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Great Dane

Great Dane | Big Dog BreedsHistory

It is hard to put an exact age on the Great Dane Breed, but it is likely that its ancestors go back thousands of years. Egyptian monuments dating back to 3000 B.C. depict drawings of dogs resembling Great Danes and similar dogs were found in Chinese literature dating back to 1121 B.C. However, the Great Dane that we know today has been bred for at least 400 years and they are believed to descend from crosses between the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound.

Originally bred in Germany, the Great Dane was used to hunt European wild boar, who at the time were the most savage of all game on the Continent. A powerful, intelligent and resolute breed was needed to perform the task. Great Danes were so impressive that German nobility started using them as guard dogs and companions for their large estates. Great Danes came to the United States starting in the mid-1800s and it is rumored that William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was an early admirer of the breed.

Today Great Danes are not really used to hunt boar, but have been selectively bred for docility, conformation and temperament as human companions. They are spirited, courageous, never timid; always friendly, dependable and affectionate companions. They have a physical and mental combination that is the characteristic which gives the Great Dane the majesty possessed by no other breed.

Height & Weight

Male Great Danes stand 32 inches at the shoulder, or higher. Females stand 30 inches or taller. Males average weight spans from 135 to 150 pounds and females fall anywhere between 120 to 135 pounds.


The decision to add a Great Dane, or any other Big Dog Breeds, to their family should not be a spur of the moment decision. The breed, as well as breeders, should be thoroughly researched. Many times people are not prepared to deal with the Great Dane’s massive size, rambunctiousness and potentially destructive behavior, especially during adolescence. A reputable breeder will discuss the temperament of their breed with potential owners in an effort to prevent the dog ending up in a shelter or rescue organization. A well bred Dane should not have aggressive tendencies or excessive shyness/fearfulness. If they are, it is a product of either poor breeding and/or training. Potential owners should explore their dog’s background and commit to an appropriate training and socialization protocol before making a life-long commitment to this giant dog.

Great Danes should be kept in a house with a securely fenced in yard as they are known to chase small animals. Great Danes are not jumpers by nature and a six-foot fence should be enough to keep them safe. Leaving a Dane alone for hours may cause them to become barkers, which is loud and deep.

A Great Dane can provide years of loving and faithful companionship. People without the time or dedication to commit to their Great Dane should consider a different breed.


The Great Dane is an enormous breed originally developed to hunt savage European wild boar. A powerful, intelligent, tenacious and fearless dog was needed to take on this task and the Great Dane’s personality and characteristics made him the perfect candidate for the job. Today they have transitioned to beloved and affectionate companions, which require a balanced temperament.

Correctly-bred Great Danes will make exceptional, affectionate, loving and trusted family companions for spacious households that want a large, short-haired dog that offers some manner of protection due to their sheer size. Great Danes should never be encouraged to be overly protective and never to be aggressive and they tend to be protective by nature only if necessary. However, their sheer size alone is enough to intimidate anyone even though they have a kind temperament. Dane owners should always be vigilant and keep their dogs under complete control when in public, and securely contained when at home due to their massive size.


Danes have a strong desire to please and are known to have an average intelligence in the dog world. They are easy to housebreak and train with standard obedience commands, like sit and stay. Great Danes have been known to successfully compete in obedience, agility, rally and other performance competitions. Dane puppies grow extremely quickly and it is important to train and socialize them starting at 3-6 months old. They will grow in their first year of life as much as a child grown in fourteen or fifteen years. They need consistent structure and a gentle but firm hand in training and should not be given free reign of the house without supervision until they have proven they are trustworthy, as they can easily destroy furniture and carpeting if they choose to. Crate training is the best way to go with a Dane is it can help with potty training and prevent chewing sprees. Dane puppies tend to see small animals and toddlers as their peers and will treat them as such, playing aggressively, chewing on each other and growling and nipping, which is a normal part of learning canine pack structure and behavior. Owners should carefully and consistently watch and train their puppies so that they respect all household members and understand their role in the home. Children should not bother a puppy when it is in its safe place, which most commonly is its crate.

Exercise Requirements

Great Danes can be as energetic as they are big, especially when they are teenagers. Young Danes are subject to “the zoomies,” which is when they display their happiness through galloping, leaping, spinning and jumping over things. It is fun to watch but could be bad if a person or important possession is in their path, which is rare, but could happen. Due to its size, strength and playful nature a Great Dane should not be left unsupervised with small children. It is important that all kids in the house must be taught the right way to interact with any dog. Despite their size, Danes are surprisingly house dogs and do not require a lot of daily exercise. Due to their rapid development in the first 2 years of life they should not be taken jogging or exercise excessively to prevent bone and joint disorder. Although they typically do require a securely fenced yard for exercise, elimination and playtime, Danes do not do well being kept isolated, kenneled or crated for long hours at a time. They are people dogs and enjoy participating in family activities. The best exercise for a Great Dane is a regular walk.


Even though Great Danes have a short coat they are heavy shedders. Weekly brushings can help keep it under control. They only need to be bathed as need and some owners prefer to take them to a groomer because of their size it can be a big project.

Ears should be checked regularly for signs of irritation, infection, or wax buildup. They should be cleaned with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved cleanser. Teeth should be brushed weekly, if not more, to prevent tartar buildup and keep bad breath at under control.

Health Issues

The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is 7 to 10 years. Breed health concerns may include bloat, callus dermatitis/pyoderma, demodicosis, hip dysplasia, cervical vertebral instability/malformation, entropion, ectropion, eversion of the cartilage of the nictitating membrane, congenital idiopathic megaoesophagus, congenital deafness, shoulder osteochondrosis, lymphoma, osteosarcoma and dilated cardiomyopathy.

Recommended Reading For More Information

Great Danes (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual)

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