The Great Dane: Everything You Need to Know

Great Danes are among the most recognizable breeds in the world. Dubbed the “Apollo of Dogs,” these gentle giants have captured the hearts of millions with their larger-than-life personalities and stunning physical features.

In this article, we will take an in-depth look into the history, physical characteristics, personality, and health issues of the Great Dane to help you decide if it is the right breed for you. 

History and Origin of the Great Dane

The Great Dane was born in Germany. It is unclear how and when the breed got associated with Denmark and earned the name Great Dane (in its native country, it is known as the German Dog or Deutsche Dog). 

The Great Dane’s Ancestry

The ancestor of the Great Dane was the English Mastiff which at one point was crossed with an Irish Wolfhound. Both ancestors were sizeable, formidable, and brave. They were also used for hunting large game, such as bears and wild boars.

Their descendant, the Great Dane, inherited much of those traits and became a skilled hunter while being graceful and regal. Even modern Great Danes enjoy hunting ferocious wild boars. 

Development of the Breed

After the Great Dane was created, it quickly gained popularity across Europe. In Germany, the breed was used for hunting wild boars and protecting estates. In France, it was used as a hunting dog and a companion to nobility.

It was during the late 19th century that the Great Dane was introduced to America. The breed’s size and stature continued to grow, making them the giant dogs that they are known as today. 

Despite their size, Great Danes are known for their gentle and affectionate nature and are often referred to as “gentle giants.” Today, Great Danes are still used as hunting dogs in some parts of the world, but they are primarily kept as family pets. 

Physical Characteristics of the Great Dane

Size and Weight

As mentioned, Great Danes are real giants. Males stand 30 to 32 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh around 140 to 175 pounds. Female Great Danes are slightly smaller, reaching heights of between 28 and 30 inches and weighing 110 and 140 pounds.

Because of their size, Great Danes require a lot of space to move around. They are not well-suited for small apartments or homes with limited outdoor space. It’s important to make sure that you have enough room for your Great Dane to run and play.

Coat and Colors

Great Danes have short, smooth coats that are easy to maintain. They shed moderately and require weekly brushing to keep their coat looking healthy and shiny.

Great Danes come in a variety of colors, including black, black & white, brindle, blue, fawn, mantle, merle, white, and harlequin. Some breed members also have white patches on their chest and feet.

Distinct Features 

The Great Dane is a sizeable dog with a sturdy frame and elegant overall appearance. The body is long and muscular and the neck is long and strong. The tail is thick at the base and tapers toward the tip. 

The Great Dane’s head is narrow but long and proportional to the body size. The muzzle is broad, and the jaws powerful. The ears are long and bent over and the eyes are large, droopy, and usually dark-colored. 

Personality and Temperament

Despite their imposing size, Great Danes are gentle and affectionate. They make excellent family pets and get along well with children and other animals. They are also incredibly loyal to their owners and enjoy spending time with them.

The Gentle Giant

Great Danes are often referred to as the “gentle giants” of the dog world. Their size can be intimidating, but their temperament is anything but. They are known for their patient and kind nature, making them ideal for families with children.

Their calm demeanor also makes them great therapy dogs, as they are able to provide comfort and support to those in need. Despite their gentle nature, Great Danes can still be protective of their families if they sense any danger. This, combined with their size, makes them excellent guard dogs.

Socialization and Training

Proper socialization and training are essential for Great Danes, as they can become timid and anxious if not properly socialized. It is important to expose them to a variety of people, animals, and environments to help them become well-adjusted adults.

Great Danes are intelligent dogs and are eager to learn new tricks and commands, making them relatively easy to train. They respond well to positive reinforcement and consistency in their training. 

Great Danes with Children and Other Pets

Great Danes are known to be excellent with children and other pets. It is important to supervise interactions between Great Danes and young children, as their size can sometimes be overwhelming.

Great Danes can also get along well with other pets, including other dogs, cats, and smaller animals, as long as they are introduced properly and trained to coexist peacefully.

Caring for Your Great Dane

Exercise and Activity Level

Due to their large size, Great Danes require a significant amount of exercise to stay healthy and fit. They enjoy long walks and hikes with their owners but also require plenty of rest and relaxation.

Grooming and Maintenance

Great Danes have short coats that are easy to maintain. Regular brushing can help to remove loose hair and minimize shedding. Like all dogs, Great Danes also require regular nail trimming and teeth cleaning to maintain good health.

Feeding and Nutrition

Great Danes require a balanced diet that is high in protein and essential nutrients. It’s important to choose a high-quality dog food that is specifically formulated for large breeds like Great Danes.

Health and Lifespan 

Common Health Problems 

The Great Dane is prone to several health issues, including: 

  • Orthopedic Issues: The breed is susceptible to joint issues such as hip & elbow dysplasia due to its large size and pressure on the joints 
  • Bloat: Also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach does not empty, fills with gas, and twists 
  • Ear Infections: The breed’s large and bent ears are likely to trap dirt and moisture inside the canals, which leads to painful ear infections 
  • Eyelid Problems: The lower eyelid is droopy and usually folds outward, causing a condition called ectropion which requires surgical correction 
  • Happy Tail Syndrome: The breed’s tail is powerful and when constantly wagging, it hits surrounding surfaces causing damage to the tip of the tail 

Average Lifespan 

The average lifespan of the Great Dane is between 7 and 10 years. This is relatively short but it is expected in a breed of this size. With proper care, many breed members reach their senior years. 


In conclusion, the Great Dane is a majestic and lovable breed that makes an excellent family pet. Because of its gentle nature and affectionate personality, it is a favorite among dog owners all over the world.

By providing your Great Dane with proper care and attention, you can ensure that they live a long and healthy life. Research the breed carefully and make sure you have enough space to accommodate this lovely giant. 

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