Big Love for Big Dogs

On why we shouldn’t be shy around massive Mastiffs or gargantuan Great Danes

By Brian Reynolds

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Photo credits: Stasha Becker/CC

Dogs are generally widely loved, but sometimes big dogs get a different reaction. Most people are rational and don’t think anything about it when they come across one, but some people behave in the strangest ways, crossing the street to avoid a big dog the same way you would avoid a group of thugs or drunken frat bros belligerently chanting frosh week cheers. Don’t they realize that dogs can’t rob you? Other people will freeze up as though they’ve been caught in Medusa’s gaze and turned to stone. That self-defense mechanism might work against a T-Rex in Jurassic Park, but you don’t need to move for dogs to see you. Full-grown men and women will yelp like a frightened pup at the presence of a big dog. I don’t know where this fear comes from, but they need to calm down on the dramatics; these dogs are not the monsters they think they are. I swear it.

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Every large dog I’ve met is awesome. To me, it’s just a bigger, little dog. It’s the same amount of unstoppable goofy love being delivered in a larger package. However, as an owner, you can play off these fears to your benefit. For example, I have a 100 lb. American bulldog. He’s friendly as hell, and I’m not sure he’d actually do anything to protect my stuff if someone broke into my apartment. He just looks tough enough to discourage potential thieves, because even the idea of fighting a giant dog is terrifying to most people. Remember Chopper from  Stand By Me? Sick balls. People give me more space when I walk down the sidewalk with my dog. I genuinely laugh when someone jumps back and screams when they see my dog because I know his personality is not anywhere near the vicious monster the petrified pedestrian is imagining.

I understand the apprehension around big dogs. Not all of them are saints. They’re strong animals, so if one did bite you it could be serious and people have been terribly hurt. But stories tend to be sensationalized, especially around certain breeds and this propagates an unjust fear by blowing things out of proportion. We can’t let a few bad dogs give the rest a bad name. The large dogs I know are more likely to tackle you and bathe you with kisses and would protect you with their life. Of course be careful—maybe don’t dangle a meat-covered baby in front of one—when you meet a big dog, but do be prepared for a whole lot of love.