What are Great Dane's like?
Great Danes are giant dogs that are surprisingly gentle around other people and pets, but they can be protective of their homes. Great Danes can make brilliant family pets as long as they have plenty of space to accommodate their huge size. They’re docile and dependable dogs who love nothing more than hanging out with their humans, and they don’t need tons of grooming or marathon-worthy walks despite their large size.
Great Danes are a true gentle giant of a dog, docile and laidback at home and they make very friendly and loving pets. In fact, they’re famously the “world’s biggest lapdog” and chronic leaners, so if you’re lucky enough to own a Great Dane be prepared to have your legs squashed in a snuggle!
These dogs love their humans and can sometimes develop separation anxiety if they’re not taught how to be left alone without worrying.
The most obvious thing about Great Danes is without a doubt their size, and they’re one of the tallest dogs in the world. As with owning any big breed of dog you need to be prepared to give them the exercise and space they need to stay active and happy, as well as keeping up with the equally large amounts of food these big dogs need to eat.
Although they have big upkeep on the dog food bill, these dogs won’t drum up a large grooming bill because they need very little brushing or bathing.
Great Danes were once used as hunting dogs but these hounds are now bred for companionship and can make fantastic pets for active families.
Just be aware that they can be boisterous as puppies and aren’t always aware of their size, so they can knock off ornaments, or push over furniture or unsuspecting family members if playtime gets too rambunctious. They don’t mean any harm though, it’s just the caveat of owning such a huge hound!
The history of the Great Dane
Where are Great Danes from?
Despite the name, the Great Dane doesn’t come from Denmark. It’s thought that this giant breed of dog originated in Germany sometime during the Middle Ages.
However, these dogs were being imported from England and they were known as the “Englische Docke”, making the Great Dane’s ancestors British breeds like the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound.
However, dogs that look like Great Danes have been used for hunting for centuries, and they can be seen in ancient artwork in Greece and Egypt, so similar-looking pooches have existed for thousands of years. But whether they were ancestors of the Great Dane or not is now lost to time.
What were Great Danes bred for?
Great Danes were bred to hunt wild boar, deer, and other large prey. Their job was to catch the boar and hold it still so the human hunters could catch up and kill their prey.
Because of their impressive size and sleek appearance, Great Danes were especially popular with wealthy aristocrats and this hunting hound became a bit of a status symbol. Some folk even allowed their favourite hunting hounds to sleep inside their bed-chambers with them to guard and protect them at night. (Which is probably why modern Great Danes think they belong in the bedroom with you!)
The breed came about by mixing together other breeds to create a strong dog that could take on a dangerous boar, but still have long legs and keen eyesight so they could chase their prey.
It’s thought Great Danes were created by breeding together Mastiffs for their size, strength, and fighting ability, alongside Irish Wolfhounds for their height and their scenting and hunting ability. The resulting dog was slimmer than a Mastiff but equally massive, able to track down wild boar and work as a pack to take them down.
The birth of the modern Great Dane
When hunting fell out of fashion, the Great Dane changed jobs and became a head-turning companion and watchdog, rather than a hunter.
People still valued this dog’s impressive size and deep bark to prevent would-be burglars, but favoured docile dogs who would make calm companions and pets. That’s why the fighting instinct seems to have been bred out of the Great Dane, leaving us with the loveable dog we know today.
Great Danes are usually around three feet tall on all fours, and their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall. Females are smaller than males, but they’re still unmistakably big dogs.
Here’s a chart of the key statistics of the Great Dane:
|Average Height (Withers):||108-126cm||71 to 81cm|
|Average Weight:||63 to 80kg||50 to 63.5kg|
|Lifespan:||7-10 years||7-10 years|
Great Dane facts
The name is misleading
Although these dogs are great in size, they’re certainly not a Dane. Great Danes actually originate from Germany, and their ancestors come from Britain.
The world’s tallest dog
Great Danes are one of the largest dogs in the world, and one of the tallest dog breeds. The world record for the tallest dog belongs to a giant Great Dane called Zeus who’s over 1m tall at the withers. Coincidentally, he took the record from another Great Dane who was also called Zeus!
Famous cartoon canines
Although they might not look it, (and brown isn’t a recognised colour for the breed,) Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo are both Great Danes. Astro, the beloved dog of The Jetsons, is also a Great Dane.
Big stars on TV and film
Fans of Coronation Street might recognise this big breed because Chesney Brown’s pooch Schmeichel was a Great Dane. Similarly, almost every adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles has used a Great Dane as the haunting hound because of their impressive size.
