Breed Group:
Working Dogs

Middle Age: 3 years

Geriatric Age: 6 years

Life Span: 6 to 10 years

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Great Dane History & Background

The Great Dane originated from Germany in the 14th century, with the intention of having a boar-hunting dog. The Germans bred Irish Wolfhounds for their height, Mastiffs for their muscle mass, and Greyhounds for their speed. The breed has been renamed multiple times, starting off as the English Docke, then the German Boarhound.

The Royal Court used them to hunt boar, deer, and bears, as well as to protect princesses from assassins while they slept. In the 19th century, German breeders tried to change the name to German Mastiff, so the dog sounded more like a luxury breed, instead of a working breed.

Great Danes got their final name when a French naturalist was traveling through Denmark and saw a version of the Great Dane. In his notes, he calls the dog Grande Danois, meaning Great Danish Dog. The name spread, and it was eventually adapted. Over time, the aggressiveness needed to hunt boar was bred out of the Great Dane, giving us the gentle giant we know today.

Great Dane Personality Traits & Behavior

According to the AKC Official Standard, a Great Dane “must be spirited, courageous, never timid; always friendly and dependable. This physical and mental combination is the characteristic which gives the Great Dane the majesty possessed by no other breed.”

They are also known to be gentle, affectionate, playful, and easy to train. They love their family and always want to be surrounded by their pet parents. Some Great Danes think they are lap dogs and will try to join you on the couch. For a well-rounded Great Dane, it is imperative you socialize them at a young age.

Sign them up for puppy classes, take them to the park, and bring them to stores that allow dogs. This will them become more comfortable with new dogs and people. While usually gentle, they still have protective instincts and will defend you if they sense you’re in danger.

Training a Great Dane

Great Danes have average intelligence, however teaching them basic commands such as sit, stay, and heel is a breeze. They are people pleasers so training them is usually not too difficult. It is recommended that at a young age, they should become crate trained. This way if they ever need to go to a kennel, being in the crate won’t scare them. Crate training will also be effective in keeping them out of trouble. Keep in mind you shouldn’t leave your Great Dane in a crate for extended periods of time, as he is a social animal and should not be

It is recommended that at a young age, they should become crate trained. This way if they ever need to go to a kennel, being in the crate won’t scare them. Crate training will also be effective in keeping them out of trouble. Keep in mind you shouldn’t leave your Great Dane in a crate for extended periods of time, as he is a social animal and should not be restricted. Housetraining is usually a quick and easy process for this breed.

Great Dane Exercise Recommendations

Great Danes require 30-60 minutes of exercise each day, and up to 90 minutes of exercise while they are young. Do not take your Great Dane jogging or running until he is 18 months old. His bones aren’t finished forming, and he could have developmental problems if he goes running. Some owners wait until their Great Dane is two to start jogging with them, just to be safe.

When Great Danes are young, they are prone to “the zoomies.” Your dog has the zoomies if he starts galloping, spinning, and leaping joyfully. While this can be adorable and good exercise, it can end in your Great Dane knocking objects and people over. If you have a backyard for your Great Dane to play in, make sure your fence is at least six feet tall. Great Danes aren’t usually jumpers; however, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Lifespan of a Great Dane

Great Danes live to be around 6 to 10 years old. They tend to have a shorter lifespan compared to other breeds due to their massive size.

How Popular Is the Great Dane Breed?

Great Danes are quite popular. They were ranked the 14th most popular dog by the American Kennel Club in 2016. This is due to their calm, easy going nature.

Food Recommendations For a Great Dane

How much food a Great Dane gets is dependent on their weight, age, and gender. Female Great Danes who are 3 to 6 months old get 3-6 cups of food, and male Great Danes get 4-8 cups. When female Great Danes are aged 6 months to a year, they get fed 5-8 cups of food, while male Great Danes get fed 6-10 cups a day. Adolescent female Great Danes should be fed 8 cups of food, whereas male Great Danes should be fed 9-15 cups of food.

