Must-Haves For Your Big Dog

by DFS-Pet-Blog on November 23, 2009

Dulsie nearly 10 years ago on one of our beds, which he still uses!

Dulsie nearly 10 years ago on one of our beds, which he still uses!

Big dogs, although they need some of the same items all dogs need, (think dental care items and ear cleaner), also have special needs because of their size. I have these for each of my Newfs, and it makes their lives more comfortable, and, I believe, better.

  • An ultra-supportive orthopedic bed. A larger, heavier dog will put more stress on his joints and bones even when he is lying down.  A thick foam mattress really helps and my dogs love them!
  • The correct-sized crate or cage. A cage or crate must be large enough for a big dog to stand up and turn around. A great feature, especially for  a big crate, is a fold down option so it is easy to move or transport. Besides the all-important crate-training function, I am surprised to find out how much I use a crate:
    • Since I have to feed both of my dogs separately, I feed one in his crate.
    • My younger dog does not have “stay-at-home-without-messing-up-the-house” manners yet. If is too cold or too hot to keep him outside-viola!- he has a crate where he feels secure.
    • If I have younger visitors who may not know how to treat a dog, I put them (the dogs, not the children!) in crates for their safety.
    • Service people may be apprehensive to work in a house with a big dog. If I place the dogs in their crates, the service people are comfortable until the work is done.
  • I’m sure other pet parents have unique uses for crates – tell me yours!

  • An elevated feeder. Big dogs have to lean over farther than smaller dogs to eat from a bowl on the floor, putting more stress on the back or neck. An elevated feeder and waterer can help make eating and drinking more comfortable for them. UPDATE 4/26/2010: Some studies suggest that dogs who are susceptible to “bloat” (also called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) should not be fed from elevated feeders.
  • A leather or cotton lead. Even if a big dog is correctly leash trained, there may be a time – like when he sees a squirrel – when he will pull. Do yourself a favor and get a leash made out of materials that are easy on your hands.
  • A nail grinder or nail clipper for large breeds. A nail clipper for a smaller or medium sized dog just cannot cut big dog nails. I find the Miller’s Forge Large Dog Nail Trimmer best for my Newfs.  A nail grinder is even easier to use to keep your big dog’s nails short and healthy.
  • Joint supplements. My older dog has hip dysplasia and the associated arthritis. I am convinced that one of the reasons he is doing so well at 12 1/2 is that I have given him glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplements along with Omega-3 fatty acids for years. Big dogs are overwhelmingly more likely to get arthritic conditions, so even though my younger dog has not been diagnosed, I am giving him a head start on healthy joints by offering him these supplements as well.
  • Big, durable toys. Dulse has a “soft mouth ” which means that he is easy on his toys- he just carries them around when he is happy – he loves a soft, super-large toy. Rudder, however, is hard on toys and because he is so big, he is also very strong. I have to get him large, durable toys. This Everlasting Treat Ball satisfies his “treat tooth” and his chew style!

I’m sure I forgot something on this list. I would love your suggestions!

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Candid Carrie November 23, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Great article and I’m right on track. I’ve got a 16 month old Presa and an 11 month old mastiff. Both a prolific chewers … any suggestions for non-chewable thick mattresses for their crates?

Barb November 24, 2009 at 8:53 am

Carrie- thanks for the comment. I was thinking about it, and there really is no such thing as a chew-proof crate pad, especially for these big guys who have that “puppy chewing behavior” sometimes until they are three years old!

You may want to forego crate pads until they get a little older and more reliable.

P.S. I bookmarked your site until a later date when I have time because it looked so interesting.

Nicole March 2, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Carrie- I have a Presa also, she’s about 6 months old now and hates her cage. She breaks out of it all the time, and has bent the wires. Since yours is older, and still a chewer, did he/she like crate? And is there a better brand of a crate or style that either you or Barb would recommend for having a bigger dog?

Barb S. March 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

Hi Nicole- I am currently using item #9907 ( I can’t put a link on here, but it is on because the breeder gave me one. When I first got Rudder at 18 months, his main cage was one of our Classic Square Back Cages, like item #5329 and the KennelAire was his sleeping cage. They are both sturdy, great cages.
If your girl prefers the enclosed feeling of a plastic kennel, you might put a blanket over the top of the cage to make it more den-like. Also, have you tried keeping a radio playing, or using any Comfort Zone products to help with stress?

Nicole March 3, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Barb- I have with my lhasa, she’s actually on medicine now because everything from increasing exercise to the behavior training, hadn’t worked. I’ve tried keeping leaving the TV on for a bit, but it didn’t seem to work as well with my presa, as it does with my lhasa.

The cage you’re using now looks a lot sturdier than the ones that they sell in petsmart (like she has now). She’s broken out of her regular cages, even with a combo lock on it. We aren’t sure how she did it, but she got the lock off and got out of her cage. The space between the wires on #9907 look like they’re closer together than the average cage.

Barb S. March 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Hi again, Nicole- Yes, the 9907 cage is very sturdy and nice because it has 1″ wire squares. It also has a nice locking system (which the Gorilla Tough I mentioned before has as well). It locks two ways when you close the door: On the top and bottom of the door are two wires that slide into loops on the crate and then it has a “cam lock” which you turn so it “grabs” a wire on the cage and twist until it locks, My dogs simply can’t crack the code to open this door.

Re: your Presa’s anxiety problem: have you checked out any of the posts on the blog here that deal with that? Here are two: Dog Separation Anxiety Conquered! and Got a Stressed Dog? Try These Tips! which may have some helpful tips for you. We also have an article here about dog stress.

Good luck!

Joellyn April 24, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Regarding the recommendation for an elevated feeder…large dogs are more susceptible to a very dangerous and potentially fatal condition called “bloat,” particularly those large dogs who are also deep-chested. I have read on many occasions that elevated feeders increase the risk for bloat. I bought my Lab a Brake-Fast dog bowl, which is supposed to reduce the risk for bloat by decreasing the “gulping” and speed of consumption of food. Just a thought…

Barb S. April 26, 2010 at 11:00 am

Hi Joellyn
There is a question about whether elevated feeders should be used on dogs with increased susceptibility to GDV. I should have stated that and will revise the piece to mention that. Thank you for reminding me. Also, I do use our Slow-Feed Bowl, which is similar to the Brake-Fast Bowl on the one Newf (Dulse) who “inhales” his food. It seems to help slow him down. Thanks again for mentioning that- we have to watch out for our big pups.

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