The Great Dane is a friendly giant, imposing yet elegant and sure to turn heads. The breed originated in Germany, and it is unknown why they are associated with Denmark. Historically, Great Danes hunted wild boar and other large game alongside German noblemen. Today, they are large and affectionate family dogs and protectors of their families. The Great Dane ranks number 16 out of 193 in the AKC most popular breeds. They are nicknamed the Apollo of Dogs.
Characteristics of the Great Dane
Here we will go into more detail about the appearance and temperament of the Great Dane.
Great Danes tower over most other dogs (and many humans). They are an AKC certified large dog breed. Females are 28-30 inches in height and weigh 110-140 pounds. Males are 30-32 inches in height and weigh 140-175 pounds.
Their short coat can be a variety of colors and patterns, including black, brown, and harlequin. They shed infrequently, concentrated in one or two shedding seasons throughout the year. Weekly brushing with a dog brush will help minimize shedding and keep their coat looking its best.
Great Danes are a sweet and easygoing breed. Most Great Danes are protective of their homes but not aggressive. Their imposing stature is likely to scare away any intruder, even if their guarding instincts are lacking. Great Danes are usually patient around children, though can be dominant and aggressive towards other animals including other dogs and cats. Socialization from a young age can minimize the risk of this type of behavior.
Great Danes are lumbering and slobbery, and sure to leave messes in their wake regardless of training. However, their humor and loving temperament are sure to make up for it. Traveling with Great Danes can be difficult due to their size and will likely be limited to short drives to the vet and other essential trips. The Great Dane is relatively short-lived, with a life span from 7-10 years.
While generally spirited, Great Danes are prone to separation anxiety and destructive behaviors and prefer to be around their humans. If left alone for more than a couple of hours, they can cause significant damage to furniture and exhibit other undesirable behaviors.
Caring for a Great Dane
To ensure you are providing your Great Dane with everything it needs to live a long and happy life, it is essential to understand the quirks of the breed and what works best for them. Following are preliminary tips on health and training your Great Dane so you know what to expect. However, remember that each dog is unique, even within a specific breed.
Great Danes should be fed a diet of high-quality dog food. Be sure to purchase a dog food that is meant each dog’s age and activity level to fulfil all their nutritional needs. Avoid feeding Great Danes table scraps or excessive treats, especially if they have a high fat content. Even small increases in caloric intake can lead to weight gain and related health problems over time, so consistency is key.
It is important that Great Danes consume multiple small meals per day and avoid vigorous exercise around mealtimes. This will minimize the risk of developing bloat, which can be life-threatening.
Great Danes have moderate-to-high exercise requirements depending on their age. Adult Great Danes should be taken on brisk walks or jogs a few times per day at minimum. Great Danes should always be kept on a leash in unsecured areas to avoid wandering after interesting scents, and tall fences are required to keep them contained. Investing in a high-quality leash and harness to minimize strain on both dog and human is recommended.
Rigorous exercise should be avoided around mealtimes to minimize the risk of bloat. Before the age of two, Great Danes should avoid activities that could strain their still-developing joints, which includes jumping and climbing stairs. It can be challenging to find a balance between providing Great Danes with enough exercise to stay healthy while not stressing and damaging their bones and joints.
Because of their size and athleticism, Great Danes are a popular breed for participation in dog competitions in agility, tracking and weights, among other events.
Great Danes are moderately easy to train and will benefit from a consistent and dominant owner. Socialization and obedience are especially important for Great Danes to ensure they will develop into a well-adjusted adult dog that will not be a risk to those around it. It is recommended that Great Danes begin training as a puppy to solidify good behavior. Negative-reinforcement training is best avoided, as harshness can make Danes timid and distrustful.
Great Danes have a short life span and relatively high risk of serious health problems. The most significant health risk of Great Danes is bloat, or gastric dialation-volvulus (GDV). This digestive condition, which is defined by a swelling and twisting of the stomach, is not well understood. A prophylactic gastropexy or “preventative tack” is a surgery that can minimize the risk of bloat. Cardiac disease, hip dysplasia, autoimmune thyroiditis and hyperthyroidism are other common afflictions seen in the breed. The National Breed Club recommends specific tests for the breed, including a hip evaluation, ophthalmologist evaluation, thyroid evaluation and cardiac exam.
The Great Dane’s nails should be clipped monthly if not worn down naturally. Their ears should be checked weekly and any excess dirt or wax should be removed. Teeth should be brushed often with a dog-specific toothpaste.
Be sure to choose a dog from a responsible, certified breeder, preferably one who is a member of the Great Dane Club of America. This club has a detailed code of ethics in breeding and will be able to provide owners with helpful information on heath and care for the breed. Careful selection of a puppy or adult dog will give you the highest chance of having a long-lived and healthy Great Dane.