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Gentle Giants: Facts About Great Danes

Gentle Giants: Facts About Great Danes

Critter Culture Staff



One of the best-natured dogs around, the Great Dane is courageous and protective, with a steady, but sensitive temperament. Overall, these affectionate canines are a healthy breed, and despite their large size, prefer life indoors, close to their human companions. For those seeking both a protector and a cuddler with a low-key attitude, look no further than the majestic Great Dane.


Great Danes aren’t from Denmark

Germany companions ancestors great dane RalfWeigel / Getty Images

The modern Great Dane’s ancestors are the mastiff-type canines who served as hunting and war companions as far back as 3000 BCE. Several countries began refining traits of these early dogs through selective breeding, but it was Germany who originated the breed we recognize today. In 1870, the country recognized its “Deutsche Dogge” as the national dog. By the mid-1800s, American breeders were importing the dogs from Germany, breeding them to improve the temperament and appearance of the breed.


Great Danes are a working breed

Side view of pleasant woman raising ring in hand before large active great Dane dog on sandy shore along water in sunset light Aleksandr Zotov / Getty Images

Despite its glossy coat and elegant appearance, the Great Dane is a working breed. They do best when they have a purpose, whether it’s keeping watch over the family, playing games with their human, or participating in agility or obedience activities. These gentle, low-key dogs are often service animals and can perform tasks for people with physical, emotional, psychiatric, intellectual, or sensory challenges. Due to their size, Great Danes also work as brace dogs for those who need assistance standing and walking.


Great Danes are better inside dogs than outside dogs

clumsy puppies indoors napping dog Bread and Butter / Getty Images

These amazing dogs aren’t yard dogs. Great Danes prefer to be close to their humans, indoors. They don’t tolerate cold very well and owners should never leave them alone outdoors for long periods, especially in colder climates. A sweater can keep them warm during winter walks. Even though these huge dogs are clumsy as puppies, they adapt well to smaller homes or apartments due to their laid-back temperament. Unlike some other breeds, Danes are easy to housetrain. Breed experts recommend crate training.


Great Danes are big

grow fast gentle canine danes Jim Craigmyle / Getty Images

Great Danes can grow to a height of 28 to 32 inches at the shoulder. Males generally weigh between 140 and 175 pounds when fully grown. Females are a bit smaller, reaching an adult weight of 110 to 140 pounds. Yet, these gentle canines seem oblivious to their size and see themselves as lap dogs. Dane puppies grow fast. Owners are often shocked to see that their Dane puppy has grown visibly bigger overnight. They don’t reach physical maturity until around the age of three.


Great Danes are super-sensitive dogs

sensitive socialization training merle ChristopherBernard / Getty Images

While some large breeds require a firm hand, Great Danes do not. They don’t respond to hard correction or training methods. Many breeders say gentler speech and mannerisms work best. Great Danes need socialization from the age of three months to six months, then obedience training with praise and rewards should begin. Because this breed has an innate desire to please, training helps them learn acceptable behavior and leads to a happier, more confident pet. Their instinct is to be friendly, courageous, and never timid.


Great Danes are excellent family dogs

family dogs children protective dog ChristopherBernard / Getty Images

People seeking a watchdog that they can also trust around children should consider a Great Dane. Protective, yet not overly aggressive, Great Danes are naturally intimidating due to their loud bark and large size. However, if these dogs feel threatened or feel that their human family is in danger, they will exhibit aggressive behavior towards the threat. Otherwise, they know to be gentler around children. Their high affection levels and sweet, playful nature make them an excellent family dog.


Great Danes have a variety of coat colors

Quilty Great Dane ChristopherBernard / Getty Images

The American Kennel Club recognizes nine different Great Dane coat colors. Black, fawn, black and white, brindle, fawn, harlequin, merle, blue, and white are among those listed as official standards for registered dogs. However, there are several other variations of these coats as well available from professional breeders. Great Danes may also don a black mask. In the past, breeders practiced a cosmetic procedure called cropping on puppies’ ears before selling them. The practice is controversial among owners around the world. Natural-eared Danes are now becoming the norm.


Great Danes have specific inherited health concerns

congenital heart defects veterinarian hedgehog94 / Getty Images

Most dog breeds have specific inherited conditions that could appear during your pet’s lifetime. Although a generally healthy, robust dog, some Great Danes are predisposed to inherited diseases.

  • Congenital heart defects and cardiomyopathy: regular veterinarian exams and echocardiograms are recommended.
  • Hip dysplasia: Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certifications means the parents have undergone examination and found to be free of hip dysplasia. PennHIP testing shows the risk of your puppy developing hip dysplasia.
  • Bloat: Number one killer of Great Danes. Multiple small meals and no vigorous exercises immediately before or after mealtimes helps prevent it.
  • Wobblers Syndrome: A neurological disease that affects the spine in adolescent Danes, and can be congenital or trauma-induced.


Great Danes eat a lot

6 weeks old great dane puppy eating ChristopherBernard / Getty Images

A proper diet is essential for these giant dogs. Adult Danes eat around 10 cups of food per day, split into two or more meals each day. If they eat too much or eat too fast, they risk bloat, a serious stomach torsion issue that traps gas and cuts off the blood supply. As puppies, feeding Great Danes a dog food that is specifically for large breeds will provide the right amount of protein and prevent your dog from growing too fast and damaging bones and joints. It’s a good idea to speak with your veterinarian about your pet’s diet and learn what type of food is best.


Great Danes don’t need tons of exercise

physical activity exercise dane playing dmussman / Getty Images

Too much exercise before a Great Dane reaches their second birthday can hinder bone and nerve development. Many owners minimize physical activity for the first 18 months to prevent joint and hip issues. But unlike other dog breeds, Great Danes don’t require a great deal of exercise, even as adults. Most breed experts suggest a minimum of 20 to 40 minutes each day. A brisk walk a couple of times each day will suffice.


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