An unexpected hero
A Great Dane called Juliana became a great hero during the Blitz in 1941 when an incendiary bomb fell into her owner’s house. The courageous canine unwittingly defused the bomb by peeing on it and was awarded a Blue Cross medal for her bravery.
She was decidedly more daring in 1941 when a fire broke out in her owner’s shoe shop, and Juliana’s impressive bark woke her humans and alerted them to danger, earning her a second Blue Cross medal.
There’s a sad end to this tall tale though, as Juliana died in 1946 after eating something toxic that was posted through her owner’s letterbox.
A nuisance in the navy
A Great Dane called Just Nuisance is the only dog officially enlisted into the Royal Navy. He earned his name after sleeping on gangplanks, making him a nuisance to walk over or around to get on or off a ship.
This loveable Great Dane got into trouble for riding trains without a fare, (canines don’t carry cash it seems), so the sailors had him enlist in the navy so he could catch trains for free just like any other sailor. When Just Nuisance passed away, he was buried with full military honours even though he never actually went to sea!
Great Dane puppies
When are Great Danes fully grown?
Although Great Danes grow very quickly, this huge dog takes much longer to be considered fully grown compared to other dogs. They often have massive growth spurts when they’re about 4-6 months old, but they won’t reach their adult height until they’re around 18 months old.
Great Danes aren’t considered fully grown until they’re at least 2 years old when they finally reach their adult height and weight and their bones have fully developed.
Are Great Danes easy to train?
Great Danes aren’t the easiest dog to train but they’re also not the hardest dog to train. Your Great Dane puppy will require patience and consistency when training because most dogs are eager to please, but this breed can sometimes have a stubborn streak and may be strong-willed.
Great Danes aren’t too hard to housetrain either, and here are some tips on how to toilet train your puppy.
Because of their huge size, obedience training is a must so you can keep this large, powerful dog under control both for their own safety and for those around them. This is especially important when you’re out walking, and you can find out how to train loose-lead walking here.
How much space do Great Danes need?
Given their gargantuan size it should be no surprise that Great Danes need a lot of room to grow. These dogs aren’t suitable for apartment living or small houses with little gardens.
Great Dane names
Maybe you’ll name your new dog after some of the most famous Great Danes of all, Scooby-Doo and Astro. Or maybe you’d rather find something more regal for your gentle giant? You can read through these bumper lists of 1000 girl dog names and 1000 boy dog names to find some inspiration for your Great Dane names.
Great Dane temperament
The typical Great Dane temperament is that of a gentle giant. These dogs might once have been bred to protect their families, and they can still have a protective streak, but they’re generally very patient, docile, and easygoing dogs with a cheerful disposition.
Great Danes love being around their humans and are very loving and affectionate, earning the nickname of the world’s biggest lapdog. As well as being determined that they’re still small enough to snuggle, Great Danes will often lean on you to show you their love. They’re very social dogs and can develop separation anxiety.
Although they’re happy to snooze and snuggle a lot of the time, most Great Dane temperaments do have a mischievous side. They can be playful, cheeky and a little a bit goofy. They can also get the zoomies despite their size.
However, these big dogs can be strong-willed and a little bit stubborn at times, which combined with their massive size, can prove a handful without regular training and positive reinforcement.
Because these pooches were once bred to protect people and places, they still have a deep bark sure to deter any would-be burglar and they can be protective of their territory and their family, and they’re naturally wary of strangers.
On the whole, the typical Great Dane temperament is that of a sociable dog who is gentle, patient, and reasonably friendly with other people and pets.
Are Great Danes good with kids?
A socialised Great Dane usually gets on well with older children thanks to their sociable nature and gentle, laidback attitude.
Great Danes are moderately playful dogs and often enjoy playing with children, but because of their huge size, you must make sure both the dog and kids know not to play too rough or boisterously, just in case an accident happens.
Are Great Danes aggressive dogs?
Despite their commanding appearance, most Great Danes are very sweet, mild-mannered dogs. They’re typically sociable and easy-going, so they get on well with people and other animals. However, temperaments can vary and some might be a bit more standoffish with strangers and other dogs.
When you’re looking for a Great Dane puppy, try to find a breeder who works towards balanced temperaments as well as good health, and make sure you socialise your puppy.
When adopting a dog, ask about the suitability testing the rehoming centre has carried out to determine the dog’s temperament.
Are Great Danes protective?
