People often opt to buy a purebred puppy, but actually, there are lots of beautiful mixed breed dogs out there that will make just as great pets, and sometimes, sadly, it is these dogs that are left languishing the longest in rescue shelters too.
If you are bringing home a mixed breed dog, it can be helpful to understand the character traits from both the breeds so that you can get a better understanding of what you could expect.
If you end up with a Great Dane Lab Mix, it is one that you might expect to be a very loving, smart cookie. They are also likely to be a pretty big dog that needs an appropriate amount of exercise.
The Great Dane didn’t originate in Denmark, as the name may lead you to believe. Instead, they are thought to have their roots in Germany. There is some argument amongst breed enthusiasts as to just how old the breed may be, with some claiming it to have very ancient inception. They are believed to be closely related to Mastiffs.
They were originally bred to be formidable boar hunters, and their strength and size made them the ideal dog for this task.
Of course, they are no longer associated with this type of work and these hunting traits have generally long since been bred out of them and they are not most commonly associated with being an extremely affectionate companion animal.
Officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887, they are a well-established breed.
Like the Great Dane, the Labrador Retriever also has a name that would make you think they were associated with somewhere they are not. They did not originate specifically in Labrador, Canada but rather in the linked region of Newfoundland.
They were a working dog that was used to help fishermen in the region. They would help haul in the nets, retrieve escaped fish from the sea, and fetch ropes and other gear.
If you have ever watched the Netflix documentary ‘Dogs’, there is a wonderful episode called ‘Ice on Water’ that follows the life of a fisherman and restaurateur and his family who live and work on the shores of Lake Como, Italy. The family Labrador Retriever Ice is the village mascot and goes out fishing on the Lake with his owner every day. It is a super example of a dog getting to enjoy what he was bred for. They are also commonly mixed with other breeds, like the labrador blue heeler mix and the husky lab mix which makes the huskador.
In the early 19th century Labs were brought over from Canada to the UK where they were developed as gun dogs, and they were promoted as being excellent dogs for retrieving birds from the water. It was in England that their popularity and numbers grew and this is where the breed was developed.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized them in 1917, so like the Great Dane, they are well established, and they are now one of the most popular breeds in the United States and the United Kingdom; in most part because of their generally affectionate, sociable and intelligent personalities. They are also regularly used as service dogs for the same reasons.
A Great Dane Lab Mix will not be guaranteed to look a certain way. Every mix will be an individual, and it will depend on what genes they have picked up along the way.
Given the size of both breeds, it is a certainty that you are going to have a large dog. The smaller Labrador tends to be anything from around 50 to 80 lbs, and the Great Dane can be twice that weight, going up to as much as a whopping 200 lbs.
The Labrador Retriever also tends to have two types within the breed; the show type and the working type. The show type is usually a bit heavier and wider, and the working type is typically built more athletically and often a bit longer in the leg. Depending on which type has been crossed with the Great Dane, this could also impact on their build somewhat.
Neither breed has a long coat, but they are quite different. The Great Danes coat is short and sleek, but the Lab has a very thick double coat.
They can come in a very mixed bag of colorings too. Labs generally only come in three color types; black, chocolate and yellow. Great Danes come in a fair few more colors, including brindle, black, fawn, grey/blue, merle, harlequin (which is white with black patches all over the body), and mantle (a black coat but with a white mask, neck, chest, parts of their legs and tip of their tail). Occasionally, you get a completely white Great Dane, but these are not considered to be a Breed Standard by the AKC.
While every dog is an individual, it will be likely that you will have a very companionable, affectionate and clever dog if you have a Great Dane Lab Mix as both breeds are known for sharing these qualities.
They both tend to be very gentle dogs that are good with children. Care should be taken around young children though; given their potential size and strength, they could easily knock over a toddler without meaning to. Even with the most tolerant dog, it is essential that children are also taught how to behave around dogs and that they are taught to respect their space – no disturbing them while eating or sleeping. Dr Sophia Yin has a great infographic and blog article which provides very handy guidance for safely integrating dogs and children.
