EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 17, 2013

Giant-breed owners see having dogs as living large


But for all the challenges — which can include health considerations — particular to massive dogs, their owners say they’re drawn to animals that can inspire both awe and awwwww.

The Irish wolfhound is considered the tallest among the 175 breeds currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, but the lanky hound isn’t necessarily the heaviest breed. (The Guinness World Record for the individual world’s tallest dog belongs, at the moment, to a Michigan-dwelling great Dane named Zeus, who measures 44 inches from foot to shoulder — and 7-foot-4 when he stands on his hind legs.)

Lynne Hamilton would be the first to admit that good dogs can come in small packages. Her pets include a miniature dachshund and two medium-sized dogs, a smooth fox terrier and a springer spaniel.

But the moment she saw a college roommate’s Newfoundland, “I fell in love with the big breed,” said Hamilton, who has since owned Newfoundlands for 32 years.

Her latest, 2-year-old Ares, was in his breed’s competition at Westminster on Tuesday.

Caring for the 130-pound, heavy-coated Ares involves dealing with “lots of hair, lots of slobber” and keeping her Enola, Pa., home at 58 degrees year-round, she said, “because you don’t want that panting in your face.”

Many dog breeds, big and small, are susceptible to certain health problems. Giant breeds can be prone to orthopedic troubles, heart problems and what’s known as bloat, a dangerous stomach condition. And in general, smaller dogs tend to live longer than huge ones.

Also, temperament and training are perhaps even bigger priorities for giant dogs than others because the big breeds’ size and appearance can be off-putting if they’re not well-behaved.

“You want to be able to look them in the face and have it be inviting,” said dog handler Melody Salmi, who showed the St. Bernard best-of-breed winner, Aristocrat (or, formally, Jamelle’s Aristocrat V Elba), Tuesday at Westminster. He’s owned by Linda and Edward Baker of Hopewell, N.J.

Afterward, Aristocrat snoozed placidly in his crate.

Oftentimes, “I sell a puppy to people, and they say, ‘Oh, it’s so big,’” said Aristocrat’s breeder, Michele Mulligan of Diamond Bar, Calif. But a year later, the same owners will say fondly, “They’re not so big,” she said.

“They just grow on you.”

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