Are there any large dog breeds that are *not* bred for work?
April 8, 2016 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Are there any large dog breeds that are *not* bred for work?🐶
posted by gregr to Pets & Animals (25 answers total)
Originally bred for work or currently bred for work? Because currently I don't think anyone is working their Great Danes ;)
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:19 AM on April 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Standard Poodle - not sure if that's large enough for you.
posted by jabes at 9:20 AM on April 8, 2016

Poodles are gun dogs btw, absolutely a working group breed. They're water retrievers which is the whole point behind the weird haircut.
posted by shelleycat at 9:22 AM on April 8, 2016 [10 favorites]

The only one I can think of is probable the Xoloitzcuintli, which was originally (probably?) an Aztec spiritual guard dog. They were also eaten. But they weren't used for herding, hunting, or physical guarding, so...

The standard size can get up to about 50 pounds, so it's the smaller end of "large breed".
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:25 AM on April 8, 2016

Is this a trivia question, or a request for breed guidance?
posted by uberchet at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2016

@soren_lorensen Originally bred for work!

@jabes I'm not sure on the size cutoff. I guess it would be hard to call a dog that was greater than 50lbs anything but large?
posted by gregr at 9:33 AM on April 8, 2016

There are few dogs that weren't originally bred to do some job, since it is only quite recently that dogs were kept mainly as companions. In the Olden Days, if a dog did not earn its keep, you wouldn't have it in the first place, since food was too scarce to waste on an animal that didn't do anything. The bigger a dog is, of course, the more it eats, which means it is even more vital that it perform a service. Dogs that were bred for companionship tend to be smaller, so as to be less expensive to keep, and even then were often kept primarily by nobility and royalty as status symbols ("look at me, I can afford to keep a dog that doesn't do anything useful, you peasants").

What are you specifically looking for with this question? A big dog with a gentle temperament, that isn't too demanding of activity, and that won't go crazy if it doesn't always have something to do? If it's something like that, maybe an English Mastiff, Bernese Mountain Dog, or Irish Wolfhound. Many giant breeds were bred to be docile and easy to handle for obvious reasons, though some do still need a lot of exercise or a job to do.
posted by kindall at 9:41 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Greyhounds (and whippets, their smaller cousins) are primarily bred for racing today, which is not exactly "work". However, they were originally bred for hunting deer (greyhounds) and hares (whippets), so that may not count.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:43 AM on April 8, 2016

Does guarding livestock count as work? Not herding, but just hanging out and protecting them from predators? If not, there's a whole list of breeds that were just bred to be big and scary to predators.
posted by primalux at 9:45 AM on April 8, 2016

Chows might qualify. A search says male is 55-71 pounds. All that extra fur and they look pretty big!
posted by ReluctantViking at 9:46 AM on April 8, 2016

Xoloitzcuintlis aren't particularly large, at least the ones I know. I'd put them in the medium dog range.

It looks like one of my favorite big breeds - the leonberger - is a good candidate for your criteria. They can work, and were bred from working dogs, but created mostly for their appearance and to appeal to a fad for big dogs at the time.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:51 AM on April 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Eurasier dog was specifically bred to be a companion, although it was bred from working dogs (the Keeshond, Samoyed, and Chow Chow).
posted by northernish at 9:55 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not looking to get another dog. It just crossed my mind that it would be weird if there were large dog breeds that weren't bred for work.
posted by gregr at 9:57 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Japanese Tosa was developed as a fighting dog, but as I recall, the "fighting" is a very ritualized form where the dogs must be silent and the object is not to injure the other dog but merely to overpower them. Not really a "working" thing, more a sport.
posted by The otter lady at 10:03 AM on April 8, 2016

This is a complicated question, as dog breeds are an artificial construct created by humans, and if you go back far enough, most human created breeds were bred for some concrete task, whether it's protection or hunting or searching or whatever. Domestic dogs as a species evolved in relation to humans, so if you count companionship as work, the entire species is working class.

There is a category called Pariah Dogs, which are defined as breeds of dog that evolved sort of in the periphery of human civilization, so by the strictest definition, those might count.

If recently created breeds count, though, I'd think that most of them would be bred primarily to function as pets. It just depends, though, on whose breed definitions you want to count. AKC and UKC and other kennel groups aren't any sort of definitive source or anything. Anyone can make up a dog breed, and lots of people and organizations do.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:08 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pretty much all the dogs bred now a days, but I suspect you are after the original breed purpose. What should be noted is that most small dogs where also bred with a purpose, even if it was just to act as a portable heat source.

I'd suggest St Bernards as a possible answer, as the traditional claim they were used as rescue dogs has pretty tenuous proof and is based on one dog that did that. They were a sort of general purpose handy to have around a farm dog.
posted by wwax at 10:09 AM on April 8, 2016

Borzoi were bred by the Russian Tsars as hunting dogs (wolfhounds) but are no longer bred for that. Ours works primarily at holding his bed down and jonesing for treats.
posted by leafwoman at 10:28 AM on April 8, 2016

I came in here to name my favorite useless giant dog, the Leonberger! They are supposed to look like (presumably scrawny medieval renderings of) lions. They are very huggable, though they don't necessarily love it. They are roughly the size of a small pony.
posted by maryr at 11:07 AM on April 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

The Dire Wolf Project states:

The Dire Wolf Project was started in 1988 in order to bring back the look of the large prehistoric Dire Wolf in a domesticated dog breed. The National American Alsatian Breeder's Club governs the project and standardizes breeding practices for this unique large companion dog.
posted by ewok_academy at 11:08 AM on April 8, 2016

BTW, they fall just short of 50 lb, but per Wikipedia, it doesn't look like Keeshonds were ever bred for a specific job.
posted by maryr at 11:14 AM on April 8, 2016

The classic rough collie as we all think of it was bred from working dogs to be exceptionally pretty.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:23 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't tell my breeder friend that her Kees were/are never bred for a job. She avows they are the best watchdogs of all time. The UK classes them as a utility breed still. According to dogtime. com, the Keeshond is an old breed bred as a companion and watchdog on the Holland river barges and boats. Personally, I think they are kind of a barky breed, but that's my 2cents.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:46 PM on April 8, 2016

Shiloh Shepherds! They're a fairly new breed, and somewhat rare. They are bred to be low-drive companion animals. A close friend keeps two Shilohs, a brother and sister. The male is ~115 lbs, and his nickname is "Captain Indifferent."

My understanding is that Shilohs were founded by people who were upset by the sloping back line of modern GSDs and the attendant issues with hips and spine. So they bred GSDs with Malamutes and a few other large, sound breeds while selecting for gentle temperament.

Both my mutts (a Border Collie x Something Sneaky and a Found Hound) have substantially higher drives (play, work, food, prey) than any Shiloh I've met yet.

Both Shilohs together
The male on a king-sized bed
The female getting scritches
posted by workerant at 8:20 PM on April 8, 2016

Irish Wolfhounds were nearly extinct and bred back into existence strictly to be companion animals.
posted by chaoticgood at 1:18 PM on April 9, 2016

I think one of the main differences here are that some dogs who were bred to work, work a lot, e.g. border collies & herding dogs. But many large dog breeds were just part-time workers, like Irish wolfhounds (or other hunting dogs) an occasional wolf caught here or there with weeks of laying around and napping in-between. They work, but mostly freelance.
posted by mulcahy at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

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