The Great Dane [A Complete Guide To This Epic Dog Breed]

Not every dog is born great. They have to earn it. Well, the Great Dane is a bit different. This breed has the word “great” in its name. The instantly recognizable Great Dane breed is known for its outstanding stature, elegant looks, and charming personality.

The Great Dane gets called the “Apollo of dogs” after the Greek god of the sun. Great Danes are a magnificent breed that measures up like no other. Although this breed is one of the largest around physically, they are so popular for their sweet and patient temper.

Let’s dive further into some of the Great Dane’s characteristics, personality, training, breed history, nutrition, and much more.

Great Dane Characteristics (Physical)

Great Danes are truly an elegant breed from their towering height and immaculate features. In addition, the Great Dane has a regal and muscular build that is well-balanced with a long and graceful stride.

Despite being ranked the largest breed according to the American Kennel Club, the Great Dane is gentle and has a calm temper. This makes Danes an excellent family pet who enjoys spending time outdoors or even cuddled up on the couch.

Some of the most prominent features of the Dane are the head, its long and chiseled face, a square jaw with a deep muzzle, high set ears, and medium, dark set eyes.

Apart from the working group breed of dogs, Great Danes are innately intelligent, alert, and patient. More so, the average life span for a Great Dane is between 7-10 years.

great dane in a field of flowers

Great Dane Dog Breed Size

Just as the name says, Great Danes are rather great in size. Male Danes can range between 30 to 34 inches tall from the shoulder. In contrast, female Danes can stand between 28 and 32 inches tall. The average weight for a male Great Dane is 120 to 200 pounds, and female Danes can weigh somewhere between 100 and 130 pounds.

Great Dane Personality



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In contrast with their intimidating appearance, Great Danes are extremely sweet, affectionate, and friendly dogs who enjoy being around family and children. Danes are people-pleasers which makes them easy to train.

As with any dog, it is best to begin training them while they are still young to avoid any bad habits that they may develop. Having Great Danes socialize with other pets and people at a young age is also important to shape their comfort level with strangers. A Great Dane is usually very inviting and does not mind new visitors, but Danes can be fiercely protective when they need to be.

As much as Great Danes enjoy playing outside and being physically active, they also love to show their affectionate side and pretend that they can be lapdogs. So, as long as you don’t mind cuddling up next to a 100-pound canine, then a Great Dane is perfect for you.

Great Dane Dog Breed Exercise

Because of their large size, Great Danes need a fair amount of exercise for a happy and healthy life. Of course, maintaining the proper amount of exercise in correlation to their age is important, but a brisk daily walk is good enough.

With their long stride and muscular build, Great Danes can handle any terrain. They make for wonderful jogging or hiking partners. Danes are also fantastic at dog sports, such as tracking events and weight pulling.

In general, larger dog breeds are prone to health issues like bloating and obesity, so they must have a healthy amount of exercise. Having access to a large yard and scheduled time for play or exercise will keep these issues under control.

Training a Great Dane

Great Danes are an extremely intelligent and obedient breed which makes training them an easy task. Danes work well with their owners and are fairly responsive, but early training and puppy socialization are always recommended.

Especially for a large breed such as a Great Dane, they must be well-behaved when interacting with other dogs and small children. Danes can easily tower over smaller dog breeds and kids, so making sure they develop a sense of composure is a must.

Great Danes may forget about how large of a dog they are, so you may find them trying to snuggle up next to you on the couch or bed, pretending they are the same size as a chihuahua. So you will have to train them not to jump up on furniture.

Great Dane Dog Breed History

Great Danes have an extensive history, with ancient artifacts found in Egypt dating back to around 3000 B.C. Drawings and paintings similar to the Dane pop up in other areas worldwide, such as the Babylonian temples in 2000 B.C. and Chinese literature around 1100 B.C.

The Dane is said to have made its way around the world thanks to the Assyrians, who traded their canines with the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks and Romans would breed these dogs with others, such as the Irish Wolfhound and Irish Greyhound. This breeding eventually led to the development of the Great Dane we are familiar with today.

The Great Dane hasn’t always been known as “great.” Before being named Great Dane, they were once known as Boar Hounds because they were bred to hunt. This eventually led to the name change, “English Dogges” around the 16th century. In the 1700s, a French naturalist who traveled to Denmark encountered one of these “Dogges” and called it “Grand Danois.” This name eventually became the Great Danish Dog, despite Denmark not developing the breed.

The refined and prestigious Dane we know today came from Germany in the 1880s. Breeders in Berlin determined that the breed was entirely different from the English Mastiff and should be named. They decided on “Deutsche Dogge” or “German Dog.” Today people refer to this breed as a german mastiff, depending on who you ask.

From here came the founding of the Deutscher Doggen-Klub of Germany. Although many European countries did not mind the name, some English and Italian-speaking countries had an issue. This is how the shorter, more pronounced “Great Dane” name came to be.

