Great Dane

Breed At A Glance


Gentle, loving and protective

Life Expectancy
6-9 years

Average Height
Males 30-34 inches; Females 28-32 inches

Average Weight
Males 120-200 lbs; Females 100-130 lbs

Coat Color
Fawn, brindle, black, blue, mantle harlequin or merle

Coat Length/Texture
Short, dense and fine

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year round

Also known as Deutsche Dogge, German Mastiff, Grand Danois, Danish Hound, Gentle Giant

General Temperament

Although the Great Dane may be intimidating at first glance, anyone who meets a member of this breed will soon be won over by it’s sweet and loving disposition. It earned it’s nickname “Gentle Giant” due to it’s amiable nature combined with a rather imposing physique. Though they have a history as hunting dogs, most Great Danes are now kept as companion pets.

Great Danes are loving towards all members of the family and are unlikely to bite even the most unruliest of children, although unintentional accidents may occur as a result of the dog’s size. Dogs of this breed must be taught from an early age to not jump onto or lean into people, as they may knock them over. Obedience training is an absolute must with this giant breed: it will be difficult, if not impossible, to control an unruly Great Dane. This breed does not have a strong prey instinct, and they therefore get along well with other pets – though as with all dogs, early socialization and training is the key to harmony within the home.

Great Danes grow very large very quickly, so it is important to not over-exert them, particularly during puppyhood. They have a relatively slow metabolism and eat less per-pound than smaller breeds, so they do not need as much exercise as one would surmise. This makes them surprisingly adaptable for apartment life. Their short coats require minimal grooming, though they shed consistently year-round.

Great Danes grow quite attached to their human families and will defend them if necessary, though they are not typically aggressive. They make excellent guard dogs given their size, deep bark, and penetrating stare and protective nature.

Breed History

It is commonly accepted that this giant breed was developed to hunt large game such as wild boar, but beyond that, the origin of the Great Dane is widely speculative. Some believe that it has ancient origins in Greece or Egypt. Others suggest the modern Great Dane was developed in Germany as the result of a mix of Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds, possibly with Greyhounds added somewhere along the line. Still others believe that the breed was developed in Denmark (hence the name “Great Dane”). Whatever it’s origins, the regal and formidable Great Dane has been a beloved canine companion for centuries.

The Great Dane was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887, soon after the club’s inception.

Body Structure and Composition

In addition to it’s overall size, a defining characteristic of the Great Dane is it’s deep and wide chest, as well as it’s intelligent expression. The Great Dane is known to be a “square” breed, meaning that individuals are usually as tall as they are long. They have a long but not pointed muzzle that meets the large skull with a pronounced stop. The topline is level while the dog shows off it’s effortless gait. With long, powerful legs, a Great Dane can cover a large area easily, though they do not possess the stamina of some other breeds.

Historically, the Dane’s long, floppy ears were often cropped to prevent injury while hunting wild boar. Presently, ear cropping has little practical purpose, though it is sometimes done in the United States for cosmetic or traditional reasons. Many other countries have banned the practice.

There is typically a strong contrast between males and females of this breed. Male Great Danes are almost always larger and more robust than their female counterparts, who possess much more gracile, feminine features.

Medical Information

The most common problem afflicting Great Danes is gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by said excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Most experts believe that there are two keys to minimizing the chance of this condition: (1) find ways to allow the dog to eat slowly, such as spreading their food out on the ground or feeding several small meals per day, and (2) do not over-exert the dog after a meal.

Like many large breeds, the Great Dane is prone to hip and/or elbow dysplasia, a degeneration of the joints which can cause arthritis or lameness. Great Danes can also suffer from congenital heart or thyroid problems. Be sure to locate a reputable breeder who can provide adequate information on lineage and appropriate health screenings.

Anecdotal Information

The tallest dog on record, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is a Great Dane named Giant George.

The Great Dane is the state dog of Pennsylvania.

The comic strip character Marmaduke is a Great Dane.

Scooby Doo is based on a Great Dane, though his tail is longer than the typical Dane’s.

Great Danes have been featured in many films, including Swiss Family Robinson and The Patriot (starring Mel Gibson).

The Great Dane has such a protective nature that lion and tiger tamers at the beginning of the 20th century often used the breed during training sessions. If the big cats threatened to harm the trainers, the dogs would selflessly intervene.

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