle Giants’, although some of them fall into the category of ‘large’ rather than ‘giant’.
With all gentle large breed dogs, the important thing to remember is that they are, well, large. This means that although they have a gentle temperament, their size alone can be an issue, especially when they are young and still have some puppy playfulness.
You really don’t want a 120-pound dog jumping on you because it’s friendly and wants to lick your face!
This is why early training is important for these breeds. Their friendly and gentle nature means they are usually easy to train and this will help ensure that their gentleness isn’t overcome by their size.
You may notice we omit some very popular large breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Collies, and Irish Setters. This is not because they aren’t gentle, but rather because they are high-energy breeds.
As such, their high activity level can sometimes result in playful physical contact which may not be particularly gentle. These are still wonderful breeds that are extremely friendly and make great family dogs. It’s just that their boundless energy can be a bit hard to contain.
Again, early training goes a long way towards minimizing this problem.
With all this said, here are our 9 top choices for gentle large breed dogs.
Height: 30 -37 inches
Weight: 105–185 pounds
Life Expectancy: 7-10 years
Great Danes are probably the most common answer for when people are asked to name a giant dog breed. And they are not wrong!
Great Danes are truly huge. They can stand almost three feet tall and weigh more than many full-grown adult men. Their long legs and tall pointy ears only add to their imposing stature. And don’t let their gangly looks fool you – Danes have excellent balance. They move with a smooth and athletic style that is almost majestic.
Great Danes are not only gentle, loving family dogs, but they also get along well with other animals. They will quickly become friends with your family cat or anyone else they see as part of their family.
Although they are a very gentle and sweet-natured breed, Danes are also great guard dogs. Their size alone will discourage intruders. And for anyone foolish enough to still try to invade their domain and become a threat, the powerful and courageous Dane will stop them in their tracks.
Great Danes need only a moderate amount of daily exercise, such as a brisk walk a couple of times a day. They make good hiking companions, but it’s important to hold off on this activity until they are two years old. Otherwise, you risk damaging their growing joints, which is a common problem for Great Danes.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Height: 23-28 inches
Weight: 75-125 pounds
Life Expectancy: 7-10 years
Few dogs are as big a sweetheart as the Bernese Mountain Dog. Their gentle and loving nature makes them excellent companion and family dogs and they are particularly good around children.
You may have seen that commercial showing a therapy dog going up to a little girl in a hospital bed. That was a Bernese Mountain Dog. They have the perfect demeanor for comforting patients and are frequently used to calm sick children.
These strikingly beautiful and powerful dogs originated in Switzerland. They are hard workers and have a thick double coat, which allowed them to tolerate the extremely cold weather present on Swiss farms. Here in the United States, they enjoy living indoors with their human families, while also enjoying outdoor activities such as hikes or long walks.
Berners love their families and want to be with them, which means they do not do well if left alone for long periods regularly. Be prepared for some undesirable behaviors if they get lonely too often.
Berners are healthy dogs overall, although like all large dogs you have to watch for bloat, as well as hip and elbow dysplasia.
They need only a moderate amount of exercise and are easy to train due to their intelligence and eagerness to please.
Height: 25-28 inches
Weight: 110 – 170 pounds
Life Expectancy: 8-10 years
The large and powerful St. Bernard was originally bred as an avalanche rescue dog in the Alps, which required strength and a calm, gentle disposition. These are the same traits that make them such outstanding companions and family dogs.
St. Bernards are especially good with kids and will happily pull them in carts all day long. They are patient and watchful over children and are known as excellent ‘nanny’ dogs. Their history as rescue dogs gives them their watchdog tendencies.
A St. Bernard requires only a moderate amount of exercise and one long walk a day should be sufficient. However, they are also happy and willing to accompany you on long hikes or camping. These are very social dogs.
Although St. Bernards are eager to please and kind-hearted, like all massively big dogs they require early obedience training to learn not to bump into small children, jump up on people, and otherwise do things made possible by their size. Fortunately, they respond well to training and quickly learn what is expected from them.
Height: 24-27 inches
Weight: 100-140 pounds
Life Expectancy: 7-9 years
The result of a cross between a Mastiff and a Bulldog, the Bullmastiff has a fearsome and imposing appearance. It was originally bred to guard against and pursue poachers in England.
That said, the Bullmastiff is a gentle and quiet breed. Like many large dogs, it’s good with children and a loyal protector of its family. Although not naturally aggressive, it will fearlessly fight against any threat to its family.
Despite its size, the Bullmastiff is relatively sedentary and is well suited to apartment living. But they do enjoy brisk walks occasionally and like playing outdoors. They are good walking companions but are a poor choice for a running partner.
This breed can be pretty strong-willed, so early training and socialization are important. Your Bullmastiff will respond best to having regular routines and rules established while they are still puppies and small enough to control.
