Is a Dane right for you?
Thinking about getting a Great Dane?
Buying a Great Dane is not a decision to be taken lightly. Great Danes are absolutely wonderful companions – but are not for every home and family.
Use the information below to see if a Great Dane is right for you.
Males stand from 32″ to 42″ at the shoulder and can weigh from 140 to 240 pounds. Females typically stand 28″ to 36″ tall at the shoulder and weigh from 110 to 170 pounds. That cute little puppy is going to GROW and GROW and GROW and GROW!
Danes do not usually reach full maturity until they are 18 to 24 months of age.
The Great Dane is definitely a pet for committed owners.
There are other colors that are not recognized as acceptable by the CKC and AKC, including white, merle (gray with darker gray patches), colors such as “fawnequin) (a white base with tan patches) and “merlequin” (a white base with merle patches) and variety of other combinations.
White Danes are often deaf. Some Danes, particularly merles, whites, and Harlequins can have blue eyes.
For many years in North America, cropping was the accepted practice – especially for Great Danes in the show ring, but recently, due to the unnecessary pain and trauma inflicted to accomplish the cropping, fewer reputable vets now do this procedure and both the CKC and AKC are currently considering standards for uncropped ears.
Ear cropping can only be done on puppies. Please reconsider whether you want to have your puppy’s ears cropped. This is an expensive surgery done only for cosmetic purposes. The surgery is both dangerous (puppies can bleed to death during the surgery or suffer a heart attack while under anaesthesia) and painful for the puppy.
This surgery is now ILLEGAL in Europe and many Dane lovers feel it should be outlawed here, too.
If you elect to have this done, please be aware that your puppy will have to wear “forms” on his or her ears and you will have to care for the ears and listen to your puppy scream in pain as you care for the ears that were cut for cosmetic reasons.
Some of the bargain-basement people (??) who will perform cropping in your home use a drug (usually only available to qualified veterinarians) called Innovar, which paralyses the pup’s muscular system but does not dampen the sensory system for pain. The dog feels the pain of every cut as it is wide awake throughout the procedure.
If you haven’t already guessed, we make no bones about where we stand on cropping – we do not agree with it under any circumstances and will NOT adopt a rescue pup to you if you intend cropping.
There are, however, exceptions to this, with many Danes living to 12 and older!
While theirs is a relatively short life span in comparison to many other breeds, anyone who has had the joy of having a Dane will likely counter with “Better 8 with a Dane than 18 with another breed.”.
Males typically consume 7 to 10 cups and females 6 to 8 cups of high-quality foods daily.
Great Danes do not tolerate grain-based kibbles well, so make sure the kibble is labeled as Grain-Free or only contains low-glycemic grains.
Brands that we recommend are Acana (Champion Pet Foods) or Blue Buffalo (Blue Buffalo Co.). Kibbles with a high content of grain tend to produce gas in the digestive system. Gas -> Bloat -> Gastric Torsion which is a serious, often fatal condition (see Health Issues).
Many people prefer feeding a ‘Raw’ diet, which consists of selected purchased meats, vegetables and other contents like rolled oats, or a variation of this and believe that this actually better for a dog since you, the preparer, know the contents, but be aware that in addition to the raw meat, supplements will have to be given to provide all the necessary vitamins and minerals.
It is recommended that meals be served in two sittings (usually breakfast and dinner) rather than all at once to help prevent bloat (see our page on Great Dane Health). Free feeding (where there is food available for eating at any time) is definitely NOT recommended.
Typical food intake is approximately 1 – 2 thirty pound bags per month. Premium dog foods are more expensive than the ones typically found on supermarket shelves, but they contain the necessary ingredients to meet a Dane’s nutritional needs and contain less ‘fillers’ (i.e. corn and wheat, which many dogs have problems digesting). It also means you’ll spend less time ‘scooping’ up.
Most medications, heartworm preventative, flea control, etc. are sold based on the weight of the dog.
The more the dog weighs, the more medication you will need, and the more expensive it will be. In addition, surgery, x-rays, and other medical services are often more expensive for these very large dogs due to the amount of anaesthesia required.
Boarding large dogs is typically also more expensive. The cost of owning a Dane is a definite factor you must consider carefully before you adopt one.
Training - Socialization
Too often we rescue Danes which have not been socialized as puppies and the results can be disastrous.
It is important to allow your Dane to interact with other dogs, pets, and people right from puppyhood to build a trust relationship. If this element is missing, many dogs (and not just Danes!) can develop aggressive behaviour due to fear. Ask any trainer, who will verify that the hardest habit to break is fear-biting.
