Back in the day, the Great Dane was a powerful, deadly dog breed. He was a hunter, made to go up against wild boars. But things have changed. Today, Danes are nothing like their ancestors in temperament.
In fact, they’re quite the opposite.
Now known as gentle giants, the Great Dane is docile with an extra helping of goofiness.
From acting like a lazy lapdog to those saggy, slobbery jowls, Great Danes make life very amusing!
But their size is something to consider.
Make sure you (and your living quarters) are prepared before bringing one home.
Evidence of the Great Dane’s existence traces back to Egypt in 3000 B.C. through various artifacts and drawings. Babylonian temples that were built around 2000 B.C. also contained depictions of these dogs.
They may have even originated in Tibet, as there are written reports of these dogs roaming around from Chinese literature written in 1121 B.C.
In the following years, Great Danes were bred to hunt boars, earning them their original name:
Owners would go as far as cropping their ears to prevent them from being torn by boar tusks.
Most breed historians agree that German breeders are responsible for molding Great Danes into what it is today.
In 1880, breeders and judges even met in Berlin and named the breed “Deutsche Dogge”, which means “German Dog” in English.
The Great Dane was eventually bred into a more gentler dog, one who lacks the aggressive temperament that its ancestors once needed for boar hunting.
It is unclear when Great Danes first arrived in the United States.
The Great Dane Club of America was founded in 1880, which may give researchers some insight into when the breed may have first been introduced.
Are Great Danes Good Family Dogs?
Yes, Great Danes are good family dogs that can make a great addition to the household.
They love children and are known to be quite patient and gentle with them.
However, because they sometimes underestimate their size, they may be prone to knocking kids over at times, so it is imperative that you monitor your Great Dane around small children at all times.
It is also important to teach your children how to properly interact with dogs. Pulling or scratching can end up causing injury to both parties.
In general, Great Danes are known to get along well with other household pets.
This sometimes varies based on personality and individual temperaments. While some may make it clear that they won’t tolerate another animal in the house, others may look at another pet as a new brother or sister.
Bringing up a Great Dane takes time and patience.
You will need to properly socialize him starting from a young age while also working on obedience training using positive reinforcement techniques.
They will need a healthy and nutritious diet to help them grow into strong, healthy adult dogs.
Regular grooming and exercise are also important for keeping your Great Dane healthy.
Because they are prone to a variety of health issues, you will want to remember to schedule regular veterinarian visits for your Great Dane as well.
Due to their immense size, Great Danes need a diet that can keep up with their steady growth throughout their puppy years.
A protein content between 23% and 29% is recommended for puppies.
Adult Great Danes need a similar percentage of protein content in their diets.
The fat percentage should be between 12% and 18%.
Keep calcium levels between 1% and 1.3%, while avoiding foods with added calcium.
Avoid feeding your Great Dane during periods of exercise and strenuous activity. This can cause bloat, which is the #1 cause of death in Great Danes.
Scheduled meals lined up with periods of rest will prevent your Great Dane from developing bloat. You should always wait at least several hours after feeding your Great Dane before exercising him.
We recommend feeding your adult Great Dane two times per day: morning and supper time.
Great Danes require a regular bathing and grooming routine. However, as short-haired dogs who are average shedders, they don’t require as much maintenance as other dogs who are double-coated and are known to shed a lot.
Therefore, daily brushing isn’t necessary.
Instead, brushing your Great Dane at least once a week will be sufficient.
As long as you brush your Great Dane regularly, he won’t need frequent baths. In fact, most owners bathe their Great Danes just once every six or eight weeks.
Remember to add nail clipping, teeth brushing, and ear cleaning to your grooming schedule.
If you aren’t comfortable clipping your dog’s nails yourself, you can always take him to a groomer and have them done there. Alternatively, you could use a nail grinder to keep your Great Dane’s nails at a proper length.
It is important to clean your Great Dane’s ears, as its ear canals are susceptible to debris contamination.
Regular teeth brushing is also important for preventing gum disease.
Great Dane puppies need around 90 minutes of exercise a day, while adults only need about 30 to 60 minutes.
