Great Danes are simply the best dogs God created! That said, I’ll admit to certain prejudices with this subject. This breed is not for everyone. From my personal experiences with several of the giant pups, I believe they are best suited for less rigid folks. If your home is filled with antiques and lots of bric-a-brac, a Dane may have difficulty moving around without damaging something. If you are over-protective with your children, this might be more dog than you would enjoy. But if you can roll with whatever the day brings, Dane antics and all that goes with them, you will find these dogs to be the most gentle, sweet-natured and comical of all breeds.
These gentle giants do take up space. They make wonderful house pets but because of their size, they require a bit more room to move around than would a smaller dog. Older Danes may do well in apartments because they aren’t as active as younger ones.
My first purebred Great Dane was a birthday gift from my husband in 1984. I brought Ginny home from the Meistersinger Kennel in Kentucky when she was only 6 weeks old. I now know that was really too young to leave her litter, but she settled in quite well. Our little one was completely house-broken in 3 weeks, quite an accomplishment for such a young animal.
Harlequin Danes tend to grow larger than the other colored Danes, and Ginny was no exception. But she didn’t realize how large and strong she was. When she was 6 months old, she and our 4-year-old were playing a game of tug of war with Mike’s knit stocking cap. In trying to grab it, Ginny accidentally grabbed two of our son’s fingers and left 2 deep gashes. Stitches ensued, and the ER nurse would not believe it was just an accident with a puppy. She was determined to report the “dog bite.” Fortunately, the doctor disagreed after discussing it with Mike. As for Ginny, she was distraught and our older sons said she cried most of the time we were gone. When I returned with Ginny’s playmate, she cried some more and would not leave Michael’s side. Danes are very sensitive to the people around them.
Ginny sailed through her obedience classes and was extremely well-behaved and dependable, as are most Great Danes that are properly trained. But as wonderful as she was, Ginny still managed to get into her share of mischief. There was the summer day I found her tangled in the rope hammock, crying like a baby. But she stayed perfectly still while we slowly worked each leg free. You can read about Ginny’s escapade with the Christmas gifts and the Tipsy Fudge Cake here.
Adolescent Danes must be as closely supervised as you would a human toddler. When Ginny was about 10, Jim gifted me with Coby, a handsome blue Dane puppy. This little boy was as intelligent as Ginny but definitely had a mind of his own. When Coby was about 8 months old, I was cooking dinner and visiting relatives were in the den with the dogs and the kids. No one noticed as our big dog teethed on a handmade, cherry credenza. You do need to pay close attention to these dogs until they are at least 2 years old. If trouble is around, they will find it!
Except for their immense size which can be intimidating to some small children, Great Danes make wonderful family pets. They truly believe they are human children. Both Ginny and Coby ran and played with our 4 boys and allowed our younger daughter to dress them in doll clothes and her own clothes. Some of our grandchildren crawled all over Ginny, and she just licked them. Danes must be house dogs! Their sensitive natures require lots of human contact.
These dogs are not expensive to feed. Choose a high quality kibble and follow your breeder’s instructions if your pet is a puppy. Because Great Dane puppies grow so quickly, they cannot handle regular puppy food, because the protein percentage is too high. Severe orthopedic issues may develop if those puppy bones are not treated well. For help in selecting a dog food, look at the BARKS AND MEOWS page on this site. This will tell you what should and should not be in a quality dog food.
Enroll your pup early in obedience classes. A dog this large must learn to obey on command or you will have big problems.
Danes love soft beds! Invest in a good one. My mother chose a regular twin bed mattress for her Great Dane. During the day, she slid the mattress beneath her own bed and pulled it out at night. It is important for these animals to have soft beds in every room where the family gathers. If you don’t, your dog will choose a comfy sofa. Our family room was large and our Danes knew they were allowed to sit on the brown sectional sofa but not on the white one at the other end of the room. (That pretty much applied to the children, as well.)
Start as you mean to go on with Great Danes. Let them know from Day 1 what is and is not allowed and that you are the boss. Never hit any dog, but be especially gentle with a Dane. They are sensitive animals and will respond well to positive reinforcement.
Great Danes should be crate-trained early. Our dogs loved their crates and Ginny often chose to sleep in hers at night.
Take your dog out around strangers frequently. Socialization is important with any dog but especially so with this breed.
Danes grow to 100-200 lbs. depending on gender and breeding. Our Harlequin girl lived to 14 but most only live 7-9 years. We lost Coby to bone cancer just before his 8th birthday.
Great Danes are generally healthy dogs and are easy to raise. They require very little grooming. Some people have good luck with bathing the dogs in walk-in showers, but that didn’t work with ours. Coby’s breeder had cold and hot water faucets installed in their garage and pulled a hose from those connections to bathe the big dogs, even in winter.
Because Danes are at risk for certain developmental problems, it is crucial to get your dog from a reputable breeder. Never, ever buy from a retail pet store as most of their dogs come from puppy mills.
Common health issues to watch for include bloat, hip dysplasia and panosteitis. Bloat can be avoided by not allowing the dog to exercise an hour before and after eating. Feed your dog at least 2 meals a day so he isn’t eating too much at once.
Hip dysplasia is genetic, so be sure you receive certification that both your dog’s parents are free of that problem.
Coby developed panosteitis and it last about 4 months. Our veterinarian said it was mainly caused by the huge growth spurts that Danes go through. Coby was an exceptionally tall Dane. Careful attention and curbing his exercise during this time worked well for my dog, and he outgrew the problem.
If you decided to add a Great Dane to your family, you’ll be in for years of joy, laughter and sheer delight at the dog’s antics.