Great Dane: Breed Profile, Characteristics, and Care Guide

| Updated: August 18, 2023
Great Dane standing in the woods look at the camera

Great Danes are one of the largest dog breeds in the world and have a history that dates back to ancient times. The Great Dane is also known as the German Mastiff, the German Boarhound, or the Apollo of Dogs because of its impressive size and appearance. But despite its intimidating looks, the Great Dane is a gentle and loving companion that can get along well with people and other animals.

History of the Great Dane

The Great Dane is not actually from Denmark, as its name might suggest. It is a German dog that descends from hunting dogs used in the Middle Ages to chase and catch wild boar and deer. These dogs were also used as guardians of German nobility and were often adorned with ornate collars and slept in their lords’ bedchambers.

The Great Dane’s ancestors were crossbreeds between English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds, imported by European nobles in the 16th century. They were called Englische Dogge or Englischer Hund in Germany, which simply meant English dog. Later, in the 18th century, some Greek and Austrian dogs were added to the mix to increase the stature and strength of the breed.

In 1878, a committee was formed in Berlin to standardize the breed and change its name from Englische Dogge to Deutsche Dogge, meaning German dog. This was done to emphasize the breed’s German origin and distinguish it from other mastiff-type dogs.

The breed was introduced to America in the late 1800s and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1887. The Great Dane Club of America was founded in 1889 and is the oldest national breed club in the United States.

Black and white great dane on a cobblestone sidewalk

Appearance and Characteristics of the Great Dane

The Great Dane is a striking dog that commands attention wherever it goes. It has a large, muscular body, long, narrow head, deep chest, and long tail. The ears are usually cropped to stand erect, but some owners prefer to leave them natural and floppy. The eyes are dark and expressive, and the nose is black or blue-black.

The coat of the Great Dane is short, smooth, and glossy. It comes in six colors: fawn (golden yellow with a black mask), brindle (fawn with black stripes), blue (steel gray), black, harlequin (white with black patches), and mantle (black with white markings). Some dogs may also have white markings on the chest, feet, or tail tip.

The size of the Great Dane is impressive. Males can reach 32 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 110 to 180 pounds. Females can be 30 inches tall and weigh from 100 to 140 pounds. Some dogs may even exceed these standards, making them among the biggest dogs in the world.

Personality and Temperament of the Great Dane

Despite its formidable size and strength, the Great Dane is a gentle and affectionate dog that loves to be around people. It is loyal, friendly, playful, and eager to please. It can be a good family dog that gets along well with children and other pets if properly socialized and trained from an early age.

The Great Dane is not a guard or aggressive dog by nature. It may bark to alert its owners of strangers or intruders, but it is not likely to attack or bite unless provoked or threatened. It may also chase small animals or cats if not taught otherwise.

While not very active dogs, they do need some daily exercise to keep fit and healthy. A moderate walk or a romp in a fenced yard can suffice for their physical needs. However, they also need mental stimulation and human interaction to prevent boredom and loneliness. The Great Dane is not suited for apartment living or being left alone for long periods of time.

Great Danes are intelligent dogs that can learn quickly and respond well to positive reinforcement. They can be trained to obey basic commands and have good manners at home and in public. However, they are sometimes stubborn and independent, so they need a firm but fair leader who can establish rules and boundaries.

Great Dane laying down closeup face

Health Issues and Care of the Great Dane

The Great Dane is generally a healthy dog that can live up to 10 years or more with proper care. However, like any large breed, it is prone to some health issues that owners should be aware of.

One of the most common health problems affecting Great Danes is hip dysplasia, a condition where the hip joint does not fit properly into the socket. This can cause pain, lameness, arthritis, or even paralysis in severe cases. Hip dysplasia can be diagnosed by X-rays and treated by surgery or medication.

Another serious health issue affecting Great Danes is bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV), where the stomach twists on itself and traps gas inside. This can cause severe pain, shock, organ damage, or death if not treated immediately by a veterinarian. Bloat can be prevented by feeding smaller meals throughout the day instead of one large meal; avoiding exercise before or after eating; raising the food bowl; avoiding stress; and recognizing the signs of bloat, such as restlessness and drooling.

Some other health issues that may affect Great Danes are:

  • Ear infections: Due to their floppy ears, Great Danes can be prone to ear infections caused by bacteria, yeast, or parasites.
  • Hypothyroidism: A condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which regulates metabolism and other body functions.
  • Heart disease: Great Danes can suffer from various types of heart disease, such as cardiomyopathy, tricuspid valve disease, or subaortic stenosis.
  • Cancer: Great Danes are at a higher risk of developing cancer than some other breeds. The most common type of cancer in Great Danes is osteosarcoma, a malignant tumor that affects the bones.
  • Wobbler syndrome: This is a neurological disorder that affects the spine and causes compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots.

To prevent or minimize these health issues in Great Danes, owners should provide them with regular veterinary care, vaccinations, parasite prevention, and screening tests. Owners should also feed their dogs a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs and avoid overfeeding or underfeeding them. Owners should also monitor their dogs’ weight and body condition and adjust their food intake accordingly.