Great Dane puppies need around 90 minutes of exercise a day, while adults only need about 30 to 60 minutes.
Compared to other dog breeds, Great Dane exercise requirements are relatively low.
Your Great Dane will always enjoy a nice walk outside, but don’t be afraid to get creative with some fun games, like fetch or tug-of-war.
That being said, you will need to avoid over-exercising your Great Dane to avoid injury.
Because Great Danes are so large and powerful, it is imperative that you train yours starting from a young age.
The last thing you want is to have to deal with a 3-foot dog tugging at your leash whenever you try to take him out for a walk. Luckily for you, Great Danes are known to be people pleasers.
While each individual dog will have its own personality and quirks, your Great Dane will likely take their training seriously in an effort to please you.
Small tasty treats and a lot of positive reinforcement will come a long way when training your Great Dane.
Great Dane Health Issues
Unfortunately, Great Danes are prone to a variety of health problems due to their large stature.
Common Great Dane health conditions include:
- Cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes an enlarged heart
- Hip dysplasia, the malformation of the hip socket
- Hypertrophic osteodystrophy, which can occur during the growing stage in a puppy
Things to Know About Great Danes
1. #1 Thing to Know: They are Not Actually Danish
Great Danes actually originated in Germany, where they were bred for hunting and guarding.
Some were even used for battle. Starting in 1878, a committee in Berlin changed the name for the breed from the “Englische Dogge” to the “Deutsche Dogge.”
In English-speaking countries, the dog was referred to as the “German boarhound.” For a while, German breeders attempted to market the dog as the “German Mastiff.” However, increasing tensions between Germany and other countries lead to the development of the breed’s current name, the “Great Dane”.
Another legend claims that the name came about when French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon came across the breed in Denmark during the early 1700s. It is said that he called the dog “le Grande Danois,” which translates to Great Dane.
2. They Used to Hunt Boars
Experts believe that the Great Dane was bred from both the Irish Wolfhound and the Old English Mastiff. Thanks to the sheer physical strength and natural bravery given to them by their ancestors, Great Danes were able to successfully take down wild boars. However, these aggressive and deadly Great Danes that were used for hunting in the past are not likely to be seen in Great Danes today. You most likely won’t have to worry about your Great Dane attempting to hunt down any big game nowadays.
3. Great Danes Were Eventually Bred to be Gentle Giants
As hunting became less popular throughout the years, the Great Dane was slowly bred from being vicious hunting dogs to show dogs. Nowadays, they are known for their relaxed demeanor and love for a life of leisure. As a result, they make great companions for individuals looking to add a new family member to their household.
4. They are Actually Not the Tallest Breed in the World
The tallest breed in the world is actually the Irish Wolfhound. Coming behind it is the Great Dane. That’s not to say that there aren’t Great Danes out there that are comparable to a small horse.
5. It is the Official State Dog of PA
The Great Dane was named the official state dog of Pennsylvania in 1965. Back in the frontier days of Pennsylvania, the breed was used for hunting and working. According to State Representative Sam Rohrer, “When the Speaker of the House called for a voice vote to designate the Great Dane, yips, growls, and barks assaulted his ears from every part of the chamber! With a rap of his gavel, the Speaker confirmed that the “arfs have it” and the “Barking Dog Vote” entered the annals of legislative history. The PA Legislation believed that naming an official state dog would “Recognize the steadfast service and loyal devotion of all dogs in Pennsylvania.”
6. They Have Extremely Short Lifespans
The average lifespan for Great Danes is 6 to 8 years. They are prone to a series of health problems, including hip dysplasia, bloat and dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a genetically inherited heart disease that decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood. As a result, only 17% of Great Danes make it to 10 years of age.
7. Great Danes can Actually be Good Apartment Dogs
Thanks to their peaceful and gentle personalities, Great Danes are well-suited for apartments. They are not prone to barking or destroying furniture out of boredom. They also don’t require as much exercise as other breeds and are more than happy to lounge on a sofa for most of the day. A quick walk around the neighborhood will be sufficient enough to keep your Great Dane exercised and healthy. However, if you are living in a studio or a cramped apartment, then you might want to think twice before bringing a Great Dane into it. There should at least be sufficient enough room for them to be able to stand or lay down comfortably without blocking up too much space.
