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Great Dane Dog Breed Information: Facts, Traits, Pictures & More

Thinking the Great Dane is the perfect gentle giant for you and your family? Find out what to expect during your puppy search, including nutrition, breed facts, and more!

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: November 29, 2020 | 13 min read

Brindle Great Dane Outdoors

The Great Dane is one of the most instantly recognizable dogs on the planet. He is the second tallest dog in the world. People not familiar with the breed may likely ignore them altogether due to their imposing looks. But for those who know this breed, know that he is one of the biggest doggy goofballs on the planet. And yes, it’s true what they say, this pup is a sucker for Scooby snacks!

As a giant dog breed, he isn’t suited to every family. The Dane can be difficult to train, territorial, and not always friendly with other dogs. But they can also be one of the best family companions in the entire canine kingdom when placed with the right family.

So, if’ you’ve landed here while considering if this is the perfect dog breed for you, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we will walk you through Dane’s history, as well their temperament, exercise needs, nutritional requirements, and much more. Let’s jump straight in and discover what is so great about the Great Dane.

Breed Overview
    • weight iconWeight110-175 pounds
    • height iconHeight28-32 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan7-10 years
    • color iconColorsBlack, White, Blue, Brindle, Fawn, Harlequin, Merle
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

History

Giant Breed Spotted Dog Laying Down
Like many popular breeds, this gentle giant originates in Germany.

The Great Dane, as we know him today, dates back to 16th century Germany. But it is believed that their journey could have started way back in 3000 B.C. Egyptian monuments depict dogs that look similar to the breed, but this is not entirely clear if there’s any direct relation. Like all dog breeds, they traveled with their masters across the world, settling in different places.

But officially, the breed’s journey started in Germany. His forefathers were much bigger than the dogs we see today, and they were used for protection and hunting boars and deer. Over time, his noble masters came to realize just how handsome and sweet he was. They bred him to be slightly smaller so that they could keep him as a family pet. They were nicknamed the ‘Kammerhunde,’ which means chamber dog in German. Dressed in velvet and jewels, they were spoiled dogs for sure.

It isn’t entirely clear why he is called the Great Dane because he has nothing to do with Denmark. In some countries, he is known as the German Mastiff. And in Germany, he is known as the German Dog or Deutsche Dogge. Whatever name you have for this breed, he is much friendlier than his ferocious boar-hunting ancestors.

The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887, and he has been popular ever since. He has consistently found himself in the top 20 most popular dog breeds in America for the last decade. He was immortalized in the famous animated television series Scooby-Doo. Or you might recognize him from the hit film Marmaduke.

Temperament

Blue Coated Dog in Hayfield
This giant dog breed is an extremely loyal family companion.

The Dane’s personality is far from his ferocious beast hunting ancestors. This is a sweet dog who loves to cuddle on the sofa. If you are looking for the biggest canine hot water bottle, this the perfect canine companion. He thinks he is the same size as a Chihuahua, so we hope you like being squashed. And you know that thing called personal space? Sorry, not with this breed.

He is very sensitive, and many breed enthusiasts describe him as being scared of his own shadow. If you are looking for a guard dog, there are several better-suited breeds for the task. With that being said, most Danes are suspicious of strangers at first. And with his bellowing bark, he’ll be sure to let you know that someone is at the gate.

What he lacks in toughness, he makes up for with bundles of fun. If you are looking for a family addition to help you entertain the kids, this breed is a great option. While the Danes generally love kids, their giant limbs and no control mean he might not be the best choice for young children. He’s better suited to families with older children who can take his size and power.

This gentle giant hates to be left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety. For this reason, we would suggest that he is suited to families where someone will be home for most of the day. For those times where you need to run out to the grocery store, we suggest a strong crate to keep him secure and comfy.

Size & Appearance

Black and White Dog in Snow
Expect your Dane to exceed 100 pounds in weight.

This is a giant-sized dog breed, and he weighs between 110 and 175 pounds. Usually, he measures between 28 to 32 inches. He is one of the largest dog breeds on the planet. A Dane named Zeus measured a towering 44 inches tall and has held the record for the world’s tallest dog since 2011. Bear in mind that your cute puppy could be the next Zeus!