Height: 25-29 inches
Weight: 100-170 pounds
Life Expectancy: 9-10 years
Okay, we’re going to state our prejudice right up front and say that the Newfoundland is our number one choice for a gentle large breed dog. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, the Newfoundland breed standard states that the most important single characteristic of this breed is a sweet temperament. No other breed is given this recognition.
Originally used as working dogs on farms and as Canadian water rescue dogs, ‘Newfies’ (as they are known) are the ideal dogs for families with kids. They are often called the perfect ‘nanny dog’ for children of any age.
Newfies have a special affinity for children and, with their sweet and gentle demeanor, they are watchful and patient protectors. While they will shower everyone with affection, these sweet souls are particularly drawn to children. And they also get along well with all other animals.
Newfoundlands are not aggressive, but they will confront threats to their family and fight back if that’s the only way to stop the threat. However, their size usually makes this unnecessary.
Newfies are devoted companion dogs that need only a half-hour of daily moderate exercise. Swimming would be the ideal exercise, as they are excellent swimmers and love the water.
Since they are intelligent, outgoing, and eager to please, Newfoundlands are very easy to train. Their gentle and trusting nature means that they respond best to gentle training rather than harsh commands.
All in all, a Newfoundland is the most gentle, affectionate, and child-loving dog that you can have the privilege to own.
Height: 25-32 inches
Weight: 90-170 pounds
Life Expectancy: 7-9 years
The Leonberger is a breed that many people are unfamiliar with. While once somewhat rare, they are becoming more and more popular.
This is a breed that originated in Germany more than 150 years ago and was bred as a working dog for farms and families. Leonbergers are gentle, friendly dogs that are excellent with small children. The male is particularly striking due to the lion-like mane around its neck and chest.
And yes, the Leonberger is a huge, powerful dog, but it also is known for its patience, gentleness, and desire for the companionship of a family. It’s also known for its elegant and aristocratic grace and looks.
Leonbergers do best in a house with a large fenced yard, as they have a fair amount of energy and need room to burn it off. They will also enjoy hiking, jogging, or riding alongside a bicycle.
Due to their size and strength, early training is essential, as is socialization with other dogs, people, and environments. Ideally, this should be done before they are 20 weeks old.
Height: 32-34 inches
Weight: 90-170 pounds
Life Expectancy: 6-8 years
The Irish Wolfhound rivals and often exceeds the Great Dane in size. They are one of the largest dog breeds in the world and were originally bred to hunt and kill wolves. However, that was long ago. Today, Wolfhounds are friendly, sweet, and gentle companions.
Irish Wolfhounds are excellent with children, strangers, other dogs, and other pets (they will love your cat!). They are known to be endlessly patient with children. They also do surprisingly well indoors so long as they have enough room to stretch out when they lie down.
This is a huge, muscular breed with a streamlined build reminiscent of a Greyhound. Wolfhounds are far too gentle and serene to be good guard dogs, but no matter – their imposing size is enough to stop intruders. Few people will challenge a dog that can stand almost seven feet tall!
Although Wolfhounds do well indoors, they need outside exercise to prevent them from becoming couch potatoes. This means a large fenced yard is ideal. Long walks and participating in canine sports such as agility will also help keep them off the couch and healthy.
This is an intelligent breed and as a result, is a fast learner, so long as positive training methods are used. As with all large dogs, training should begin early, while your dog is still smaller than you!
Old English Sheepdog
Height: 20-24 inches
Weight: 60-110 pounds
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
If you’ve seen the 1960s Disney movie “The Shaggy Dog”, you know exactly what an Old English Sheepdog looks like. Before then, this breed was largely unknown and the movie caused it to surge in popularity. Their coat is what most attracts them to people.
Old English Sheepdogs were originally bred to work as cattle dogs on farms. They appear to move with a bear-like shuffle but are actually very nimble and well coordinated.
Sheepdogs are kind, gentle, mellow, and love people. They are great with children and thus make wonderful family dogs. They do well indoors and enjoy participating in family activities. With their loud, piercing bark they make excellent watchdogs and are quite protective over their homes.
They do require a moderate amount of exercise and are very intelligent. They are quite trainable and will not forget things once learned. However, they get bored with repetitive training and need new and different things to keep them challenged.
Height: 25-32 inches
Weight: 85-120 pounds
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
The Great Pyrenees (also known as Pyrs) were bred to help sheep herders control and guard their sheep in the Pyrenees Mountains of France. Their primary job was to deter predators from killing the sheep.
Although these large dogs can look intimidating, they are one of the gentle giants and get along well with children and other animals because of their low prey drive. They have calm, quiet, and mellow personalities, but will fearlessly protect their family if they detect a threat.
Great Pyrenees make excellent family and companion dogs. Despite their thick and luxurious coats, they need little grooming because their coat is tangle and dirt-resistant.
They need only moderate exercise to keep them healthy and happy. They also enjoy mental stimulation by participating in canine sports such as cart pulling and obedience.
Since this breed was originally bred to be independent and able to work without guidance, they can be stubborn when it comes to training. They get easily bored with training and will display this boredom by responding slowly to commands.