Both dogs are very sociable and will usually enjoy the company of visitors to their house too, although Great Danes can be known for being protective if the circumstance arises. If you do not want this, then guarding behavior should not be encouraged and, instead, they should receive praise and rewards for calm, gentle greetings.
They are more likely to give a very effusive greeting though, and this will usually apply when greeting other dogs too. They tend to like the company of other four-legged friends.
Because they are both dogs that thrive a lot in company, they are often not suited to being left on their own too much.
Both dogs are known for being people pleasers. They are usually highly motivated and eager to learn. Labradors are often the breed of choice for working as a service dog because of their ease of trainability and laid back personalities. Both breeds are also commonly used as Therapy dogs.
Their general love of people can mean that they can sometimes become over-exuberant in their greetings if this is encouraged. Jumping up should be ignored and you should only give them affection, attention and reward when all four paws are on the floor. Given their potential size and strength, too much jumping up could be sore and, for little kids, potentially intimidating or even dangerous.
Without the right exercise, company and stimulation, both breeds can be known for suffering from separation anxiety and problems with destructive behavior.
If you plan to introduce a crate training regime, don’t forget you will have to have the space for a pretty big one!
They should have sufficient company, good walks and plenty of enrichment with interactive treat toys and even regular short training sessions to prevent them from getting bored or stressed.
As with any dog, we always recommend using positive, force-free techniques when training your dog. Using aversive techniques that rely on fear and punishment can not only erode the bond of trust you have with your dog, but it can sometimes make the problem worse.
Positive reinforcement has been shown as being more effective than using aversives, as is illustrated by this study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
A Great Dane Lab Mix is not going to be a breed suited to a sedentary lifestyle. They are both big, active, intelligent breeds that benefit from plenty of exercise and enrichment. Both from a working background they won’t do well in a small apartment with just one short walk. The Labrador Retriever, in particular, is a very active breed and they often thrive when taking part in dog sports like agility, scent trials and even Canicross (competitive running with your dog).
It is important to remember, though, that large breed dogs can take longer to fully mature than the toy breeds and you should not over exercise a growing puppy. This can put too much strain on their growing bones and can cause musculoskeletal problems in the future.
They should be at least eighteen months to two years old before they start to do a lot of high impact exercise like running or agility.
You should also be mindful of a Labradors innate desire to continue working when the weather is hot. They will often continue with the same intensity when playing and running and can risk developing heat exhaustion if you do not step in and minimize the amount of time they exert themselves in hot temperatures.
Labradors are often prolific swimmers, and they may enjoy a dip in the river or the sea as an additional form of exercise. Care should be taken about where they swim to ensure that it is free of toxic algae, hazards such as swans and that the current is not too fast.
You are not going to have a dog that needs to go to the local grooming salon for a regular trim and pamper session with a Great Dane Lab Mix, but you are likely going to have to invest in a good vacuum cleaner, lint roller and de-shedding tool. Labradors are notorious shedders, and even the Great Dane sheds a fair bit.
When they are going through a seasonal molt you will likely have to give them a brush out every day to try to keep the hairs at bay and, other than that, they will need to be brushed at least once a week. This will help to remove any dead hair and keep their skin and coat in good condition.
If your dog inherits the Lab’s love of swimming, you may need to give them slightly more frequent baths as they can develop that infamous ‘wet dog smell’ after too many dips in a stinky pond. If they have inherited the Great Dane size and gangly legs, making sure you have a suitable bathing space with plenty of non-slip mats to save them the stress and possible injury if they were to slip.
If they are real water babies, it is also important to ensure that their ears are dried out properly after each swim, and they may need a cleanout occasionally with a good quality ear cleaner. Dogs that love to swim in dirty water are more prone to developing ear infections.
A mixed breed is no guarantee of better health, no matter what you may hear about mutts. When it is a simple cross between two pedigree dogs, there is still a chance of them inheriting conditions from either mum or dad. If health checks have been done on the parents, then this will lessen the risk, but it is still important to be aware of what potential health conditions a Great Dane Lab Mix could be prone to.
