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the search for a dog
great dane on grass

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Working
  • Height – 28 to 35 inches (from floor to shoulder)
  • Weight – 100 to 200 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Short, thick, smooth coat
  • Coat color – A Great Dane’s coat can come in a variety of colors. These can include black, white, brindle, fawn, silver, merle, and mantle. Typically the coat a Great Dane puppy has is the color they will have as adults. 
  • Exercise needs – Moderate
  • Intelligence – Medium intelligence
  • Barking – Moderately vocal
  • Life span – 7 to 10 years
  • Temperament – Gentle, affectionate, playful, protective
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – Germany

Great Dane fun facts

  • The Great Dane is Pennsylvania’s official state dog.
  • The beloved ghost-hunting cartoon character Scooby Doo is a Great Dane, and for good reason! Great Danes were once believed to ward off ghosts and unfriendly spirits.
  • Great Danes hold the silver medal for the tallest dog breed. The gold medal goes to Irish Wolfhounds.
two great danes

Great Dane temperament and characteristics

Affectionately known as “gentle giants,” Great Danes are impressively sized and have generally sweet dispositions. Great Danes are energetic puppies who are also prone to clumsiness as they get comfortable in their quickly growing bodies. However, they are very adaptable to training through positive reinforcement and eager to please their humans. With care, patience, and training, the adult Great Dane makes a relaxed, curious and playful companion. 

They are excellent family dogs and love being around children. However, young and growing Great Danes should be carefully watched around children, as easily excitable puppies can accidentally knock little ones over. Great Danes also do well in a home with other pets, especially if they are raised with them. While the Great Dane is typically a very friendly breed, they can be very protective of their human families. Strangers and visitors entering the home should be properly introduced to your Great Dane.

Common Great Dane health problems

As with all large breeds, Great Danes do have a few common health problems. With care and attention from their humans, a Great Dane’s life can be healthy and happy. Keep up with vet checkups and vaccinations to prevent these conditions. Some common health problems are treatable when detected early. 

  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). Also known as bloat or gastric torsion, GDV is a common but extremely dangerous ailment in Danes. GDV occurs when the stomach expands with air, which can make it twist on itself, cutting off blood supply. While there is no genetic testing at this time for GDV, a Great Dane breeder should be able to let you know if other Danes in your dog’s family line have had this condition. 
  • Hip dysplasia. A common problem in large breed dogs, hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip socket that can cause painful arthritis and result in costly surgeries. A healthy diet, active lifestyle and confirming with your Great Dane’s breeder if this issue is present in your dog’s line can help prevent this issue. 
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy. Another issue that affects the bones of large-breed dogs, hypertrophic osteodystrophy is most common when Great Danes are in the rapidly growing phase of puppyhood. Working with your veterinarian and making sure your pup gets the proper nutrition they need will help to prevent this condition. 
  • Cardiomyopathy. Great Danes can be at risk for this disease of the heart muscle which results in an enlarged heart and can cause arrhythmia and congestive heart failure. As this can be manageable with medication if caught early, make it a point to have your vet check your Great Dane’s heart at least once a year.

Cost of caring for Great Danes

Caring for your gentle giant is a reward in itself, but as with any pet, there are financial considerations. If your Great Dane does develop joint or bone issues, the costs can add up. Orthopedic surgery for hip dysplasia can total more than $4,000 per affected leg. 

With big dogs can come big costs, and many large breed dogs can develop bone, heart and other health risks, especially later in life. You can help to greatly offset medical expenses for your Great Dane with pet insurance. Securing a pet insurance plan early ensures large dog owners get the most benefit from their pet insurance. In any case, Great Dane owners will want to make sure they budget well for pet costs through every stage of their dog’s life. Starting a pet savings account can also help in financial planning for your pooch.

History of the Great Dane

Despite its name, the Great Dane as we know it today actually originated in Germany. Known there as the “Deutsche Dogge,” Great Danes were originally bred as ferocious boar hunters. Wealthy German estate owners also used the Great Dane as intimidating guardians for their properties. However, these fighting instincts were bred out of Great Danes over the years, transforming them into the gentle giants we know  today. While there is some debate about the exact breeds that contributed to the cultivation of the Great Dane, most breed historians agree they are a combination of Irish Wolfhounds and English Mastiffs. The Greyhounds provided the long, slender physique, while the Wolfhound gave the Great Dane its bulk. 