He has long and slender legs, but he is powerful and can run surprisingly quite fast when he wants to. His tail is long and thin, and when he is super happy, it swings from side to side whipping over everything nearby. And bruising legs too! His eyes are large and round, and he has a big square, wet nose. He has droopy jowls, which makes him quite the drooly dog.

Sometimes, owners crop their dog’s ears as this was traditional in their boar hunting days. This was to stop the boar’s tusks and deers antlers from piercing their large ear surface. Ear cropping is a controversial practice, but it can make the Dane’s face look very different when stood side by side.

Coat & Colors

Fawn Colored Dog Outside
There are several different color combinations accepted as the breed standard.

The breed has a short-length coat that is smooth and silky to the touch. It only needs brushing once a week, and it will remove dead hair and dirt. As well as helping to spread the natural coat oils to keep him looking his best. His relatively simple grooming routine means that you can spend much more time playing with him.

There are several breed standard color choices when it comes to his coat. Officially, he can be all black, white, blue (which is more like steel gray), and fawn. He can also sport harlequin, which is white with black spots similar to a cow’s coat. Mantle is another option, which is a white base coat with a black blanket draped over his back. Merle is another popular choice, which comes in a variety of shades.

The color of his eyes varies and can be dark brown to amber in shade. And sometimes deep blue through to ice blue. Very rarely will they inherit the heterochromia gene, which is different colored eyes.

Exercise Requirements

Black and White Dane Exercising
Expect at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily exercise.

The Dane needs between 30 and 45 minutes of exercise every day. He is both playful and energetic, but he can also be super lazy. If you let him, he’d happily chill out and snooze all day. But to keep him healthy and happy, you’ll need to persuade him to go out every day. Thankfully, once he’s out, he’ll really enjoy himself.

A stroll around the neighborhood will be fine some days, and on others, you will need to make it a bit more exciting. Playing fetch in the local park or taking him to your local doggy park will let him burn off some doggy steam. This will also help to polish his socialization skills. It’s important not to over-exercise this breed or any giant breed as a pup because too much impact will damage his joints.

He will also want to play throughout the day, which will help stimulate his brain and prevent him from becoming bored and mischievous. Interactive toys such as ropes are great for you to play with him, and he can also use them to play with other family dogs. A simple treat-dispensing toy will keep him entertained for a while. But you need to make sure that they are big enough so that he cannot swallow it whole. And also not too difficult because he isn’t the most intelligent of dogs.

Living Conditions

White and Black Dog Laying on Floor
This breed can do well in a variety of different living situations.

This breed can do well in small houses or apartments provided they have adequate exercise. You’ll need regular access to outdoor space where your dog can stretch out. Because of their rapid growth rates, they end up being couch potatoes for much of their younger adult life. It doesn’t change much into adulthood either.

Ideally, you’ll have a home with access to a larger yard or outdoor space. Even though this breed is laid back, their tails are known for knocking cups off the coffee table. Your hard should be fenced, as most Danes are get excited at every passer-by. This may encourage your pup to wander off for an adventure. He will happily nap outdoors in the day if it’s warm enough, but he’ll need somewhere soft to lay for his large and boney joints.

Training

Giant Dog on Beach
You’ll need a patient and persistent heart during training sessions with this gentle giant.

We’ve already mentioned that the Great Dane is considered less intelligent when compared to other breeds. Plus, he’s too excitable to sit down for longer than two minutes. So if you’re looking for a canine companion that can solve a Rubix cube, he isn’t that breed. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t trainable. By keeping training sessions short and fun, and with a Scooby snack in hand, you’ll be able to teach him the basic commands such as sit, stay, leave, etc.

You also need to be persistent with your training. Because if you give in when it gets tough, he’ll learn that there is little point in doing what you say because he’ll get his own way anyway. And any giant breed that doesn’t know the basic commands will be a giant handful, literally! Don’t let him become a spoiled pup.