Great Dane Dog Breed History Continued 

Germans continued to refine the Dane breed throughout the 1800s, focusing their attention on the dog’s temperament. The Great Dane was once a very aggressive and ferocious hunter. So their mission was to breed a calmer and more tame version of the Dane, similar to the one we know today.

The same year the Great Danes arrived in the United States is still unknown, but as of 1889, the Great Dane Club of America formed and became the fourth club allowed to join the American Kennel Club.

The more refined and prestigious version of the Dane that we know today was bred in Germany. In 1880, breeders in Berlin determined that the breed was entirely different from the English Mastiff and should be named. They decided on “Deutsche Dogge” or “German Dog.” Today people refer to this breed might be known as a german mastiff, depending on who you ask.

From here came the founding of the Deutscher Doggen-Klub of Germany. Although many European countries did not mind the name, some English and Italian-speaking countries had an issue. This is how the shorter, more pronounced “Great Dane” name came to be.

Germans continued to refine the Dane breed throughout the 1800s, focusing their attention on the dog’s temperament. This dog was once a very aggressive and ferocious hunter. So their mission was to breed a calmer and more tame version of the Dane, similar to the one we know today.

The exact year the Great Danes arrived in the United States is still unknown, but as of 1889, the Great Dane Club of America formed and became the fourth club allowed to join the American Kennel Club.

great dane in grass

Common Health Problems Found in Great Dane’s

Great Danes are generally a healthy breed despite their short life span. But as with any dog, some health problems may arise with age or other conditions. Here are some of the main health problems that a dog of this breed could face.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, also known as bloat, is the number one life-threatening condition for Great Danes and other large dog breeds. This condition is common in dogs that are rapid eaters, older Danes, and dogs with a history of bloat.

Gastric Dilation-Volvulus or GDV occurs when the stomach fills with gas, in turn causing a “bloat” to form. This bloat can be a serious issue because the dog cannot get rid of the excess gas by vomiting or belching, making it difficult for normal blood flow to the heart.

To reduce the chance of your dog experiencing bloat, separate your Dane’s meals into multiple feedings. This will ensure that your dog doesn’t over-eat and does not eat too fast. 

A few signs to look for if your Great Dane is experiencing GDV as a distended abdomen, excessive drooling, inability to vomit, and a rapid heart rate. If you notice any of these signs, you should get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a heart condition in which the muscle becomes very thin and weak, making it difficult to pump blood throughout the body. Specifically, the muscle wall of the left ventricle becomes thinner, allowing an unnecessary amount of blood pressure to increase inside the heart. From here, the thin walls of the heart expand, leaving an enlarged heart that can lead to an irregular heart rhythm and heart failure.

A few key signs to notice if your dog is experiencing issues with dilated cardiopathy are:

 

  • Rapid breathing while resting
  • Coughing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness

 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for dilated cardiopathy. However, maintaining a healthy diet, exercise routine, and medication can help reduce your pup’s chances of facing dilated cardiopathy.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that occurs when the thighbone doesn’t fit properly in the hip socket resulting in bone damage, significant pain, and can lead to lameness in your pup’s hind legs. This condition can be a result of inherited genes or a result from injury, or obesity.

As your Dane ages, it is recommended to take your dog to the vet for regular checkups if you begin to notice any signs of stiffness or hesitation when they walk. Your vet can take X-rays to assess the issue and determine if surgery is necessary. 

Bone Cancer

Also known as osteosarcoma, it is a malignant tumor of the bone. This bone cancer is most common in larger breeds such as the Great Dane and can begin developing at a young age. Osteosarcomas occur due to the abnormal production of cells that create and break down the bone. The bones that are most affected are the long bones found in the arms and legs, but some tissues such as the mammary glands, liver, and kidneys may also be affected.

The first sign of osteosarcoma is lameness or swelling of any legs. Other signs may be your Dane’s loss of appetite, lethargy, and reluctance to walk due to pain.

If you begin to notice any signs that can potentially be associated with this bone cancer, it is crucial to bring your Great Dane to the vet as soon as possible for X-rays. Your vet can then determine what kind of treatment your dog will need, whether it be medication, chemotherapy, or surgery.

Thyroid Problems

Great Danes are prone to thyroid problems, specifically a condition known as hypothyroidism. This condition is a thyroid hormone deficiency in which the body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism can lead to dry skin, hair loss, weight gain, behavioral changes, and other issues. The best way to treat a thyroid issue is through medication such as replacement hormones.

How to Care for a Great Dane

These dogs are gentle giants that need a massive amount of care. Danes need access to plenty of space to roam and freely stretch out their long legs, so an apartment might not be the best living situation because they will bump into everything. However, a home with a decent-sized yard or with a nearby park should keep your Great Dane happy and healthy.

Staying active is incredibly important for these dogs. Try taking them on a 30 to 60-minute walk a day. Great Danes also love to play outdoor games such as fetch or tug-of-war. Exercise is important for any dog to maintain your dog’s weight and keep certain health issues at bay.

