Despite their enormous size, Great Danes are a very popular breed. They rank in the top 20 of the American Kennel Club’s most popular breeds each year. Strong, elegant, and friendly, Great Danes are, nevertheless, energetic dogs and they do require plenty of room and regular exercise.
Great Danes are a mastiff or molosser-type dog which is a very large family of dogs containing all kinds of powerful dogs found all over the world. Dogs similar to the Great Dane have been known for several thousand years. However, today’s Great Dane seems to trace to the Irish Wolfhound and the Mastiff from the Middle Ages. The breed as it is known today is about 400 years old. Great Danes are not actually from Denmark but come from Germany where they were bred to hunt wild boar which can be ferocious. When boar hunting was no long necessary, the breed became an esteemed companion and estate guard dog. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1887.
Great Danes are true gentle giants and they make excellent family dogs. They are sweet, loving dogs in the home and they get along great with children. However, because of their great size, owners need to be especially careful about letting children play with the dogs. It’s very easy for a playful Great Dane to knock a child over or pin a child to the ground while playing. They mean no harm but someone can get hurt. The same is true when a Great Dane plays with smaller dogs. Parents should always supervise when their Great Dane plays with small children or small dogs.
Otherwise, Great Danes make wonderful pets. They require regular daily exercise and they do eat quite a bit. You can expect your food bills and other bills associated with dog ownership to be somewhat higher when you have such a large dog. They require minimal grooming since they have a short, smooth coat. In the U.S. their ears are usually cropped.
Great Danes have a striking appearance and most people recognize them on sight. In addition to their great size, the dogs are regal, dignified, strong, and elegant in appearance. They should be spirited, courageous, friendly, and dependable. The head is rectangular, expressive, and distinguished. Eyes are dark with a lively, intelligent expression.
Minimum height of 30 inches tall at the shoulder for males and 28 inches tall for females. Males can weigh between 120-200 lbs; and females can weigh between 100-130 lbs.
The coat comes in a number of colors: Brindle, Fawn, Blue, Black, Harlequin and Mantle (similar to a Boston Terrier).
As a giant breed, the Great Dane has some special needs, especially as a puppy. It’s important to make sure that puppies do not grow too fast or they can develop musculo-skeletal problems as adults. Feed your Great Dane puppy an appropriate large breed puppy food. Make sure that you don’t overfeed a large breed puppy or allow him to become overweight since this can result in joint and hip problems later in life. Slow growth from a moderate diet if always recommended for large and giant breed puppies.
You should also take care that you don’t allow giant breed puppies to over-exercise when they are young. Repetitive actions (such as jogging with an owner on a bike) or allowing a puppy to leap from high places can lead to bone and joint injuries. It takes a long time for a giant breed puppy’s growth plates to close so try to keep your big puppy from over-doing things and injuring himself.
Like some other large and giant breed dogs, Great Danes can have problems with bloat, or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). It’s usually recommended to feed such dogs several smaller meals per day rather than one or two large meals. You can find other recommendations about how to try to avoid bloat online. Hip dysplasia can also be an issue for Great Danes. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) can also occur in the breed.
Many giant dog breeds have a shorter lifespan than other breeds. The average lifespan of a Great Dane is 6 to 8 years. Even the healthiest Great Danes don’t usually live past 10 years, though some dogs have been known to live to be 12-13 years of age.
While you may think of Scooby Do and Marmaduke when you see a Great Dane, they really aren’t that hard to train. They are BIG but they still think and act like other dogs. If you have a Great Dane puppy or rescue, training is very important. Otherwise, you could find yourself chasing a rambunctious dog when he ignores your calls to come back. So, do plan on puppy kindergarten or puppy preschool for your puppy, followed by a good basic obedience class. If you have a rescue dog, sign up for the first obedience class you can. When a dog weighs 120 pounds, you really want him to listen to you.
Be sure to socialize puppies and young dogs well. Some Great Danes can become anxious and too glued to their owners if they don’t have enough socialization training when they are young.
If you have to leave your dog home alone everyday, make sure you provide him with lots of chew toys and other things to keep him amused. Otherwise, he will find his own ways to amuse himself and they will probably include eating your sofa. When a Great Dane is bored, you will know it. For this reason, make sure you are providing your puppy or dog with enough play time and exercise each day.
Great Danes can learn to do the same dog activities and sports as other dogs. You can have fun with obedience, agility, rally, and tracking, for example. Great Danes have a good nose and they can have fun with tracking exercises.
You can learn more about finding a Great Dane and what to expect here: http://www.gdca.org/greatdanerightforyou.html