When they reach adulthood, female Great Danes should be fed 6-8 cups of food and male Great Danes should be fed 8-10 cups of food. As a puppy, Great Danes should have their food split into three separate meals. Once they grow up, divide their food into two meals. This breed should never be fed one big meal, as they can get bloat, which is a deadly condition.

Great Dane Grooming Suggestions

Great Danes require minimal grooming. It is easy to keep their coat in top condition with weekly brushing, and they should only get bathed when necessary, like after a muddy walk. Bathing your huge dog can be a daunting task, so it’s imperative you make bathing a pleasant experience for them. This will make it easier for you to get them in the tub next time they need a bath.

You should check your Great Dane’s toenails about once a month. With all of the exercise Great Danes get, their nails are often filed down on their own. However, sometimes their nails can become overgrown, so you will need to clip their nails.

Are Great Danes Good With Kids?

Because Great Danes are so gentle, they are wonderful with kids. However, their huge size is sometimes an issue. Great Danes can’t tell how large and powerful they are in comparison to a small child, and kids can get knocked over. Supervise any small children that are spending time with your gentle giant.

Great Dane Health Complications

  • Bloat/Torsion/GDV: Bloat occurs when you give a large dog too much food at once, he eats too much food then drinks too much water, or he exercises heavily after eating. Air or gas gets caught in his stomach and then his stomach twists. He is unable to belch or vomit, and soon, normal blood flow to the heart is cut off. His blood pressure will drop, and sometimes dogs will collapse. This is a life-threatening disease, and it is crucial you take them to the vet immediately if he is retching without vomiting, excessively drooling, or acting lethargic after eating a large amount of food.
  • Bone Cancer: Sometimes referred to as osteosarcoma, bone cancer is prevalent in large dogs like Great Danes. Unfortunately, this is a highly aggressive form of cancer. The first sign of bone cancer is lameness. Take your dog to the vet if he isn’t walking to get an x-ray, as there is a chance something else is wrong.
  • Development Issues: Great Danes can develop incorrectly if there is too much protein, calcium, or supplements in their food. To be safe, you can check with your vet to ensure you are feeding your dog the proper nutrients. Ear Infections: Moisture can easily get caught in Great Danes’ big floppy, ears and that moisture can develop into an ear infection. If your dog’s ear is red or has a funny smell, he most likely has an ear infection. You can prevent ear infections by wiping the inside of your dog’s ear with a cotton ball and an ear cleaning liquid, just steer clear of putting anything in his actual ear canal.
  • Heart Disease: Unfortunately, Great Danes are affected by a vast majority of heart diseases. A few heart conditions Great Danes are prone to include dilated cardiomyopathy, tricuspid valve dysplasia, patent ductus arteriosus, and persistent right aortic arch.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is an inherited disease that many large breeds suffer from. Hip dysplasia occurs when the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Most of the time, dogs will not show signs that they are in pain when they have this condition, and you will need an x-ray to confirm. Check that your puppy’s parents have been cleared and do not have hip dysplasia. Hypothyroidism: Affecting the thyroid gland, hypothyroidism can cause epilepsy, lethargy, hair loss and obesity. You can easily manage your Great Dane’s hypothyroidism with a change in diet and some medicine.
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): Osteochondritis Dissecans is a type of inflammation that occurs when diseased cartilage separates from the underlying bone. This condition usually develops when Great Danes are 6 to 9 months old. OCD is most commonly found in Great Danes who receive too many nutrients when they are young. Signs your dog may have OCD include lameness, not putting weight on one leg, and a warm or swollen joint.
  • Separation Anxiety: Great Danes were bred to be loyal and loving pets. While this is great when your home, it can cause your dog to develop separation anxiety when you leave. Separation anxiety is an issue with a large breed like Great Danes because of how much destruction they can do. If your dog tries to escape, goes to the bathroom in the house, or barks endlessly when you leave, they most likely have separation anxiety. While there are ways to help with your dog’s separation anxiety, it will take time, patience, and love.

Other Resources

National Breed Website: Great Dane Club of America  

Rescues: Great Dane Friends