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Great Dane

Great Dane in flower field
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Breed Details

  • Average Height: 30 to 32 inches (males) and 28 to 30 inches (females)
  • Average Weight: 140 to 175 pounds (males) and 110-140 pounds (females)
  • Coloring: Black, black and white, blue, brindle, fawn, harlequin, mantle, merle, white
  • Coat Type: Short and thick
  • Dog Breed Group: Working Group
  • Average Lifespan: 7 to 10 years
  • Key Personality Traits:
    Affectionate Affectionate
    Calm Calm
    Docile Docile

Great Danes turn heads. Their regal stature, large size, and adorable jowls have made the giant breed a star in cartoons and comic strips while their gentle nature and affectionate, easygoing dispositions have made them popular companion animals. 

Before adopting a Great Dane, spend some time learning about this breed.

History and Origin

The origin of the Great Dane can be traced back to ancient Egypt where drawings of men walking giant dogs resembling Great Danes were found on monuments dating back to 3,000 B.C. 

Due to their size, Great Danes, known as Boar Hounds, were trusted hunters and valued protectors. German nobles bred Great Danes in large numbers and favored the largest and most attractive dogs, developing the breed and welcoming the gentle giants into their homes. 

The transition from working dog to companion animal led to the breed being known as Kammerhunde or Chamber Dog. Only royals owned the breed, pampering them with ornate collars that were padded with velvet and adorned with fringe.

Over time, Great Danes became sought after and the breed could be found across Europe. The breed earned its current moniker when a man visiting Denmark noted that the breed was similar in appearance to a Greyhound but much larger, causing him to remark that the Danish climate had made the dogs into “Grand Danois” or Big Danish. The name stuck and perpetuated the notion that the breed hails from Denmark though its origins can be traced back to a much more ancient and remote part of the world.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1887. 

Great Dane Physical Characteristics

Two Great Dane dogs in the woods

It’s no surprise that most of the words used to describe Great Danes—imposing, majestic, immense, massive—all relate to their size. Cinnamon Ellison, founder and coordinator of Great Dane Friends of Ruff Love in Charlotte, North Carolina, notes that “gentle giant” is often used to describe Great Danes, which is a nod to both their size and temperament.

The Great Dane is a giant breed with males reaching 30 to 32 inches in height and weighing in between 140 to 175 pounds. Females are just a little smaller, reaching 28 to 30 inches tall and weighing between 110 and 140 pounds.

Great Danes are powerful, muscular dogs with broad, deep chests, long legs, and rectangular heads with strong muzzles and expressive, intelligent eyes. Their coats are short and thick and have a glossy appearance. 

Great Danes come in several different colors, including black, black and white, blue, brindle, fawn, harlequin, mantle, merle, and white and their coats may have distinct patterns or markings. Brindle dogs have black cross stripes on their backs, chevron patterns on their coats and black masks while harlequin Great Danes have a white and black base color with merle patches all over their bodies.

Great Dane Temperament

Great Dane dog looking up at camera

The term gentle giant refers to this breed’s temperament. These oversized lap dogs love spending time with their owners and will happily tag along for walks or curl up on the couch for movie night.

“Great Danes are super sweet dogs that love to be around their owners,” says Naomi Merino, a volunteer with Harlequin Haven Great Dane Rescue in Bethel, Ohio. 

Although their size and deep bark might make them imposing, Merino warns that Great Danes, while protective of their owners, are not the best guard dogs. 

“Great Danes are a sought after breed but often for the wrong reasons,” she says. “People want to adopt them as guard dogs but these dogs are lovers and too friendly to be guard dogs. We tell them that if you need a security system, get an alarm, not a Great Dane.”

Merino notes that most Great Danes get along well with children and other pets, including smaller dogs and cats, as long as the dogs are well socialized and proper introductions are made. 

Their size and exuberance—the breed remains in puppyhood until they reach 2 years old—might not make them the best match for families with small children or apartment living.

Ellison notes that Great Danes aren’t super active but during regular “zoomies” the dogs could knock over small children. And a big dog thundering across a small apartment might not be the best idea with neighbors living below. The good news: “The zoomies last about 10 minutes and then it’s time for nap,” she says.

Great Dane Care Guide

Great Dane playing ball outside

Your Great Dane needs regular vet care, a high quality diet, exercise, and grooming to ensure they live long, healthy lives.

Diet and Nutrition

Like all dog breeds, Great Danes do best on a diet formulated for their age and size. Look for dog foods made for large breeds that meet AAFCO guidelines. As fast-growing puppies, a lower fat, lower protein diet is best for the giant breed to promote healthy bone and muscle development.

“A high fat, high protein diet can cause them to grow too quickly and may cause deformities,” Merino explains.

Exercise and Activity

If you are looking for a running partner, this is not the breed to choose. For a big breed, Great Danes only require small amounts of exercise. 

“Great Danes tire out too easily to go long distances,” Ellison says.

Ellison recommends daily walks to provide physical and mental stimulation. Great Danes will also enjoy playing in a fenced backyard. Due to their size, these dogs can easily clear short fences (and sometimes tall fences, too) and should never be left unattended in the yard.