Most Great Danes, if socialized properly, can be wonderful companions in almost any circumstances and are usually friendly and gentle with all people, children (even babies and toddlers), and other animals.
Training and socialization are key to trusting your Dane under a variety of situations.
Contrary to the old wives’ tale “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, dogs of any breed can learn at any age. We often get Danes into rescue because the owner “can’t control” the dog. This is something that a good basic obedience class can “cure” in a hurry. Danes, however, are extremely sensitive and will react negatively to harsh corrections. So any class or instructor should be familiar with Danes and focus on positive reinforcement with minimal use of harsh corrections and harsh vocal commands.
Danes are indoor dogs and do best when they are kept as indoor pets, where the family is the core of their existence. Danes are extremely people-oriented and need to be a part of the family.
Before acquiring a Dane, please be sure you have sufficient time to spend with him or her. Danes crave and need human companionship. The time requirement is far more crucial than the amount of space you have, although this also can be a consideration in restricted living quarters (one of the most frequently used commands for a Dane is “Move”).
Many Danes can be very vocal, and will bark often and loudly when strangers appear. While Danes bark and make lots of noise, they will usually be friendly to people welcomed by their family. They will, however, be protective of their family if the need arises. This protective trait is common to most breeds and you do not need to train your Dane as a ‘Guard Dog’. Anyone who gets a Great Dane to act strictly as a guard dog is promoting eventual trouble, at which time the Dane will become the victim by suffering the consequences, usually euthanasia.
If you live in an Apartment, Condo, or other housing arrangement where you have neighbours on one, or both, side(s) of you, there are other considerations. Neighbours may not love your dog as much as you do, especially when someone comes home late at night and your Dane wakes everyone in the building! Another factor with grouped buildings is availability for the dog to its toilet area – try to tell your Dane that he/she has to wait until an elevator comes or you have only 15 floors to get down before the time is right.
The breed is considered by the CKC to be one of the ‘Working’ breeds.
In the Middle Ages, Great Danes were used for Boar hunting, so their ancestors were accustomed to an active lifestyle.
In today’s society, a good walk – approx. 4 km – twice a day is sufficient exercise for an adult Dane.
They do not require a large home (if you have room for a couch, you have room for a Great Dane!).
An owner’s lifestyle will have to accommodate regular, daily exercising in areas other than a backyard setting, where the Dane can expend his/her energies. Puppies are usually significantly more active than adult Danes and require more exercise to develop their muscles for adulthood. Dane puppies will let you know when they have had enough exercise, and should only be allowed to rough-and-tumble with siblings, or other dogs of the same size, to prevent injury.
A good brushing once or twice a week in the winter months is sufficient for most Danes, while you may need to give them a good brushing daily during the warmer months when they shed more. A vigorous brushing should take no more than 20 minutes.
Danes do not require baths often. If kept as a house pet, your Dane should require bathing no more than once a month. You may have to wipe muddy paws in between baths, however. Keeping a large (!!) towel handy at your entrance is also a good idea for drying off the Dane on wet days after being outside.
This also means that Danes can reach higher in closets (to steal your good shoes) and higher in areas where they may reach toxic substances you may think you have placed safely out of reach.
Danes are tall and tend to wag their tail often and furiously. They can easily clear a coffee table of trinkets. Anything that can be broken or spilled should be kept well above “tail level”. Danes sometimes hit their tail on walls or other hard, unyielding objects and split their tail open. It can bleed profusely. They will usually continue wagging the tail, spraying blood everywhere and making your home look like something from a horror film. This doesn’t happen often (happily), but can, and does, happen on occasion.
We all do it, but it’s worth mentioning here. When a new dog comes into the home, there are certain ‘rules’ we are going to have for our new pet. Great Danes are especially good at ‘getting an inch’ and ‘taking a mile’! If you don’t expect to sleep with a Dane for the rest of its life, don’t let it up on the bed – even one time. Same goes for the chesterfield! If you start something with a Dane, those big eyes and the ‘don’t you like me anymore’ look will melt your resolve and you may be stuck with sleeping in the guest room so that your Dane can enjoy the luxury of your favorite bed in the master bedroom.
Where food or titbits are concerned, the Dane will have everyone convinced you’re starving him if he doesn’t get to eat ‘human food’, even though his bowl is filled with the best dog food you could buy.
