Great Dane

Though the first thing you may notice about a Great Dane is its size, you will quickly be charmed by their friendly, kind, and affectionate disposition. These dogs have a wealth of positive attributes: they are sweet, easy to train, eager to please their owners, and are simple to housetrain. Because of their affection and general tendency to lean on and even sit on their owners, they have earned the title of "the world's largest lap dog". Though they are easy to train and are pleasant dogs, Great Danes are not great for first-time dog owners, simply because giant breeds have so many special considerations. Everything for a giant dog is going to be larger and more expensive. Their beds, food, vet appointments, medications, and collars are going to cost more. They also require a special feeding routine, that has to be constantly adjusted as they age and grow and have certain exercise requirements. Early and proper training at a young age is extremely important, as you certainly don't want an unruly dog of this size. Great Danes need more space than other dogs, even indoors, just to move around. A Great Dane can easily reach a counter, tabletop, and many surfaces in your house that another dog can't. In short, bringing a giant dog into your home is a "huge" commitment.

Great Dane
Great Dane Original image by user Gmonkey on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
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Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Great Dane breed is also commonly known by the names Dane,Gentle Giant,Deutsche Dogge,German Mastiff.

Popularity: Very popular

Life expectancy: 7 - 9 years

Breed group: Working Dogs (AKC), Working Dogs (KC)

Size: Extra large

Male Female
Height 30 - 32 in 28 - 30 in
Weight 123 - 159 lbs 101 - 134 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Black, Black and Tan, Brown, Blue

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Very heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Minimal

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Definitely

Intelligence / Trainability: Average

Exercise needs: Very high

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: Average

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: No

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: High

Barking: Frequent

General health: Good

Cost to keep: Very high

History

Depictions of large boarhounds that bear resemblance to the Great Dane date back as far as the 14th-13th century B.C. Their image has been discovered in ancient Greek frescoes in Tiryns and similar images of boarhounds continue to appear in later centuries up to the Hellenistic era. In addition, large dogs, perhaps giant dogs, can be seen on runestones in Scandinavia, on coinage in Denmark from the fifth century AD, and in the collection of Old Norse poems, known in English as Poetic Edda. The University of Copenhagen Zoological Museum holds at least seven skeletons of very large hunting dogs, dating from the fifth century BC to 1000 AD.

In the 16th century, European nobility began importing hunting breeds from England that were crossbreeds between English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. These dogs were not considered to be a formal dog breed, bred by the nobility, and were used primarily for hunting bear, boar, and deer.

The name Great Dane arose in the 1700s when a French naturalist traveled to Denmark and saw a version of the Boar Hound who was slimmer and more like a Greyhound in appearance. He called this dog Grand Danois, which eventually became Great Danish Dog, with the more massive examples of the breed called Danish Mastiffs.

German breeders eventually refined the breed into the Great Danes we have today. Special attention was paid to the dog's temperament; the hunting bred dogs were initially quite aggressive, but careful breeding has resulted in the kind, affectionate modern Great Dane.

The Great Dane Club of America was formed in 1889 and Great Danes were the fourth breed to join the American Kennel Club.

Appearance

Great Danes are striking in their appearance with their giant size, and regal, elegant, and dignified countenance.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Long, rectangular, and distinguished head, with a deep muzzle, lively, intelligent expression, and high-set folded ears.

  • Great size and a well-balanced, powerful, muscular body.

  • A high set tail is carried below the line of the body.

  • Smooth, short, thick, glossy, close coat.

  • Colors: brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin, and mantle.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Great Danes are generally smart, kind, affectionate, and gentle dogs who are easy to train. They do not respond well to harsh training methods and do well with positive reinforcement. It is important to remember that Great Danes will grow into giant dogs and boundaries should be set early on to ensure that they don not develop behaviors like jumping up on people that could create major issues as they grow older and larger.

Because of their size and the special requirements of giant breeds, Great Danes are not recommended for novice dog owners.

Early socialization is extremely important for Great Danes. Be sure to expose your puppy to all kinds of sights, sounds, people, and other animals when they are still a manageable size.

As with all intelligent breeds, Great Danes require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with plenty of exercise and a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Though they are calm and gentle dogs, Great Danes are large and will need a fair amount of exercise and activity to remain happy and healthy. They are not sedentary dogs and need a daily walk. However, giant breeds have special exercise considerations and you should be careful not to over-exercise your dog, especially as a puppy.

Great Danes are susceptible to certain bone disorders like hip dysplasia. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old. They should not be allowed to jump or engage in strenuous activities like jogging until they are at least 18 months old.

Independence

Great Danes are wonderful family dogs and need to be around their people as much as possible. They will not appreciate being left alone for long periods of time. Loneliness and lack of attention/exercise may result in undesirable and destructive behaviors.

Protective

Great Danes are generally friendly towards strangers, but can be protective if they feel their family is being threatened. Their sheer size is enough to scare off intruders.

Living Conditions

Because of their large size and need for exercise, Great Danes are not well suited for apartment living. They do best with space to move around. Their size itself is a consideration, as they will need a large space, even indoors, just to move around.

Great Danes have short, smooth coats and do not adapt well to cold weather. They need a warm place inside in the winter and during walks and exercise may need protective outerwear.

Children and Other Pets

Great Danes love children and live happily with kids, especially is they are raised with hims. However, any giant breed can accidently knock over a child. Special consideration should be taken with young children (under the age of 6):


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

While many Great Danes are fine with other pets in the household, some don't tolerate them. As with any dog, early, proper socialization with dogs and other animals is important.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is between 7 - 9 years. Like all breeds, the Great Dane is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Great Dane is prone to these diseases:
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) (hereditary)
  • Heart Disease (hereditary)
  • Bone Cancer (hereditary)
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (hereditary) : Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a very common genetic orthopedic trait, which is affected by environmental and dietary factors. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. More info»

Grooming

A Dane has a short coat, but it does shed quite a bit. Regular brushing, at least once a week, helps to reduce shedding. Though they are fairly clean dogs, your Great Dane will need an occasional bath. It is important that you introduce your Great Dane to bathing early, so that it will be a pleasant experience once they become fully grown. When you bathe them, make sure to use a dog-specific shampoo that maintains the skin's natural PH balance.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs.

Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.

Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.

Feeding

Giant breeds, like Great Danes have very specific feeing requirements. Here is a general guideline based on age and sex of the dog:


  • Three to six months: females, 3 to 6 cups; males, 4 to 8 cups

  • Eight months to one year: females, 5 to 8 cups; males, 6 to 10 cups

  • Adolescents: females, 8 cups; males, 9 to 15 cups

  • Adults: females, 6 to 8 cups; males 8 to 10 cups

Until the age of four to five months, a Great Dane puppy should have three meals per day. After that, give him two meals per day for life. He should never have only one meal per day.

This is a good guideline, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Goldens are prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).