Great Dane Breed Highlights

A back and white spotted Great Dane dog

  • Go big or go home! Zeus, a Great Dane from Michigan, held the Guinness World Record for World’s Tallest Dog until he passed away in 2014. He measured 44 inches from toes to withers (where the shoulders are highest) and 7 feet 4 inches when he stood on his hind legs.

  • This breed’s name is misleading — you might think they originated in Denmark, but they’re actually a German breed.

  • Scooby-Doo is a Great Dane. Producers of the cartoon chose the breed partly because of the superstition from the Middle Ages that Great Danes helped to ward away ghosts.

  • William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania, owned a Dane. As such, the Great Dane is Pennsylvania’s official state dog.

  • Chinese writings from 1121 B.C. and ancient Egyptian drawings depict dogs that closely resemble the Great Dane in size and color.

  • Great Danes have earned a couple of popular nicknames: “Gentle Giant” and “Apollo of Dogs."

Unique Physical Features

Illustration of a brown and black Great Dane wearing a red collar 

  • Their tall size!

  • Some Danes have a distinctive Harlequin coloring, which is from the same gene mutation as the merle coloring in other breeds. Harlequin is a white coat with evenly spread black patches over the body.

Unique Personality

Illustration of a running black & white Great Dane dog 

Great Danes are truly the gentle giant of the dog world. Don’t let their regal stature fool you — they love to entertain with kooky antics and goofy play. Their size doesn’t stop them from wanting to snuggle up with their people. Affectionate and easy-going with those they are familiar with, Danes are cautious when meeting new people and take their job as family protector seriously. If you don’t mind sharing your space with an enormous and loving dog, a Great Dane will make a great addition to your family.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

dog energy level - medium (mall walker)

With Kids

Icon - outline of a little boy and girl

Great Danes can do very well with children if they have been properly socialized with kids as a puppy. Their large size can prove too much for young children during play, making training from puppyhood and management essential.

With Other Pets

Icon - cat and dog outline

This breed can do well with other pets in the home with early socialization and positive introductions. Their large size can be overwhelming for other dogs, so play and interactions should be well managed.

Environment

Icon - outline of a house

While Great Danes make great couch potatoes, their size can make living in small apartments a challenge. This breed does best with space to stretch out and a fenced yard to romp around in. With their size comes a higher cost of care — be prepared for more spending on food, supplies, and veterinary care than you would with other breeds.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

7 to 10 years

Average Size
(Range)

Giant:

  • 110 - 175 pounds
  • 28 - 32 inches tall

Breed Group

Working

Similar Breeds

  • Mastiff

  • Beauceron

  • Boxer

  • Doberman Pinscher

  • Greyhound

History of the Great Dane

A dark grey Great Dane puppy stands in the sand by the beach

The Great Dane breed is a descendant of the powerful Molossian dogs of the Ancient Greeks. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the boar hunting dogs of German nobility were crossed with Mastiffs, Irish Wolfhounds, Greyhounds, and other types of dogs to refine their hunting prowess. This German mastiff-like dog would help their owners during hunts by chasing, catching, and holding down the large prey. They needed to be large, powerful, and fast, and the Great Dane was perfect for the job.

Initially called Boar Hounds, during the breed’s early days, German breeders later made an effort to change the name to German Mastiff or German Dogge. With boar hunting falling out of fashion, they wanted to market the breed as a status symbol — a chamber dog and protector for those that could afford to care for such a large dog. The name didn’t stick, however, and it’s believed “Great Dane” came from naturalist and author Comte de Buffon. Having come across one of the dogs during a visit to Denmark, he named the dog “Le Grand Danois” (the Great Dane) in his 1755 writing “Histoire Naturelle, générale et particulière.” The name stuck, even though the breed is German and not Danish.

First shown in Germany in 1863, the Great Dane has become popular throughout the world. The breed ranks 16th most popular dog breed in the U.S. based on the American Kennel Club’s 2018 registrations.

Changes Over Time

During the late 1800s, breeders of the Great Dane focused on refining the temperament of the breed. The aggression and ferocity previously needed for hunting large animals were no longer needed. Over time, the Great Dane has become a breed referred to as a “gentle giant” due to its easy-going temperament and is a popular choice as a family dog.

Great Dane Behavior and Training

Great Danes are motivated learners and love to train with their people. They need guidance when they’re younger to learn polite behaviors and boundaries. If manners aren’t taught during puppyhood, their full-grown adult size can make managing problem behaviors difficult and frustrating.

When socialized and trained, a Dane will be a wonderful ambassador of the breed. Unfortunately, their massive size can be intimidating to many. Invest the time and energy in positive reinforcement training and socialization when your Dane is a puppy to help them enjoy meeting new people and discourage overprotectiveness when out and about.

Danes are eager to please and will do best with positive reinforcement training. They can be quite sensitive to methods that rely on force and punishment, which will damage the relationship they have with their family and can cause long term behavioral issues. Focus on rewarding what you want your Great Dane to do and managing their surroundings to set everyone up for a lifetime of success.

Plays Well with Others?

  • Great Danes tend to be more reserved when meeting new people. Proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for their socialization skills. Learning spatial awareness as a puppy is also important, so their size doesn’t become an issue during social interactions.

