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After having a little talk with some family members, I came here looking for you guys’ view on the topic. How do you control a dog whose weight comes near, or even exceeds yours?
I am a small girl with merely 100 lbs. Looking at other women in my family, I am unlikely to go over 130 lbs. My 35 lb dog I can control if he tries to lunge or jump. But what happens if I one day wish to get a 190 lb Saint Bernard? Or a 90 lb German shepherd? I am sure there are more people out there having similar thoughts. I understand good training is key, but what about the rare situations that might occur? Eg. what if that perfectly trained 90 lb GSD “suddenly” at two years old decides he doesn’t like other dogs? Or a squirrel runs right in front of his nose and his prey drive kicks in?
 

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In my sport there are more than a few "over matched (based on size alone)" people handling large dogs. The trick is training and, in most cases, seeing the possible issue BEFORE the dog does.

With a truly strong dog (as in temperament not necessarily size) the real answer is in the relationship the dog has with his owner AND handler ability. In the pet dog world both these things are usually lacking and so therefore is control of the dog and situations. If the skill is not there, the recommendation is to get the skill or not get the larger, strong dog. Of course, people do not listen to this and that is how good dogs end up being bad dogs that are either euthanized or returned to the breeder (who also may need to euthanize the dog).

I trained horses for years. A horse, at 1200-1500 pounds most assuredly outweighs me and only ONCE was a taken off my feet and that was when I was 13 and knew nothing. Think about that for a bit.. then think again about the idea of a small statured person and a large dog.

It isn't a size differential issue, it is a handler skill issue.
 

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Frankly, a dog doesn't even have to be close to you in size to outmatch you in strength (you get toy breeds in weight pull hauling several hundred pounds - those dogs are specially conditioned of course but still). If you've ever had to walk your medium dog in icy conditions, it's a lot of the same idea - keep an eye out for potential problems, use appropriate equipment (on yourself and the dog in question), and be careful. All on top of training.

It definitely requires you to do your due diligence if you get the dog as a puppy to make sure they never learn pulling gets them anywhere - owners are often a bit more lax with small dogs simply because we can physically control them. Not a huge deal if a little guy never quite 'gets' loose leash walking, in terms of safety. One thing I have noticed with my MiL's giant breed puppy, he's actually easier to control than I expected when he gets excitable, because you can hold his leash really close to his collar, so he doesn't have the space to get much momentum going. I've gotten nastier jolts from small dogs slingshotting to the end of their lead.

I'm also not opposed to using certain training tools when dealing with a large dog that's either untrained or unpredictable - front-clip harness, prong collar, head halters to name a few - but you really have to do your research. Some dogs are convinced head halters are torture devices from the pits of heck no matter how carefully you desensitize, for example, prong collars can agitate certain dogs and exacerbate fear or reactivity issues, and some no-pull harness designs can lead to musculoskeletal pain and development issues if used too much. So it's very much important to do your own research and figure out what works for your individual dog and your individual situation.
 

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Its all about training and predictions of sutuations like this. But i cant say this is only about size of your dog in case that something really happened.
At a minimum, you will be able to restrain the dog for a while.
With a good approach, this case is just rare. You do not stop driving, or use public transport, because there are accidents in the world? Right?
If your dog will be trained, you won't have any troubles.
P.S. Sorry for my English <3
 

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When we first got our oversized black lab, he was around 136 pounds and my (then) young daughter, who must have been all of 80 pounds, could walk him with no effort.

On the other hand, when we first took Esther the Plott hound (about 65 pounds) it for a test drive at the shelter, she dragged me up and down the trail, and I'm 6'2" and 240 pounds. Thank God we didn't see a rabbit.

It's all about the dog, not the size.
 

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Pure and simple: TRAINING from the day you bring them home and keeping it up everyday.

Currently have a 215lb English Mastiff that my 160lb wife can walk and that is after a stroke so she is very week on her right side.
Mouse walks beside her on that side so she can balance her self if she looses her balance.

Prior Vader weighed between 240 to 250 and my daughter at 130lbs could walk him no problem.

At the AKC Mastiff show a few years ago a elderly lady was walking a 285lb Mastiff, she may have been 100lbs.

Neighbor has a Newfie he walks, and he uses a walker.
 

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After having a little talk with some family members, I came here looking for you guys’ view on the topic. How do you control a dog whose weight comes near, or even exceeds yours?

Training.

Firm, traditional methods using rewards and correction. No positive reinforcement (at least not used as the sole method), which means no clicker training. This method is great fun for hound and small breeds, or otherwise soft tempered dogs, but entirely inappropriate with a large, potentially aggressive, "hard" tempered breed where a more serious approach to training needs to be taken.

Also, forget your own physical size. Training is about your mental control and bond with the dog, not your ability to overpower it.

