5 Gentle Giant Family Dogs

Saint Bernards are known for their affectionate and gentle natures.
Vicky Kasala/Getty Images

So, you want a huge dog to be a part of your family? We're not talking just a big dog here -- say, a slender Golden Retriever that only comes to your knees. We mean really giant dogs, the tallest or most massive around.

Before you add a giant dog to your family, consider that a big dog needs a big space. He's not going to be happy confined to an apartment or small pen most of the day. You'll probably need a large yard with a secure fence and someone willing to walk the dog daily to keep him happy.

Be careful choosing a large breed as a family dog, especially if your "family" includes children. Although big dogs are usually quiet, gentle and slow-moving enough for families with children, avoid large dogs that have strong herding or protective, watchdog instincts. Even though such dogs may be great companions for children they're raised with, they may try to "herd" or be aggressive toward a child's playmates. They also may be aggressive toward other dogs. That said, even the most even-tempered and gentle breeds can knock a child down while playing, so try not to leave large dogs and small children together alone.

One last, unfortunate consideration: The largest dogs tend to have the shortest life expectancies -- many of them only about eight years.

If you really want a gentle giant in your family, there are good choices. Keep reading to meet some.