Welcome to your complete guide to the Great Dane.
One of the largest dog breeds in the world!
Uncovering their true pet suitability.
Including care requirements and health.
We all know a Great Dane when we see one.
After all, they are huge!
These regal animals stand almost three feet tall at the shoulder.
And come in several eye-catching coat patterns.
Their tall stature may be intimidating to some, but they are quite docile by nature.
Great Danes truly are gentle giants
But how did they become the way they are today?
Read on to learn about the Great Dane’s origins.
As well as his physical traits and behavior.
We’ll also dive into their health problems.
Helping you to choose whether this is the right pet for you.
Origin of the Great Dane dog
Its name suggests the Great Dane hails from Denmark.
But the breed was actually developed in Germany.
First coming about at least 400 years ago!
Back then, Great Danes were bred as hunting hounds.
A particularly large and powerful dog was needed to take down the equally powerful English wild boar.
The Great Dane was a worthy adversary.
As a breed the Great Dane made its way to the US in the 1880s.
They were recognized by the AKC as a member of the working group in 1887.
Nowadays, Great Danes are primarily kept as pets or used as therapy dogs.
They are great loungers.
Loving to find a good sofa or cushion to rest their large heads on.
Their gentle and empathetic ways also make them excellent service dogs.
Great Danes are still a very revered and awe-inspiring breed.
Even if we don’t use them to hunt boar any more!
Great Dane personality and temperament
Modern Great Danes are quite different from their hunting ancestors.
They no longer need to be fearless, aggressive hunters.
But they are still brave and attentive to their handlers.
Not a lot phases them. Nor are they quick to bark.
You can put their quiet and patient manner to good use.
Great Danes make excellent pets for families with children.
But their size means they need constant supervision.
Accidentally knocking over little kids is not uncommon!
Great Dane weight and height
It’s common knowledge that Great Danes are large dogs.
In fact, the largest Great Dane actually holds the Guiness World record for Tallest Dog Ever.
“Zeus” was a Great Dane who reached a whopping 44 inches tall!
Fortunately, he was rather above average.
The majority of Great Danes are typically about 10 inches shorter than Zeus was.
Even at the tallest end of the standard height.
Male Great Danes typically reach 30-34 inches tall.
Females stay around 28-32 inches on average.
You can expect your pup to mature to at least 100 pounds.
And that’s at minimum.
The largest Great Danes may reach double that weight, but the average Great Dane is about 130-140 pounds…
Roughly the size of the average American woman!
A Great Dane is most definitely not going to be a lap dog.
No matter how much he might like to be!
Great Dane coat and colors
Great Danes are also known for their short, easily maintained coat.
It comes in several eye-catching colors.
The following are found in this breed:
• Black Great Dane
• The Black and white Great Dane
• Blue Great Dane
• The Blue merle Great Dane
• Brindle Great Dane
• Fawn Great Dane
• Harlequin Great Dane
• Mantle Great Dane
• Merle Great Dane
• White Great Dane
• Blue and white Great Dane
• The Blue brindle Great Dane
• Chocolate Great Dane
• The Chocolate and white Great Dane
• Chocolate brindle Great Dane
• Mantle merle Great Dane
• Merlequin Great Dane
• Silver Great Dane
We must note that the harlequin coat pattern is associated with birth defects, as it is related to the notorious merle gene.
Great Dane grooming and shedding
The Great Dane has a naturally short and thin coat, so they aren’t super high shedders and only need occasional grooming to remove dead hair.
They may not do well in colder climates unless they wear a coat or vest.
Great Dane food
The good news is that Great Danes don’t usually require a special diet.
But we do recommend that you feed the appropriate amount of a high-quality food.
One that’s specifically formulated for large-breed puppies or dogs.
Large breeds typically have different nutrient requirements than smaller breeds.
To promote and maintain healthy bone structure.
Large breed dog food
Giant-breed puppies, specifically, need to be fed the proper diet.
This is to ensure that their bones can keep up with the rest of their growth.
You can see a giant breed (like the Great Dane) growth chart here.
Furthermore, the kibble or soft food that’s specifically formulated for large breeds may contain special ingredients.
Those that help to prevent health conditions that are common in large dogs, such as joint and bone diseases.
You can check out our recommendations for the best food here:
Lastly, be careful not to overfeed Great Danes, as they can become overweight rather quickly and over feeding increases the risk of hip dysplasia.
Great Dane health
Great Danes are genetically predisposed to certain health conditions.
Some conditions and illnesses that Great Danes are highly prone to are the following:
This condition is when some or all parts of the hip joints are malformed.
It can cause the dog to lose the ability to move their hind limbs comfortably.
Puppies may be born with it, but adult dogs commonly develop the condition with age.
You can find out more about this debilitating condition in our article on hip dysplasia in dogs.
Some giant breed puppies may develop “growing pains”.
It usually starts sometime between five months and 14 months of age.
And without an obvious cause.
The pain may come and go in one or multiple legs until it self-resolves.
This will hopefully be sometime before the dog reaches two years old.
This disease is believed to be genetic in many large dog breeds including Great Danes.
It results in an enlarged heart and eventually heart failure.
There are additional heart conditions that may be common in Great Dates.
