Great Dane: Breed Facts & Temperament
The Great Dane is one of the dog world’s greatest paradoxes. It has an imposing size, making people believe that it is a fierce dog. Underneath this four-legged hulk is a good-natured canine. Known as the “Apollo of Dogs”, Great Danes offer companionship like no other canine breeds can. If you think this should make it very easy to own one, you’d be wrong.
History of the Great Dane
Contrary to popular belief, the Great Dane does not have a Danish origin. This is a German breed that has its origins in the Molossian dogs that the Roman army brought to England. These large dogs protected the properties of the Army as they swept westwards from Rome. Some of these dogs became English Mastiffs which mated with legendary Irish Wolfhounds. The mating resulted in the Englische Docke. Germany called it the Englischer Dogge.
Germans valued the size and strength of the Englischer Dogge or English Dog that they decided to breed their own kind of Molossoid canine. Members of the German nobility started breeding the dog in the 17th century by introducing the Suliot dog, the Molossian hound, and other Greek imports into the gene pool. This increased the desired traits of the Englischer Dogge.
Hunters used the dogs in targeting boars, deer, and bears. Like its ancestors, the Englischer Dogge seized the boar or bear and held it in its place. It waits for the huntsman to arrive to finish the job. Unfortunately, the introduction of hunting rifles saw the decline in the need for such dogs. The Englischer Dogge became rare. Only the nobility were able to keep some of them as their hobby.
It was in 1878 when a Berlin committee changed the Englischer Dogge name into Deutsche Dogge. In English-speaking countries, the Deutsche Dogge was known as the German boarhound. There are also German breeders who tried coming up with names such as the German Mastiff and the German Dogge.
None of these stuck with the dog-loving public, however. Instead, people began associating it with the “Grand Danois” that Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, described in his 1755 work, the Histoire Naturelle, Generale et Particuliere. Translated into English, “Grand Danois” is Great Dane.
As of 2018, the Great Dane ranks number 14 in the AKC’s list of the most popular dog breeds.
Quick Facts About the Great Dane
As a potential Great Dane parent, it is important to learn more about this wonderful breed.
- They are not the tallest dog breed
It is true that the world-record holder of the tallest dog breed is a Great Dane named Zeus. This dog measured a stunning 3 feet 8.0 inches tall. That is from its foot up to its shoulders or withers. When Zeus stands up on its two hind legs, it measures 7 feet 5 inches, taller than the NBA’s Shaquille O’Neal and an inch shorter than Yao Ming.
On average, a Great Dane will be about 30 to 31 inches tall, with the females shorter by two inches. Having said that, the tallest dog breed in the world is the Irish Wolfhound. In general, these dogs can stand at least 32 inches. Zeus still dwarfs them by at least 8 inches, however.
- These are gigantic lap dogs
The Great Dane never considers its size or its weight as a hindrance to doing what it loves the most – getting on your lap for some cuddle time. As large as they may be, this breed has the heart of a true lap dog. As puppies, they are so adorable and cute that it would be almost impossible to resist them once they attempt to get in your lap. Unfortunately, the breed grows too fast. Before you know it, you now have a giant dog sitting in your lap.
For some pet parents, this is acceptable. For others, it may not be so. If you are the latter type, then it is best to train the dog while it is still a puppy. Do not give it the chance to get on your lap. Instead, you can allot a space in your home where you can place a large mat or rug for everyone else to sit on. This is a lot better than staying on the couch with the dog in your lap. Remember, this is a breed that can weigh as much as 175 lbs.
- They are graceful giants
Despite their size, Great Danes move with grace. They are like ponies that showcase a characteristic trot. They also have square-shaped heads that match well with a strong profile. This gives the breed a regal posturing and an air of confidence.
An adult Great Dane has limbs that are proportionate to its body. This allows the dog to move with a more graceful gait. It is for this reason that many of the world’s greatest individuals consider the breed as one of the most beautiful and most graceful dogs in the world.
- Great Danes can be excellent apartment dwellers
One of the most astonishing feats of the breed is its adaptability. People who do not know anything about the Great Dane will think that this dog will require a large space. You have to have a large tract of land for it to romp around like a little pony. This is not true, of course. This is a giant breed that can live well in an apartment setting. Keep in mind that not all types of apartment will do, however. Its large size will still require ample space for it to move about; unless you do not mind your Great Dane bumping and crashing into your furnishings.
Great Danes seldom bark, too. This is something that all apartment dwellers need. The close nature of the individual residences means that your neighbor will hear your dog bark. It is important to realize that training and socialization is important if you want a well-behaved Great Dane in an apartment setting.