Great Dane Health
Bloat – Great Danes are very commonly associated with developing Bloat or Gastric Torsion. Its medical name is Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV). It is a condition that more often affects large breed dogs with deep chests. It is still a condition that there are a lot of unknowns around, and studies are ongoing to try to establish the exact causes.
What is known is that the stomach dilates and can twist. It can cause problems with blood flow, breathing difficulty, ruptures in the stomach, and if immediate treatment is not sought, it can lead to death.
It is recommended that dogs are not fed one large meal per day but rather that it is split into two or three smaller meals to help minimize the chance of this developing. If your dog is fast eater, then it may also be worth using a slow feed bowl, or feeding from a treat toy or snuffle mat.
Heart Disease – Great Danes are also commonly associated with developing Dilated Cardiomyopathy. This condition results in the heart muscles weakening and not being able to pump as effectively. If it is diagnosed early enough, it can sometimes be managed with medication, although it can eventually lead to heart failure and death.
They can also be prone to hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and bone cancer.
Labrador Retriever Health
Joint Problems – Like the Great Dane, Labradors can also be prone to hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. They are also known for developing Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD), this impacts on the growth of the cartilage in the joints and is often found in the elbows. They are also commonly associated with osteoarthritis as they age.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – This is a genetic condition that causes dogs to lose their eyesight gradually. It is not a treatable condition, although most dogs will still be able to have a high quality of life if they are supported in their adjustment to life as a blind dog.
Like the Great Dane, they can also be prone to bloat, although it is not quite as common. They are also more prone to epilepsy, dermatitis and cataracts.
Hygromas – Both breeds, given their size and weight, can be more prone to developing hygromas. This is when a fluid-filled sac develops under the skin and around the joint area. It is usually on a bony promontory, and most commonly it seems around the elbow joint. It is particularly common in Great Danes, especially as they age and become more sedentary. Although they are generally not painful, if they are left to grow too large, they can become infected or burst.
By providing a good quality bed for a large breed dog, you can help to minimize the chances of this developing. An orthopedic bed with a memory foam mattress that is big enough for your dog to lie out on fully can be a good investment.
Given the size of both breeds, you will need to make sure you budget for their additional food requirements. They are going to be much more expensive to feed than if you opted for a Yorkshire Terrier!
Labradors are known for being gluttons. They LOVE their food. This can mean that if they do not have an appropriately portion-controlled diet, then there is a risk that they could become obese quickly. This can put extra strain on their joints and can lead to a host of other health conditions. It is crucial that you always carefully monitor their food intake, and that they get an appropriate amount of exercise.
Care must also be taken that, as a puppy, they are not fed a food that is too calorie dense. Large breed dogs that grow too quickly can develop musculoskeletal problems. Large breed puppies foods usually have lower levels of fat, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D to support growth at a more appropriate rate than what they may have on standard puppy food.
Finding a Great Dane Lab Mix
While there will be breeders of Great Dane Lab Mixes, don’t forget that this is not a recognized breed so there will not be any registered accredited breeders. If you decide to get a puppy that is this mix, it is essential that you make sure that the breeder is a responsible one. You should be able to meet mum and her puppies in a stable and nurturing home environment where they have already begun to receive early and appropriate socialization. Mum and pups should not be separated until they have been fully weaned and are at least eight weeks old, and they should have had their initial health checks too.
If you are being encouraged to pick up a puppy from the back of a car or you only get to see pups without the mum, then alarm bells should be ringing.
Don’t forget that there are so many deserving mixed breed dogs, including Great Dane Lab Mixes, looking for homes in shelters across the country. Adopting a dog can be a hugely rewarding experience.
If you are looking for an affectionate, playful, energetic dog that thrives on company, human and dog; then a Great Dane Lab Mix could be perfect for you.
You will be getting a large breed dog though so make sure that you have considered the additional feeding budget, the space needed, the extra exercise requirements, and the possible health problems, particularly those related to their joints.