Known as “the Apollo of all breeds,” the Great Dane is a gentle giant. Great Danes are a personal favorite of mine, due to their gentle nature and trainability. They’re the largest dog in recorded history, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The current largest is Giant George, who stands 43 inches at the shoulder and 7.2 feet from tip of nose to tip of tail. King George weighs more than 245 pounds, but typical male Great Danes weigh between 120 and 180 lbs. Due to their massive size, Danes do not stay puppy-size very long, so it is important to start training early. They possess an easygoing temperament, but they do have a propensity of leaning into you while standing. Ironically they consider themselves lap dogs when wanting to relax. Because of this, it is important to always supervise children around them.
Great Danes are prone to hip dysplasia, gastric distortion (bloat), and have shortened life spans. You may also see a Great Dane walking down the street with medical tape on its tail. Danes are prone to “happy tail” wherein the tip of the tail is injured or broken by the tail wagging and hitting walls, doors, etc. The average life span of the Great Dane is seven to eight years, but we are seeing Danes live longer because of advances in medicine, nutrition, and general care. Great Danes have a relatively low need for exercise. Daily walks are fine and we are discouraged from over-exercising this breed especially during puppyhood, which can last anywhere from 18 months to two years. Because of their short hair they do not require extensive grooming.
As a member of the working breeds, Great Danes were used to hunt boar and their ears were cropped to prevent injury. The current trend is to leave the ears natural, which are floppy and triangular in shape. The practice of cropping has been banned in many European countries.
Great Danes are excellent family dogs. They are very loyal, gentle, and loving. Danes love to be with their humans, and they may become protective if not socialized early in puppyhood. In a family situation, it is important that children have boundaries as well as the dog. Children are drawn to “ride” the Dane because they are often compared to a horse. This can have a detrimental effect on the dogs’ muscles, joints, and ligaments and should not be encouraged.