Great Dane

Breed Group: Working

Temperament and Behavior

One of the group of breeds sometimes referred to as the “gentle giants”, Great Danes are brave, dependable, courageous, and spirited. With a friendliness that exudes confidence, they love their people and need to remain close to family members. They are equally as good with children as they are with adults. However, his size makes him too much for most little ones. Generally gentle and easy going, he enjoys visitors, unless he is too lazy to be aware of them. But normally his imposing bark will let you know when a stranger approaches. He looks formidable and can take on an imposing air when he feels threatened. But rarely aggressive, he makes a better watchdog than a guard dog. Some accept dogs and other four-footed pets but some detest them. Raising them together will improve your chances. A misconception some have is a Great Dane needs exercise that corresponds to their size. Nothing could be further from the truth. They do need a great deal of room to spread out when lying down, they can take up the same amount of space as a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood, but their exercise level is low to moderate. They need only a reasonable walk a couple of times a day. Their immense size simply requires ample space in which to live. They are so calm indoors they can do well in a large apartment. Great Danes have perfected the science of napping, particularly when getting older. But young dogs are playful, so early training is important. They are no more active than an average dog when outdoors either. They do drool and sober so are not for fastidious housekeepers. Puppies (to age 3) can be boisterous and create unimaginable destruction. Supervision is strongly recommended.

Physical Characteristics

One of the best known of the giant breeds, a Great Dane’s height is between about 28 and 34 inches and weighs between 100 and 200 pounds. The larger the size, the more prized is the dog. Their coat colors are brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin and mantle. Their coat is short and easy to maintain; occasional brushing keeps shedding moderate. The breed does poorly as temperatures progress toward either hot or cold. Avoid exercising them in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius).

Trainer's Notes

Socialization is important to help Great Danes improve their acceptance of dogs and other animals that may be kept as pets and to ensure a stable temperament. With their power and size, acts of aggression must be avoided as they may prove dangerous. Growling must never be overlooked. Owners should establish leadership beginning the day the puppy comes home. Great Danes can be difficult to train, but no more than an average dog. Making up in size what they lack in intelligence, they bore easily. Use short spurts of training when they are attentive to teach basic manners. Don’t jerk them around; they will become more powerful than you are. There are better choices for a novice dog owner.

Photo © by Rytis Mikelskas available under the GNUFDL
Great Dane

Great Dane, brindle color


The breed has one health issue that eclipses all others. Bloat is the number one killer of Great Danes, and they are the breed most at risk for this condition. To help reduce the risks of bloat, feed small amounts several times a day and avoid vigorous exercise, especially rolling, both before and after meals. Other health problems include Hip Dysplasia which affects about 1 dog in 10. Cardiomyopathy, Hypothyroidism, OCD, Bone Cancer, Wobbler Syndrome, and HOD the last four of which are painful bone conditions, that can cause lameness or fatigue. The breed’s lifespan is roughly 7 years.


Even with their shorter lifespan and myriad of health problems, Great Danes are ranked 24th in popularity by the American Kennel Club. About 9,500 dogs are registered each year.

Breed History

Widely known as the Apollo of all dogs, Great Danes could date back to 2000 BC to the Egyptians and Assyrians. Others believe the breed is a result of crossing the Old English Mastiff and Irish Wolfhound. Certainly an old breed, they have been bred in Germany since the 14th century as a boarhound but have no association with Denmark as their name suggests. The circumstances surrounding their becoming known under name Great Dane is unknown. They were introduced to America in the late 1800’s.

Additional Information

Great Dane owners of note include Mario Andretti, Wilt Chamberlain, Chubby Checker, Mike Douglas, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Kelsey Grammer, Olivia Newton-John, Franklin Roosevelt, Bruce Lee, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen also known as the WWI German Ace the Red Barron, and William Shatner. The National (US) Breed Club is the Great Dane Club of America

Is A Great Dane THE BEST Dog For YOU?

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