You must socialize this breed as a puppy very early. Because if he doesn’t know how to behave around other dogs, or he is constantly lunging at people at the park, it isn’t going to be a pleasant experience for either of you. When he is a puppy, expose him to as many other puppies and dogs as possible.  He should be exposed to many different situations, people, sights, and sounds.

Danes are known to be anxious dogs without you there. The best way to tackle this is to crate train him. Many dog owners are put off by the idea of putting their dog into a crate, but research shows that it helps to calm dogs. This is because crate training them shows them that it can be their safe space.

Health

Giant Healthy Brindle Puppy Outdoors
Giant breeds unfortunately have a shorter lifespan than other breeds.

Like all giant dog breeds, unfortunately, the Great Dane has a shorter lifespan of 7 to 10 years. The best way to keep this pup in tip-top condition is to keep up to date with his veterinary checkups and vaccines. Working with reputable breeders also increases the chances of having a healthy pup.

Most giant breeds are susceptible to certain health conditions more so than others. Although the below list isn’t exhaustive, they are the most likely concerns you need to know about. You’ll want to be knowledgeable about what conditions to recognize so that you can deal with them straight away should they arise.

Hip dysplasia: Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint and socket don’t grow steadily, causing uneven bone growth. This uneven growth causes abnormal wear and tear to his bones, which is painful and will eventually cause problems with his mobility.

Eye conditions: This breed is prone to a variety of eye conditions. The most common is progressive retinal atrophy, ectropion, entropion, and cherry eye. If your dog has red eyes or is constantly scratching them, something is likely up and needs attention.

Cardiac conditions: The most common cardiac concern is dilated cardiomyopathy, also known as DCM. This is where the heart becomes enlarged and weak and no longer effectively pumps blood around his body.

Thyroid Conditions: This breed is at increased risk of suffering from hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis. Both of these conditions are caused by a hormonal imbalance and can cause various symptoms and other diseases.

Nutrition

Hungry Giant Breed Needing Food
Stick to a formula specifically made for giant breed dogs.

The amount of food your Dane consumes will depend on his size, age, and energy levels. Many dogs will eat four to six cups of food a day, but some will eat more than this. To make sure that your dog gets the right amount of food, follow the package’s instructions.

It’s important not to overfeed this breed because he will eat as much as you feed him. They already carry enough weight, so he doesn’t need any more weight adding to his frame. It can also lead to further health problems and add pressure to his cardiac system. If you find that he is putting on too many pounds, it’s time to switch him to a weight management kibble and get him moving more.

The most important consideration for his nutrition is to feed him a high-quality kibble that provides him with a well-balanced diet. This is especially true when he’s a giant breed puppy, and will need a denser nutritional formula to support the rapid growth of a giant breed. A well-balanced diet should involve high-quality meats, fiber, carbohydrates, healthy omega fats, vitamins, and minerals.

The number one killer of most giant breeds is something called gastric torsion, commonly known as bloat. This most commonly occurs during feeding time, so it’s important never to feed your dog immediately before or after exercise. It is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate veterinary treatment and is caused by stomach twisting.

Grooming

Hairy Grey Dog Needing Groomed
Despite their size, grooming and upkeep is fairly easy with these giants.

Thankfully, the Great Dane’s grooming schedule is relatively simple, thanks to his short coat. He will only need brushing once a week. This is to keep his coat looking sleek and shiny and remove dead hair and dirt. It will also mean that less of his hair ends up on your clothes and more on the brush. During the shedding seasons, you should brush him twice a week to keep his shedding manageable. Overall, he is a moderate shedder. But because his hair is quite short, it isn’t as noticeable compared to a Newfoundland.

His short coat also means that little dirt and dust will stick to his coat, meaning that you only have to bathe him once every two to three months. Always use a doggy designed shampoo because human shampoo will irritate his skin. One made of natural ingredients such as oatmeal will be gentle on his skin.

