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All About Great Danes

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great dane with a green collar and tongue hanging out

Great Danes truly are larger than life dogs, which has appropriately earned them the title of a "gentle giant." Although Great Danes may seem intimidating at first glance, it only takes one interaction to learn that these dogs typically have a gentle demeanor and a loving heart.

About the Breed

If there's one thing that sets Great Danes apart from many other breeds of dogs, it's their sheer massive size—for many years, Danes have won the record for World's Tallest Dog.

With their tall and lanky build, sometimes having a Great Dane around your house may feel like a bull in a china shop—whatever their head doesn't knock over, their tail will surely hit. Due to this, it is generally useful to keep your coffee table free of items, to keep short shelves decluttered, and to be overall mindful of where you place breakables and drinking cups.

With an average height of 28-34 inches and an average weight range of 100–200 pounds (females typically weighing less), Great Danes make the list for one of the largest dog breeds in the world. Like other giant breeds, the average lifespan of Great Danes is shorter than smaller dogs. These dogs live about 6-8 years, but some have been known to live until they are 10 years old.

Great Danes can be found in a variety of coat patterns and colors, which include:

  • Blue
  • Mantle (mainly black with white on the feet, tail, chest, and face area)
  • Grey merle, harlequin (mostly white with black patches throughout)
  • Black
  • Brindle (a combination of fawn and black which appears in a striped pattern)
  • Fawn (golden yellow with black appearing around the eyes and brows region and the ears)

Although it may come to your surprise, Great Danes, known as the Apollo of dogs, don't usually need a mansion to match their size for living space. In fact, many Danes have been known to thrive in apartments or urban settings, especially since they typically are not overly active dogs. What perhaps is most important to consider is how much time and energy you can commit to providing your dog with exercise and outdoor time.

fawn great dane dog catching a magenta ball

Breed History

Just from looking at their name, your initial thought may be that Great Danes are from Denmark, but in fact, they actually originated from Germany. Receiving their height from Irish Wolfhounds, their weight from Mastiffs, and their lean appearance from Greyhounds, Great Danes became the perfect dog for people to take on boar hunts—thus earning themselves the name Boar Hound.

With boars being such a large and powerful animal, hunters wanted an equally large and powerful dog to accompany them. While it may come to the surprise of many modern-day Dane lovers, these dogs didn't always sport the sweet disposition that they typically do today.

At the time, known to be aggressive and intimidating, the largest Danes were transitioned from a large game-hunting dog into a guard dog. Not only would their massive size surely give any thief reason to run, but their deep, loud bark would be enough to discourage anyone from even attempting to break in.

As more and more Great Danes were introduced into households, many breeders began working on creating a Great Dane that was kinder and more laid back. In other words, they were trying to get rid of the aggressive temperament and make the Dane more of a family dog. Obviously, they succeeded because our modern-day Great Danes customarily have one of the sweetest, most mellow temperaments in dogs today, and the Great Dane personality is one many can't help but love.

Over time, the name of this breed has changed multiple times. Originally called Boar Hounds when they were used for hunting, by the 16th century these dogs' name was changed to "English Dogges." Then, by the late 17th century, German nobles changed the name of these dogs to "Kammerhunde," meaning "Chamber Dogs."

Around the 18th century, a French naturalist traveled to Denmark, where he found a slimmer version of the dog, which resembled a large Greyhound. He called this dog "Grand Danois," and eventually, people began using the name "Great Danish Dog" or "Danish Mastiffs" for the stockier and larger dogs of this breed.

By the late 1800s, German breeders and show judges held a meeting to discuss breed specifications. It was agreed upon that Danish Mastiffs were noticeably different from English Mastiffs, so their name was changed yet again, this time to "Deutscher Dogge" or "German Dog." Following along with Germany, most other European countries also began using this new name, except for Italy and English-speaking countries. To this day, Italians refer to these dogs as Alano, meaning Mastiff, and English-speaking countries refer to them as Great Danes.

Attributes

You're probably familiar with the saying, "his bark is worse than his bite," and Great Danes can be an exact reflection of such a phrase. Although they are not frequent barkers, they are most certainly loud barkers. A Great Dane's bark is often rumbling, deep and intimidating, but most Great Danes wouldn't hurt a fly.

In fact, because of their gentle nature, Danes can make for a wonderful family dog. As with any dog, though, it's important to teach children how to play with dogs safely and to supervise interactions until your children are older. Especially when children are around larger dogs, they may try to lay on or ride the dog—this is a behavior you will want to strongly discourage since it could easily cause injury to your dog.

Most dog parents have noted that Great Danes do well with other dogs or cats in the house, but a key to this cohabitation is early socialization. When not properly socialized or introduced at a young age, some Great Danes have been known to be standoffish towards other pets in the house.

When it comes to people, Danes love to be around others, and they ordinarily appreciate some quality cuddle time. Just be warned, whether they are a 30-pound puppy or a 130-pound adult, Danes routinely adore being a lap dog, and they may show zero regards for the fact that they don't really fit in laps.

black great dane dog in a backyard

Training

Due to the giant size of these dogs, perhaps one of the most important things a Dane parent can remember is that socialization and training are vital—begin these habits as soon as possible. Even if you adopt your puppy at just a few months old, it is never too early to begin teaching your dog. At a young age, basic commands such as sit, stay, down, heel, and drop it can help make a world of difference for when your puppy gets older.

Another excellent option for dog parents is to enroll your pup in an obedience class. Not only can this be a great opportunity to learn new commands and tricks for your dog, but it can also be a wonderful place to socialize your dog with other people and canines.

Obedience trained Danes will likely be easier to handle when they become fully grown, and an obedience class can encourage the naturally happy Great Dane temperament. Although these dogs are famous for being gentle giants, some Danes can become protective, territorial, and leery of visitors if not properly socialized.

Not to mention, because of their massive size, it is vital to teach good manners at a young age, because having a poorly behaved, 150lb dog is definitely not something you want to deal with.

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