Karen B. London
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Dogs Vary in Size Within Breeds
How big is the range?
Same breed, different sizes.

Last weekend, there was a chocolate Lab at the athletic fields where my husband and I were playing flag football with some other people, including his guardian. Both my children had a ball running around with Porter on the sidelines. He was very sweet and well trained. He played Frisbee, chased some of the adults around if they enticed him to do so, and got off the field and sat when asked to do so. He was energetic, but not overly aroused, let everybody pet him, and was generally a credit to his breed.

He was also enormous. He weighs 105 pounds, and while nobody would describe him as svelte, he wasn’t overly fat as we regrettably know so many dogs in this country are. It’s hard to say, but I would guess that his perfect weight would be somewhere in the low 90s, which is still a large Lab. He was broadly built and unusually tall for his breed. His loping style of running made me wonder whether he had any Great Dane in him, but I was told he’s all Lab.
Lately, I have seen quite a few Labs who are pretty large, and yet I’ve also seen ones who are so small I suspect people often think they are adolescents who are yet to reach full height, event though they are 3-years-old, 5-years-old, or more—certainly full grown. I’ve seen dogs of other breeds who seem far from typical in size, including a Brittany who is 5 inches taller than all his littermates and an Airedale Terrier who was much closer in size to an average Irish Terrier.
I know that despite breed standards, what’s popular in terms of size varies over time. And sometimes, for whatever reason, dogs are born who don’t match the size typical in their lines. Coming from a family with women who range in height from 4’9” to 5’11”, I am very interested in diversity in size among relations.
Do you have a dog who is either unusually large or unusually small for the breed?



Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Anonymous | March 10 2011 |

I have a 17 1/2" beagle

Submitted by LD | March 10 2011 |

I have a 48-pound Boxer. Everyone always asks if he's a puppy (and that Boxer high energy probably contributes to that misperception), but he's by no means the smallest adult Boxer I've encountered. I've seen Boxers larger than 80 pounds and as small as 35.

Submitted by hornblower | March 10 2011 |

If you look at the labs produced by one gundog breeder, Robert Milner, you'll see a wide range, including what are called Canoe Labs - small enough to hunt from a canoe. (I guess manly hunters didn't like them being called teacup labs LOL)

Canoe Labs:

& the more traditionally sized British labs:

Within gundogs as a whole, there are many breeds where there is a signficant size diff between show & field varieties.

regards ~
hornblower, owner of a smallish field English Setter :-)

Submitted by Anonymous | March 15 2011 |

We have a 3 montha old Greek hare hound, which is smaller than his litter mates.(There were 9) I often hear comments, that we don't feed him enough. But he has a healthy appetitie and is very alert and full of energy.

Submitted by JoAnna | March 11 2011 |

I have one 19.5" Sheltie and one 13" Sheltie! Nemo is 3.5" over the breed standard and Ella is just on the cusp of the lower end. It's very common for Shelties to breed all over the map. For instance, Nemo's parents and his relatives going back many generations were all within the 13-16" standard. Yet in his litter of three, there was Nemo, an "in-sized" Sheltie, and an "under-sized" Sheltie. So despite the best breeding efforts, you never know :)

Submitted by Gregg | March 15 2011 |

There's a Newfoundland at our dog park that is exceptionally large for a Newfie...now that's a big dog! (sorry, don't know his height/weight)

Submitted by Ann W in PA | March 15 2011 |

I have an Australian Cattle Dog who is 23" at the shoulder. He's a red heeler, and it has always seemed to me that the reds are often lanky and tall, more so than the blues (totally anecdotal.) I have always wondered if there could be some genetic link to color and size/structure in ACDs.

Submitted by MaryAnn Hardy | March 27 2011 |

I grew up on a ranch and spent many years later, in the 70's & 80' s living in remote ranching territories. The Heelers were never as short as they are now days, regardless of the color. But that part of the world was at least fifty years in the past as far as culture and traditions went. When I eventually moved from there to a more au courant location in Washington State, I saw Heelers and never recognized them as purebred....because they were smaller, shorter, more compact. And when I was informed that indeed, this was a cherished purebred, I would think to myself, "Runt of the litter, I suppose."

I suspect some of the "size" differences...and COAT differences could be associated with local breeding stock. Nowadays with pups flying all over the country to new owners, the gene pool will be more diverse. Tall of short, Heelers are tough little dogs and your best buddy in cattle country.

Submitted by Hilary | March 15 2011 |

My Airedale Terrier (Grizzly) is about 27 inches tall and weighs 85 lbs. The breed standard is about 23 inches tall, and probably more like 60 lbs (what Griz looked like at 6 months!) When we watch dog shows, we think those Airedales look like miniatures! Griz is the tallest I've seen, although not the heaviest :)

Here's a photo of us:

Submitted by Cecil V | April 2 2011 |

I once had a German Sheperd that weighed 112 pounds. He continued growing until he was 4 years old. My current pal is an 80 pound boxer who loves wearing clothes for large dogs. Check her out at CVDB's large dog clothes.

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