Great Danes

At a glance
great daneGreat Danes are a large working breed. Danes are vibrant, fearless, amiable and reliable dogs. Great Danes are recognized as one of the tallest canine breeds. However, in spite of their size, they have a sweet disposition and are very friendly with children.


  • Names – Grand Danois (Old French for “Great Dane”); Dogue Allemand (modern French for “German Mastiff”), Dane, Gentle Giant, Deutsche Dogge (“German Mastiff”), Dänischer Hund (“Danish Hound”), “the Apollo of dogs”
  • Group – AKC: Working Group; KC: Working
  • Size – large
  • Life expectancy – average of 10 and a range of 8-12 years
  • Cost of ownership – medium
  • Ease of ownership – high
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – medium
  • Amount of Grooming – low
  • Ease of Training – medium
  • Obedience level – medium
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Amount of Care Required – low
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – medium

The Great Dane is a massive and beautiful wiry dog. The head is rectangular and long in appearance. The coat is close to the body and dense. The overall look gives the dog an air of aristocracy.

Bitch 46kg (101lbs) to 54kg (119lbs)
Dog 54kg (119lbs) to 62kg (137lbs)

Bitch 71cm (28″) to 76cm (30″)
Dog 76cm (30″) to 81cm (32″)


  • Color – The colors include fawn (tan) with a black mask; black; blue; black-and-gold arranged in a brindle pattern (golden yellow background with black striping); mantle (black with white trim, including a white collar, chest, and leg markings); white with black patches (harlequin).
  • Coat – The Great Dane has a very short and thick coat, which should retain a glossy appearance.
  • Shedding – low
  • Allergies – low
  • Causes Allergies – medium

This is a reliable breed, ready to fill whatever role is desired of him in the home, making him a great family pet. This breed needs to be extensively trained during puppyhood to prevent future behavior problems from developing and must be taught not to lean on people, especially children.

  • Separation Anxiety – medium
  • Barking tendency – low
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Compatibility with other animals – medium
  • Suitable for children – high
  • Watchdog suitability – high

Hiding under the Great Dane’s rather intimidating size and frame is an outgoing dog with a jovial view of life. This breed is famous for being known as the “gentle giant.” Great Danes are generally open towards meeting other dogs, other non-canine pets and humans. Although they are very fond of kids, Danes need to be supervised around young children. Great Danes are capable of having a protective instinct and can be trained to be responsible guard dogs if this is the owners wish. If left untrained or poorly socialized, some Danes may exhibit dominance issues, can charge or snap at other dogs or chase small animals.

The Dane needs a dominant handler and firm, consistent yet non-confrontational training. Obedience training should begin at an early age, as this breed has a lower attention span when he is fully grown. Keep in mind that they grow quickly, so start to train him within the first month of bringing him home. The Great Dane is an intelligent canine and an expert handler can train him to be a guard dog.

  • Obedience – medium

Exercise required
Danes have successfully made the wonderful transition over the centuries from field work to being household companions. Though it may seem surprising, these gigantic dogs only need moderate exercise. Exercise should especially be limited while the dog is growing, since too much of it may result in serious bone, joint and muscle problems.

  • Energy – medium
  • Amount required – 40 – 60 minutes daily

While the adolescent Dane is growing he should not be over exercised. In freezing weather a Dane should be provided with a sweater as he can become easily chilled. Outdoor activities should be limited in both extremely hot and cold conditions as he is temperature sensitive. The Dane is a relatively clean dog and does not require extensive grooming.

Due to their size, potential owners should be aware that the cost of feeding this dog and his veterinary bills can be quite costly; the larger the canine the more he requires.

Feeding your Great Dane the proper nutrition is very important, because an incomplete diet and the wrong quantity of food can actually lead to growth problems which may not be noticed until the dog is older.

Something to think about when planning a Dane’s diet is the proper protein levels. Making sure that he is receiving sufficient protein will reduce the risk of health problems such as Pano and Wobblers Syndrome. A common view regarding the diet of puppies is to keep their food “light and lean” until they are about 2 years of age. In other words, keep protein fat levels as low as possible. Statistically speaking, for example, this means the average levels are 23% to 24% protein and 12% to 14% fat.

