1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
7. Intelligence / Trainability
8. Children and Other Pets
10. Caring for a Great Dane
14. Average Cost to keep/care for a Great Dane
The Great Dane may be a large dog, but they are gentle giants and as such they have become a popular choice both as a family pet and companion dog. They boast very kind natures and seem to have an affinity with children. Their devotion and loyalty to their owners matches a Great Dane's impressive looks. They are noble, dignified, these large dogs can be quick off the mark when the occasion calls, loving nothing more than to be part of a family and being involved in everything that goes on in a household.
Great Danes are impressive looking dogs that were bred to hunt wild boar in their native Germany. The breed has been Germany's national dog since the late eighteen hundreds and are known as German Mastiffs in their native homeland. However, over the years, these elegant dogs lost their "mastiff" traits and characteristics when they were crossed with various hound breeds.
The breed first appeared in the UK in 1877, but dogs that looked very much like Great Danes have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs with the drawings of them dating as far back as 2200 BC. However, the dogs depicted in the drawings boast shorter legs and have more of a mastiff type body. It is thought these dogs found their way to other regions of the world on trading boats which is how they came to arrive in Germany.
Over time, these dogs were developed by German breeders to produce the Great Danes we see today. To achieve these large and lighter dogs, breeders are thought to have used Greyhounds and at the time the dogs they produced were used to bait bulls as well as to hunt wild boar by wealthy nobles.
In the 1800s, Great Danes were a very popular choice with owners of large estates where they continued to be used to hunt game by nobility. In 1885 the first breed club was established in the UK and from then onwards, these proud and noble dogs have become a popular choice as family pets and companions all thanks to their wonderfully loyal, friendly natures and stunning looks.
Height at the withers: Males 76 - 81 cm, Females 71 - 76 cm
Average weight: Males 54 - 62 kg, Females 46 - 54 kg
There is no doubt that Great Danes are among the most impressive looking dogs on the planet. Their size disguises the fact they boast kind and gentle natures. Their heads and jaws alone are large and show just how powerful these dogs are when they need to be. They boast having broad muzzles and well chiseled faces with long forefaces and very wide bridges to their noses which is a typical characteristic of the breed.
Their nostrils are large and open which adds a blunt appearance to their nose and their lips hang slightly at the front. Eyes are deep set and medium in size being dark in colour although dogs with harlequin coats can have either wall or odd coloured eyes which is permissible. Ears are triangular and moderate in size being set high on a dog's head and they fold forward without being too pendulous.
A Great Dane's jaw is strong and dogs boast a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have long necks that dogs carry well arched. When Great Danes take a proud stance, their heads and necks are very well defined. Shoulders are well developed and muscular without being too loaded and they slope well back. Their front legs are perfectly straight showing lots of bone.
They boast a deep brisket with well sprung ribs and their belly is well drawn up. Their back is strong with loins being slightly arched. A Great Dane's hindquarters are extremely well developed and muscular showing that these dogs have a tremendous amount of power when needed. Back legs are powerful and well-muscled and their feet are very cat-like with dogs boasting well arched toes and strong, curved nails that are dark in colour with the exception being in harlequin dogs when their nails are lighter in colour which is permissible as a breed standard. Their tail is thicker at the root, but it tapers to the tip which dogs carry in a straight line level to their backs and slightly curved when they are on the move.
When it comes to coat, the Great Dane boasts a short, thick one that is sleek to the touch. Their coats can be a variety of colours which includes the following:
Great Danes are renowned for their friendly and outgoing natures. They may be imposing to look at, but they are extremely mild mannered and affectionate dogs that enjoy nothing more than being given lots of attention. They are a great choice as family pets and companion dogs although care has to be taken when these larger than life dogs are around toddlers simply because they may knock a very small child over, albeit by accident.
They very rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour and this includes towards other dogs. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because Great Danes need to be correctly trained and handled by someone who really understands the breed. Their training needs to start early and it has to be consistent for dogs to understand their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household. If they are not handled correctly and given the right sort of guidance from a young age, a Great Dane might well become wilful and unruly which in such a large dog can present a massive problem.
Great Danes are intelligent dogs, but they need to be trained correctly by someone who is familiar with this type of dog. Their education and training needs to start when they are still puppies and it needs to be consistent throughout their lives for them to be manageable and well behaved mature dogs.
The key to successfully training a Great Dane is for puppies to be extremely well socialised as soon as they are fully vaccinated and to use positive reinforcement methods because like many other breeds Great Danes do not respond well to harsher training methods.
Great Danes are known to get on well with children, but due to their large size any interaction between dogs and the kids needs to be supervised just in case playtime gets too boisterous and a child ends up getting accidentally knocked over.
These dogs rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards other dogs and they are known to get on with other animals which includes family cats if they have grown up together. However, care needs to be taken when a Great Dane is around any smaller pets just in case.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is between 8 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Great Dane is prone to some health problems, and prospective owners should consult their breeders about the following known issues in the breed.
As with any other breed, Great Danes need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Great Danes are low maintenance on the grooming front because they boast short and close coats. However, a weekly brush is essential to keep things tidy and to remove any dead or shed hair. Like other breeds, they tend to shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing may be necessary to keep on top of things.
Great Danes boast having a ton of energy which they need to expend and this means they have to be given a minimum of 2 hours exercise every day. They also need to have lots of space to move around due to their very large size and ideally, they should be allowed to run around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam, but only if the garden has very secure fencing.
With this said, puppies only need to be given a small amount of daily exercise because their joints and bones are still developing. Putting too much pressure on their joints could see dogs developing painful joint problems later on in their lives.
If you get a Great Dane puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Because Great Danes are prone to suffering from bloat, it's really important not to feed them just before they go out for walk or when they just get back from one. Feeding a dog before any strenuous exercise or when they have just come back from a walk, puts them at great risk of suffering from bloat which can prove fatal. It’s also a good idea to invest in a stand for their feed bowls so they don’t have to lower their heads when they eat which makes it easier for them to reach their food.
If you are looking to buy a Great Dane, you would need to pay anything from £600 to over £100 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Great Dane in northern England would be £61.10 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £109.10 a month (quote as of April 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £60 a month for one of these large dogs. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Great Dane and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1400 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Great Dane would be between £120 to £180 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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