A docile and sociable dog, the Great Dane is famed for his gentle nature and giant stature. Though to strangers they may look imposing, to families they are lovable and very rarely aggressive, making them great guard dogs. They take well to children and, if socialised, they get along well with most other breeds.
Though the name implies Danish origin, the breed actually hails from Germany, where they were known as Deutsche dogge. Used to hunt boar and stags around the 17th century, they are large and muscular with a strong build, handsome outline and aristocratic bearing. The present-day Great Dane is much more refined than his ancestors, whose lineage is thought to incorporate the speed of the Greyhound, build of the English Mastiff and size of the Irish Wolfhound.
The gentle confidence the breed exhibits means it suits work as an assistance dog, especially for helping those with mobility problems. Their keen ability to learn and obedient disposition also make them great showing dogs.
Temperament and lifestyle
A Great Dane needs to be part of the family. They are affectionate and loyal, and enjoy interacting with humans. They should not be left alone for long periods for this reason. Great Danes can be charming and playful, but are generally docile and easy-going. Despite their massive size, they do not need large spaces and can be accommodated in townhouses and apartments if they are exercised regularly. Great Danes can be reserved around strangers but love nothing more than to be close to those they love, often putting their big heads on your lap (and leaving some lovely drool there!).
A Great Dane does not require a large amount of exercise. A daily walk will do. In fact, it is advised that you do not over-exercise puppies as their bones and ligaments are still growing. Being a giant breed they are prone to bone and joint problems, which is something you should watch out for.
Great Danes are intelligent and respond well to training. It is wise to start obedience training from a young age as their sheer size as adults can cause issues. They must be taught not to jump on people or counters, and how to walk on a lead. Luckily they are fairly easy to housetrain, and their obedient nature makes them very adept in the competition ring.
Great Danes have an easy-to-groom coat, which requires brushing about once a week. They are moderate shedders, except for a bi-annual shed when they lose a large amount of fur. They only need to be bathed when necessary. They do require a rather large amount of good quality food, which should ideally be fed in three meals a day as Great Danes are prone to bloat. In terms of health issues, hip dysplasia and congenital heart disease are top of the list. As with many large breeds, their life expectancy is relatively short, meaning these loveable giants will make a huge mark on your life, but only for a short while. So love them in a big way!
Text: Deanne Dudley
The full article appears in the October issue of Animaltalk.