I once had a client (I'm a semi-retired professional obedience trainer) who was barely 5' tall and slightly built. She had three small dogs, about 20-25lbs average, who were leash pullers and all around stubborn, strong willed dogs. They would practically pull off her arm when she walked them, and the training methods she had used for her other two, large breed dogs was not working on them. In addition, they had housebreaking issues and were far more than she could handle.

What was so amusing about this client though was her two other dogs. One was a working bloodline GSD, the other a GSD mix that had some wolf hybridization in his background. Both were about 65lbs. Together these dogs outweighed the owner by at least 30lbs. She often walked them together; they trotted slightly ahead of her but never pulled, and were so well trained that when the more nervous mixed breed backed out of his collar on a walk once, in a fraction of a second she had him in the "stay" position and the other dog sitting calmly with a single hand gesture while she re-leashed the loose one. She had them trained just as well with hand commands as with verbal; they would respond to no more than a dirty look from her. I even think she had so many problems with her small dogs because they tended towards stubbornness and a "softer" temperament, and the training methods that worked for the two large breeds was not cutting it with the smaller ones. Anyway, this client had trained them to view her as a benevolent, but VERY firm leader, so that these two dominant dogs were 100% controllable by her... and pretty much her alone. The GSD never listened to a word I said, and in fact turned her back on me more than once.

So my point is, know yourself first. Are you mentally capable of controlling a large breed dog? Not everyone has that dominant personality required for controlling a potentially domineering breed. Can you consistently train a dog? Would you rather spoil a dog than be firm? If the answer to these questions is no, you might want to reconsider a breed that's too large.
 

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The trick is training and, in most cases, seeing the possible issue BEFORE the dog does.
This statement is the answer you're looking for. In this case I would recommend getting a puppy and start the training immediately. Especially loose leash walking, leave it, and look at me.

I weigh 125 lbs and my two dogs together weigh 165 lbs. Pepper just on her own can be difficult to hold back if a rabbit runs out in front of us. The two of them together is challenging to say the least. Both are trained, but not perfectly. Kane is dog/people reactive which make things even more difficult.

Worst case scenario (the dogs are both lunging/pulling like mad) I can hold them back. That's it. I might be able to inch my way backwards away from whatever is exciting them (assuming that thing is not coming toward us), but I basically have to wait for them to calm down (usually the "thing" passes or goes out of sight), then I can get their attention and we continue on. So in my case avoidance is key. If I'm out with the dogs I am CONSTANTLY on the look out for things that might set them off. I need to see it BEFORE they do so I can change course to avoid it. If it's a cat or something walking along and they haven't seen it, I'll get the dog's attention on me so they're not looking around and they don't see it. If it's super far away and I know the dogs won't react like crazy I might even point it out to them and use it as a training exercise for "look at me". But it depends on the situation, how many other things we've encountered on our walk so far, the mood of the dogs, etc.

Dog strength is definitely something that should be considered when choosing a dog. Can it be done? Yes absolutely, but it depends on the dog and your training skills (or in my case - the TIME to spend on training).

Personally I won't ever have dogs that outweigh me again. I can do it yes, but do I want to? No.
 

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Training.

Firm, traditional methods using rewards and correction. No positive reinforcement (at least not used as the sole method), which means no clicker training. This method is great fun for hound and small breeds, or otherwise soft tempered dogs, but entirely inappropriate with a large, potentially aggressive, "hard" tempered breed where a more serious approach to training needs to be taken.
Eh. I have a Giant Schnauzer who weighs in just under 100 lbs - not a small dog nor a breed known for being soft. I've used R+ almost exclusively to train him and he's very much under my verbal/signal control. He's actually my most reliable dog on ice or other unstable footing - not only does he not pull, but I also taught him a command "help" to support an unsteady person.
 

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Training.

Firm, traditional methods using rewards and correction. No positive reinforcement (at least not used as the sole method), which means no clicker training. This method is great fun for hound and small breeds, or otherwise soft tempered dogs, but entirely inappropriate with a large, potentially aggressive, "hard" tempered breed where a more serious approach to training needs to be taken.

Also, forget your own physical size. Training is about your mental control and bond with the dog, not your ability to overpower it.

I once had a client (I'm a semi-retired professional obedience trainer) who was barely 5' tall and slightly built. She had three small dogs, about 20-25lbs average, who were leash pullers and all around stubborn, strong willed dogs. They would practically pull off her arm when she walked them, and the training methods she had used for her other two, large breed dogs was not working on them. In addition, they had housebreaking issues and were far more than she could handle.

