Great Dane

Table of Contents

great dane portrait
Welcome to the world of Great Danes, a breed that stands tall not just in stature, but in spirit too! These gentle giants are a delightful paradox - their size may be intimidating, but they're actually one of the most loving, friendly breeds you'll ever meet.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

Step right up if you’re after a dog breed that’s as endearing as it is large! The Great Dane, with its friendly nature and protective instincts, is perfect for families seeking a loyal companion. With their heart-melting eyes and boundless love, they’ll turn your home into a haven of happiness.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEGreat Dane
OTHER NAMESGerman Mastiff, German Boarhound, Deutsche Dogge, Grand Danois
ORIGINGermany
BREED GROUPWorking Group
BREED SIZEGiant
HEIGHT28-32 inches
WEIGHT110-175 lbs
LIFESPAN7-10 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSLow
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYHigh
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK19th
great dane standing by the sea
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Appearance

Great Danes are truly impressive with their towering height and sturdy build. A male can stand as tall as 32 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 175 pounds, while females typically range from 28 to 30 inches and weigh slightly less. Despite their size, they carry themselves with grace and agility that’s a sight to behold.

One of the most striking features of a Great Dane is their muscular body. It’s well-formed and smoothly muscled, showcasing the breed’s power and athleticism. The front legs are straight, strong, and perfectly poised to spring into action or enjoy a leisurely stroll.

The tail of a Great Dane adds to their dignified appearance. It’s thick at the base, tapering towards the end, and carried high when the dog is excited. When relaxed, the tail hangs down naturally, reaching the hock.

Their heads are a study in balance and proportion – large but not overwhelming, long but not too narrow. Their eyes, medium-sized and deep-set, sparkle with intelligence and kindness, adding to their regal appearance. And, of course, there’s that unforgettable Great Dane expression – a look of friendly attentiveness that seems to say, “I’m here for you.”

And let’s not forget the ears! They’re medium-sized, set high on the head, and when left natural, they fold forward close to the cheek. Some owners still choose to crop the ears, giving the Great Dane a more alert, expressive look.

Great Danes have a short, sleek coat that’s as easy to care for as it is beautiful. It comes in several colors, including black, fawn (a golden brown), brindle (subtle tiger stripes), blue, black and white, and harlequin (white with black patches).

great dane standing near a cliff
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Temperament

Feast your eyes on the Great Dane, a dog that’s as friendly and affectionate as it is impressive in size. Their personality is a delightful blend of warmth, kindness, and a dash of playful spirit that will melt your heart.

One of the most endearing traits of the Great Dane is their affectionate nature. These dogs are known for their love for their families. They are the kind of dogs who will lean against you, sit on your foot, or maybe even try to climb into your lap. Yes, you read that right! Despite their towering size, they often think they’re lap dogs and love nothing more than cuddling up with their favorite humans.

Great Danes are also famously good with children. Their patient and gentle demeanor makes them excellent playmates and protectors for kids. They have a knack for understanding that little ones need to be treated with care. However, due to their size, supervision during playtime is always a good idea to prevent accidental knocks or tumbles.

When it comes to strangers, Great Danes can be reserved, but not unfriendly. They tend to watch newcomers with a careful eye before deciding whether to approach for a pat or a sniff. But once they’ve made a friend, they’re friends for life, happily wagging their tail and offering a friendly nuzzle at every meeting.

Despite their imposing size, Great Danes are not known to be aggressive. Instead, they are generally calm and laid-back, preferring to spend their days lounging around, enjoying the company of their family, and engaging in moderate play. They’re not overly excitable dogs, which adds to their charm and makes them a joy to live with.

Another charming aspect of the Great Dane personality is their desire to be near their people as much as possible. This breed thrives on companionship and doesn’t do well if left alone for extended periods. They want to be part of whatever’s going on, whether that’s a family movie night, a backyard barbecue, or just an ordinary day at home.

