A Complete Breed Guide for Great Dane dogs
Known as the 'Apollo of Dogs' for their noble grace and stature, the Great Dane is the tallest of the dog breeds. The Great Dane is sleek and elegant, with a muscular, athletic body.
Facts about the Great Dane
Place of origin:
Deutsche Dogge, German Mastiff, Boarhound
Female: 41-48kg, Male: 45-57kg, sometimes more!
Tendency to bark:
7 to 10 years
Female: 71-76cm, Male: 76-81cm
High - loyal and affectionate, Great Danes love to be part of the family.
Overall grooming needs:
Fawn, black, blue, brindle, harlequin and mantle.
How long do Great Danes live?
Being a large to giant breed dog, Great Danes have a shorter life expectancy than smaller breeds. On average, Great Danes live for 7-10 years.
Are Great Danes good family dogs?
Despite their size, Great Danes make loyal, playful and gentle companions for people of all ages, including young children, though as with any dog, close supervision is recommended. They are friendly and very social dogs. They love being indoors, but due to their size, they may not be well suited to apartment living.
Do Great Danes shed?
Yes, Great Danes do shed, so they are not classified as a hypoallergenic breed. They have a short coat while requires only minimal grooming. The officially recognised colours of the Great Dane are fawn, blue, brindle, mantle, black and the stunning harlequin.
How big do Great Danes get?
Great Danes grow to between 41-57kg (or more)! They stand between 71-81cm tall at the shoulders.
How much does a Great Dane cost?
The cost of a Great Dane puppy varies depending on the breeder and the pedigree of the dog. For a puppy from a show-line of pedigree dogs, you could expect to pay up to $4000 or more.
Are Great Danes barkers?
Great Danes have a low tendency to bark, although when they do, it can be quite intimidating. They do not like being left alone for long periods. Being social dogs they prefer to be with their family and can be prone to separation anxiety when left alone, with excessive barking being a potential consequence.
How do I know which Great Dane breeder to choose?
Knowing how to find a 'good' Great Dane breeder is a critical first step in bringing home a happy, healthy dog. Responsible breeders will make careful selections in their breed pairings, to ensure that they breed away from health problems, and select for optimal health and temperament. For tips on the types of things to look out for, and questions to ask any breeder, check out our article on How to Find a Good Breeder.
Great Dane History
Despite its name, the Great Dane actually originates from Germany, where it is known as the 'Deutsche Dogge', or German Mastiff. The Great Dane as we know it today was developed in the 1800s and was developed originally for hunting stags and wild boars, and for protecting estates. It was declared the national breed of Germany in 1876, and ranks number 16 out of 196 breeds in the American Kennel Club Breed Popularity ranking.
Great Dane Personality
The Great Dane is surprisingly gentle for its size, earning the popular nickname 'the gentle giant'. It is loyal, affectionate and playful, and can make a gentle guardian for children and other animals.Â
Great Danes are friendly, social and well-disposed towards other people and animals. They make good watch dogs and can sometimes be territorial - their size and deep bark can frighten even the most determined intruder! Socialisation during the peak socialisation window (around 8 to 16 weeks of age) is essential, to ensure that they do not become aggressive towards, or fearful of, new environments and strangers. Training using positive behavioural training techniques is also crucial and must begin before a Great Dane grows too large. When properly trained and socialised, they are very well behaved.Â
Great Dane Diet and Nutrition
Great Dane Puppies
With a big body size comes a big appetite! As a giant breed, the Great Dane is slow to mature, reaching its adult size and weight around 18-24 months. It has special nutritional requirements because of this, and it is important to feed a premium diet of large and giant breed puppy food. These diets are less energy dense to reduce the risk of overfeeding, as an overweight body condition is an significant risk factor for the development of orthopaedic disease. They also contain less calcium than puppy diets for smaller breeds. We recommend feeding a premium diet from a reputable pet food company that has undergone AAFCO feeding trials. The diet should be fed in controlled amounts to promote slow rate of growth and a lean body condition score of 4/9. See the WSAVA Body Condition Scoring In Dogs for more information on assessing body condition scores.
It is also important not to exercise Great Dane puppies too long or strenuously, as they are prone to developmental orthopaedic problems while their bones are still forming. Allowing them to explore around at their own pace and restricting any forced exercise is a good way to prevent excess strain on their developing skeleton.
Top food recommendations for Great Dane Puppies
Our Vet Squad recommend the following diets for Great Dane puppies until they reach their adult size and weight at around 18-24 months of age.
A high quality, premium large breed puppy food formulated with optimal levels of calcium, phosphorus and energy for controlled bone growth.
Tailor made nutrition to support your growing giant breed puppy until the age of 8 months. For puppies between the age of 8 months and 18 to 24 months, we recommend switching to Royal Canin Junior Giant Dry Food.
An Australian made large breed puppy food with added green lipped mussel powder to support joint health.
Fortified with key nutrients to support healthy joints, this premium large breed puppy food is also enriched with colostrum to enhance immune defences.
Top food recommendations for the Adult Great Dane
For adult Great Danes, we recommend premium diets specifically formulated for large and giant breeds. These diets contain ingredients to support bone and joint health and controlled nutrients in order to maintain lean body weight.
Formulated with nutrients to support bone and joint health, and maintain cardiac health, this diet also contains antioxidants to support health and longevity.
A high quality, premium diet which includes L-carnitine to encourage fat metabolism and maintain lean muscle mass, and glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints and cartilage.
A premium diet, formulated with natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin and chicken as the main ingredient.
An Australian made, natural food range with high quality proteins as the main ingredients.
Great Dane Health Problems
As with any pure breed dog, Great Danes can be predisposed to certain health conditions. It is important to be aware of the signs to watch out for.