Even though your Great Dane is great with toddlers and children, he/she should always be supervised when around kids. Due to their size, Great Danes can seriously hurt a child when ‘playing’.
A surgical procedure, called a gastropexy, can prevent bloat in 99 percent of cases. However, this procedure is expensive (usually between $1,200 and $1,400). If getting your female Dane spayed, consider getting the gastropexy done at the same time to help cut costs. (For more information on this topic, see the “Bloat” page under the Health option on the main menu.
This disease is characterized by grand mal or petit mal seizures. The grand mal seizures can be quite frightening to observe, although they usually are not life-threatening (they just look that way!). Petit mal seizures may look only like the dog “spaces” or “blanks” out. Seizures can also be caused by toxins, electric shock, as well as damage to the kidney and/or liver.
If your dog has a seizure, take him or her to the vet immediately to determine its cause. If your dog has a seizure make sure that if you have other dogs, get them away from the dog having the seizure. Also make sure you stay well clear of the dog’s head and mouth (or you could be accidentally bitten).
Also be very careful until you know your dog’s reaction when he/she is coming out of the seizure. Some dogs can become aggressive when coming out of a seizure as the dog will probably NOT recognize you or his/her surroundings. They are frightened and confused and may bite in fear. So be careful about approaching your dog until you are certain of her/his reaction to you. Once the dog has “come out of” the seizure, her or his personality will return to normal.
To oversimplify, it occurs when the hip joint doesn’t fit well in the socket. Symptoms include painful hips and limping.
Today, with medication and surgery, dogs with hip dysplasia can be helped and dysplastic dogs are no longer routinely put to sleep.
This disease is easily treated with medication and the dog can live a long, normal life.
Almost all dogs who develop bone cancer will die within a year.
Symptoms include limping and a painful lump felt on a bone (usually an extremity).
Treatment includes radiation and possibly chemotherapy as well as amputation.
There is exciting new research using the drug Fosamex that shows promising results.
von Willebrands Disease (vWD)
As with Hemophilia, vWD can be controlled but may require big changes in the dog’s normal routines. In addition, blood transfusions may be necessary.
Wobbler’s can be treated surgically, although surgery is expensive and not guaranteed.
Acupuncture can help make the dog more comfortable and prolong his or her life.
Some exciting new alternative treatments, such as gold bead implantation are being used and are effective in controlling the symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately, you will probably have to travel to the US to find a surgeon to perform the surgery.
If this is not possible before adoption due to health or medical reasons, it is part of the contractual agreement you will sign when you adopt a Dane from us. If this procedure has to be done after adoption, we pay the necessary costs to an approved vet.
Did you know? For every human born in North America there are 7 puppies and kittens born. As long as these birth rates exist, there will never be enough homes for all the animals. As a result, every year 4 to 6 million animals are euthanized because there are no homes for them.
Facts - Myths
Due to the high numbers of homeless pets, millions of animals are put to sleep every year because of prolific breeding at puppy mills, (reputable?) breeders and/or pet owners. The lucky ones will find homes, others will endure endless suffering before they end up in the euthanasia queue.
You can help stop this endless cycle of breeding by spaying or neutering your pet!
In addition to saving lives, spaying and neutering can also drastically improve your pet’s health and life expectancy.
The idea that pets become fat or lazy when they are spayed or neutered is a myth.
Sterilized pets lead healthier, longer lives.
Spaying a female eliminates the possibility of uterine and ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the risk of breast cancer. Neutering a male reduces the risk of both prostate enlargement/prostate cancer, and will also will make your pet less likely to roam, get in fights, or become lost.
Another common myth is if you have your dog altered, all the bad behavioural issues will disappear. In fact, any behavioural issue your dog already has will probably remain, but fewer new problems are likely to arise.
The younger your dog is when altered, the less chance there is of having negative behavioural issues develop. The optimal time period for this procedure to be done is at 8 to 10 months to allow the majority of bone formation to have taken place in the 5 month rapid growth period from 4 months on. If done too early, it can lead to a ‘pin head’ appearance since the head bone structure is the last to develop in the growth cycle.
Female dogs should be spayed BEFORE their first season which can occur any time from 10 months of age on. Delaying spaying until after a first heat is an old fashioned approach which research has proved false and complicates the spaying procedure. Allowing your dog to have a first heat does NOTHING for your dog!
In Male dogs, testosterone build-up escalates for up to 2 years when the dog is reaching maturity, leading to territorial protection evidenced by ‘marking’ and unnecessary protectionism around other pack members (you and your family).
Want a new Puppy?
