What Is the Difference between Medium and Large Breed Dogs?

It's easy to look at a Great Dane and know he's a large dog and to see a Yorkshire terrier and know she's a small dog. But when dogs can weigh as little as 4 pounds or over 100 pounds depending on the breed, it's not easy to define what makes a dog a medium-size breed. While there are some vague definitions of what makes a dog medium or large based solely on his weight, the distinction mostly comes down to who you ask.

What Is the Difference between Medium and Large Breed Dogs?
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Medium and large weight distinctions

Different sources offer different definitions of what makes a breed large or medium based on weight. For example, Dog Pwnd defines a medium dog as 24-to-57 pounds and a large dog as 59-to-98 pounds. Royal Canine defines a medium dog as 24-to-55 pounds and a large dog to be over 55 pounds. According to Pet Place, medium-size breeds weigh from 35-to-65 pounds and large breeds as those over 55 pounds. On the heavy end, PetWave defines medium breeds as those weighing 40-to-60 pounds and large breeds as those over 60.

Ask individual dog owners and their definitions will probably vary just as much as the experts, but generally speaking, dogs who weigh 35-to-55 pounds are considered medium-size, and dogs over 60 pounds are considered large by most people. Dogs who weigh 25-to-35 pounds may be called small or medium, and dogs from 55-to-60 pounds are considered medium or large depending on who you ask.

Medium and large height distinctions

Just like weight definitions, the height distinction between a medium and large breed dog will vary based on who you ask. Your Purebred Puppy describes medium breeds as those 18-to-22-inches tall and large breeds as those over 22-inches tall at the shoulders.

While the average person may take height into account when defining a large-or-medium-sized dog, experts are less likely to do so as dogs can be tall and thin or short and stocky. After all, bulldogs, considered to be a medium breed by most people since they weigh 40-to-50 pounds, are only 14-to-15-inches tall according to AKC breed standards. On the other hand, the AKC standards for salukis say they should weigh 40-to-65 pounds, but the males stand 23-to-28 inches tall. Both bulldogs and salukis would be considered medium dogs by most people but based solely on their height; these two breeds would be considered small and large, respectively.

Medium dog characteristics

Medium dogs are the most popular breeds in America due both to the sheer number of breeds that fall into this weight range and due to the benefits associated with their breed size. While small breeds are often considered fearful and large breeds are prone to many health problems; medium breeds tend to be more physically and mentally healthy. A large number of medium dogs were bred to be herders or hunters, which means that while they may need less space to live based on their size, they still can be high energy and may need lots of walks.

Examples of medium dog breeds can include the American Staffordshire terrier, the Australian shepherd, the basset hound, the beagle, the boxer, and the whippet.

Large dog characteristics

By their nature, large dogs need more space to walk and run. Although they need to be walked regularly to burn off energy, a downside of large dogs is that some people are simply not strong enough to hold back a dog that can weigh over 55 pounds. As a result, large dogs should receive a lot of obedience training while they are puppies, so they learn not to pull when they reach their full size. While many of these dogs look imposing, they are often gentle giants and lovable family pets.

PetWave points outs that a big problem with large dogs is that they have many health problems, often relating to their joints, including arthritis and hip or elbow dysplasia, and digestive tract disorders such as gastric dilatation and volvulus. As a result, owners should be prepared for spending a large amount of money on vet bills and the emotional impact of these health issues. Many large-breed dogs also die younger than medium-or-small-sized breeds. Live Science reports that an increase in 4.4 pounds can result in a loss of around one month in life expectancy.

Examples of large-breed dogs include the Akita, Bernese mountain dog, bloodhound, Doberman pinscher, the golden retriever, and Rottweiler.