If you plan on taking your Dane out for a jog or a hike, wait until they are about 18 months. This will ensure that your Dane does not develop early joint issues or bone problems.

Keep in mind that if you plan to keep your Great Dane in the yard, they may try to do some landscaping of their own if you have a garden or some vegetables that you don’t want your dog getting into, build a decent-sized fence that your Great Dane can’t hop over.

When they are not out in the yard destroying your precious garden, Great Danes can be affectionate and loving dogs. They enjoy spending time with humans and pretending they are smaller than they are. So if you don’t mind a little bit of drool and over a hundred pounds sitting across your lap, a Great Dane is perfect for you.

Nutrition and Feeding for a Great Dane

As with any dog, sticking to a consistent and healthy diet is important, especially for a large breed like the Great Dane. Since these dogs are among the largest breeds of dogs, they should only eat dog food tailor-made for their size. Regular puppy food is too rich for a Great Dane, be sure to carefully read the packaging so the puppy food you buy is designed for large breeds.

Of course, as your Great Dane ages, the kind of food and the amount will change to correlate to their size. If you are unsure of the amount of food to feed your dog, consult your vet.

Generally, These dogs are large and need plenty of nutrition. Up until the age of four or five months, this breed puppy should eat three meals per day. And then after that, bring down their servings to two meals per day.

From three to six months, a dog from this breed should be eating 3-8 cups of food, from eight to one year, they should 5-10 cups, in their adolescence, they should eat 9-15 cups, and as an adult, 6-10 cups of food.

Coat Color and Grooming

Great Danes’ coats come in a wide variety of colors. These dogs’ coats may appear as a black mask, a brindle coat in which fawn and black are intermixed; a gray coat, black coat, or a harlequin coat which is white with black patches; and a mantle coat which consists of a black and white mix with a solid black over the body.

The Great Dane has a short, smooth coat that sheds heavily a couple of times a year. And because of its size, the amount of hair that falls from this breed is a lot! For the most part, weekly brushing with a medium bristle brush will help remove any loose hairs. Bath your Great Dane occasionally, unless your dog is a trouble-maker and enjoys getting into a mess.

Along with taking care of their coat, trim this breed’s nails either once or twice a month. When their nails are too long, they may be too loud when walking on certain flooring and lead to ingrown issues.

Brushing your dog’s teeth is another important aspect when it comes to grooming. Brushing at least two or three times a week can help remove tartar buildup and prevent gum disease and bad breath.

Children and Other Pets

Great Danes are gentle giants. They are very friendly, restrained, and playful. Although their energy level isn’t overwhelming, their size can be.

Great Danes are good with children, but they can sometimes forget how powerful they are if they are playing. Oftentimes, a Great Dane can push over a kid if they are roughhousing or running around. So it is best to train your Dane at a young age to not jump on people.

Great Danes carry over their good-natured personality when interacting with other pets. As a result, Danes can live harmoniously with smaller animals and do not mind sharing the house. To ensure this behavior throughout adulthood, socializing with other dogs and animals as a puppy is important, so they do not grow a sense of entitlement or domination around the house.

Great Dane Dog Rescue Groups

If you want to adopt your very own gentle giant, there are a handful of wonderful dog rescue groups you can explore.

Great Dane Rescue of Northern California

Formed in 1987 by Betty Thomas and Colleen Leahy, this group finds loving homes for this breed in the Northern California and Northern Nevada region. All dogs from the GDRNC are spayed and vaccinated. The GDRNC prides itself on its rigorous screening process. Before any adoption this organization ensures their dogs go to the right home.

Great Dane Rescue

The Great Dane Rescue currently serves the following areas: Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, and Ontario, Canada. This group finds caring and permanent homes for the gentle giants. They emphasize that dog ownership is ongoing for life.

Great Dane Dog Breed Organizations

The main Great Dane breed organization to be recognized as the Great Dane Club of America. Founded in 1889, this organization centers itself on the direct benefit of the Great Dane breed. They collectively educate and build communities around this astonishing dog.

The Great Dane Club of America has plenty of resources. Some include health information, a breeder directory, and tips on training the Great Dane on their website.

To apply for a membership to the Great Dane Club of America is purposefully a lengthy task. There must be two sponsors who know the applicant and are in good standing with the organization. A single regular membership starts at $40, with a couple of regular membership starting at $70.

girl with great dane

More About the Great Dane

This dog breed is one that you have seen plenty of times in movies and television.

Probably the most famous Great Dane is none other than Scooby-Doo. The mystery-solving dog and the gang first appeared in 1969 thanks to the Hanna-Barbara animation company. The large and always frightened Scooby-Doo brought joy to millions of viewers while enjoying his delicious Scooby Snacks.

Another animated series, Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, also starred in a Great Dane. Dynomutt is a superhero dog who fights crime and stops bad guys.

Regardless, this breed is more than a cartoon — it’s a dog with an illustrious reputation. One that might even supersede its incredible name. For dog owners, new and old, this breed is perfect for you.



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