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)
Also known as bloat or gastric torsion, GDV is a life-threatening emergency. As a large, deep chested dog, the Great Dane is particularly susceptible to GDV. In GDV, dilatation of the stomach occurs due to the accumulation of gas and/or fluid, often following large meals which expand the stomach causing obstruction of the outflow tract. The stomach can then rotate (volvulus), compressing major blood vessels and organs. Signs to watch out for include restlessness or discomfort, unproductive retching, distension of the abdomen, and signs of abdominal pain such as the 'prayer pose' - front feet down, rear end up. It is critical to seek immediate veterinary care if you notice these symptoms. In order to avoid GDV, Great Danes should be fed their food in more frequent, smaller meals, and should never be exercised strenuously immediately after feeding. Some vets recommend preventative surgery, where the stomach is stitched to the abdominal wall (known as gastropexy), to prevent it from rotating.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a heart condition that is characterised by dilated chambers of the heart and poor contraction of the heart muscles, leading to congestive heart failure. DCM is typically seen in middle-aged dogs. Signs to watch out for include weakness, exercise intolerance, coughing, loss of appetite and fainting or passing out.
The Great Dane is predisposed to a number of eye problems, including:
Entropion is an inward rolling of the eyelid margin, causing hair to rub on the surface of the eye (cornea) leading to irritation, conjunctivitis and potentially ulceration of the cornea.
Cherry Eye is a prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. Cherry eye occurs spontaneously and mostly, no cause is identified. It is thought that a laxity of the connective tissue that attaches the gland in position might contribute. Prolapse may lead to a dog being unable to close the eyelids, a failure of tear production leading to 'dry eye', eye discharge and infection.
Bone and Joint Problems
Developmental disorders of the bone and joints are often seen in young, large breed dogs, and can be due to genetic factors, rapid growth and overnutrition, among other things. These disorders include:
Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD)
HOD is a developmental disease of the bones where blood supply is reduced to a part of the bone adjacent to the joint, which interrupts bone formation. This causes a failure in the hardening of the bone.
Panosteitis is a disease affecting bone production, which causes lameness and bone pain. It is thought that there may be a relationship between high-protein, high-calorie diets, leading to fluid accumulation and increased pressure within the developing bone.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
OCD is a joint disease in which a flap of cartilage lifts from the joint surface, commonly in the shoulders, elbows, knees and hocks of young large and giant breed dogs. This causes joint pain and lameness.
Hip Dysplasia occurs when the femur and the hip joint do not sit together properly. It can also occur due to excessive growth, exercise, nutrition and/or genetic factors. These problems lead to joint inflammation and pain, and lameness is the most common sign, particularly after exercise.
Ensuring that your Great Dane puppy is not exercised strenuously and is fed a controlled amount of a good-quality diet formulated specifically for large or giant breed dogs is the most important thing you can do to avoid these problems.
Osteoarthritis (also known as arthritis or degenerative joint disease) is a chronic condition, caused by inflammation in one or more joints. It can result from congenital disorders (as above), trauma, infection, or commonly, age related wear and tear or excess stress on the joints due to the dog being overweight. It is best managed through weight management, joint support supplementation and prescribed pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication.
Wobbler syndrome is a disorder of the vertebrae of the neck and intervertebral discs, which causes spinal cord compression and progressive loss of coordination of the limbs.
As a giant breed, the Great Dane is also predisposed to bone cancers, predominantly Osteosarcoma. The average age of dogs when diagnosed with bone cancer is 7 years. Most commonly, they are presented to their vet due to lameness or a localised swelling of a limb.
Top Joint Supplements for the Great Dane
Due to their predisposition for orthopaedic problems, we recommend a joint supplement for all adult Great Danes. The products below contain a combination of ingredients for joint support such as glucosamine and chondroitin and Green lipped mussel powder (a potent source of omega fatty acids which have an antiinflammatory action.)
These tasty chews contain Glucosamine and Chondroitin (the building blocks of cartilage) and Green Lipped Mussel (proven to reduce inflammation). Also available as a powder.
A premium quality, vet recommended joint supplement containing green lipped mussel and epitalis to help support joint health and ease the symptoms of arthritis.
A rich source of Vitamin C which has been clinically proven to reduce joint inflammation.
This powder contains green lipped mussel powder, a potent source of anti-inflammatory omega fatty acids and can be sprinkled over food.
Great Dane Behaviour
Great Danes have a gentle and loving disposition that makes them a wonderful family companion. They are very eager to please, and love being with their 'pack', i.e. you! Because of this, they can be prone to separation anxiety and associated chewing behaviours.
In order to keep your gentle giant happy, it's important to spend lots of quality time with them - exercising, playing games or cuddling up on the couch, allow plenty of time for daily exercise and provide lots of appropriately-sized chew toys to encourage appropriate play.
Top toy recommendations for Great Danes
It's important to choose durable, extra-large sized toys for your Great Dane. Our Vet Squad recommend the following products.
The unique Denta-ridges on the Kong Extreme Dental Toy with rope can be filled with peanut butter or Kong Easy Treat paste to promote appropriate chewing.
Tasty Bones are incredibly durable and come in a range of flavours.
Fill the Kong Wobbler with kibble or some favourite treats to keep them busy!
A 'tuff' plush toy for your Great Dane to snuggle.
Mastiffs are an ancient breed that have contributed significantly to other dog breeds, particularly working breeds like the Rottweiler, Saint Bernard and Great Dane. Mastiffs are incredible powerful, making imposing guard dogs. Given appropriate positive training, socialisation and handling, it makes a good-natured, loyal pet.
It is thought that the first Great Dane was bred from Mastiffs and Greyhounds. The Greyhound is well known for it's unrivalled speed and couch-potato lifestyle. For more information, check out our Greyhound Breed Guide.