Puppies are cute and you will generally have them longer than you will a dog you adopt as an adult.
However, puppies come without being house trained (and will make some rather large messes in your house to clean up).
Puppies are expensive (they must have a series of shots, three weeks apart rather than just yearly and they must be spayed or neutered when they reach an acceptable age – usually 6 to 9 months).
Having your puppy microchipped can cost from $45 to $80.
Puppies chew–a lot! They chew because (just like humans), they lose their “baby” teeth and new adult teeth grow in–so they teethe. In addition, puppies chew because that is part of how they explore and learn about their environment. And when a Dane puppy chews, you aren’t left with “cute little teeth marks.” More than likely, the object will be totally destroyed!
Puppies can also be susceptible to additional health problems (normally resolved by adulthood). Conditions, such as OCD, are not uncommon and generally require expensive surgery.
Finally, puppies are much more active than adults and require a great deal more exercise and supervision.
If you decide a puppy is right for you, please resist buying from a puppy mill, pet store or back-yard/non-reputable breeder. Please resist the urge to check the local newspaper and get a puppy “out of the paper”. Breeders who resort to this medium for sales are usually breeding for all the wrong reasons. Resist the urge to buy a puppy because you feel sorry for him or her. You are actually only encouraging these people to breed more puppies and continue adding to the already overwhelming problem we already have.
If you want to buy a puppy, contact us, and we will help you find a reputable (in our opinion!) breeder in your area.
Another option is to find a dog show in your area, attend it and speak with the breeders there.
In general, people who “show” will tend to be a bit more ethical and responsible than some of the others – although this is not always the case! Be thoughtful and wait until the person has come OUT of the ring before approaching them. Be sure you ask questions about the incidence of genetic diseases in the “line” (be very specific and show you’ve done your homework – ask specifically about bloat, osteosarcoma, etc).
Be responsible in studying about the specifics of the breed and know what genetic problems you may encounter in any puppy you purchase.
Also look at the parents’ looks and behaviour – that’s what you’ll have in a couple of years. If you can’t live with that, don’t buy a puppy.
Also make sure the breeder is responsible enough to “take the puppy back” if you cannot keep the puppy at some point in time. Please do not add to the burden of shelters and rescue groups by buying from breeders who will not take their puppy’s back. When you get a dog, you probably fully intend to keep it, but things happen – children develop allergies, you lose your job, you may have to relocate and can’t take the dog, etc. and you may not always be able to keep the dog as you intended. These breeders won’t be there for you if you have problems.
Don’t be surprised if the breeder is as choosy about you as you are about them–they should be. If they aren’t and don’t seem to care where the puppy goes or appear to be breeding for profit, beware and go elsewhere.
Determining a REPUTABLE breeder
When used in relation to Breeders, being ‘Reputable’ is usually understood as simply being registered with the Canadian Kennel Club, and/or belonging to a Great Dane Breed Club.
None of these, in themselves, confer ‘Reputable’ status, for the following reasons:
CKC does not set/enforce any standards for the number of breedings by a member.
Breed Clubs, although they may have a code of ethics for members, do not enforce ethical breeding- it is merely recommended. Also, many are prolific breeders, although they may belong to all the recognized governing bodies.
If you are purchasing a puppy for Showing/Breeding, there are many other questions, in addition to the ones below, you should be asking. If you are only purchasing a dog as a pet, there are some basic criteria we consider important, and encourage you to ask these questions before buying.
To be considered ‘Reputable’, in our opinion, a breeder:
|Keep their dogs, and raise their puppies, in a home environment as opposed to a ‘kennel’||Kennel/crate their dogs|
|Treat their dogs with love and respect, as members of the family||Employ inhumane/cruel methods/practices for dogs in their care.|
|Give thought to who is taking one of the puppies home. Should have a selective screening process for prospective puppy buyers – not just sell to whoever arrives with cash in hand||Be more interested in ‘getting their price’ than the long-term welfare of the pup or what kind of home the pup is going into.|
|Take part in the raising of your new puppy – i.e. available for answering questions by phone/email from the time you take your new puppy home until, in his/her old age, you say your final goodbyes.||Breed any female dog before the age of 2 yrs. OR after the age of 5 yrs.|
|Be willing to take the dog back if your circumstances change at some point and you can no longer keep the dog||Breed any female Dane more than twice in her lifetime, with at least 18 months between breedings|
|Allow you to see/meet with the parents of the puppy||Knowingly breed dogs with genetic problems.|
|Be willing to provide names/numbers of previous purchasers to let you call them for references.||Breed multiple breeds – this suggests a quantity (and profit!) rather than quality motive.|
|Insist that you have the dog altered at an appropriate time||Stipulate that the purchaser must breed the dog at least once on a co-ownership contract before being spayed/neutered.|
|Support Rescue groups, since many registered, as well as non-registered, Great Danes, come into Rescue .||Have excessive breedings in any given year. Thousands of dogs are euthanized annually because of canine overpopulation|
When responding to questions about ‘Reputable’ breeders, we only recommend breeders who meet our criteria for being reputable, and alert potential purchasers to those we do NOT recommend. We have extensive knowledge about many breeders through involvement with rescuing and/or current (or previous) memberships in Great Dane Breed Clubs.