Due to their size, Merino notes that leash training is essential, adding, “If they aren’t good on a leash, you’re going to have an issue with a 150-pound dog pulling you down the road.”

To minimize the risk of bloat, Great Danes shouldn’t exercise an hour before or after mealtime.

Grooming and Nail Care

Thanks to their short coats, Great Danes don’t shed much. Their grooming needs are basic and include regular brushing, nail trims, and ear cleanings and occasional baths.

Great Dane Health Issues

Tired Great Dane lying down

Great Danes are wonderful dogs but it’s important for owners to be aware of a few common health issues.

Bloat: Great Danes, like other deep chested-breeds, are at high risk for bloat. The condition occurs when gas stretches the stomach, causing it to twist, cutting off the blood supply to the stomach. 

Ellison advises using puzzle toys to feed Great Danes and prohibiting exercise one hour before and after meals to minimize the risk of bloat. If you suspect your dog has bloat, “go to the vet immediately,” she adds. Untreated, bloat can be fatal.

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy: This condition, better known as HOD, is a skeletal disorder that affects fast-growing large-and giant-breed dogs. It has a sudden onset and can cause symptoms such as painful, aching limbs, lethargy, fever and partial paralysis in puppies. In mild cases, puppies can recover but more severe causes of HOD can cause disabilities and deformities. Unfortunately there is no cure.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy: This condition, also known as DCM, is a form of heart disease. In dogs with DCM, the walls of the heart become thin and dilated, causing an abnormal rhythm and progressive loss of heart function. Without adequate blood circulation to the heart, fluid can build up in the lungs, causing chronic lethargy. DCM often goes undetected for years. There is a strong genetic component to the disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in the midst of ongoing research to determine whether there is a link between grain-free diets and DCM.

Interesting Great Dane Facts

Great Danes are the tallest dogs in the world. A Great Dane named Zeus reached a height of 44 inches, earning him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s tallest dog.

The Great Dane is the official state dog of Pennsylvania.

The breed inspired several adorable cartoon characters, including Scooby Doo, Marmaduke, and Astro (the space age dog on the Jetsons).

A dog named Just Nuisance is the only dog to ever be enlisted in the British Royal Navy. He enlisted on August 25, 1939, and traveled with sailors serving as their companion and mascot. The Great Dane died on April 1, 1944 and was buried with full military honors.

Popular Great Dane Mixes

Some of the most common Great Dane mixed breeds include:

  • Labradane (Great Dane and Labrador Retriever mix)
  • Great Shepherd (Great Dane and German Shepherd mix)
  • Daniff (Great Dane and Mastiff mix)
  • Great Danoodle (Great Dane and Poodle mix)
  • Great Dane Husky mix

Great Dane Adoption Tips and Things to Consider

Woman with adopted Great Dane

Great Danes are a sought-after breed that don’t turn up often in shelters. Your best bet to find a Great Dane is a breed-specific rescue. These include:

Most rescues will require an adoption application, vet references, and a home visit to approve an adoption. Before filling out an application, Ellison suggests thinking through the practical considerations. For starters, it’s often more expensive to own a Great Danes than another breed.

The doses for most flea and tick and heartworm medications go up to 100 pounds but Great Danes can weigh up to 150 pounds, which means two pills per month. Their anesthesia costs, also calculated by weight, will be higher for procedures such as dental cleanings or surgeries. And food costs for giant breed dogs are also usually higher than those for small and medium-sized dogs.

“You have to be prepared to commit to an expensive dog,” she says.

You’ll also need to “Dane-proof” your home before welcoming one of these gentle giants to ensure that the dog can’t access items on the countertop and steers clear of the stove burners. These considerations often mean that it can take longer to adopt a Great Dane.

“If the rescue is doing it right and trying to find you the best fit so the dog goes to the right home, it can take time,” Ellison says.

Great Dane FAQs

Closeup of Great Dane dog

Before welcoming a Great Dane into your home, it’s important to be prepared with all the information you need to care for them. That’s why we’ve rounded up answers to some of the most common questions about Great Danes.

How Long Do Great Danes Live? 

The average lifespan for a Great Dane is 7 to 10 years.

How Tall Is a Great Dane? 

Males can stand 30 to 32 inches tall while females can reach heights between 28 and 30 inches tall.

Do Great Danes Shed? 

Like all dog breeds, Great Danes do shed some hair but the shedding is minimal thanks to their short, sleek coats.

What Were Great Danes Bred For? 

Great Danes were bred to hunt boars (and their descendants were known as Boar Hounds) but the breed has evolved to a companion that is bred to serve as a four-legged best friend.

Are Great Danes Good With Kids? 

Most Great Danes are good with respectful children. Their sheer size increases the odds that children could get knocked over but the breed is not known to be aggressive. Children should never be allowed to treat a Great Dane like a horse and attempt to ride them, Ellison warns.

How Fast Can a Great Dane Run? 

Great Danes can run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Pictures of Great Danes

With their giant statures and varying coat colors, Great Danes provide endless looks that make us want to open our homes to these (very!) big dogs. Browse these pictures of Great Danes to see these colossal canines in action.