Great Danes were once bred to be protectors, and some dogs can still have a slightly protective attitude towards their territory and their owners. Equally, many dogs are very friendly and laid back and will do little more than woof at the postman approaching the door.
Your Great Dane’s temperament can vary depending on the temperament inherited from their parents, and how they’re raised, which includes how well socialised they are as a puppy.
One of the most obvious aspects of the Great Danes’ appearance is their huge size. These dogs easily weigh as much as an adult human, and when they’re standing on their back legs they’re as tall as one too!
These titans of dogs are very tall with a reasonably lean and muscular build, which is more straight and elegant than most Mastiff type dogs. Their fur is short and sleek and they only have a single coat.
Great Danes have a large head which is long and surprisingly narrow, and flat between their ears. The ears themselves are naturally floppy and triangular shaped. (However, in the past and abroad, some people have unnecessarily cropped dogs’ ears to make them stand erect. Ear cropping is banned here in the UK). They have soulful eyes and long floppy jowls adding to their distinguished appearance.
Their neck and legs are long and surprisingly slender given their size. (Not stocky or heavily muscled). A Great Dane at a healthy weight should have an obvious waist and abdominal tuck too.
Finally, their tail is long and slim, often reaching their hocks and with a slight outward curve. Be careful when this thing starts wagging, it can knock things over and feel like a whip!
Great Dane colours
There are only six colours of Great Dane recognised by the breed standard set by the Kennel Club. Only one further colour exists, merle, but this is outside the breed standard and considered unacceptable in show dogs. (You might find a few pet Great Danes that colour though).
The standard Great Dane colours are:
Can I get a Great Dane with cropped ears?
In previous years and in some countries overseas, people would crop a Great Dane’s ears so that they stood erect. (Naturally, they have floppy ears).
Ear cropping is illegal here in the UK. It’s seen as an act of mutilation, cutting away parts of your dog’s ear for no benefit to the dog. The procedure is purely cosmetic to make them fit a certain “look” and entirely unnecessary for your dog and has no benefits whatsoever.
How much exercise do Great Danes need?
Great Danes are big dogs which means they need more exercise than most breeds to make sure they burn off any excess energy and to keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit.
Ideally, your Great Dane should have one to two hours of exercise every day. This should be split into a few shorter walks rather than one super long one.
You don’t need to be out walking for two hours though, you could offer an hour of walking, an opportunity to roam off lead, and supplement walks with doggy sports, indoor games, and other fun activities that get your Great Dane active and stimulated. Even training can count towards their daily activity needs.
However, this large amount of exercise does not apply to Great Dane puppies.
Because Great Danes take a long time for their skeleton to fully grow and mature, too much exercise at a young age can damage their bones and joints. Puppies require a lot less exercise than adult dogs, with dogs under 6 months only needing a few short walks, and puppies between 6-12 months only need about 30 minutes of walkies a day.
Your vet will be able to advise you on how much exercise is enough for your growing Great Dane. You can also enjoy low-impact activities like training or indoor games to help burn off your puppy’s excess energy.
How long do Great Danes live?
The average Great Dane lifespan is shorter than average for most dogs and many Great Danes only live to be around 7-10 years old. Sadly, these definitely aren’t one of the longest-living dog breeds.
Although keeping your dog at a healthy weight, feeding them a complete diet, and providing regular exercise will help them to live a long and happy life, most giant dog breeds, including the Great Dane, rarely make it to their tenth birthday.
The oldest known Great Dane was believed to be 11, which is impressive for the breed but still a year or two short of the average lifespan for all dogs.
What health problems do Great Danes have?
Although Great Danes don’t have the longest life, they’re generally pretty healthy. However, due to their huge size and fast-growth rate as puppies, they are prone to a lot of bone and joint problems. Some common Great Dane health problems include:
Like many large and giant breeds of dog, Great Danes are prone to hip dysplasia, a painful condition where the ball and socket joint in the hip doesn’t fit together properly. Mild hip dysplasia can sometimes be managed with physiotherapy and diet, but severe cases often require surgery to correct the joint.
Great Danes can also develop elbow dysplasia, which is a somewhat similar condition where the three bones in their elbow don’t fit together properly. Again, physiotherapy or surgery may be required to treat the condition.
Great Danes should be screened for hip and elbow dysplasia before being bred to ensure puppies are unlikely to inherit the condition.
Wobbler disease, wobbler syndrome, or simply “wobblers” is another serious condition that Great Danes and other fast-growing large breeds of dogs are prone to.