While they may be big, Great Danes are definitely not brutes. They’re sensitive souls who respond best to positive reinforcement and gentle handling. Harsh words can hurt their feelings, so it’s essential to treat them with kindness and respect.

great dane's face up close
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Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

Great Danes may be big, but they’re far from being outdoor-only dogs. In fact, they thrive in an environment where they can be part of the family action. Given their affectionate nature, these gentle giants prefer to live indoors, sharing the same space as their human companions. They love curling up on a comfortable bed (or couch, if you let them!) and being involved in all your daily activities.

Despite their size, Great Danes don’t need a mansion to be comfortable. However, they do need enough space to move around comfortably. A house with a reasonably sized yard is great, but they can also adapt to apartment living, provided they get their daily walks.

Climate Adaptability

When it comes to weather adaptability, Great Danes are somewhat sensitive. They don’t fare well in extreme temperatures. Their short coats offer little protection against the cold, so during winter months, ensure they have a warm, cozy place to sleep, and consider a doggy sweater for those chilly walks.

On the other hand, their large size makes them prone to overheating in hot climates. During summer, make sure they have access to shade and plenty of fresh water, and try to avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts of the day.

Ideal Owner

As for their human companions, Great Danes are best suited to pet parents who understand the breed’s need for companionship. They don’t do well when left alone for long periods and can become anxious or depressed. They need people who can provide them with plenty of interaction and affection.

An ideal environment for a Great Dane also includes mental stimulation. These are intelligent dogs who enjoy puzzles, interactive toys, and learning new commands or tricks. Keeping their minds active will help keep them happy and well-adjusted.

Other Pets

Being social creatures, Great Danes do well in families with other pets. They usually get along well with other dogs and can even coexist peacefully with cats, given proper introductions and socialization. However, due to their size, supervision is recommended when they’re interacting with smaller pets.

two great danes sniffing each other
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Grooming

A Great Dane may seem like a lot of dog to groom, but don’t let their size intimidate you! These gentle giants are actually quite low maintenance when it comes to their grooming needs. They have a short, clean coat that makes their care relatively straightforward.

Coat Care

First up, let’s talk about their coat. The Great Dane has a smooth, short coat that doesn’t require much in the way of grooming. A good brushing once a week with a sturdy bristle brush or a grooming mitt should suffice to keep their coat healthy and shiny. This not only helps to remove any loose hair but also distributes the natural oils in their skin, which helps to keep their coat looking its best.

Although Great Danes aren’t heavy shedders, they do have a shedding season. During this time, usually once or twice a year, they will shed more than usual. You might want to increase the frequency of brushing during these periods to help manage the extra hair.

Bathing your Great Dane doesn’t need to be a frequent affair. Generally, a bath every two to three months is enough, unless they get particularly dirty or smelly. Make sure to use a dog-specific shampoo to maintain the pH balance of their skin and coat.

Dental Care

Now, let’s talk teeth. Dental care is crucial for any breed, and Great Danes are no exception. Regular brushing of their teeth can prevent tartar build-up and bad breath. Aim to brush their teeth at least two or three times a week. Dog-friendly toothpaste and toothbrushes are readily available and make this task easier.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is another important aspect of grooming for Great Danes. These dogs have strong, fast-growing nails that need regular trimming. If left too long, they can cause discomfort or even affect the dog’s gait. Ideally, their nails should be trimmed every couple of weeks. If you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, a professional groomer or vet can take care of it for you.

Ear Care

Checking and cleaning your Great Dane’s ears is also a must. Their ears should be checked weekly for any signs of infection, such as redness, bad odor, or unusual discharge. Use a vet-recommended cleaner and gently wipe out the inside of their ears with a cotton ball.

two great danes playing on the beach
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Exercise

When it comes to exercise, Great Danes are a bit of an enigma. Despite their impressive size and seemingly boundless energy, they’re actually not as high-energy as you might think. So, if you’re imagining hours of intense daily workouts, you can breathe a sigh of relief!

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, a healthy adult Great Dane requires about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day. This could be a brisk walk around the neighborhood, a romp in the yard, or a fun game of fetch. These gentle giants are also known for their love of playtime, so interactive games and toys can be a great way to keep them active and entertained.

In addition to physical exercise, Great Danes also benefit from mental stimulation. Training sessions, puzzle toys, and interactive games can all help keep their minds sharp. Despite their size, these dogs are quite intelligent and eager to please, making them generally easy to train.