Most dogs need proper grooming to keep their coat and skin healthy. Great Danes should be brushed weekly with a soft-bristle brush to remove loose hair and dirt. They should also have their nails trimmed regularly to prevent cracking or splitting.

Interesting Facts About Great Danes

  • Great Danes were believed to repel evil spirits in ancient times. They were often depicted wearing spiked collars and chains to protect their owners from wild animals and enemies. Some people also believed that sleeping with a Great Dane would cure illness or bring good luck.
  • Great Danes have a record for being the tallest dog in the world. A Great Dane named Zeus measured 44 inches at the shoulder and 7 feet 4 inches when standing on his hind legs. The Guinness World Records recognized him in 2012 and 2013 before he passed away in 2014.
  • Great Danes have one of the shortest lifespans among dog breeds. They usually live only 6-8 years or less. They are prone to various health issues, such as bloat, hip dysplasia, heart disease, and bone cancer.
  • Great Danes have a coat pattern that is exclusive to them. The harlequin pattern, which consists of black patches over a white background, is only found in Great Danes. It is also very difficult to breed correctly, as it requires specific genes and combinations.
Great Dane puppy sitting on the couch, big floppy ears and legs that he hasn't grown into yet

Training and Socialization of the Great Dane

Training and socialization are essential for any dog, but especially for a giant breed like the Great Dane. Training and socialization can help your dog learn good manners, prevent behavior problems, and build confidence and trust.

Training should start as soon as you bring your Great Dane puppy home, preferably around 8 weeks of age. You should use positive reinforcement methods, such as praise, treats, and toys, to teach your dog basic commands: sit, stay, come, and leave it. You should also enroll your dog in puppy training classes or work with a professional trainer to help your dog learn more advanced skills and socialize with other dogs and people.

Socialization should also start early and continue throughout your dog’s life. Socialization involves exposing your dog to a variety of people, animals, places, and situations in a safe and positive way. This can help your dog become more comfortable and adaptable to different environments and stimuli. It can also prevent fear, aggression, or anxiety in your dog.

More information about socializing your dog can be found here.

When socializing your Great Dane, you should always supervise them closely and make sure they are comfortable and happy. You should never force your dog into a situation that scares them or makes them uncomfortable. You should always reward your dog for being calm and friendly with treats or praise.

Pros and Cons of Great Danes


  • Great Danes are gentle, loyal, and affectionate dogs that make great family pets and companions.
  • Great Danes are intelligent and trainable dogs that can excel in various dog sports and activities.
  • Great Danes are elegant and majestic dogs with unique appearances and coat patterns.


  • Great Danes are very large dogs that need a lot of space, food, and medical care, which can be costly and challenging for some owners.
  • Great Danes have a short lifespan and are prone to various health issues that can affect their quality of life.
  • Great Danes need daily exercise and socialization to prevent boredom, destructive behavior, and aggression.

How to Choose a Great Dane Puppy

If you are interested in getting a Great Dane puppy as your new best friend, be prepared to pay a reasonable price since they are popular dogs. The average cost of a Great Dane puppy from a reputable breeder is between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the breeder’s color, quality, and location. You should also factor in the costs of spaying or neutering your dog (if not done by the breeder), microchipping your dog (if not done by the breeder), registering your dog with the AKC (if not done by the breeder), and providing your dog with food.


The Great Dane is a magnificent breed that deserves a loving and responsible owner who can provide them with proper care, training, and socialization. The Great Dane is a gentle giant that can be a loyal and loving companion for the right person or family. However, owning a Great Dane is not a decision to be taken lightly, as it involves a lot of commitment, responsibility, and expense.

If you are interested in getting a Great Dane, you should do your research and find a reputable breeder who can provide you with a healthy and well-socialized puppy. You should also be prepared to provide your Great Dane with regular veterinary care, high-quality food, adequate exercise, and lots of love and attention.

The Great Dane is not a dog for everyone, but for those who can appreciate and care for this breed, it can be a rewarding and enriching experience. The Great Dane can be your best friend, protector, playmate, cuddle buddy, confidant, and soulmate.

More Dog Breeds

If you’re interested in learning about similar dog breeds, check out:


How long do Great Danes live?

Great Danes have a short lifespan of 8 to 10 years, with some living only 6 or 7 years and a few reaching 12 years.

Do Great Danes shed?

Great Danes are light to average shedders. They have short and sleek coats that require minimal grooming.

How much are Great Danes?

The price of a Great Dane can vary depending on the breeder, the location, the pedigree, and the demand. The average cost of a Great Dane puppy is between $600 and $3000. However, some rare colors or patterns, such as harlequin, can cost more than $5000.

Why do people crop Great Dane ears?

Ear cropping is a cosmetic surgery that involves cutting and shaping the ears to make them stand erect. Some people crop Great Dane ears for aesthetic reasons, to follow the breed standard, or to prevent ear infections. However, ear cropping is controversial and banned in some countries. It is not necessary for the health or well-being of the dog.

Are Great Danes good with kids?

Great Danes are gentle, patient, and affectionate dogs that can be good with kids. However, they are also very large and powerful dogs that can accidentally knock over or injure small children. They need proper training and socialization to learn how to behave around kids. They should also never be left alone with young children without adult supervision.

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