choose a Great Dane (from the GDCA website)
you choose a Great Dane
The purpose of
this information, prepared by the Health and Welfare Committee of the Great Dane
Club of America, Inc. is to educate the public about the responsibility involved
in owning a Great Dane and the many issues they should consider before
purchasing a Dane puppy or adult. Our many breeder-members would like to know
that when someone decides to own a Great Dane, that this dog, whether a puppy or
an older dog, will have a permanent, loving home. We want to do all we can to
make sure that prospective new owners understand the characteristics of the
breed and are willing to make a commitment to provide a suitable environment and
proper training which will make the Great Dane a healthy and well-behaved member
of the family. All too often people make hasty decisions and are ill-prepared to
deal with the size and sometimes rambunctious and destructive behavior of an
adolescent Great Dane. Unwanted Great Danes are then turned over to rescue
organizations or animal shelters, or worse yet, are abandoned to wander the
streets. The fate of most of the animals, through no fault of their own, is
death. Reputable breeders take the responsibility to educate new owners so that
when they send puppies to their new homes, the experience will be good for both
the puppies and the new owners. However, the new owners must share in this
As a prospective new owner, we urge you to take time to learn about the Great
Dane through books, magazines, and affiliated Great Dane clubs throughout the
country. These clubs are made up of members familiar with the breed, and they
are excellent sources of information. The GDCA's website, is a great place to
The Great Dane was developed primarily in Germany and England out of
mastiff-type and Greyhound stock. The principal purpose of the breed in early
years was to hunt wild boar. At that time, ears were cropped to prevent the
boar's long, sharp tusks from shredding the Dane's ear during the hunt. However,
the Great Dane as we know it today was developed in Europe during the 1800's and
declared the national breed of Germany in 1876. As a boarhound, the Dane of
yesterday was very different both in structure and temperament from the Dane of
today. When no longer used for hunting, the breed changed to one of a companion
and estate dog.
The Great Dane body should be as long as it is tall, with substantial bone, a
long tail, a relatively long neck, a rectangular head, and a definite stop. Most
books on the Great Dane have excellent illustrations which depict Danes of
various colors and sexes. Adult male Great Danes generally measure about
33" to 36" at the shoulder and weigh about 140 to 175 pounds. Females
are smaller, about 31" to 33" and about 110 to 140 pounds. Full height
is usually reached at 12 to 15 months of age, but a Great Dane is not fully
mature until about three years old. Ears can be cropped or uncropped. If
uncropped, the ears should lie against the sides of the head and have a slight
rise at the ear where it meets the base of the skull. Cropped ears should be
carried erect and should complement the rectangular appearance of the head.
Danes come in six recognized colors:
FAWN: (tan with black mask)
BRINDLE: (tan with black stripes)
BLACK: (solid black)
BLUE: (steel blue)
HARLEQUIN: (white base coat with evenly distributed torn black patches)
MANTLE: (black head and body, with white on the muzzle, collar, chest,
feet/legs, and a white-tipped tail).
Danes with colors or markings besides these six may be registered with the AKC,
but they cannot be shown and generally speaking should not be bred. Regardless
of color, all can make fine family pets.
Great Danes make wonderful family pets for a household which wants a large,
affectionate short-haired breed who will offer a measure of protection. They are
a very people-oriented breed and need to be a part of the family. Great Danes do
not do well in kennel situations or where they are exclusively outdoor dogs.
They need and crave human companionship. Their coat is not sufficient to keep
them warm in the winter, so they must be kept indoors in colder climates.
Great Danes are loving, easy to housebreak, simple to groom, and of average
intelligence. Proper early training and socialization are very important. Puppy
kindergarten classes are recommended, beginning at about three to six months of
age. These classes should be followed with a basic obedience class. Although
Great Danes who have been raised with children are usually very gentle, they are
much larger than a small child. Because accidental injuries can occur, even with
very well mannered Great Danes; small children should never be left unattended
with your puppy or dog. If there are children in the household, they must be
taught the correct way to interact with a puppy and parents need to monitor
correct behavior on the part of the child and the puppy.
The household considering a Dane should have a secure enclosure and preferably a
large, fenced yard. Chaining, staking out, tying or allowing your Dane to roam
free are dangerous and unacceptable practices.
Most Danes are not jumpers, so a six-foot fence is sufficient. Many growing
puppies are highly destructive to landscaping, so if a beautifully landscaped
yard is a priority for you, perhaps you should reconsider getting a Great Dane!
Inside the house, a crate, properly used, will help assist in housebreaking a
young puppy and prevent major destruction from a chewing adolescent. To prevent
problems, young Danes should not be allowed free run of the house until they
have proven themselves to be trustworthy. A Dane on a chewing spree can easily
ruin beds, carpeting and furniture.
Danes should never be encouraged to be overly protective or aggressive. Their
large size is sufficient to scare off most intruders. Their natural tendency is
to protect if needed. It is the responsibility of the Dane owner to socialize
his Dane properly so the dog can learn good judgment.
Owners of Great Danes should recognize that some people are very frightened of
large dogs. Therefore, Dane owners need to always act in a responsible manner,
keeping their Danes leashed and under control when in public places and confined
within fenced yards when at home.
Compared to other breeds, Great Danes can be expensive to maintain. Providing
proper food, veterinary care, supplies, training classes, and a fenced yard can
quickly add up. Everything is "more" with a Dane because of its size.
The most negative aspect of the breed is a short life span, typically about 7 to
10 years. Great Danes are predisposed to certain health problems such as gastric
torsion (bloat), certain types of cancer, and heart problems. Puppies and young
adults can develop certain growing or bone problems which are sometimes
associated with an improper diet, often a diet too high in protein, calcium or
supplements. Occasionally, Great Danes can be aggressive with livestock or may
not get along with other animals in the household. Older adult males can be
prone to prostate infections and adult bitches to false pregnancies and uterine
infections. Spaying or neutering pets is a good idea for the health of the dog
and is required by most ethical breeders.
We offer the preceding basic information as a brief introduction to help you
decide if the Great Dane is the right breed for you. The Great
Dane Club of America's web site provides additional information, including
our Code of Ethics, the AKC standard for the Great Dane, Affiliate Club
listings, breeder referral, rescue groups, and updated health information which
you may find very helpful. We are also in the process of planning a booklet to
help people choose the right Great Dane for them, so please check back to our
website for additional offerings.
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