GREAT DANE 101
The Great Dane is a German breed of domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) known for its giant size. The name of the breed in Germany is Deutsche Dogge (German Mastiff). They are known for their enormous bodies and great height. The Great Dane of the past is certainly not the affectionate gentle giant of today, yet it still maintains some physical traits and instincts of its ancestors.
Great Dane history from the 14th century forward reveals that the early Great Dane was a courageous and powerful hunter of European wild boar, capable of great speeds and swift attack. This muscular breed was developed primarily in England and Germany by combining the speed of the Greyhound, with the muscle and strength of the English Mastiff. Many canine historians also further link the Irish Wolfhound to its early breed lineage.
Many Danes would suffer shredded ears from the razor-sharp tusks of the wild Boar which brought about ear cropping where they were originally cut short and pointy, unlike the long show cut often seen today. Today ear cropping has become highly controversial and is ironically now illegal in Europe.
These boar hounds of the past were physically different in size and structure than the Great Dane we know today. The early Dane was shorter, heavier, stocky and more muscular, resembling more of a Mastiff than a Great Dane. Over time and through selective breeding, Danes have been transformed into the regal, chiseled, well-mannered Gentle Giants we know and love today.
Although classified by the AKC as a working breed dog, the Great Dane is primarily a companion animal.
Danes are very extra large dogs, often referred to as “Gentle Giants”.
Males, on average, stand from 32″ to 36″ at the shoulder and can weigh from 140 to 180 pounds.
Females typically stand 28″ to 33″ tall at the shoulder and weigh from 110 to 140 pounds.
Danes do not usually reach full maturity until they are 18 to 24 months of age.
Coat colurs include fawn (tan with black mask); brindle (tiger-striped); black (a solid black); blue (steel-blue/gray); mantle (marked like a Boston Terrier), and harlequin (a white base coat with torn black patches).
There are other colors that are not recognized as acceptable by the Great Dane Club of America, including white, merle (gray with darker gray patches), and colors such as “fawnequin” (a white base with tan patches) and “merlequin” (a white base with merle patches). White Danes are often deaf and/or blind. Some Danes, particularly merles, whites, and Harlequins can have blue eyes.
Always feed a Great Dane high-quality dog food with a well-balanced, nutritional composition. Never feed your Dane “grocery store” or “generic” dog food. Provided they are fed good food, supplementing is generally not necessary. Males typically consume 7 to 10 cups of food daily and females 6 to 8 cups daily. Meals must be served in at least two sittings (usually breakfast and dinner) rather than all at once to help prevent bloat.
Great Danes, like most giant dogs, have a fairly slow metabolism. This results in less energy and less food consumption per pound of dog than in small breeds. Great Danes are prone to some health problems that are common to most large breeds, including bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV)), cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, as well as bone and joint disorders.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and many congenital heart diseases are commonly found in the Great Dane, leading to its nickname: the ‘Heartbreak breed’, in conjunction with its shorter lifespan. Great Danes also may carry the merle gene, which is part of the genetic makeup that creates the harlequin coloring. The merle gene is an incomplete dominant, meaning only one copy of the gene is needed to show the merle coloring; two merle genes produce excessive white markings and many health issues such as deafness, blindness, or other debilitating ocular issues. Like many larger breeds, Great Danes are at particular risk for hip dysplasia and other bone and joint disorders. Great Danes can also develop something called “wobblers disease” that can affect their vertebral column. Since these dogs do grow at a rapid rate, the bones in their vertebrae can push up against the spinal cord and cause a little bit of weakness in the legs. This can be treated with surgery or it may straighten itself out.
The average life span of a Great Dane is 8 to 10 years; however, some Great Danes have been known to reach 12 years of age or more.
The Great Dane’s large and imposing appearance opposes its friendly nature. The Dane is often referred to as a “gentle giant”. Great Danes are generally well disposed toward other dogs, other non-canine pets, and familiar humans. They generally do not exhibit extreme aggressiveness or a high a high prey drive. The Dane is generally a very gentle and loving companion animal and with the proper care and training can be great around children, especially when raised with them. However, if not properly socialized a Great Dane may become fearful or aggressive towards new stimuli, such as strangers and new environments. Great Danes are a breed recommended for families provided that are trained early and onwards due to their preference for sitting on and leaning against owners as, often noted as ‘the world’s biggest ‘lap dog.’ Keep in mind that Great Danes are an extremely sensitive breed and will react negatively to harsh corrections. Training should be provided with an expert or one very familiar with the nature of the breed with a focus on positive reinforcement with minimal use of harsh corrections and harsh vocal commands.
The Great Dane’s calm and respectful nature make them quite suitable therapy and service dogs. The gentle confidence the breed exhibits helps it to remain calm and easy even among large groups of people. This solid sturdy giant also serves well as an assistance dog. The Dane’s well-mannered personality, along with its tall, sturdy foundation, make it a wonderful candidate to assist people with mobility issues.
EXERCISE & TRAINING
Due to their size, Great Danes are very strong dogs. Therefore, it is advisable that all Danes be given a basic obedience class, the earlier the better. Training early on will help establish you, the human, as the leader and will help create a long-lasting bond between you and your Great Dane.
Danes do best when they are kept as indoor pets and when the family is the core of their existence. Great Danes are extremely people-oriented and need to be an integral part of the family. Before acquiring a Dane, please be sure you have sufficient time to spend with him or her. Danes crave and need human companionship. When away from your Dane for an extended period of time we recommend you have familiar family or friends set in place to stay in your home with your Dane in your absence. We do not recommend ever kenneling a Great Dane, they do not do well in a confined space with little human contact and may experience severe anxiety which is a know cause of bloat.
Great Danes are a very protective breed and can become very vocal in their barking upon a strangers arrival, making them desirable as a “watch dog”. For the most part, Great Danes are usually friendly towards people welcomed by their family. Once adequately exercised, adult Danes tend to be very “laid back” in nature and tend to be couch potatoes.
Danes have very short hair coat and need minimal grooming. A good brushing once or twice a week in the winter months and daily during the warmer months when they shed more should be sufficient for most Danes. Danes do not require baths very often, no more than once a month. However, you may have to wipe away drool and muddy paws in between baths!
Everything costs more with a Dane! They eat more, their beds are bigger and their vet bills for most medications, heart worm preventative, flea control, etc. are sold based on the weight of the dog. The more the dog weighs, the more of the medication you will need and the more expensive it will be. In addition, surgery, x-rays, and other medical services are often more expensive for these very large dogs. The cost of owning a Dane is a definite factor you must consider carefully before you adopt one and pet insurance is highly recommended.