A dog with wobblers has a physical defect in their cervical vertebrae (their neck) which puts pressure on their spinal cord and nerves, leading to neck pain, and an uncoordinated, wobbly gait. (Hence the name.) Wobbler syndrome requires surgery to treat.
Other bone and joint problems
Great Danes can develop osteoarthritis, and hip or elbow dysplasia often results in arthritis.
It’s vital that you manage your Great Danes diet as a puppy so they develop healthy bones and joints. Overfeeding your Great Dane puppy and giving them too much calcium can lead to abnormal growth and obesity, which can put additional strain on their fast-growing bones and lead to problems like osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) where the cartilage doesn’t join to the bones correctly.
Obesity is a common problem in all dogs (over half of the UK’s dogs are overweight). Owners should avoid letting their Great Dane become overweight because it can shorten their already limited lifespan and the extra weight puts additional strain on their bones and joints.
Obesity also worsens problems like hip dysplasia and arthritis, so preventing it will help to prevent or manage other conditions your Great Dane could be prone to.
Bloat or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is where excess air fills the stomach and it’s considered a medical emergency in dogs. The dog’s bloated stomach can sometimes twist or flip its position, cutting off the blood supply to the stomach, pancreas, and spleen which puts your dog’s life in danger.
Great Danes are 5-8x more likely to suffer from bloat compared to other dogs because they have tall but narrow bodies, with a deep, slim rib cage. They’re also a very large breed of dog, and big dogs are more at risk of bloat compared to smaller dogs. It’s thought that around 50% of Great Danes will suffer from bloat at some point in their lifetime.
Because of their almond-shaped eyes and droopy faces, Great Danes can be prone to several problems involving their eyes and eyelids. These include entropion or ectropion where the eyelid turns too far inward or outward, irritating the eyes. They can also develop cherry eye where the tear gland becomes inflamed or prolapses.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Great Danes are somewhat prone to developing dilated cardiomyopathy is a kind of heart disease where the muscle in the heart weakens and can no longer pump blood as strongly as it should.
Inherited myopathy of Great Danes (IMGD)
IMGD is an inherited muscle-wasting disease that only affects Great Danes. It’s relatively rare and symptoms usually emerge when dogs are still puppies.
Sadly, most Great Danes with IMGD are euthanised, but some individuals can improve and live to adulthood. This is another condition parent dogs should be tested for before being bred, along with screening for conditions like hip dysplasia.
Grooming a Great Dane
Great Danes don’t have extensive grooming requirements thanks to their short, sleek fur.
You’ll only need to brush them about once a week at most with a flat brush to get any dust and dirt out of their coat. Regular brushing will also help to get rid of any loose hair, helping to minimise shedding. Your Great Dane shouldn’t need to have their fur cut or shaved.
You’ll only need to bathe your dog about once every three months, or whenever they’ve gotten a bit dirty or smelly. If your dog has a skin condition or allergies you might need to bathe them more regularly with a medicated shampoo to treat them, as directed by your vet.
You might need to wash their ears about once a month to get rid of any bacteria and dirt and help to prevent infection. Their eyes might need an occasional wipe clean with a damp cloth to get rid of any mucus that’s built up.
Their claws should be trimmed about once a month too, and you’ll probably need a pair of heavy-duty clippers to trim their large, thick claws.
You should also brush your Great Dane’s teeth every few days (or every day if you can,) to keep their teeth pearly white and to prevent plaque and gum disease.
Do Great Danes shed?
Yes, Great Danes do shed. They will shed some hair year-round but because the fur is short you might not notice it too much. They also only have a single coat of fur, so they shed less fur than some double-coated breeds.
Additionally, routine baths and regularly brushing your dog’s fur will help to minimise shedding because any loose hair will come off on the brush, not around the house.
Are Great Danes hypoallergenic?
No, Great Danes aren’t hypoallergenic because they shed a moderate amount of fur, dander, and saliva and have the potential to trigger allergies. These big dogs do have a tendency to drool, which can set off allergies just as easily as fur.
However, it’s important to remember that no dog is 100% hypoallergenic and could trigger sensitivities, even dogs like Poodles that don’t shed. The best thing to do is to try and spend some time with a dog of the breed you like to see if they trigger your allergies or not.
Personalise yourdog's food
Proactively invest in your pet's health with a nutritious, vet-approved dog food that's trusted by thousands. Discover your dog's recipe today.Discover your dog's menu