Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Great Danes may be known for their size - up to 34 inches tall and 200 pounds! - but they’re more akin to gentle giants than they are intimidating dogs. Great Danes are not only known for their history as hunting dogs, but also for their patient, quiet nature that makes them excellent friends for any dog owner. That may be why they’re in the top 15 most popular dog breeds for pets and many dog owners who are up for taking care of a large dog turn to Great Danes for companionship. Great Dane personality may change as each pup is its own special doggo but in general Great Danes have a great personality... so here's a little bit about them!
Also Known As...
Deutsche Dogge. German Mastiff. Gentle Giant. The Apollo of Dogs. Boarhound. "Whoa, is that a horse?" "Nah, it's just a Great Dane."
The Great Dane has been around for thousands of years, with drawings of similar dogs found in Egypt dating back as far as 3000 BCE.
In their modern form, Great Danes are considered a German breed with a history dating back to the 16th century. They served as companions to hunters of nobility, who bred the long-legged dogs to become expert hunting hounds, primarily to track wild boars on hunting expeditions.
Great Danes were imported to the United States in the late 1800s, where they then served as working dogs. Today, they’re better known for their kind and gentle natures, which make them prime candidates for work as therapy and service dogs. There’s no established reason these German-Austrian dogs came to be named after Denmark; regardless, they have a long and storied history.
Great Danes are, well, great in size. Males have an average height of 30-32 inches tall, while females have an average height of 28-30 inches. At around two months old, Great Danes have a height of about 13-18 inches. After that, they can grow at a rate of about five inches per month until they reach their adult heights at about one year old.
A Great Dane named Zeus holds the title of the world’s tallest dog, reaching 44 inches in height. Make sure you have the space a Great Dane requires before adopting one of these giant dogs.
Female Great Danes weigh 99-130 lbs on average, while males average 120-200 lbs in weight. Incredibly, Great Danes can weigh just 1-2 lbs at birth, achieving full weight and height maturation at around one year of age.
Though they may look imposing, Great Danes are quite gentle, calm and can make great companions for a pet owner. These dogs have more than earned their nickname, “The Gentle Giant,” as they’re affectionate and do well around children. Great Danes tend to get along with other dogs, but are also strong protectors who will safeguard their owners and homes. The fact that they’re often utilized as therapy dogs says a lot - these dogs can sense human emotion and are great at comforting a human in a hard time.
Intelligence / Trainability
Great Danes have midrange intelligence for dogs. They won’t pull too many tricks on you or wow you with their abilities to learn complex mazes, but they’re plenty smart enough to be trained to follow basic commands. Some even consider them fairly easy to train, which is good news for any Great Dane owner. It’s important to teach any dog to follow commands, but for a dog as physically imposing and strong as a Dane, it’s crucial to teach them obedience so they refrain from jumping on new friends, which may send a human to the ground.
Best Training Techniques For Great Danes
Great Danes need plenty of space to stretch out, so crate training should not be used as a long-term solution. Giving them space to play and get out their energy will help in the training process. It’s best to begin training as early as possible, and to focus on obedience behavior, using the exact same commands and hand movements each time to help the Dane learn as quickly as possible.
If you have a goal to eventually have your dog walk alongside you off leash, be aware that you’ll have to build up to this. That means you should prep for your Dane by getting an extremely sturdy collar, leash and harness, as well as a crate that can stand up to a dog that grows at a rapid rate. Use treats and other positive reinforcement methods to train your Great Dane, using basic, clear commands.
Great Danes do well in most environments. Despite their size, they actually make for pretty good apartment dogs. Believe it or not, they're often considered one of the best breeds for apartment dwelling. Like all dogs, they of course need their requisite amount of exercise (a nice walk should suffice), but once that's fulfilled they make really good couch potatoes.