Beware of prolific breeders, who advocate that they ‘Breed for the betterment of the Breed’, or those who claim to have had “Accidental” breedings. Usually, there is a completely different motive – PROFIT!. If in doubt – WALK AWAY from the breeder and don’t encourage the indiscriminate breeding of dogs.
We understand that occasionally a Dane may be turned into rescue without a breeder’s knowledge and these breeders don’t necessarily qualify as being disreputable. If, however, they have multiple Danes being turned into rescue, it suggests a variety of other problems – e.g. not following up on their dogs’ progeny, alienating purchasers who may no longer want to have anything to do with them, genetic medical disorders and/or aggression in their dog’s lineage, etc.
You can find listings for so-called ‘Reputable breeders’ in many places, but be aware that many are not what they appear to be. Do extensive research on any potential breeder well before you buy. Remember it’s a case of BUYER BEWARE!
If you have had a good, or bad, experience with a specific breeder, please contact us and we will add the information to our database (which is not published). Your name will not be divulged to anyone. Hopefully, this will eventually help weed out the breeders who are doing so for the wrong reasons.
Rescuing a Great Dane
Some people may regard rescued Danes as ‘damaged goods’, but nothing could be further from the truth!
All incoming Danes are assessed for temperament, thoroughly vetted and have received any necessary behavioral modification training before they are adopted.
After adoption, we have many resources to help you integrate your new family member and are always willing to help with any Dane-related questions for the remainder of the Dane’s life.
Most Danes coming into rescue have never been abused or neglected and are surrendered to us because their previous owners had a change in circumstances and could no longer keep their pet. Marital split-ups, relocation and lack of finances are the most frequent reasons given. Our rescues just need a loving home and another chance at living a happy life.
We get Danes of all ages ranging from 2 months to 11 years and every one of them is carefully matched with the right adoptive family to assure a permanent home.
Few other sources take as much care finding suitable, permanent homes, or devote as much time for after-care, as our volunteers do. All of our volunteers have Danes of their own, are thoroughly familiar with the breed and we do what we do because of our passion for these Gentle Giants.
Open your mind to rescuing and get a forever friend in your new family member!
Why do Great Danes come into Rescue
Children develop allergies to the dog
The owner becomes ill or dies
The owner “can’t handle” the dog or is unwilling to take an obedience class
The dog gets too large
The owner wants an outdoor dog and the Dane keeps trying to get inside to be with the family
Financial reversals (the family can no longer afford to care for the dog);
The owner gets married and the new partner doesn’t want the dog
Someone new moves into the home (e.g. an elderly parent) and doesn’t want the dog;
The family moves (because of job considerations or they are in the military) and cannot take the dog with them
An owner abandoned the dog and it was turned into an Animal Shelter (we adopt for Animal Shelters and the SPCA)
The dog being given up just can’t get along with ‘our brand new puppy’ that we got
New children come along and we don’t have time for the dog anymore
Friends are afraid of the Dane because he/she is too big
AND SO ON – AS NAUSEAM!!! Most dogs come into rescue because of “people” problems, not dog problems!
Basic Needs for any dog
Fresh, clean water at all times
A bed, every day/night
Food twice daily: 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Toys, a variety, including hard, non-destructive types
DAILY direct human contact: petting and exercise
Time outdoors, DAILY
Relaxing, quiet music
The lights off at night
Clean and dry living space
Structure and guidance
If you are willing to make the necessary commitment of time, money and all the other considerations that go into having a Great Dane, you will discover a whole new lifestyle with a breed that will forever change your life and make you realize that your Great Dane will give you back more than you could ever possibly give.
This breed has the temperament and characteristics of no other breed, is the most rewarding of companions and will become part of you.
Good luck with your decision !!!