You’re searching for a gentle giant — a pet that can keep up with your busy, on-the-go lifestyle but that can also be a ginormous cuddle companion on the couch at a moment’s notice.
There are many strong breeds of dogs to choose from, each unique in its own way and many of them bred for their ability to put their muscles to use when needed. But before you bring one home, consider your lifestyle and their needs, as strong breeds can require lots of exercise to be happy in a household.
“Whether you’re looking for a protector, a worker or just more dog to love, strong breeds are wonderful dogs that make great companions for a variety of people,” says Brandi Hunter, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. “Aside from their tremendous strength, these dogs are loyal, lovable and smart. As always, potential dog owners should do their research to make sure a specific breed is right for their lifestyle.”
If you have your heart set on a lovable lug, check out these 10 strong breeds of dogs.
Described as “massive” and “heavy-boned,” this giant breed, which can weigh up to 200 pounds, are known to be loyal and protective of their families. While the AKC says they can happily live in an apartment, they do require a moderate amount of exercise, like a walk of about a mile or so a day.
Fun Fact: Often found in the same sentence with this working breed is the word “drool.” A bib or hanky to wipe away long swaths of slobber should always be on hand.
2. Saint Bernard
Some of the breed standards used to describe these recognizable dogs — who’ve made a name for themselves in the “Beethoven” movies — are “powerful,” “strong and muscular” and “imposing.” If you’ve ever met one, you’ll likely notice all those things, plus their charm, playfulness and ample amounts of drool.
Fun Fact: The AKC recommends training to decrease the likelihood of this breed knocking people over or food suddenly going missing from a table. (At about 30 inches tall, they’re just the right height for that.)
According to the American Rottweiler Club, owning one of these powerful dogs requires responsibility and commitment. While they’re known to be loyal, it’s important that they have a confident pack leader right from the start, or they will assume that role for you — and nobody wants a dog bossing them around.
Fun Fact: Believed to have descended from dogs that herded for the Romans, the Rottweiler gets its name from the cattle town of Rottweil in Germany.
4. Irish Wolfhound
Standing between 32 and 34 inches, the AKC notes that this classic canine is the tallest of all their accepted breeds. Like greyhounds, they have a need for speed and require a good amount of exercise, including a fenced-in yard and leash-led walks.
Fun Fact: This muscular pooch was once well-known for hunting the gigantic Irish elk. How gigantic are we talking? They were said to be 6 feet tall at the shoulder.
5. Rhodesian Ridgeback
These hounds can be strong-willed, independent and domineering, the AKC says, so a firm master is definitely needed to maintain a happy dog-human balance in a household. While they are stunning to look at, they’re more than just a pretty face: The athletic animals helped track lions in their native Africa.
Fun Fact: The dog’s trademark is the distinct stripe of hair down their backs.
6. Siberian Husky
These sled dogs were bred to be strong and go all-in for the long haul. Not only are they muscular, athletic and energetic, according to the AKC, these dogs are most happy when they’ve got jobs on their to-do list. In 1925, they became famous for one job in particular: racing a life-saving diphtheria serum to Alaska where there was an outbreak.
Fun Fact: Hills Pet says these dogs can be diggers particular in the warm weather months because they seek a cool place to chill out.
Like the husky, the boxer is also a working dog with a rich history. Cousin to almost every modern-day bulldog breed, the boxer is protective, patient and powerful with a goofy side. (Have you ever met a boxer that didn’t make you smile?) But they can turn on the serious when it’s part of the job description. Cattle dog, police dog and war dog are all on their resume, the AKC notes.
Fun Fact: It’s believed their name refers to the way they throw up their big paws during play, like a boxer in the ring!
This large breed is a competitor in contemporary carting, tracking, ability and water tests, according to the AKC. Newfoundlands combine strength with a high level of endurance, saving drowning victims by swimming long distances. Clearly, they make fabulous life preservers and, thanks to their fluffy fur, pillows.
Fun Fact: A Newf, as they’re nicknamed, swims so well because they have partially webbed feet.
9. Great Dane
These unforgettable oversized pups are described as friendly people-pleasers, who make great home guardians, says the AKC. At about 32 inches tall, their height is their most notable feature. As you might expect, these leggy creatures require regular exercise and their athleticism lends itself to agility or obedience training.
Fun Fact: With a name like Dane, they must be from Denmark, right? It’s a common misconception. They’re actually a German breed.
10. German Shepherd
Often seen as a guardian, this muscular pooch is well known as a police dog. Their smarts and bravery make them perfect for the force and the military, who hire them as loyal partners, but they can also be gentle family dogs, too, the AKC says.
Fun Fact: Before they made a name for themselves serving communities, German shepherds herded sheep.