It’s important to introduce your dog to his grooming routine as a pup. Because if you don’t, there is a big chance that he will not like it as an adult. Get him used to touching his paws, clipping his nails, and brushing his teeth. A walk-in shower or wet room is ideal for washing this breed because if he refuses to climb in the tub, bath time will be a struggle for sure.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

Puppy with Grey Coat Running Outdoors
Expect your puppy to run about $1,500 and up when it comes to their initial cost.

This is one of the most popular giant breeds in America. This means that finding a top-quality breeder shouldn’t be too much of a struggle compared to a rare dog breed. But it also means that there are likely to be waiting lists for pups. This isn’t a bad thing, though, because good things come to those who wait! A great place to start is the AKC’s list of Great Dane breeders.

The average price of a puppy from a reputable breeder will likely cost around $1,500 and up. It can cost significantly more if you are looking for a show dog or one from an award-winning lineage. Always work with a reputable breeder who will introduce you to the puppies, and their parents, in their home environment. Always ask for health certificates, and trust your gut.

With breed popularity also comes the risk of puppy mills. These unscrupulous breeders are only interested in making as much money from you as possible. They do this by mass breeding dogs, often too young or sick, and provide little to no health care. For you, this means inheriting an unhealthy and unhandled dog, which can also lead to behavioral problems.

Giant Breed dogs are expensive. But it’s also expensive to properly equip them. There are extra-large crates, giant dog beds, top-quality giant breed harnesses, and of course, very large dog toys. The bottom line is that Danes are expensive dogs to care for. His insurance and medical costs are also higher, as is his food bill.  So, if you are taking this pup on, you need to be certain that you have the financial resources to care for him.

Rescues & Shelters

Black and White Dog From Shelter
Many people underestimate what it takes to raise and care for a giant breed.

Buying a puppy from a breeder isn’t the only option you have. You can also consider rescuing, and the cost of recusing will likely be much lower than adopting a puppy. Visit your local shelters, and you are bound to find a Dane in reasonable proximity to you. If not, speak to the staff there who might be able to put you on a waiting list.

If you cannot wait, or you haven’t found your Scooby-Doo yet, there are also rescue organizations that focus solely on this specific breed. Many rescues foster different types of Dane mixes if you don’t mind adopting a dog with a blended personality and looks. The Great Dane Rescue and the Gentle Giants Rescue list adoptable dogs and contacts.

As Family Pets

  • This is a giant dog who needs lots of room.
  • While they can live in an apartment setting, bigger yards are preferred.
  • He is a clumsy goofball and lots of fun for the whole family.
  • For this reason, he should only be homed with older children.
  • He will happily live with other dogs and animals if socialized early.
  • They are very affectionate and cuddly with his humans.
  • He is slightly suspicious of strangers at first, but he quickly warms up to them.
  • He has a bellowing bark and will let you know when there is someone at the gate.
  • Considered a gentle giant, they hate to be left alone.
  • He needs an owner with lots of patience when it comes to his training.

Final Thoughts

The Great Dane is a wonderful gentle giant who makes a fantastic addition to a large home. Overall, he needs a family that has the room and resources for him. As well as the time to keep him company, and for his silly, but comical, antics. If you’ve got this, you can be sure that he has a lot of love to give. He will stick to you like glue, even when you need the toilet!

If you welcome one of these Scooby-Doos into your life, one thing is for certain, you’ll get the Scooby love bug. Most breed enthusiasts say that once you’ve welcomed one into your life, you’ll never be without one. As long as you can handle what it takes to own a giant breed, you may find that you can’t own just one!

Leave a Comment

2 Comments

Cherylinn Nicklas

March 23, 2021 at 8:03 pm

Thank you for a wonderful article I have a fawn Great Dane who I adopted through Great Dane rescue. She is a retired show dog and I love her. She is a couch potato but luckily I live on a mountain so she's got lots of room to run. I just want to say thank you for the article. 90% of what you wrote is definitely her. One thing is she does not like small dogs but ironically I have two senior cats. One is a Maine Coon which is the gentle giant of cats and they get along just fine.

Kelly Wilson

March 24, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Thank you for stopping by to share your feedback Cherylinn! Glad you found the article helpful, and I'm happy your pup and kitty get a long so well!