Having said that, it's best to keep in mind the amount of space you have versus the amount of space a Great Dane might take up. Perhaps you live in a literal hole in the wall, in which case it's unlikely more than one creature (you) can fit inside it. Also worth remembering is that Great Danes react poorly to extreme temperatures, so you may want to invest in a sweater for the winter and air conditioning and fans in the summer to keep your dog comfortable.
Good For Families And kids?
Gentle, calm and sweet - Great Danes are great for dog owners looking for a relaxed dog. If trained properly, Great Danes can also be a nice choice for families with kids. They’re unlikely to become aggressive with their human family, but they’re large enough that gentle nudging may send a little one to the ground. They don’t mean to, but they’re big dogs, so keep that in mind when selecting a Great Dane as a pet.
Great Danes have a short lifespan - generally 8-10 years.
In their later years, Great Danes are prone to bone cancer, as well as hip dysplasia, which can require surgery or cause hip pain for these dogs. Dysplasia causes discomfort in the malformed hip socket, which may cause arthritis and other discomforts.
They also have a significant chance of developing an enlarged heart, or cardiomyopathy, which will require medical attention.
As puppies, Great Danes need plenty of exercise. As they mature, however, they lose that hyperactivity, making them a bit more relaxing to be around. However, keep in mind that, due to their size, a lack of high energy doesn’t mean you can get away with skipping regular walks. They’re simply large enough that they need to move, and need plenty of time to stretch their long legs.
Friendly With... (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Often used as service dogs and therapy dogs, Great Danes are friendly companions that are eager to meet new friends, whether other dogs, adult humans or children. They love to be around their pack, and so don’t like to be left alone. However, because they were originally bred to be hunting dogs, another family pet, such as cats, may spark their instinct to chase. This will depend on your individual dog’s temperament, and whether they’ve displayed any signs of aggression, particularly before neutering a male Dane.
Coat & Grooming
As a short-haired breed, Great Danes do shed, but not more than average. Give your dog a regular brushing - especially during shedding season - and you shouldn’t have too many problems. They’re a bit more slobbery than is standard, so prepare to wipe off your Dane’s chin with a cloth regularly to keep their jowls clean. You should also plan to bathe these dogs every six to eight weeks, or more frequently based on their activity levels. No need for baths more regularly than every couple of weeks even if you love your pup to be clean - you don’t want to strip this short-haired dog of essential oils that are vital to coat health.
Toys Great Danes Would Like Best
Considering their weight and physical strength, Great Danes need toys that will stand up to their jaws and expert chomping abilities. Try Super Chewer toys that can stand up to a Great Dane’s strength. Bonus points for sturdy chewer toys that double as fetch toys to help your large dog stretch their legs and work their teeth.
Check out Tug Toys, too, which Danes love. They’ll learn your (lack of) strength to give you a nice back and forth, or take it from you with ease and run around showing off with the Tug Toy in their mouth.
If you're looking for a more extensive list of toys, check out "What Are The Best Toys For Great Danes?" for more detailed information.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Large dogs such as Great Danes are prone to joint problems such as hip dysplasia, a painful condition that affects a dog’s hip sockets. That’s why some pet owners opt to include joint supplements into their Great Dane’s diet to ease or prevent pain as a Dane ages.
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Border Collie with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
If you’ve noticed your older Great Dane losing energy or expressing that they’re in pain due to hip dysplasia or arthritis, give your dog a bed that treats them right. Just as orthopedic shoes and memory foam beds can help humans feel some relief throughout the day and give them a good night’s rest, they can help our canine companions, too.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup's tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Great Dane Of Your Dreams
- Big Dogs, Huge Paws, INC.
- Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League
- Upper-Midwest Great Dane Rescue
- Waters Edge Great Dane Rescue, Inc.
Notable Instagram Great Danes
Can’t get enough of Great Danes? Check out these Instagram accounts to fawn over pics of these dogs with a noble past.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Great Dane's mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 super durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.
Featured image via Harley.quinn.the.dane/Instagram