Great Dane Temperament explained: The biggest dog with the biggest heart
Are you considering adding a larger furry friend to your family, and you’re not a cat person? If so, the Great Dane might be just the dog for you!
This post will help you learn more about this majestic and gentle giant. We will look at their history, genetic traits, potential diseases and temperamental habits so you can understand the breed better. So, whether you’re a novice dog owner or had dogs before, keep reading. The gentle Great Dane will make your heart beat faster!
History of the Great Dane
The Great Dane was bred to assist in hunting wild boar in their native country. They usually ran in packs to bring the wild boar down and keep it on the ground. Whilst the name suggests their origin is Denmark, it is Germany.
The first Great Danes were bred in the 16th century, maybe even earlier, but there is evidence that giant dog breeds go as far back as the 11th century. They might have looked different to the Great Danes we know and love today.
The Great Dane was crossed from English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. Their giant size is the influence of the Wolfhound, whilst the small stubborn streak might come from the English Mastiff. German noblemen often kept them to protect carriages, and they were the perfect dog to scare away thieves. The sighthound in them is vigilant and aware of their surroundings. They have the instinct to guard, although it can be more muted in the Danes kept as companion dogs today.
The British Kennel Club recognises six standard breed colours. Black, blue, brindle, fawn, Harlequin, and mantle. But there are loads of newer colour combinations these days. They just wouldn’t be allowed in the show ring. But we don’t care about breed standards that much anyway. A doggo is a doggo!
Great Danes are at least 76cm high at the withers when male and 71cm if the dog is a female. Their weight is a minimum of 54kg and 46kg for females.
The record for the tallest Great Dane went to Zeus, who measured a staggering 111cm at the withers and came in at around 70kg.
Great Dane registrations in the UK 2023
233 Great Danes were registered with the UK Kennel Club in Q2 2022. This number is up from last year at the same time. Overall, 865 Great Danes were registered in 2022, which is actually less than in 2021.
Source: https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/2408/quarterly-breed-stats-working.pdf updated March 2023
What is the Temperament of the Great Dane?
The first thing to be prepared for is regular drips of drooling drops flying about. Always have a dribble towel with you. Their loose and square muzzles are very much slobber magnets.
Great Danes thrive living with their family and bonding with all members. They love physical contact and need it desperately. This dog cannot be left alone for long hours due to its sensitive and gentle nature. Cuddle time on the sofa is when they feel the happiest. Be prepared that the Great Dane will take up a lot more space than you. In the comfort of their home, they’re calm and mellow dogs. To own one of those dogs, it’s crucial to be at home most of the time.
Great Danes have the patience of a saint. This applies particularly to children. Also, they’re superb family dogs. We recommend supervising all interactions and teaching your child how to approach dogs.
Their ever-wagging tail can also be a source of incidents, but it’s never done maliciously. I once saw a post in a Facebook group of someone asking how to make the tail-wagging stop to protect the child. Well, I guess this dog was not the right choice. If you own ming vases or original jade figurines from the Qing dynasty, we recommend storing them safely and far away from wagging-tail-height.
As with all dogs, puppyhood is a challenging time. But because Great Danes are growing quicker and stronger than other breeds, destructive chewing can take a toll on your home interior. We are referring to the ming vases mentioned above.
Training should start as early as possible. A good breeder would have potentially already started the training after four weeks.
Obedience training is also very important due to their sheer size. You want your Dane to follow your commands with no hesitation. Here, calm and consistent training is the key to success. The biggest challenge will be their sensitivity. Yelling and disciplining them harshly can make Great Danes depressed. Their nature is in such opposition to their size that it’s astonishing.
Great Danes can be stubborn and require consistent training and constant repetitions. You need to put in the time with this breed. Otherwise, you end up with a 60kg heavy disobedient dog which will not be much fun (for you).
Socialisation with other dogs, children and many different people is important. This way, they learn to adapt their body size to different situations. If a Great Dane lacks socialisation, they can become timid and scared. A scared giant dog can lead to challenging situations as you won’t be able to control them.
Considering a Great Dane as your future dog, you must consider its cost. They’re also an expensive breed to house. Feeding is demanding. Good quality food from providers like Butterbox for an adult Dane would set you back around £140.00 per month. Proper nutrition is crucial for this dog breed as certain foods can cause the dog to grow too quickly, which you want to avoid with larger breeds.
Let’s have a look at some common Great Dane questions.
Will a Great Dane protect you?
They’re more reluctant to guard a home than other guarding breeds. However, every dog is an individual, and many more factors can contribute to giving their guarding behaviour a notch. Their sheer size and deep doom bark might be enough to deter an intruder. A stance of proud vigilance might do the trick as well.