You will want to avoid food brands that contain the following ingredients: Any byproducts, meal, corn meal, grain, beet pulp, ground meat, poultry fat (to enhance the smell and flavor) and so on. On the other hand, ingredients of a healthy dog food are turkey, chicken, chicken meal, barley, brown rice, potatoes, etc.

The smooth-haired short coat is easy to groom. Brush the Dane with a firm bristle brush, remove loose and dead hairs from the coat using a rubber-grooming mitt or glove and use dry shampoo whenever needed. Bathing this extra large canine can be difficult, so take care to keep him groomed on a daily basis to limit the number of baths he requires per year.

  • Ease of grooming – high
  • Amount of grooming – low

Breeding is an expensive venture that requires intelligence, emotional strength and a complete understanding of the breed. To give you an idea of the cost, consider that the bitch’s vaccinations, annual physical exams and heartworm prevention alone can reach a total of $1,000. These tests are necessary long term investments into the health of the future litters the female will produce. With regard to the delivery itself, one thing that deserves planning and money, is the likely event of a C-section, which may be required to deliver the Dane puppies.

Examples of health tests that need to be implemented for male and female Danes include: OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) for hip dysplasia; blood tests for hypothyroidism and Addison’s disease – two metabolic deficiencies; chest x-rays, and also an EKG to make sure there is no threat of heart disease in the breed or bloat; CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) to check for eye problems. Only those Danes that are clear of these diseases should be permitted to breed to avoid passing on any debilitating and/or life threatening hereditary condition.

  • Litter size – average of 8 and range of 6 to 10.
  • Puppy cost – average $900, with a range of $700- $1,100

Most giant breeds, including Danes, have the misfortune of shorter life spans than smaller dogs. A healthy Dane from a strong line can typically reach 10 years. They are prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, bone cancer, heart disease, and tumors.

  • Life expectancy – average of 10; range of 8-12 years
  • Susceptibility to illness – medium
  • Common health problems – Epilepsy, bone cancer, lymphocytic thyroiditis

Due to their size and the fact that they are not a long lived breed and are prone to many health problems, Great Danes can be costly to own. However, for the family who isn’t bothered by such expenses, this canine is a wonderful and gentle companion who will bring much joy, love and security.

  • Living conditions – Great Danes are best kept indoors, as their short hair coat and their need for constant companionship makes the dog sensitive to excessive outdoor excursions or spending hours alone in the yard. They are not very active indoors and can survive in an apartment as long as they are sufficiently exercised with walks. They do best in a house with a fenced yard.
  • Good with Children – They like children but may be too much of a challenge for toddlers who are unsteady on their feet.

The breed originated from dogs of the mastiff variety and was bred for hunting wild boar, guarding castles, pulling carts, and participating in battle.

Although it is possible that the Great Dane came from the same original mastiff stock, the breeds’ appearance is an elegant cut above the English Mastiff and the massive Neapolitan Mastiff. The mastiff-type dog originated in Asia and has been molded into many canaines and influenced several different breeds. It has been argued by some that the Dane’s more refined features could mean that he also has some Irish Wolfhound in his heritage, while other experts claim the English Mastiff is an ancestor.

The Great Dane Club of America was formed in 1889 and became the fourth breed club to join the American Kennel Club.

  • County or origin – Germany (though some would disagree)
  • AKA KC name and group: Mastiff, AKC Working

Did you know…

  • Hanna-Barbera cartoon character Scooby-Doo is a Great Dane. Technically speaking, his tail notwithstanding, Scooby-Doo would be a Fawn.
  • Other famous Danes include:
    • Chester, Alan’s dog is a harlequin Great Dane in Two and a Half Men.
    • The school mascot for the University at Albany is the Great Dane. The Big Purple Growl, the annual basketball event held in early February, takes the name from their mascot.
    • The music video for Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” features a Harlequin Great Dane.
    • So far most of singer Lady GaGa’s music videos feature two trademark Harlequin Great Danes
    • In the movie Seven Pounds, starring Will Smith, Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) has a pet Great Dane.
  • Danes are the official dogs of Germany and Pennsylvania.
  • Winsor Pilates

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