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The challenge of being an extra-large dog

Keith Anderson sings a song about being a XXL guy ,and I can’t help but feel similar about extra-large dogs. These beefy-puppies typically have it rough growing up because their bodies get big quick while mentally, maturing slower than most dogs. Extra-large dogs can struggle for a number of reasons: dogs and people treat them like they’re older than they are, they often knock into things and they tend to be slow to mature.

We treat adult dogs differently than we treat puppies – dogs do the same. Puppies are given a lot of latitude to do things wrong and figure things out. Adult dogs, not so much. And that’s what often happens to extra-large dogs. Between 7 and 12 months old, these kiddos are still taking in the world, exploring it with their mouths and doing things more often wrong than right.

But because of their size, dogs are quicker to correct them or lose patience with them. I’ve noticed the same thing happens with humans. We have to constantly remind ourselves, he’s just a puppy. When a dog is small, it’s obvious, but with extra-large dogs, it’s easy to forget and expect more from them than they’re capable of.

Another challenge for extra-large dogs is to take responsibility for their bodies. Often these are the dogs that knock down the Christmas tree on their way through the living room, then look back to see what happened. It’s crucial that these guys become body aware to try to minimize their impacts, and if unable, learn to get out of the way.

Lastly, extra-large dogs tend to do most of their maturing after the age of 1. The delayed onset of maturity can cause them to be a bit pushier with people and dogs as well as push their boundaries. It’s imperative that they don’t use their bodies to get what they want.

A lot of communication happens between dogs without people realizing it. With extra-large dogs, they’re often using their bodies to get what they want, from us and from other dogs. By running into us, by pushing other dogs out of the way, by casually leaning until we or a dog moves, these are some ways dogs use their bodies to manage the world.

I often remind people, the toughest puppies make for the best adults and that has never been more true than with extra-large dogs. These guys tend to be those awesome, easy adults that make you forget how much work a puppy is. The key with extra-large dogs is to remember they’re puppies and need to be treated as such. And to ensure no other dog overcorrects them or bullies them to gain status.

Marcy Eckhardt is executive director of pranaDOGS Behavior and Rehab Center and trainer and behavior coach for La Plata County Humane Society. She can be reached at marcy@lpchumanesociety.org.