A reader had a simple question: Out of all the hundreds and hundreds of dog breeds on the planet, which is the largest and which is the smallest? Here’s my response.
Q: What are the largest and smallest dog breeds?
A: While humans measure height to the top of our heads, a dog’s height is measured at the highest point of the shoulder, called the withers. Most recently, the tallest dog was Freddy, a Great Dane, who stood 40.75 inches on all fours. Freddy (who also held the title of oldest Great Dane when he was 8 years old) died in January when he was 8.5, and no other dog holds the tallest-dog title yet. Great Danes aside, Irish wolfhounds are generally considered to be the tallest dog breed.
The most recent holder of the Guinness World Record for smallest dog was Milly, a Chihuahua, who died last year when she was 9 years old. She was only 3.8 inches tall.
What about weight? Guinness no longer awards titles for heaviest dog, since putting on the pounds can be detrimental to their health, but generally the heaviest breed of dog is the mastiff. Zorba, a male mastiff born in 1981, reached an astounding 343 pounds. He also held the title of world’s longest dog, at 8 feet, 3 inches. Zorba died in 1989.
Freddy, Milly and Zorba’s ages at death bring up an important point. Dogs who are extreme in any way, such as height or weight, or the flat faces of brachycephalic breeds such as bulldogs, don’t tend to live long lives. Dogs of more moderate size and conformation typically live anywhere from 10 to 20 years.
It doesn’t seem fair that dogs of unusual size or shape should live shorter lives because they’ve been either super-sized or downsized. Nature seems to have limits on how far we can push the design of dogs, and we go beyond those lines at peril to our pets.
There’s more – including expert tips on preventing separation anxiety – in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.