Dog Sports

If you’re interested in dog competitions, Great Danes can certainly hold their own. They excel in various dog sports, including obedience, tracking, and even agility. Their combination of strength, speed, and grace makes them a sight to behold in the show ring.

Exercise Precautions

It’s important to note that Great Dane puppies and young dogs have different exercise needs. They require shorter, more frequent bouts of exercise to avoid overexerting their still-developing bones and joints. For puppies, aim for about five minutes of exercise per month of age, up to twice a day.

Another word of caution: due to their risk of developing bloat, it’s recommended to avoid vigorous exercise immediately before or after meals. Allow your Great Dane some downtime after eating before engaging in any strenuous activity.

two great danes running in the field
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Training

Training a Great Dane can be an incredibly rewarding experience. These gentle giants are intelligent, eager to please, and generally quick to learn. However, due to their size, it’s important that training starts early, while they’re still small enough to manage.

House Training

One of the first things you’ll want to focus on is house training. Like all puppies, Great Danes need consistent, patient guidance to learn where and when to do their business. Regularly scheduled potty breaks, positive reinforcement, and plenty of patience will help them get the hang of it.

Socialization

Socialization is another key aspect of training for Great Danes. Exposing them to a variety of people, places, and experiences from a young age will help them grow up to be confident, well-adjusted dogs. Regular walks, trips to the park, or visits to pet-friendly stores can provide excellent socialization opportunities.

Basic Obedience

Basic obedience training is a must for any dog, but it’s especially important for a breed as large as the Great Dane. Commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it” are essential for their safety and well-being. Remember, these dogs are eager to please, so positive reinforcement methods, like treats and praise, usually work best.

Positive Reinforcement

Despite their size, Great Danes can be quite sensitive, so it’s important to keep training sessions positive and fun. Harsh corrections or heavy-handed methods can scare them or damage their trust in you. Instead, aim for short, engaging training sessions that end on a high note.

Advanced Training

Great Danes may also enjoy more advanced training or dog sports. They can excel in activities like obedience trials, tracking events, and even agility (though their size can make some agility equipment challenging).

great dane standing in a kennel
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Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding a Great Dane might seem like a daunting task given their size, but it’s not as complex as you might think. With a bit of knowledge and guidance, you can ensure your gentle giant is getting the right nutrition to thrive.

What to Feed & How Much

First things first, Great Danes require high-quality dog food that is appropriate for their life stage (puppy, adult, senior) and follows the AAFCO guidelines. You can choose from dry food, wet food, or a raw diet – the best choice will depend on your dog’s individual needs and your own lifestyle.

The amount of food your Great Dane needs will depend on their age, size, and activity level. As a general rule, adult Great Danes eat between 6 to 8 cups of food per day, split into two meals. Puppies have smaller stomachs and higher energy needs, so they usually require three to four smaller meals per day. Always consult with your vet to determine the correct portion sizes for your dog.

Treats

Treats can be a great tool for training, but remember to give them sparingly. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake to prevent weight gain. There are plenty of healthy dog treats available, or you could use small pieces of fruits and vegetables, such as apples or carrots.

Water

Finally, don’t forget about water! Great Danes should always have access to fresh, clean water, especially after exercise or in hot weather. This is essential for their overall health and digestion.

great dane sitting in a lavender field
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Health

Great Danes, with their regal stature and warm hearts, are a joy to have around. However, like every breed, they have certain health considerations that prospective owners should be aware of.

Great Danes typically live between 7 to 10 years. While they’re generally healthy dogs, there are a few conditions they’re more prone to:

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV or Bloat): This is a serious condition that can occur in deep-chested breeds like the Great Dane. It involves the stomach twisting and filling with gas, which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately.

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit together properly, leading to arthritis and lameness. Regular vet checks can help catch this early.

Cardiomyopathy: This heart condition is common in large breeds. It leads to an enlarged heart that doesn’t function as well as it should.

Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to issues like obesity, hair loss, and lethargy.

Cancer: Great Danes have a higher risk of certain types of cancer, including bone cancer.