What was so amusing about this client though was her two other dogs. One was a working bloodline GSD, the other a GSD mix that had some wolf hybridization in his background. Both were about 65lbs. Together these dogs outweighed the owner by at least 30lbs. She often walked them together; they trotted slightly ahead of her but never pulled, and were so well trained that when the more nervous mixed breed backed out of his collar on a walk once, in a fraction of a second she had him in the "stay" position and the other dog sitting calmly with a single hand gesture while she re-leashed the loose one. She had them trained just as well with hand commands as with verbal; they would respond to no more than a dirty look from her. I even think she had so many problems with her small dogs because they tended towards stubbornness and a "softer" temperament, and the training methods that worked for the two large breeds was not cutting it with the smaller ones. Anyway, this client had trained them to view her as a benevolent, but VERY firm leader, so that these two dominant dogs were 100% controllable by her... and pretty much her alone. The GSD never listened to a word I said, and in fact turned her back on me more than once.

So my point is, know yourself first. Are you mentally capable of controlling a large breed dog? Not everyone has that dominant personality required for controlling a potentially domineering breed. Can you consistently train a dog? Would you rather spoil a dog than be firm? If the answer to these questions is no, you might want to reconsider a breed that's too large.
I've worked with some dogs that where about as far as you can get from soft, and have had very few issue with positive training, my current is far from soft, and has shown it a few times in real life issues.
It is mainly about mental state.

There's a saying about hitting a mastiff or mastiff breed "Your courting injury or death".
 

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What everyone except Barklee has said. Barklee is spouting outdated and potentially harmful advice that may get you hurt, regardless of the size of your dog. Training is about leadership, but not the "dominance" based hogwash that was mentioned. I have children in my training classes having a great time with their dogs, usually ones that are much larger than their handlers. Clicker training is simply mark-and-reward training, which is positive reinforcement training. I've used these methods with chihuahuas to danes, to working police K9s, to dogs with multiple bite histories (on dogs and people). There is nothing toxic about the clicker, though it's not the be-all-end-all.
 

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There is nothing toxic about the clicker, though it's not the be-all-end-all.
Yeah, having a marker is what is important not the clicker itself. My dog does great with a verbal marker and positive re-enforcement. The clicker obsession comes from marine mammal training trends as I understand it.

This one I trained very much in a positive manner aside from some necessary dips where she has learned to exploit the system (Like say the case of jumping up on the table and then expecting a reward for getting off, now she'll get no reward and continued incursions result in a spray bottle shot). I will also go negative and grip her muzzle/put her in isolation if she is being a bitty PITA who won't take a command, plus standing up is not enough/we are outside, since positive training doesn't really offer a solution to this situation as far as I know (been told to distract with food/foraging/play but like with the table jumping the dog is too smart and will learn that biting on me is the best way to initiate play/get free treats). I'm also installing an invisible fence (whenever I finish the last 50 yards or so) and I'd rather e-collar a problem dog than give it up to the pound, better a jolt now and again than death row.

I've heard the argument made that all training is negative since the dog won't perform unless it's hungry and therefore somewhat deprived. However mine will take kibble from my hand all day and leaves a mountain of it in her bowl, so clearly the trainer approval/bond factors in more than starvation.

In any case she's doing 100x better at obedience than my old lab/GSD amalgamation (old school leash and collar training at 4H 20 years ago) who didn't obey for **** until he was a senior citizen and could never 'stay' or do anything harder than sit/down/shake. This one being a pure bred herding class dog gives her a big leg up though.
 

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What everyone except Barklee has said. Barklee is spouting outdated and potentially harmful advice that may get you hurt, regardless of the size of your dog. Training is about leadership, but not the "dominance" based hogwash that was mentioned. I have children in my training classes having a great time with their dogs, usually ones that are much larger than their handlers. Clicker training is simply mark-and-reward training, which is positive reinforcement training. I've used these methods with chihuahuas to danes, to working police K9s, to dogs with multiple bite histories (on dogs and people). There is nothing toxic about the clicker, though it's not the be-all-end-all.
THIS!!!
I work with dogs that are strong, confident and energetic. I use a clicker. I use corrections. Currently I have an 80 pound male who is 18 months old physically and 5 months old in the head. My clarity handling him makes him easy to handle. I use a clicker. I use "YES!" We all do.. in our training club and we have some VERY strong dogs and handlers with multiple dogs having gone to National level.

I worked my young dog this morning. We worked on heeling. He was flying around me (and I am not young.. or large.. ). Not once did he slam into me. Not once did he pull me. Not once. Deer were watching us. At 18 months I use VERY FEW corrections. He is too much a baby for that.

Training is about leadership, but not the dominance based hogwash that was mentioned.
No truer words said.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you for all your insights, people You’ve given me hope about one day owning a German shepherd (and doing IPO/Schutzhund)!
 

