Big dogs can be giant bundles of furry love. They also have unique challenges and benefits that small dogs don’t have.
In this article, we’ll go over the pros and cons of caring for a big dog versus caring for a small dog and the things you should take into consideration before bringing any dog into your family.
If you love large breed dogs, then that is going to be the biggest pro when it comes to taking care of your big dog.
Some people just prefer large breeds regardless of the cons, as the love for their big dog makes up for any downsides. But you should at least know what those downsides are.
First, let’s start with the pros.
A big dog doesn’t always mean a big mouth
There are some exceptions to this rule and it can vary by breed, but small dogs are considered “yippy” for a reason. Newsweek reports that some big dog breeds like Newfoundlands, Greyhounds, and St. Bernards bark very little.
Big dogs = big cuddles
A “hug” with your big breed dog is definitely something that will make your day better.
Some of the large breeds, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers can think they are lap dogs and will happily spend time cuddled up against you.
Even some of the giant breeds like to cuddle. Great Danes and Newfoundlands, despite their size, love to sit next to – or in the lap of! – their favorite human.
Big dogs scare the bad guys away
Large and giant breed dogs like Rottweilers, Doberman’s, and even crazy-friendly Golden Retrievers are not only good companions, but their size is intimidating to people who have bad intentions.
Few people will challenge a 100-pound Doberman, while it’s hard to be intimidated by a Shih Tzu or Chihuahua – unless you already have a paranoid fear of dogs.
Big dogs are easier to train than small dogs
And by easier to train, we specifically appreciate that they are easier to house train than small dogs.
A study done by Psychology Today of 735 small and large dogs found that 67% of the small dogs were completely house trained, compared to 95% of the large dogs! This supports the general consensus that large dogs are easier to train, possibly due to their overall intelligence being a bit higher than small dogs.
Whatever the reason, not having to clean up pee and poop is a big deal when it comes to taking care of your dog.
While big breed dogs have many advantages, some things are simply more difficult, time-consuming, or expensive with large breed dogs.
Going to the doctor can be hard on the wallet
Veterinary care is more expensive for big breed dogs than it is for small breed dogs. Even if all your dog needs is standard care and never gets sick, large breed dogs need bigger doses of vaccines and preventative medicines like worming medications. This extra expense can add up.
It costs more to look pretty
Many large breed dogs don’t require professional grooming. These are breeds like German Shepherds that you can brush and wash. Many pet owners also take on the task of clipping their dog’s nails on their own.
However, if you have a dog like a Poodle, which needs regular hair cuts, or if you just don’t want to groom your dog yourself then you can expect to pay more for grooming for a big dog vs. a small dog simply because there’s more dog to groom.
Big dog, big hair
Unless you have a breed that sheds very little like a Giant Schnauzer, an Airedale, or a Standard Poodle, then a big dog is almost always going to shed more than a small dog.
That means more dog hair in your house. And if you have a giant breed with long hair like a St. Bernard or Newfoundland, the additional hair does mean additional cleaning up.
Proper grooming can decrease the amount of shedding that a big dog does, but it won’t eliminate it entirely.
They like to eat
Just like people, big dogs eat more than little dogs, and food is no place to economize when it comes to caring for your large best friend. Big dogs need high-quality dog food to stay healthy throughout their lifespan.
It’s a good idea to check with your veterinarian for the best food for your particular dog.
“Life is short” is a saying that unfortunately applies
As much as we love our big dogs they don’t live as long as little dogs. Big dogs have a typical lifespan of 9 to 12 years depending on the breed. Life spans of some of the giant breeds can be even shorter.
Small dogs have their own unique charm. Some people prefer small dogs to big dogs and if that’s the case for you, then no matter what the cons of taking care of small dogs are, it’s probably still worth it.
There are several pros to taking care of small dogs vs taking care of big dogs that go beyond just liking small dogs.
Smaller dogs mean smaller budgets
There is no getting around the fact that small dogs are less expensive to own than big dogs. They have lower vet bills, lower grooming bills, and they eat less.
According to the AKC the cost of owning a small dog is about $1,000 a year, while the cost of owning a large dog is about $1,400 a year.
Of course, this number can vary greatly depending on the type of dog, what the dog is involved in, and the dog’s veterinary needs.
The smaller the dog, the easier to travel
Small dogs can often travel on commercial airplanes and large dogs frequently can’t. Plus, many commercial airlines now impose a 100-pound limit on dogs that can fly.
More hotels are open to small dogs than large dogs and small dogs take up less space when traveling in a car.
Occasionally small dogs are nervous about travel, so while small dogs are usually easier to travel with logistically than large dogs, sometimes it doesn’t work well because of the personality of the dog.
Small dogs hang around longer
Small dogs have longer lifespans than bigger dogs. A small dog will usually live between 10 and 15 years, with some breeds living up to 18 years.
While there are many positives to taking care of small dogs, there are also a few cons to consider.
“I’m not crazy, my mother had me tested”
Because many types of small dogs have been miniaturized through breeding they can sometimes have neurotic personalities. It’s not unusual to hear about Chihuahuas who pee when their people leave, out of spite.
Careful breed selection and good breeding can help to minimize neurotic tendencies in small breeds.
Einsteins, they are not
Small dogs have smaller brains than large dogs and while they are lovely companions they are generally not as smart as larger breed dogs.
Small dogs can mean big mouths
Some small breed dogs are very yippy. Toy Poodles and Pomeranians are both extremely yippy. But not all small breed dogs are like this. Shih Tzus are a small breed that doesn’t bark very much.
Not marathon runners
If you are looking for a dog that is going to accompany you on long treks through the wilderness then you might want to consider getting a large dog rather than a small dog.
Small dogs don’t need as much exercise as large dogs, but they also don’t have as much stamina. For comparison, a husky sled dog can run at a moderate pace for 40 miles! They put marathon runners to shame.
Training may also be small
This can be a people issue as much as a dog issue. Some owners don’t spend the time training a small dog as they would a large dog. This might be partially explained by the fact that small dogs are as a rule less intelligent than their large counterparts and thus can be more difficult to train.
It can also be because some people assume there is less need to train a four-pound Chihuahua than there is a 150-pound Newfoundland. After all, you may not even notice if the Chihuahua jumps on you!
The bottom line is that proper training should be given to all dogs, regardless of size, from an early age.
If you are considering getting a dog – small, medium, or large – there are several things to consider before bringing a dog into your family. Please be sure to research the items below for the breed of dog you are considering adopting.
Understand the cost of the dog
Dogs are a major financial commitment and you need to understand how much a dog will cost and have the budget for it before you bring a dog into your home.
Understand the exercise needs of the dog
All dogs need exercise, but some dogs need a lot more than others. Be sure to understand how much exercise the breed you want needs before bringing the dog home.
Have training lined up
All dogs need to be trained from an early age, either by you or by an expert. It’s important to understand dog psychology and how to train your new dog.