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Getting to know the Great Dane

Don’t let their size fool you—Great Danes are the gentle, playful giants of the dog world. Learn more about the easy-going Dane here.

Getting to know the Great Dane

Looking for a faithful and loving dog with an easygoing temperament and majestic stature? You may want to consider the Great Dane.

History of the Great Dane

First recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1887, contemporary Great Danes have ties to Germany. Originally referred to as the German Boarhound, the Great Dane was a favored breed for hunting wild game. The breed’s affable nature and imposing size made the Dane popular among the European nobility as a protector (or “chamber dog”) that would guard royals as they slept.

Attempts to introduce the breed as a working dog outside of Europe were hindered by Germany’s strained relations with other nations—so the name was changed to Great Dane in the 19th century. Since then, the Dane has been a popular American pet, ranking 14th among dog breeds in the US.

Great Dane Characteristics

The Great Dane’s most obvious characteristic is its size—with males typically ranging in height from 32 to 34 inches and in weight from 120 to 200 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, topping out around 32 inches and 130 pounds.

Coloring in Danes ranges widely, from black and gray to Harlequin (white with large black patches) and merle (a dappled gray).

Temperament of the Great Dane

The Dane, for all its size and history as a hunting dog, is quite relaxed and easy-going in temperament. They do require daily exercise and a fair amount of room, so if you’re considering a Dane as a pet, you should have ample living space to accommodate their stature.

Danes are short-haired dogs who shed seasonally but require only minimal grooming. They’re not known as barkers, but will alert you if alarmed. Generally, the Dane is considered an excellent companion for people (though because of its size should be supervised around young children) and is known to get along well with other dogs.

Potential Health Issues

Because of their size, Great Danes are known to have certain health issues. Most commonly these affect the joints—the Dane is known for a tendency to have hip dysplasia, a malformation of the ball-in-socket joint of the hip that causes the bones to grind against each other. Hip dysplasia tends to worsen over time and can limit a dog’s mobility. Dane owners are cautioned not to over-exercise their animals—especially as pups—as it may exacerbate the condition.

Another common health issue is cardiomyopathy. The Dane’s physical size in relation to that of its heart can result in an enlarged heart requiring veterinary care and medication. Also, like some larger breeds, the Dane’s average lifespan is relatively short—typically 6 to 8 years.

The Great Dane


Is the Great Dane the Right Dog for you?

  • Great Danes are big, and they need to exercise. So, if you have a large yard or enjoy getting out for a hike, the Dane might be the ideal pet.

  • Around the house, Danes tend to be easygoing and laid back, but they will seek out your attention and approval. Be prepared to share your couch time with a 100+ pound dog.

  • Danes get along well with other pets, so introducing a new Dane into the home usually goes smoothly.

  • Danes don’t need excessive grooming but because of their size, bathing or brushing is best done outdoors.

  • And you may want to stock up on dog toys, as your Dane might be tempted to chew up a cushion or two.

Great Dane Rescue and Adoption Organizations

Great Danes are highly adoptable and there are many organizations devoted to rescue and placement of the breed—including The Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League, Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue, and Harlequin Haven. If you are looking to adopt one of these majestic animals, check online for a Great Dane rescue in your area.

Editor’s Note: If you’ve ever wanted to own your own Scooby-Doo, check out these tips for adopting a Great Dane.

Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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