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Thank you for all your insights, people You’ve given me hope about one day owning a German shepherd (and doing IPO/Schutzhund)!
Oh yes. You can do this. We have a club member who is barely 5 feet tall with one of the clearest dogs I have had the pleasure of watching work. That dog is just great.. and she is NEVER in danger of getting yanked off her feet. She hikes with the dog on leash extensively and bikes with him as well (also on leash hand held). Size makes no difference in IPO.. it is more about handler clarity. The biggest hurdles in IPO are learning to be a CLEAR (black and white) handler and getting a solid, balanced working dog. You have to shed a lot of "pet dog" notions to be successful but in the end you will understand more about drives and dogs and canine behavior than you ever thought possible.
 

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I've worked with some dogs that where about as far as you can get from soft, and have had very few issue with positive training, my current is far from soft, and has shown it a few times in real life issues.
It is mainly about mental state.

There's a saying about hitting a mastiff or mastiff breed "Your courting injury or death".

I never advocated hitting or any other physical forms of punishment. In fact, that does not even constitute training. It's frustration, and/or abuse.

Positive reinforcement alone is intended for soft dogs or those that have little interest in obedience, or are solely food motivated. Training methods using corrections, for example, would be to train a dog using a praise based reward, while giving a MILD correction wit a choke collar or harshly spoken "aaahhh" when a dog who knows the command but chooses not to perform. When you have a large, strong willed animal whose only perception of training is a game, it is downright dangerous if it should ever come to a situation where said dog needs control, but doesn't feel like playing the game.
 

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What everyone except Barklee has said. Barklee is spouting outdated and potentially harmful advice that may get you hurt, regardless of the size of your dog. Training is about leadership, but not the "dominance" based hogwash that was mentioned. I have children in my training classes having a great time with their dogs, usually ones that are much larger than their handlers. Clicker training is simply mark-and-reward training, which is positive reinforcement training. I've used these methods with chihuahuas to danes, to working police K9s, to dogs with multiple bite histories (on dogs and people). There is nothing toxic about the clicker, though it's not the be-all-end-all.
I think you need to re-read my post or brush on training methods. Clicker training is not a one size fits all approach. Nor does correcting a dog equate with enacting any number of Kohler method sadist fantasies.
 

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A correction with a choke chain is a physical form of punishment. In your mind, what does "physical punishment" mean?
 

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A correction with a choke chain is a physical form of punishment. In your mind, what does "physical punishment" mean?
If used correctly, a choke collar is mean to apply mild to moderate pressure on the dogs neck. One does not need to strangle, hurt or break the collar around the dog's neck to get their point across. It is a mildly unpleasant physical sensation. Accompany it with an "aaahhh" or "no", and the strong willed dog learns sitting is not a game, he must sit or stay or heel when told to.

I worked with owners living in urban areas, with dogs walking crowded streets. I would train a fear aggressive dog differently than dominant, aggressive or sharp ones, and using reward (praise, not treats) & correction based training ensured as much reliability as possible. I believe that some of the obedience people on this forum are accustomed to AKC trials, getting a CD title - that's not what I mean when I talk about training, especially since the OP was concerned her size would prohibit her from owning certain breeds. Most of the dogs I trained in obedience lived in large cities, or were breeds that could be prone to aggression, so the owner wanted absolute control and reliability. I've also trained bird dogs, and again, never used the same methods on an English Setter or Brittany that I would on a Rottweiler or Cane Corso. And YES, those breeds DO need an owner who will take the reins, be the dominant one, and let the dog know in no uncertain terms that the human makes the rules. If you equate that with kicking a dog senseless, or strangling it with a choker, it only shows your lack of familiarity with correction training, except for what you've heard on the internet about Kohler, which is NOT anything approaching standard procedure when using other methods besides the clicker. I always used praise as a reward with a certain type of dog, and mild correction for not following a command when the dog already knew what that command meant.
 

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Positive reinforcement alone is intended for soft dogs or those that have little interest in obedience, or are solely food motivated.
This again? Interesting that it keeps coming up.

I will agree that various forms of correction are used in training, regardless. Withholding a treat or removing access to it, a stern look, or even just a lower value treat, resetting and trying again all count as *corrections* in the technical sense. They make the dog correct.

Beyond that? Nah.

And I've got an ACD-X teenager who's never had a physical correction in his life and is about as far from 'uninterested' in work as you can get, and also happens to be - well, he's pretty danged biddable, but he's certainly not a dog who's timid, lacking confidence, or easily crushed and is pushy as can be. I wish I could start loaning him out to you people, because the belief that just because a dog CAN take correction without melting down means they HAVE TO is pretty freaking ridiculous.

Positive works on everything with a nervous system, from tigers and hyenas being taught to have blood taken (voluntarily!) to fish doing shape recognition and targeting for a food treat. It works on INSECTS. Don't tell me dogs are the magical exception.
 
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