In 1876, the Great Dane (or Deutsche Dogge) was named the national dog of Germany. But the breed quickly found popularity in other parts of the world. In 1887, Great Danes made their public debut in the United States when they were permitted into the American Kennel Club. Today, the Great Dane is the 17th most popular registered breed of the American Kennel Club.

great dane in the woods

Caring for your Great Dane

Introducing a Great Dane puppy into your home is always an adventure, and you’ll have plenty of things to add to your to-do list. Be sure to schedule your first trip to the vet for your puppy’s vaccinations; you’ll also want to make sure to puppy-proof the home and prepare for your pup’s teething. Be sure to take your Great Dane’s rapid growth into consideration while puppy-proofing. Great Dane puppies can often feel a little awkward and clumsy in their rapidly growing bodies, which can easily lead to accidents. 

Exercise 

With their massive size, you might think a Great Dane is best suited to a home with a lot of outdoor space. But Great Danes make surprisingly great apartment dogs, provided they have enough room to stretch their legs and get one to two moderately paced walks in per day. Your Great Dane can run with you if you like, but avoid runs until your pup reaches adulthood, as the high impact poses a risk to their growing joints. As with any dog, be sure to give your Great Dane plenty of attention and love. Great Danes especially love to bond and spend time with their human companions, whether out on a walk or lounging around the house. One great way to bond with and exercise your Great Dane is with agility training or a dog sport like flyball.

great dane plays in the snow

Grooming 

Despite their huge bodies, Great Danes are relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming. However, you can still expect to be dealing with a lot of shedding hair. To combat excessive shedding, be sure to brush your Great Dane weekly with a hound glove, medium-bristle brush or a rubber grooming mitt. Twice a year,once in the spring and again in fall, Great Danes will go through a shedding season. Aim to brush your Great Dane daily during these seasons to combat the extra shedding hair. Great Danes only need occasional baths, unless of course they decide to roll or play in something messy. As with all dogs, it’s important to stay on top of their nail and dental care. Trimmed nails keep a dog from snagging or tearing their nails on something, and clean teeth  help prevent gum disease and heart problems later in life.

Diet and nutrition 

Being aware of dietary needs is one of the most important things a Great Dane owner can do to ensure their dog’s health. Great Dane puppies should be fed only food designated for large breed puppies. While it’s best to consult your veterinarian about your unique Great Dane’s needs, the average portion of food is around 3-8 cups for puppies under six months. Puppies between six months and a year typically eat about 5 cups a day. Adult Great Danes usually eat around 8 cups of food per day, though this may vary by their size or the calories present in their diet. 

Perhaps the most important dietary need for a Great Dane is giving several small meals a day, rather than one or two very large meals. This is because the number one potentially fatal health concern for the Great Dane is bloat, where the dog’s stomach can distend and twist in on itself. Canine experts agree that avoiding rigorous exercise at mealtime and giving your Great Dane three to four smaller meals a day can help prevent this condition.

Training your Great Dane

Great Danes are loving, well-tempered dogs who thrive on pleasing their human families. Because of this, a Great Dane is a fast learner and typically easy to housetrain. Of course, any dog can develop bad habits if they are not properly trained or socialized. Great Danes need plenty of socialization and exposure to new experiences from a young age. Your Great Dane will quickly grow into a strong, powerful dog. Starting off training the day you bring them home ensures they will grow up to be well-rounded, well-mannered dogs. 

Aim to take your Great Dane puppy to a doggy kindergarten class when they are between 10-12 weeks old. You can also help your growing pup practice their social skills at parks, dog-friendly stores and restaurants, and with visitors in your home. Leading with positive reinforcement while training your Great Dane is the way to go.

great dane on the couch

Breeds similar to the Great Dane

Not quite sure that a Great Dane is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Irish Wolfhound. Irish Wolfhounds tend to require more exercise than Great Danes, so people with more active lifestyles may be drawn to this breed. 
  • Neapolitan Mastiff. Another massive, powerful breed of dog, the Neapolitan Mastiff makes an excellent family guardian. The Mastiff’s grooming maintenance is even more relaxed than the Great Dane’s. 
  • Central Asian Shepherd. Another loyal family dog, the Central Asian Shepherd tends to be a little more reserved and quieter than the Great Dane.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Great Dane a good family dog?

Great Danes make excellent family pets. They love children and can be very patient and playful with little ones. 

What two breeds make a Great Dane?

Most breed historians agree that Great Danes are a combination of the Irish Wolfhound and the English Mastiff. 

Is a Great Dane a loyal dog?

Great Danes are exceptionally loyal companions who bond very closely and can be protective of their owners. 

Are Great Danes harmful?

Any dog can develop bad behaviors with poor or little training. Great Danes respond best to training that utilizes positive reinforcement. Owners of a Great Dane should begin training their dog as soon as they bring them home to ensure they grow up to be well-mannered and friendly companions. 

What are the cons of owning a Great Dane?

Unfortunately, Great Danes have a shorter life span than other breeds due to the health risks involved with their size. However, the 7-10 years you’ll share with your Great Dane will be full of fun and unparalleled friendship.