This is a condition of the thyroid that results in decreased metabolism and weight gain.
With some experiencing issues with hair loss and/or dry skin.
Hypothyroidism is most common in mid- and large-sized dog breeds.
Individuals between the ages of 4 and 10 years old are more at risk.
Once it is diagnosed, you must give the dog replacement hormone pills for life.
Dogs with deep and narrow chests are more likely to develop this potentially fatal condition.
It involves the stomach twisting and eventually suffocating itself.
Filling with gas and cutting off the blood flowing to it.
Surgery can prevent this condition from occurring.
This condition causes compression of the spinal cord and spinal nerve roots in the neck.
Creating nerve issues causing the dog to not be able to feel his feet and wobble when he walks and severe neck pain.
The exact cause of this disease is unknown.
Unfortunately, many large and giant dog breeds are susceptible to bone cancer (osteosarcoma).
According to a study that was conducted in 1979, the risk of a dog developing bone cancer increases by 60 to 185 times in breeds that are larger than 80 pounds.
To this day, the prevalence of bone cancer in large and giant breeds is still more than that of smaller dog breeds.
Great Dane exercise requirements
It’s essential that Great Danes get the right amount of exercise.
Not too much, not too little.
Due to their risk of developing skeletal and hip problems.
Exercise helps to keep dogs limber.
It also prevents them from gaining too much weight.
In addition to this it can prevent muscles from atrophying.
All of which may help to prevent hip dysplasia from developing or worsening.
Even if a Great Dane doesn’t show signs of hip dysplasia, it’s still a good idea to give them a bit of exercise each day.
Be it a quick jog or an extended walk.
While they may prefer to relax, they shouldn’t be allowed to lead sedentary lives.
Great Dane life expectancy
As a giant breed, the Great Dane unfortunately has a short life expectancy of just 6 years.
That’s right, six.
There isn’t much we can say about this sad figure.
But it’s something you will need to take into account when deciding to bring home a Great Dane puppy.
Buying Great Dane puppies
Be sure to buy your puppy from a breeder who uses genetic testing.
And when you bring them home they will need the best Great Dane puppy foods.
You can expect to pay anywhere from about $1,500 to $2,500 for an AKC-registered puppy.
If you’re looking for a pet quality Great Dane, then the price tag is much cheaper.
Around $700 to $1,300, give or take a few hundred dollars.
The price varies based on the parent stock, how much they are worth to the breeder, and possibly on their color or color combination.
Some colors are more sought after than others.
Great Date adoption
You may be able to find your next partner at a local animal shelter or at a Great Dane-specific rescue.
Is a Great Dane The Breed For Me?
Great Danes are amazing dogs that make wonderful pets or service partners.
However, their size can create some challenges.
Such as when it comes to feeding and housing them.
It may seem obvious, but you’ll also want to consider their sheer size and strength.
They are often tall enough to eat off of countertops and may accidentally knock a child over.
If you’re looking for a lower-energy dog, then a Great Dane may be a nice choice.
However, you’ll still need to get them out for a walk or jog each day.
Things to consider
They may be a bit too strong for some people to walk on a leash, but this is where obedience training can help.
You won’t have to do too much coat maintenance, as they have a short and thin coat.
However, carefully consider it before you get a harlequin-colored Great Dane.
This coat pattern is known to be associated with birth defects.
Giant breeds unfortunately come with some special health concerns.
Including bloat, cardiac issues, hip dysplasia, bone cancer, and other musculoskeletal issues.
Their very short lifespan is something you will need to seriously consider as well, sadly.
One thing that you shouldn’t have to worry about, though, is a Great Dane becoming aggressive or ill-tempered.
Unlike their early ancestors, Great Danes of today are very mild-mannered dogs that aren’t easily roused.
They will protect their home and owners, but will not typically present a risk to humans or dogs.
Especially to those with whom they’ve been properly introduced.
Regardless, we recommend socializing every puppy from a young age onward.
- Brodey, R. “The Use of Naturally Occurring Cancer in Domestic Animals for Research into Human Cancer: General Considerations and a Review of Canine Skeletal Osteosarcoma,” The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 1979.
- Downing, R. “Wobbler Syndrome in Dogs (Cervical spondylomyopathy),” VCA Animal Hospitals.
- Greco, D.; Bruyett, D.; Kemppainen, R.; Peterson, M.; Rosenthal, R. “Disorders of the Thyroid Gland in Dogs” .
- Yuill, C. “Panosteitis in Dogs.” VCA Animal Hospitals.
- Sponenberg, DP. 1985. Inheritance of the harlequin color in Great Dane dogs. Journal of Heredity.
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in the UK. The Veterinary Journal.
- Kealy et al. 1992 .Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Richardson, DC. 1992. The Role of Nutrition in Canine Hip Dysplasia. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice.
- Necas et al. 1999. Incidence of osteochondrosis in dogs and its late diagnosis. Clinic of surgery and orthpaedics.
- Meurs et al. 2001. Clinical features of dilated cardiomyopathy in Great Danes and results of a pedigree analysis: 17 cases (1990 – 2000). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Martin et al. 2008. Canine dilated cardiomyopathy: a retrospective study of signalment, presentation and clinical findings in 369 cases. Journal of Small Animal Practice.