Great Dane: The Gentle Giant In The Breed Portrait

We think the Great Dane is huge! Her character is just adorable. And your name? It’s more logical than you think.

With its impressive build, the Great Dane is one of the largest dog breeds in the world, and it can easily weigh more than its humans.

In stark contrast to their appearance, the Great Danes are characterized by a very sensitive, friendly, gentle, and affectionate character. The dogs don’t like being alone at all and would love to cuddle for hours. But be careful: the cuddly giant babies sometimes forget their weight!

Find out in our breed portrait how the dog breed got its start as a hunting dog for the British nobility, what is important in training and what care these gentle giants require.

How big is a Great Dane?

Big, bigger, Great Dane! One of the largest dog breeds in the world, males reach an impressive height at the withers of between 80 and 90 cm. The bitches among the Great Danes are between 72 and 84 cm tall.

How heavy is a Great Dane?

The mighty size is also reflected in the heaviness of the dogs: males weigh between 54 kg and 90 kg on average and females between 45 kg and 59 kg. This large span is highly dependent on the breed and physique of Great Danes. With this weight, the Great Dane is one of the heaviest dogs in the world.

What does a Great Dane look like?

You don’t really notice the weight of the dogs from the outside. The physique of the dog breed should radiate an elegant overall appearance with large, strong, and defined limbs and proportions. They shouldn’t appear clumsy, but sporty and fast. The back is elongated and straight.

The head

The forehead is rather flat and the muzzle narrow but long. The almond-shaped eyes have a shrewd and friendly expression, reflecting the breed’s overall image as proud, strong, yet wary creatures.

The fur

The fur is very short and lies flat. According to the breeding specifications of the FCI, three color variants are standard in Germany today:

  • yellow and brindle,
  • black and spotted and
  • blue.

Whether spotted or brindle, the colored patterns should be evenly distributed over the entire body. Exceptions are the usually lighter paws and the darker black-brown face.

In addition, the dogs are also available in grey, but this is automatically rated worse at dog shows and is therefore not considered the preferred color in breeding. Breeding with a pure white coat color is considered tormented breeding in Germany due to the health risks for the Great Dane, such as deafness or blindness, and is prohibited.

How old does a Great Dane get?

Large dog breeds typically have shorter lifespans than smaller breeds such as the beagle or the smallest of all dogs, the chihuahua.

Unfortunately, it is no different with the Great Dane: Depending on breed and size, the dogs only live between six and ten years on average.

Since this breed was also bred for a long time, mainly external aspects and hardly any health aspects were the top priority, this had a negative effect on age. In England, the average life expectancy of Great Danes in 2004 was just six years. And even today, about 25 percent of dogs die before they are five years old.

What character or nature does the Great Dane have?

Among lovers, the Great Dane is also referred to, slightly ironically, as the largest lap dog in the world. Because dogs prefer to be close to their people, want to be cuddled, and – despite their considerable size – prefer to lie on their laps. As a human being, you suddenly have up to 90 kg on you here and there!

The animals are very affectionate and playful, but by no means submissive. They definitely have a strong character with their own mind and like to surprise their people with funny actions.

The dog breed is very well suited as a guard dog as well as a family dog. The gentle giants are reserved and skeptical towards strangers and animals, although they rarely bark or growl and show almost no aggressive behavior. Great Danes have a very high stimulus threshold and are usually very difficult to rouse.

If the dog is properly socialized, it will easily accept children and other pets as family members. The Great Dane then loves to play and cuddle with them. Since the big dog, as mentioned, often underestimates its own weight, you should always keep a watchful eye on the raging gang, at least with small children.

Where does the Great Dane come from?

The Great Dane can look back on a proud and long career. The history of dogs can be traced back completely and verifiably to the beginning of the 16th century.

Back then, Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds were crossed in England to breed large companions suitable for big game hunting. The Great Dane’s ancestors were even said to be able to keep adult bears at bay before hunters killed them. Today’s term Mastiff comes from the English word “dog”.

As early as the 17th century, due to their great popularity among the upper class, Germany established its own breed of gentle giants. In 1888 the first breed club was founded, making the Great Dane one of the oldest breeds in Germany.

With the decline of big game hunting, the big dogs increasingly became companion dogs and status symbols: a mastiff was a stately companion for the power of the world at that time. A peaceful character paired with balance, obedience, and gentleness came more and more to the fore in breeding and characterizes the character of the Great Dane to this day.

Great Dane: The right attitude and training

It goes without saying that such a large dog also needs more space, more exercise, and more food. All the muscles, tendons, and body parts need to be exercised enough, which is why several walks with the dog and outdoor activities a day are a matter of course.

At the same time, however, Great Danes are not candidates for endurance sports. Constantly climbing stairs should not be expected of large dogs, especially when they are young, as their joints could be damaged over time.

A single-story living room with a garden and plenty of space is best suited for Great Danes. For the apartment on the third floor without a lift in the big city, the dog is out of the question.

The Great Dane is considered to be very sociable, easy to train, and affectionate. Close contact with her family is very important because this dog doesn’t do much alone time.

Like all other dog breeds, this dog needs consistent but loving training in order to develop at its best. Ideally, the breeder starts with the puppies.

Despite the peaceful nature, the Great Dane’s size and strength make it better suited to experienced dog owners, as their physical superiority, strong will, and sensitivity necessitate expert training and leadership.

What care does the Great Dane need?

Despite its gigantism, the dog does not need special care. The short coat should be brushed regularly. As with all other dogs, a regular check of the ears and skin for parasites and inflammation is part of the care.

What typical diseases does the Great Dane have?

Because of their large size and excessive inbreeding that has resulted in low genetic diversity, the Great Dane is particularly prone to hereditary diseases. This is another reason why it is one of the shortest-lived dog breeds in the world.

Illnesses such as gastric torsion, heart disease, and cancer such as bone cancer are particularly common, which unfortunately often end fatally for the dog.

Other severely disabling diseases include musculoskeletal problems, eye diseases, kidney failure, and neurological disorders.

Since 2019, breeders and enthusiasts in Germany have been trying to improve the health and thus the life expectancy of the breed with a specially founded interest group. Breeders try to minimize diseases in the Great Dane.

How much does a Great Dane cost?

The gentle giants aren’t all that gentle on the wallet. With a reputable breeder in Germany, you have to reckon with average prices from 1,600 euros upwards for a puppy.

You should by no means accept cheaper offers from dubious suppliers since due to the health problems of the Great Dane, there is a very high probability that the puppies will not live long.

With recognized breeders, care is taken during breeding to ensure that the health risks are kept as low as possible.

In addition, you have to reckon with other high monthly costs, because those who are as big and strong as this breed not only devour a lot but also put a lot of strain on materials such as leashes, toys, and chews. Say goodbye to your small car as well: the gentle giant simply won’t fit in.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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