The Great Dane – the gentle dog breed of today, was once considered as a unique and legendary dog prized for its aggressive fighting and hunting abilities. The word ‘Great Dane’ comes from French language meaning ‘Big Danish’. These dogs are also known as King of Dogs, Gentle Giants or the Apollo of Dogs. Whether you are considering buying or adopting a Great Dane puppy or if you are a seasoned Great Dane owner; this brief guide helps cover many basics like the breed’s standard size, temperament, food and other fun facts.
Facts and characteristics
- Great Danes were originally bred for hunting and fighting. However, they also performed many other tasks like tracking, guarding etc. Today, they are prized household companions.
- The breed was first developed and flourished in Germany; early German writings referred to the Great Dane as the Danish Hound. Before the term Great Dane started being used, this breed was known by many other names including German Mastiff, German Boarhound, Ulmer Dogge and Deutsche Dogge.
- Tibetan Mastiffs are considered to be direct ancestors of this breed.
- German prince Otto Von Bismarck housed several Great Danes as pets as a result of which their popularity increased even more.
- German Great Danes were used for hunting wild boars and these hunts often resulted in deaths and ear injuries. To prevent ear injuries, ear cropping became a standard practice for this breed. Today, many US breeders continue cropping the ears as they believe that the pointed ears give the animal a majestic and stylish look. However, cropping of ears is banned in the UK.
- Great Dane height and weight – Male Danes weight up to 140-170 lbs and females between 110-140 lbs.
- Great Dane colors – The blue Great Dane is highly prized and popular but there are very few dogs available in this coat color as a result of which, their numbers are declining. Also, Blue Great Danes do not have the same required size, type of head and neck as Black Great Danes for show dogs. Apart from black and blue Great Danes, you also can find them in fawn, white and brown colored coats. Mantle color Great Danes are referred to as ‘Boston’ and they have only black and white and no merle or grey patches on their coats.
- Popular poet Alexander Pope had a Great Dane named Bounce who actually saved the poet’s life. The loyal dog attacked an intruder and prevented what could have been Pope’s savage murder.
Where to find a Great Dane
Great Dane prices vary from breeder to breeder but remember that this is a luxury breed and that makes it costly. Expect to pay somewhere between $600 and $3000 for a Great Dane puppy sold by a reputed breeder especially if it comes with papers and pedigree. Avoid breeders who breed indiscriminately for profits; they are the ones that have a puppy available year round. Responsible breeders will make you wait for your puppy as they do not allow more than two or three litters per year. Often, breeders advertize their dogs as ‘rare’ and they may be oversized or undersized. Such dogs could have pre-existing medical conditions. The best place to find ethical breeders are the Great Dane Club of America.
Many breeders have experimented with mixing Great Danes and other breeds. The Dane-Rottweiler combination results in the Weiler Dane. Since the life span of Great Dane is short-about 8 years- the resulting Weiler Dane also has a short life span. Another popular mix breed from the Dane is the Danoodle mix formed by crossing the Dane and the Standard Poodle. This is a gentle affectionate mixed breed that is great with kids. Labrador and Great Dane mix is also popular.
Great Dane’s temperaments vary from line to line. It is important to select your puppy with great care in order to find one having a loving personality and friendly disposition. Try to observe the puppy in its litter. S/he should appear well fed but without distended abdomen. Here are some characteristics of the Great Dane as far as temperament is concerned:
- For centuries, this was an aggressive dog breed known for its hunting and fighting abilities. Thanks to years of responsible breeding, the breed has transformed into friendly, loving working dog that is suitable for families around the world.
- In general, bitches are more loving and friendlier in disposition than males.
- Their mammoth size might scare away strangers but in general, this loving dog breed wouldn’t harm a hookworm! However, if they are provoked, they won’t hesitate to defend themselves and their families.
- They are courageous in the hunt but friendly, playful and loving with their families.
- Great Danes are great with kids and other family pets. However, they need a lot of space and are unsuitable for apartments and small houses.
Great Danes are intelligent dogs and they respond well to positive training. Start training right away as soon as your young pup arrives home. Crate training is important as it provides a space that your pet can call its own. Avoid buying a very large crate; your dog might use it for toilet. Remember that Danes can grow very tall so you will need to change the crates or buy a larger one and section it off for your pup. Enroll your pet in obedience training classes near you; this will help him socialize with other dogs as well. Here are some more tips for house training:
- Keep training sessions short. End each session with plenty of playtime, belly rubs and treats.
- Buy a bag of healthy treats to encourage your pup when he obeys or follows commands.
- You can use collar and leash for training, but make sure they are safe for your pet.
If you start with a normal, healthy dog and give him time, patience and consistent training, then you will reap the rewards of that training for life.
All dog breeds need exercise; sedentary lifestyle is as harmful for dogs as it is to a person. Great Danes need moderate activity and regular walks along with playtime in the yard are perfect to help your pet expend energy. Avoid too much exercise before the age of one year as it could harm your puppy’s joints. Exercise is essential not only for physical well being but also for mental health of your pet. Bored dogs tend to indulge in unwanted behaviors like chewing, biting furniture, barking excessively etc.
Because of the breed’s massive size, inexperienced owners erroneously believe that these dogs need huge amounts of food. That is not the case. Great Danes do not eat any more than average sized dogs. However, puppies and young adults do need a lot of food. Always check with the breeder what to feed your puppy and adult Dane. Here are some more feeding tips:
- Always serve food at room temperature.
- Hard pellets or kibble is good for dog’s teeth as it helps prevent tartar buildup. Avoid adding anything extra to the food as commercial dog food is usually well-balanced.
- Never feed table scraps or human foods like chocolates, raisins or grapes to your pet.
- Other than age related changes, dogs do not need food variations. Most dogs will eat the same food day in day out without getting bored.
Grooming your Great Dane
The Great Dane’s coat is short and close but it still needs a daily five-minute once-over to keep it looking clean and shiny. Daily grooming and brushing helps remove dirt, dead hair and parasites and also stimulates natural oils that keep your pet’s coat healthy and shiny. Regular grooming also helps you bond with your pet and he/she will love the attention and daily routine it sets. Bathe your pet once a month. Regular clipping of nails is necessary too. Inspect your pet’s ears from time to time to ensure there is no odor, discharge or parasites inside.
Being large breeds, Great Danes are prone to gastric dilation or volvulus. Other common issues seen in this breed are hypothyroidism, cataracts, glaucoma, splenic torsion and heart related issues. This breed has an average life span of about 8 years.