- They have a very short lifespan
As lovable and adorable as Great Danes are, they tend to break their owners’ hearts with their early demise. This is a breed that does not tend to live very long. In general, Great Danes can live as long as 10 years. Most only live to about 7 to 8 years. Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, only got to live for 5 years from November 2008 to September 2014. For many pet parents, this is too short to enjoy the company of one of the world’s most adorable breeds.
It is not surprising that Great Dane owners will raise litters of their dog. They want to keep the line of their beloved dog in the family. Pet parents do recognize, nevertheless, that the short lifespan of the Great Dane is a given. With the unconditional love that this breed can give to its family, experiencing sorrow is worth it. If you cannot deal with the early demise of your pet, then the Great Dane is not for you.
Things You Should Know
Caring for a giant dog is never easy. Here are some of the most important points you have to think about if you do want to get a Great Dane to your home.
We already know that the breed has one of the shortest lifespans among dogs. It suffers from almost the same set of diseases that affect large and giant dog breeds. For starters, bloating and gastric dilatation volvulus is very common in the breed. This results in the inward twisting of the animal’s stomach, constricting the blood supply to the organs below the twisted section. It is a veterinary emergency and one that requires surgery.
Aside from gastric dilatation volvulus, Great Danes are also at an increased risk for cardiomyopathy. There is an enlargement in the heart muscles, compromising the organ’s ability to pump blood. Hip dysplasia and hypertrophic osteodystrophy are also very common in this canine breed. The latter is often the result of too rapid bone growth and development during puppyhood.
Other diseases that a Great Dane can have include bone cancer, eye problems, nervous system disorders, and skeletal issues. Many of these diseases do not have screening tests. That is why it is important to consider getting a puppy only from reputable breeders.
A giant dog like the Great Dane will require a huge amount of food. Instead of referring to the label on your dog food, it is best to learn how to compute for the dog’s calorie requirements. The computation considers the different factors that can affect your dog’s nutrition, such as age, life stage, and activity levels, among others.
Computing the calorie requirements of Great Dane puppies is very important. This also includes taking note of the protein and calcium content of their food. If there are too many proteins in the puppy’s diet, there is a chance that its bones will grow and develop very fast. This can lead to the formation of a painful bone condition called hypertrophic osteodystrophy.
Because the breed can also weigh a lot, it is best to talk with a veterinarian to create a diet plan for the dog. It is important to keep tabs with the dog’s calorie intake. It does not work or exercise that much, so it needs less calories than working dogs.
Caring for the Great Dane requires frequent trips to the veterinary clinic. Puppies need their regular vaccine shots. Adult dogs will need an annual wellness exam that includes available screening tests. There are many diseases that can affect this breed. Sadly, not all of these diseases have screening tests. Regular veterinary visits should help identify risk factors that can contribute to the development of a particular disease.
A Great Dane may be a giant lap dog but it still requires its daily dose of exercise. Pet parents should never over-exercise puppies, however. Exercise has the ability to stimulate bone growth and development. Over-exercising the puppy can accelerate the maturation of its bones.
Socialization is a must for the dog. It is a gentle breed, but this does not mean you can forego with its socialization. If a Great Dane does not get socialized as a puppy, it can grow to become a skittish and a very anxious dog.
This aspect of the Great Dane’s care is easy as it does have a smooth, short coat. Brushing its coat once a week is ideal. During the fall and spring, the Great Dane will blow out its coat. Brushing during these times of the year will have to be an everyday thing.
Clean the Great Dane’s ears once every two weeks. Bathe the dog only when it is dirty or as needed. Clip its toenails every 2 to 3 weeks. Brush its teeth every day or at least every other day.
Great Danes are one of the friendliest breeds of dog on the planet. This is despite its imposing appearance. They are gentle giants that always seek the attention of the people they love. These are dogs that do not have a high prey drive or will exhibit extreme aggressiveness. They can be friends with other dogs and other pets. While Great Danes have a very sociable nature, they will never hesitate to protect their family if the need arises.
Being gentle is a natural trait in Great Danes. They love kids. Unfortunately, their size can be a major hazard when playing with very young children. A simple swipe of its large tail is often enough to knock down a toddler. Hence, your supervision is a fundamental requirement whenever you have children playing with a Great Dane.
The breed also has an intense desire to please its owners. This makes it quite easy to train. One thing you should know is that it can be very sensitive. Harsh methods of training will only make the dog “hate” you. Only rewards-based methods will provide the dog with the kind of motivation to learn.
An easygoing breed, the Great Dane is a huge bundle of joy to live with. However, one has to take note of the dog’s unique temperaments and care requirements. This helps ensure that the dog will live a happy and healthy life, albeit a short one.