5 Things To Know Before Bringing A Huge Dog Into Your Family

by Minerva Siegel
Photo of Snuffy by Minerva Siegel

I've always loved big dogs, but I fell in love with Snuffaluffagus the moment I saw him. His enormous mastiff-boxer mix head, huge pearly whites, giant paws and wiggly little docked tail stole my heart in an instant. He had been found as an emaciated stray, wandering around downtown Chicago all alone. Castaway Pet Rescue took him out of an overcrowded shelter, and gave him a lot of love over a month to put weight on him and get him ready for adoption. I’d been casually looking for the right dog to adopt for a while, but wasn't expecting to fall in love with a behemoth. It turns out, adopting a huge dog will definitely change your life.

I found his profile on Petfinder, and immediately contacted the rescue to set up a time to meet him. After seeing him in person, I knew he had to be part of my family. I was a professional dog groomer for years, so I have a lot of experience working with giant dogs. I thought I knew what to expect. I was totally aware that having a giant dog would mean buying lots of dog food, and that I’d have to really take time to train him well because he could do a lot of damage if he decided to be naughty or destructive, etc. Still, there have been a lot of things I didn’t really realize would come with having a mammoth pup. So, I’m here to share with you some tips and tricks to think about if you’re considering taking the plunge into giant breed waters.

No, Really, Giant Dogs Eat A Lot Of Food

I tend to be almost overly-cautious about the sort of food, treats, and toys I give my dogs because I’ve heard so many horror stories as a groomer about dogs being poisoned by bad batches of food, or getting blockages from cheap rawhide treats. I feed my pups USA-made Canidae dog food. Snuffaluffagus has grain and chicken allergies, so he has to be on the grain-free, limited ingredient (read: more expensive) variety.

When I adopted him, I knew he’d eat a lot. At 130 pounds, he’s a big boy. Still, I didn’t really realize just how much dog food I’d be going through. He eats seven cups of dog food per day, and I go through roughly two 24-pound bags of Canidae per month. I signed up for automatic deliveries from Chewy to save a little cash per order, but I still spend about $120 on just his basic food needs per month.

So, What Happens If A Behemoth Pupper Hates Kennels?

Photo of Snuffy by Cayan Ashley Photography

When I adopted Snuffers, the rescue told me that he hates kennels and quickly chews his way out of them, but I didn’t realize how problematic that would be. He’s able to easily get out of wire and thick plastic kennels; even top-rated crates are not a big deal for him to escape from. He has giant, curved canines that are just perfect for prying apart kennels, and boy, does he. I figured it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, and that he could just be a free-range puppy, who doesn’t get kenneled at home. I put up a baby gate to deter him from going in the kitchen and was careful to never leave food out on the counters. I thought things were golden.

That idea worked for about three months, until, one afternoon while I was out to lunch, I came home to find a dangerously bloated, barely-conscious, giant mastiff on the kitchen floor, drooling profusely. He’d broken down the baby gate, opened the fridge and nosed his way into the pantry and my cupboards. He ate a whole pizza from the fridge, along with the 36 fudge cupcakes (and their wrappers) that were for an event the next day. I rushed him to the emergency vet, and they weren’t sure he would survive. He had potentially lethal toxicity from the fudge cupcakes, and the vets were worried the 36 cupcake wrappers would cause a blockage. It was the most harrowing night I’ve experienced in recent memory, but he survived. It was a very expensive, scary ordeal.

Since then, I’ve put locks on the refrigerator and cupboards, and completely reorganized the kitchen so that all the food is on the very top shelves in the cupboards. It’s pretty inconvenient day-to-day, and I still think about getting him a kennel and trying to work on getting him comfortable with them, but, because of his size and kennel-destroying history, I’d have to get a super-expensive Impact Crate, and I’m worried he might break teeth trying to chew the metal bars to get out. It's a big problem, and something I didn't consider I might have to deal with after adopting a huge dude.

I Didn't Realize I'd Be Cleaning Slobber Off My Ceiling Daily

When I adopted Snuffy, I knew that most giant breeds drool, and I’m not very easily grossed out, but I was totally unprepared for the sheer amount of slobber I’d have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I literally have to take a wet Swiffer mop to my walls and ceilings every day. Everything he brushes his head against gets slimed, from my bed sheets to all the furniture to clothing.

I love him to pieces, but sometimes I feel like I live with a giant snail who leaves slime trails wherever he goes. When I go out, I have to change my clothing right before leaving to make sure I’m not full of slobber. He’s also very sloppy when he drinks, and he likes to shake off right afterward, so the ceiling above his water bowl is basically constantly full of slobber, no matter how often I clean it.

Pro tip: When company comes over, I tuck a dish towel into his collar, so I can wipe his mouth off periodically to prevent everyone from getting drenched in slobber. It may be a bit of a hassle, but he’s so worth it. Every time I get a little annoyed by the slime ball, all he has to do is look at me with his huge, sweet eyes and I’m instantly over it. I love his big, squishy mastiff face: slobber and all.

Be Prepared To Drop A Lot Of Cash And Think Outside The Box

Photo of Snuffy on his futon mattress by Minerva Siegel

When you own a giant breed dog, basically everything is more expensive than it is for smaller dogs. Beyond eating more than regular dogs, flea and tick preventatives, heartworm preventatives, and prescription medications all cost more when you have a big pup. Snuffy’s toys are more expensive than typical toys because I have to get the largest ones available, and he still chews through them pretty quickly.

Giant breed dogs need beds that offer a lot of support to prevent joint problems, and huge dog beds don’t come cheaply. I bought him the biggest orthopedic dog bed I could find for under $300, and it ended up still being too small for my big boy, who likes to sprawl. It may seem over-the-top, but I ended up putting a high-end futon mattress on my living room floor for him to lay on during the day. He just loves it. Overall, I spent a couple thousand dollars on him the first month I adopted him, not including his adoption fee. I thought I’d adopt him and spend maybe a few hundred dollars getting him everything he needs, but when you have a giant doggo, the costs add up quickly. He’s a member of the family, though, and deserves to have absolutely everything he needs to be comfortable and happy.

Getting A Huge Doggo Is A Great Reason To Redecorate

Photo of Minerva and Snuffy by Cayan Ashley Photography

It became very obvious as soon as I brought Snuffy home that some major redecorating was in order. He likes to follow me all over the house all day long, and he bumps into everything. He used to frequently get stuck in places, too, like between the sofa and coffee table, or between my vanity and the bed. Ever the goofball, he doesn't like to back up to get out of a tight space, so he just sort of flails around wildly whenever he can't turn around, knocking things over and causing chaos. I've remedied this by rearranging my entire house. My chaise, desk, and sofa are now along the walls, leaving a lot of open space for him to maneuver. Maybe the layout isn't Nate Berkus-approved, but it works for us.

Photo of Snuffaluffagus by Minerva Siegel

Adopting Snuffaluffagus came with a few unexpected problems that needed creative solutions, but it was so worth it. He's the sweetest, biggest baby. He's so loving and goofy, and he fits right into my little family. His lumbering, clumsy ways are endearing and he has the most charming smile I've ever seen.

If you're considering getting a giant pupper, all I can say is: go for it! Just make sure you're financially prepared to deal with the costs of owning a mammoth, be willing to come up with creative solutions to unique problems, and don't be afraid of a little (a lot) of slobber. My new dog motto is the bigger, the better. I'm a giant breed dog-mom for life, and I bet you'll be hooked on them, too.