To keep your Great Dane as healthy as possible, regular veterinary check-ups are crucial. These allow for early detection and treatment of any potential issues. Keeping up with their vaccinations is also important to protect them from various diseases.

A balanced diet plays a key role in your Great Dane’s health. Feed them high-quality dog food that meets their nutritional needs, and avoid overfeeding to prevent obesity, which can put extra strain on their joints and heart.

Exercise is another important aspect of a Great Dane’s health. Regular, moderate exercise will help keep them fit and prevent obesity.

great dane standing on green grass
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History

The Great Dane, often referred to as the “Apollo of Dogs” due to its impressive size and majestic appearance, has a history that’s as grand as its stature. Despite the breed’s name, the Great Dane is not from Denmark. Instead, its origins can be traced back to Germany, where it was bred over 400 years ago to hunt wild boar.

The breed’s ancestors were a mix of English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds, resulting in a large, powerful dog with speed, strength, and endurance. These dogs were called Boar Hounds for their hunting skills, but over time, they gradually evolved from ferocious hunters to companion animals.

In the 16th century, these dogs began appearing in noble households across Europe, where they were appreciated for their regal appearance and gentle disposition. It’s believed that it was the French who started calling them “Grand Danois” or “Great Dane,” although the reason behind this name remains a mystery.

The breed was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1887, and since then, it has steadily gained popularity. Today, the Great Dane ranks among the top 20 most popular breeds in the United States.

In popular culture, Great Danes have had quite an impact. Perhaps the most famous Great Dane is Scooby-Doo, the lovable canine detective from the popular animated TV series. Scooby-Doo’s character showcases some typical Great Dane traits, such as his large size, his gentle nature, and his deep bond with his human companions.

Another notable Great Dane in popular culture is Marmaduke, the mischievous star of a long-running comic strip. Marmaduke’s antics highlight the breed’s playful and sometimes goofy personality.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Great Dane breed in the United States is the Great Dane Club of America (GDCA). Established in 1889, the GDCA has been a dedicated advocate for the breed, providing resources and guidance on best breeding practices, health, and training. The club’s website offers a wealth of information for both current and prospective Great Dane owners.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Great Dane’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

great dane in a park
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Acquiring

If you’re considering bringing a Great Dane into your life, there are a few things to prepare. First, ensure you have enough space for these gentle giants to move around comfortably. Also, be ready for the costs of feeding and caring for a large breed.

If you decide to buy a Great Dane, choose a reputable breeder. They should provide health clearances and be open about the puppy’s parents and living conditions. However, consider rescuing instead. There are many wonderful Great Danes waiting in shelters for their forever home.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Great Dane Club of America (GDCA) can assist with rescuing. They provide resources and connections to help you find a rescue Great Dane in need of love and care. Remember, every dog deserves a second chance at a happy life!

FAQs

Are Great Danes friendly dogs?

Absolutely! Great Danes are known for their affectionate and gentle nature, often referred to as “gentle giants”. They are great with families, get along well with other pets, and are generally friendly towards strangers.

Are Great Danes expensive to keep?

Yes, owning a Great Dane can be quite expensive. The initial cost of purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder is just the beginning. Their large size means they eat more food, require larger equipment (like beds and crates), and healthcare costs can be higher than for smaller breeds.

What two breeds make a Great Dane?

The Great Dane is believed to have been bred from a mix of English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. This combination resulted in a large, powerful breed with speed, strength, and endurance.

Why are Great Danes so big?

Great Danes were originally bred to hunt wild boar, a task that required strength and size. Over time, selective breeding for these traits resulted in the large size we see today.

How long do Great Danes usually live?

The average lifespan of a Great Dane is between 7 to 10 years. Like many larger breeds, their lifespan tends to be shorter than that of smaller dogs.

Do Great Danes need a lot of exercise?

Despite their size, Great Danes are not overly energetic dogs. They do need regular exercise to maintain their well-being. On average, a healthy adult Great Dane requires about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day.

Are Great Danes easy to train?

Great Danes are intelligent and eager to please, which can make training relatively easy. However, their size means it’s important to start training early, while they’re still manageable. Positive reinforcement methods work best with this sensitive breed.

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