8. Scooby-Doo isn’t the Only Famous Great Dane
While Scooby-Doo is probably the most famous Great Dane, there are a variety of other famous members of this breed. Scrappy-Doo, Scooby-Doo’s scrappy nephew, is also a Great Dane. Marmaduke, a popular Great Dane detective from a comic strip drawn by Brad Anderson, and Astro, from the TV show “The Jetson’s,” are also high-profile figures of the breed. With their fun, goofy personalities, it is no wonder that there are so many famous Great Danes in pop culture.
9. Their Ancestors Were Used to Fight in Wars
Both Northerners and Southerners recruited large bloodhounds to work for them during the Civil War. It is believed that these bloodhounds were a cross between the Cuban Mastiff and the Great Dane. The army and the marines then attempted to use the dogs during World War 2, but none of them passed basic training. An army drill sergeant was even moved to tears of frustration when he couldn’t train a Great Dane to jump over an obstacle. Instead of jumping over it, the Great Dane would run toward it, grab it in its mouth, and bring it back to the sergeant. After that, no one made an effort to train Great Danes into army dogs.
10. They Think They are Lap Dogs
Great Danes always seem to underestimate their immense size. While they may be the size of a small horse, that doesn’t stop them from trying to get close to you. Everyone who has ever owned a Great Dane will likely confirm this statement. If you don’t want them climbing up on you, it is imperative that you train them from an early age to avoid this habit. You especially don’t want them climbing onto and sitting on small children, as that, unsurprisingly, can be incredibly dangerous.
11. They Come in 7 Different Colors
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 7 different breed colors for the Great Dane.
- Fawn — a yellow gold base with a black mask
- Brindle — a yellow gold base color brindled with black stripes
- Harlequin — a white base color with irregular black patches
- Mantle — solid black marking that extends over the body and white on the forefront
- Merle — a gray base color with spotting
There are two other colors associated with Great Danes that are not officially recognized by the AKC: fawnequin, which is a fawn-colored version of Harlequin, and white.
12. While Irish Wolfhounds are Statistically Taller than Great Danes, the Tallest Dog in History was Actually a Great Dane
The tallest dog ever recorded in history, Zeus, measured 44 inches at the shoulders. He measured 7-feet tall when standing upright on his hind legs. The Great Dane from Otsego, Michigan won the prestigious title back in 2012. Sadly, he perished in 2014 at only 5-years-old.
13. Great Danes are Quite Graceful
There’s something about Great Danes that makes them appear so elegant and graceful. Maybe it’s the way they carry themselves. Or their long legs and imposing height. Either way, their refined looks and dignified manner are sure to awe anyone lucky enough to come across them. That being said, they aren’t always in control of their body. They do have incredibly long limbs to work with, after all. Therefore, you might catch them tripping over themselves once or twice.
14. They Love to Sprawl
Every dog needs to relax now and then, and Great Danes are no exception. They love to sprawl themselves out anywhere they see fit, so make sure that you have enough room in your house or yard for your Great Dane to do so. They’re going to need a lot of leg room.
15. Great Danes: the Apollo of Dogs
Great Danes are known as the Apollo of all dogs, both in size and spirit. This, of course, is due to their tall, looming bodies and dignified appearance. Many people say these qualities make them comparable to the Greek God of the sun, Apollo. Their courageous spirit is also noted by many owners and fans.
16. They Grow Really Fast
At two months old, a Great Dane will be around 13 to 18 inches tall at the shoulders. From that moment on, it will steadily increase in size until it reaches around 30 to 36 inches, depending on whether it is a male or a female. It is important to feed your puppy a well-balanced diet during this time to ensure steady growth. If you feed it too much and it grows too fast, it may develop serious growth disorders as a result.
17. Great Danes are Surprisingly Sensitive
Often described as “gentle giants,” Great Danes are naturally sensitive creatures. They are known for following their owners from room to room, becoming what is known as a “Velcro Dane.” As a result, they may develop separation anxiety. To prevent this, it is important to socialize your Great Dane properly starting when he is a puppy.