Great Danes tend to be vocal dogs, so they should tell you something isn’t right even if they might not confront the intruder. They do have some instinctive courage, but it is a muted attribute. Either way, don’t take their gentleness for weakness. If you’re in true danger and the Dane senses desperation, they could come at someone like a freight train.
How fast can a Great Dane run?
A Great Dane can reach a top speed of 30 mph. Great Danes are not known for being specialists in long-distance runs but can sprint quite quickly in short bursts.
When are Great Danes fully grown?
Great Danes grow relatively swiftly compared to other dog breeds. Their legs become long so quickly that at the age of 4-6 months, they can become clumsy whilst adapting motorically to their size. With these giant breeds, it’s important not to over-exercise them in the first 2 years of their lives.
The bones and tendons are soft, and they can do some damage unknowingly. A Great Dane should be considered fully grown at around 18 to 24 months.
Are Great Danes aggressive?
No, Great Danes are not known for being an aggressive dog breed. They’re mellow, even-tempered, and loved because of their exemplary, kind temperament. They’re great family dogs with almost infinite patience. They're the best example of a gentle giant.
If a Dane shows any aggression, look for potential sources that trigger them. It could be a health issue or a territorial instinct. Consult a vet or dog behaviourist immediately, as it’s not a typical breed behaviour.
After reading all the above, we are sure you have fallen in love with them as we did. To discover if the Great Dane is right for you, you must be honest with yourself. Is this dog something you can handle? Can you provide a home for the Great Dane where they will thrive, flourish and be the best version of themselves?
Great Dane Temperament in a nutshell
Great Danes are real cuddle addicts. They love a cuddle
Due to their sensitive nature, they require gentle and positive reinforcement training
Due to their size, early socialisation is an absolute must, so they learn how to approach people
Great Danes are patient and superb with even small children if socialised well
Feeding and taking care of this large breed is expensive
Potential health issues in the Great Dane breed
As a new owner, you should be prepared to pay medical expenses associated with the breed. The sheer size of this dog will make medical treatment expensive. Thus, always opt for comprehensive insurance. Medicines are dosed based on body weight, so a Great Dane can set you back massively.
Hereditary diseases are genetically predisposed. For this reason, it’s important always to choose a reputable breeder who has screened their dog’s DNA and knows from which family they come. Good pre-work and research can help minimise the below upsetting conditions.
All deep-chested breeds are susceptible to it when it comes to Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus Syndrome or simply bloat. Great Danes are repeatedly named the most endangered breed with this life-threatening condition. It is recommended not to exercise Great Danes 1 hour before they eat and at least 1 hour afterwards. Please consult your vet for more details as it also depends on the size of your Great Dane.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy is a heart disease that can lead to congestive heart failure and sudden death. It’s a genetic issue.
Hip dysplasia is an inherited skeletal condition but can be exacerbated by quick growth and obesity.
Hypothyroidism: Lack of thyroid hormones can lead to fur and skin diseases, weight management issues or hair loss.
The Great Dane is also prone to bone cancer.
Due to their size, the Great Dane has a short life span. On average, it’s around 7-10 years.
Many of these conditions can be treated if caught early, but working with a reliable veterinarian familiar with this breed is important to ensure your dog receives proper care.
Most diseases are inherited in a recessive manner. It means the puppy must inherit both parents' genes to become affected. The puppy becomes a carrier if the mutation is only present in one parent. Hence, choosing a reputable breeder who has done genetic testing on their litters is important.
The more aware you are of these diseases, the higher the chances you can prolong your dog’s life if problems arise. Like your child, be mindful of all required vaccinations and risks outside your home. This blog post, for example, outlines all toxic spring plants that can be harmful to your dog.
Many dog owners underestimate the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber playthings like chew bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation and are not breathable like natural materials. Swap out those harmful materials with eco-friendly pet products from hemp here at Hooman’s Friend. Breathable, eco-friendly and sustainable!
Great Dane Fun facts
Scooby Doo, where are you? Although it’s not apparent initially, Scooby-Doo is a Great Dane. The long legs are the clearest indicator, whilst all other features have been purposefully altered not to make him look like one. According to some sources, Great Danes were believed to ward off evil spirits and ghosts. If that is true, we can’t say. But their size and vigilant stance might be helpful for that purpose. Despite their average life span of 7-10 years, we know that Scooby-Doo will at least outlive us all.
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The Great Dane has a sweet temperament. This dog breed has caused our hearts to beat faster. If you can afford the enormous appetite of the Great Dane and own a larger house, this dog breed might be just the breed for you. They will love to cuddle up with you (or on you) on the couch and just lazy around. Outside they become awake and love to play. Their attention need is high but not due to excess energy. Moreover, they crave human companionship. These dogs are great companions and will enrich your family life if you have the space and time to dedicate to them.
Great Dane Summary Info box
76cm - 110cm
54kg - 70kg
71cm - 100cm
Tendency to drool
Tendency to bark
Tendency to dig