History Often called the Apollo of Dogs, the Great Dane can trace its lineage back to 2,000 B.C. Artifacts have been found dating back to that time that portray Great Dane-like dogs, one of which is a relief of Assyrian men walking huge dogs. The Assyrians would trade their dogs, along with other goods, to the Romans and the Greeks. The Romans then bred the Assyrian dogs to the British dogs they had also acquired. The Celts took some of the huge dogs from the Romans and the English to Ireland, where they were bred to the native Irish Wolfhound.
The earliest Dane-like dogs were called Boar Hounds, but by the 16th century, they were known as English Dogges. French naturalist Comte de Buffon gave the breed the name it’s known by today. While traveling in Denmark, Buffon saw a variety that shared more similarities with the Greyhound. Buffon remarked that the Danish climate had caused the Greyhound to become a “Grand Danois.” The Danish name stuck, despite the fact that Denmark had nothing to do with the development of the breed. The Germans, in fact, hold the honor of developing the breed.
Personality and Temperament The Great Dane is often described as a “gentle giant,” and he can be a very sensitive companion. Because of the Dane’s size, many would venture to think of him as an ideal outdoor pet. This could not be further from the truth. He must be kept as an indoor dog, due to his sensitive and social nature. Many can be found following their owners from room to room, demonstrating the affectionate and oft-used term “Velcro Dane.” These gentle giants are naturally protective, so it is important to never encourage aggressive behavior. A Dane is a quick-study in housetraining, and is very loving and obedient. But if left unsupervised for long periods of time or not amply trained, he also can cause tremendous damage to your yard or your home. However, if you provide the love, attention, and proper training he requires, you will have a devoted and well-behaved companion for life. Keep in mind, due to the sensitive nature of the Great Dane, he is prone to separation anxiety.
Danes make wonderful family dogs. They love children, but can easily knock a child off their feet just turning around to find a comfortable spot on the couch. Their large, wagging tails can also be unintended weapons. So it is important to never leave children unattended and always supervise their interactions – a good rule of thumb with any pet.
Any dog can be a handful to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Great Dane, their adolescent years can start at six months and last until they are about two years old. It is important to start training a Dane as early as possible, due to their size. Start early and practice often to ensure a well-mannered, respectful dog. Great Danes respond best to positive reinforcement training, because of their sensitive demeanor. Socialization is the key to a well-adjusted dog, so get him out for a puppy socialization class once safely vaccinated.
Health An important option a new Dane owner should consider is securing a pet insurance policy. These giants can quickly ring up a hefty vet bill, and pet insurance can help defray the cost of his care. One of the medical conditions that can affect Great Danes is bloat – a condition where the stomach expands with air. Unfortunately, the cause of bloat is largely unknown. Bloat can escalate into gastric torsion (GDV) and turn deadly, if the stomach twists on itself cutting off the blood supply. Immediate surgery must be performed to save the Dane’s life. Bloat is the number one killer of Danes, and they top the list of breeds that are susceptible to this condition. Many Dane owners, as a preventive measure, will have a gastropexy surgery (commonly known as “tacking”) performed to help prevent the stomach from twisting in the first place. Tacking the stomach is not a guarantee that your Dane will avoid GDV, but it does help reduce the risk. According to a Journal of the AVMA study in 2000, 5.3 percent of Great Danes exhibited GDV. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of gastric torsion as a precautionary measure if you share your home with a Dane.
Great Danes are also prone to cardiomyopathy, a disease that affects the heart. They are also susceptible to other skeletal, vision and neurological problems. If adopting a Dane from a rescue group or shelter is not an option for you, please consider only purchasing from a reputable breeder that health-tests all their dogs and comes recommended by the Great Dane Club of America. The first step to owning a happy dog is having a healthy one.
Feeding and Grooming a Dane A Great Dane is easy to groom, however, keep in mind he does shed. A weekly curry with a rubber dog brush should suffice to keep the shedding at a minimum, and his coat healthy. Regular baths, ear cleaning, and frequent nail trims should all be a part of his grooming regimen. Many Danes have cropped ears, but this practice is on the downturn, even in the show ring. Cropping has no benefit to the dog whatsoever, and it has been outlawed in most of world.
For puppies, it is important to choose an appropriate and high-quality dog food to ensure he does not grow too rapidly, which can contribute to skeletal problems or the onset of HOD (hypertrophic osteodystrophy). Please speak with your veterinarian about recommended foods to ensure slow and steady growth for your pup. Dane puppies require between 6-8 cups of food daily while they are growing. It is best to split his meals into breakfast, lunch, and dinner to ensure steady growth and reduce the risk of stomach issues. Adult Danes require only 3-5 cups of high-quality kibble. A high-quality diet will not only benefit him, but will also reduce the amount of clean-up duty required to keep your yard tidy. What goes in must come out!
Rescue Rescuing a Great Dane is a wonderful option. Breed rescue groups tend to be very upfront about any health issues, are a valuable resource for advice, and offer long-term support for your new Dane when you get him home. Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue, Inc. (RMGDRI) also offers fostering opportunities, so with training, you could bring a Great Dane home to see if this wonderful breed fits your family, home, and lifestyle.
When adopting a new Dane, make sure you ask the following key questions to help with the matchmaking process: • What is his energy level? • How is he with other animals? • What is his personality like? • How does he respond to other volunteers, visitors, and children? • How old is he? • Are there any known health issues? • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone?
Many Danes find themselves in less-than-ideal situations and come into rescue for a host of reasons. More often than not, a well-intentioned (albeit uneducated) owner does not understand how big their cute little puppy will grow up to be. Sometimes owners do not invest in properly training or socializing their new puppy, and these Danes become unmanageable and are surrendered. Families also fall on hard times and cannot afford to care for these lovely dogs. These Danes then find themselves without homes, and if they are lucky, they wind up being surrendered to a Rescue like Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue, Inc. RMGDRI will rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome Danes that come into our care. Our non-profit organization has been in operation since 2000, and continues to be fully run by volunteers and generous donations. To date, we have saved over 2100 Great Danes and Dane-mixes. RMGDRI is always looking for new volunteers and foster homes, as well as donations to support our mission.