Let's talk Great Danes

Great Danes may not be Danish, but they certainly are great. Tipping the scales in the largest cases at not far off 80 kg, these whopping canines are sometimes known as the Apollo of Dogs after the ancient sun god. Great Danes may be Olympian in size, but, space-permitting, and if they are well-trained, they can make lovely family dogs: they will take up just as much room in your heart as in your home.

Official name: Great Dane

Origins: Germany

Great Dane adult in black and white
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*We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behaviour. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations. Every pet is different, even within a breed. This snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication only. For a happy, healthy, and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet, as well as meeting their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs). Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child. Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice. All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company. However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.
Illustration of a Great Dane
76 - 81 cm71 - 76 cm
63 - 77 kg50 - 63 kg
2 to 8 months8 months to 2 years
2 to 5 yearsFrom 10 years
Birth to 2 months
Black-and-white portrait of a Great Dane looking to the side
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Get to know the Great Dane

All you need to know about the breed

Great Danes are quite simply huge: a sweet, friendly, and affectionate character wrapped in over-sized packaging.

They have maintained the stature and strength needed for their original mission — hunting wild boar — but over the centuries, aggressiveness has been bred out of them, giving way to gentleness. Great Danes are handsome hounds, with a majestic demeanour, alert expression, and dense glossy coat in one of three evocative colour combinations: fawn and brindle, black and harlequin, or blue.

Once trained — and this should be relatively straightforward — Great Danes get on well with children and can make lovely family pets, with the caveat that they do require a level of commitment that’s a notch above a smaller dog. If you’re pushed for space or a collector of valuable china ornaments — one swipe of that solid Great Dane tail at tabletop height can have devastating consequences — you may want to reconsider.

Great Danes require a decent amount of exercise, although despite their size they are not the most energetic breed around. Once fully grown they enjoy a variety of exercise — walks, runs, and the chance to potter around in an enclosed space (luckily they can’t jump so you won’t need to raise your fence). One thing to bear in mind is that because of their enormous size, Great Danes’ average lifespan is short.

On a day-to-day basis, the only real downside to having a Great Dane as a pet is the slobber. Great Danes drool a considerable amount. But these affable, larger-than-life characters more than make up for that in the pleasure they bring their human companions.

An adult and puppy Great Dane sat next to each other on grass
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Two facts about Great Danes

1. Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You?

The loveable but cowardly cartoon canine Scooby-Doo is thought to be loosely based on a Great Dane. The breed has had another brush with stardom in the form of Marmaduke, the super-sized star of a comic strip, which was first printed in the 1950s and was made into a movie in 2010.

2. Great (Not) Dane 

The Great Dane is, with impeccable logic, not actually Danish at all: the breed’s origins lie in Germany, where in 1878, a committee of judges and breeders met in Berlin to classify several similar dogs known by different names under just one: Deutsche Dogge. That literally translates into English as "German Dog". So the breed became known in English as the Great Dane. Makes sense.

Black-and-white portrait of a Great Dane looking to the side
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History of the breed

For a breed with such a long history, it’s not surprising that the Great Dane’s origins are not always clear. Images from Egyptian tombs suggest they may have existed for thousands of years. Mastiff- and greyhound-like breeds, as well as an extinct German hunting dog (the Bullenbeisser), are thought to feature in Great Danes’ ancestry.

What is certain is that the precursors to modern Great Danes were prized as wild boar hunters, as well as guard dogs in medieval Germany. When the breed first came to the United Kingdom, the dogs were known as German boarhounds.

In the 19th century several similar varieties were classified together under a new name — Deutsche Dogge. How that became Great Dane in English is not clear, but to complicate matters further it may have been via the translation of a French name given to the breed: Le Grand Danois.

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Great Danes

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1.Head

Statuesque appearance with large, well-defined head.

2.Face

Alert expression with naturally forward-folding ears.

3.Body

Strong, muscular, square-shaped body.

4.Coat

Short dense, glossy coat in three possible colours.

5.Tail

Strong tail tapering to the tip.
Great Dane puppy resting its head on its paws
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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Great Dane

Beware of bloat

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as bloat, affects many large breeds but is the most common problem associated with Great Danes. Owners need to know the signs to look out for — bloated abdomen, restlessness, retching, salivation, and whining or abnormal stillness — and what to do: seek immediate help from a veterinarian. Some owners opt for preventive surgery, which can protect their dogs, partially at least. The procedure, called gastropexy, involves stitching the walls of the stomach in place and should prevent the life-threatening torsion (volvulus) of the stomach, although not the dilatation (bloating). It’s a good start.

Hip problems

As a tall breed, the Great Dane can be prone to osteoarticular diseases — or diseases of the bones and joints. In particular, the Great Dane breed can suffer from antebrachial growth deformities. These deformities of the dogs’ forelegs can lead to pain and reduced movement. To avoid conditions such as these, feeding Great Danes the correct food from puppyhood is important, as is avoiding calcium supplements.

Great Dane bounding across a path
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Caring for your Great Dane

Grooming, training, and exercise tips

Making sure your Great Dane remains in good health and enjoys life requires a certain amount of effort in grooming, exercise and training. The Great Dane’s short, smooth coat isn’t too high maintenance, except during its shedding season, which occurs once or twice a year. The usual weekly brushing routine will need to be stepped up to a daily tackling of the fluff. Great Danes need regular exercise — multiple daily walks are ideal. Once their joints are fully grown, at around two years, they can also enjoy jogs or hikes. Off-the-leash exercise sessions need to be in a secure, enclosed space: Great Danes like following their noses. With this much dog on your hands, you’ll need to make sure your Great Dane is well trained and socialized early. Firm, consistent training methods will bring rewards in the form of an affectionate, sociable, and eager-to-please mega-dog.

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All about Great Danes

Sources
  1. Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/
  2. Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020
  3. Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/
  4. Royal Canin BHN Product Book
  5. American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/

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