TRAINER TIP

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Danes can do well with other pets in the home. It’s all about proper socialization and positive experiences with other animals while they are a puppy. Take care when introducing your well-socialized adult Dane to other dogs and animals, as their size can be overwhelming. Danes might inadvertently knock over or step on smaller dogs during play. Learning how to play politely as a puppy will go a long way in helping your Dane avoid overwhelming other dogs. Many larger breeds learn how to “self-handicap” their playstyle during socialization classes. It’s essential to always manage playtime to ensure everyone is having a good time.

  • This breed’s size is both a pro and a con when living with children. They are sturdy dogs that love to play. However, their size can inadvertently knock small children over. If they are exposed to children as a puppy and taught how to interact gently, they make great family pets. It’s also important to teach all children how to interact with dogs in a respectful way. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

TRAINER TIP

While it’s tempting, don’t allow children to ride a Dane like they would a pony. A dog’s body structure is not built for this, and it can be uncomfortable and scary for a dog, promotes rude handling of dogs by kids, and often results in a dog bite.

Graphic - bouncing red ball image

Exercise Requirements

This breed requires moderate daily exercise to stay happy and healthy. Daily walks and playtime might be enough for your adult Great Dane, but they can make excellent jogging partners once they are fully grown and approved to do so by your veterinarian.

VETERINARIAN TIP

Due to the breed’s increased risk for Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (“GDV”)/Bloat, it may be beneficial to avoid exercising your Dane around their mealtime. Minimizing vigorous activity an hour to two before and after feeding your Dane may help to decrease their risk of developing a life-threatening case of bloat. Given the seriousness of this emergency condition, be sure to learn about bloat and speak to your veterinarian about other tips that can help decrease your Dane’s GDV risk.

Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate exercise for a Great Dane puppy. Until they are full-grown (bone growth plates typically all close by around 18 - 24 months of age), avoid strenuous or repetitive activities like jogging or running — as this can increase their risk of damage to the growing bone and cartilage, causing pain and future joint issues.


VETERINARIAN TIP

While a tired dog might be a good dog, puppy exercise shouldn’t be forced or “pushed” in any way. Follow your Great Dane puppy’s lead in the amount of activity they are able to do. If they stop and sit down, it’s time for some rest and recovery. In some cases, they might try to “keep up” with an adult dog, so make sure not to let them push too far and over-exercise themselves.

Mental Enrichment Needs

A Great Dane will appreciate brain games and enrichment to pass their time. Incorporating food puzzles, interactive toys, and fun training games into their daily routine will help burn excess energy and prevent boredom. If a Dane gets bored, they’ll search out something to do that you might not approve of — like eating your couch. Mental enrichment will greatly benefit a Great Dane puppy, providing an outlet for chewing and other natural puppy behaviors.

Activities the Great Dane Enjoys

Illustration of a black and white spotted Great Dane puppy 

Great Danes do well in many different activities:

  • Rally Obedience

  • Cart Pulling

  • Agility

  • Tracking

  • Lure Coursing

Great Dane Coat Type

Great Danes have a short, shiny, and smooth single-layer coat. It doesn’t provide much insulation — have your Dane wear a fleece or jacket in cold weather.

This breed comes in a few different colors and patterns. Most notable is the Harlequin coloring, which is a white coat with black spots and patterns spread over the whole body. Danes can be seen in 6 other colors: Fawn, Black, Black &White, Blue, Brindle, Merle, White, and Mantle (black and white in a “tuxedo” pattern, just like the Boston Terrier).

Shedding Level

dog shedding level - 3 of 5 piles of fur

3 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Low Maintenance

Danes shed a small amount overall, but their size means that “small amount” may actually be quite a lot of fur. A weekly brushing will help keep that short fur from ending up around your house and help distribute natural oils throughout their coat to keep it healthy and shiny.

Best Brush for a Great Dane: Curry brush, Bristle brush, Grooming mitt

Famous Owners of the Great Dane

  • Russell Wilson (Football Player)

  • Vanessa Williams (Actress)

  • Greg Louganis (Olympic Diver)

  • Daniel DiCriscio (Musician)

  • Glenn Hughes (Musician)

  • Elena Delle Donne (Basketball Player)

  • Hedy Lamarr (Actress/Inventor)

  • Lauryn Williams (Track & Field and Bobsled Star)

  • Jayne Mansfield (Actress)

Famous Great Danes

Zeus, the Guinness World Record holder for tallest dog

Great Danes in Books, Movies and TV

  • Marmaduke

  • Astro from The Jetsons

Scooby-Doo

Chin-Up from Blondie in Society

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Great Dane Breed

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for the Great Dane breed. Every Great Dane is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Trupanion member Kelly

Kelly

Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

- Lori

Trupanion member Axl

Axl

Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

The Trupanion policy paid: $2,084.01

"At two, our German shepherd Axl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Trupanion took care of all our financial concerns. At four, his hip issues led to pain medications, rehabilitation and rest, which all resulted in improved pain-free movement. I’m so grateful that we chose a plan that not only covers the cost of his treatment but also any physical therapy or rehabilitation he may need."

- Nanette K.

Trupanion member Bella

Bella

Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

The Trupanion policy paid: $15,283.83

"Bella was treated for Cushing’s disease and a pituitary tumor with radiation therapy. Had we not had insurance for her, the decision for her medical care would have been more difficult, as each treatment was expensive. However, because we have Trupanion, these decisions were easier. Rather, we could focus our attention on her treatment and recovery instead of the financial impact these procedures would have on our family."

- Jason P.

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