GREAT DANE ( GERMAN MASTIFF)

Breed Highlights

Positives

  • Great Danes are extremely loyal and affectionate to their families
  • They are very intelligent dogs
  • In the right hands, they are easy to train
  • Low maintenance on the grooming front
  • They have moderate shedding coats
  • Great Danes are very playful and goofy by nature

Negatives

  • They are not the best choice for first-time dog owners
  • Great Danes are extremely large dogs and need enough space to express themselves
  • They are known to drool (a lot)
  • They suffer from separation anxiety when left on their own
  • Their tails can cause a lot of damage when excited
  • They can be stubborn when the mood takes them
  • They are prone to suffering from certain health issues which can result in higher vet bills
  • Great Danes being a large breed has a short lifespan
  • They are expensive to feed and need a lot of exercise

Introduction

The Great Dane may be a large dog, but they are true gentle giants and as such they have become a popular choice both as family pets and companion dogs not only in the UK, but elsewhere in the world too. They boast very kind, playful natures and seem to have an affinity with children of all ages. Their devotion and loyalty to their owners matches a Great Dane's impressive looks.

Great Danes are a noble, dignified breed, but for such large dogs they can be quick off the mark when the occasion arises and they love nothing more than to be part of a family and being involved in everything that goes on in a household. Great Danes being one of the larger breeds sadly, have quite a short life span and they are known to suffer from a few health issues, but with this said, the pros far outweigh any cons about the breed which is why they have consistently remained such a popular breed.

History

The history of the Great Dane can be traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt with images of similar looking dog being found on monuments that date back to 3000 BC. Artifacts found in Babylonian temples and images of ancient Assyrian people with large dogs that resemble the Great Dane from 2000 BC. There are those who believe that dogs resembling the breed could well have originated in Tibet and there is a striking similarity between Great Danes and Tibetan Mastiffs with early records of the dogs being found in Chinese writings that date back to 1121 BC.

It is thought that Assyrian traders sold their dogs to Romans and to the people of Ancient Greece. The Romans took up the gauntlet and began breeding these dogs to other dogs they had found in Britain. As such, it is thought that both English and Tibetan Mastiffs are in the breed's ancestry. There are those who also think that other breeds namely the Irish Greyhound and the Irish Wolfhound may well have been used to develop the breed over time with the Comte de Buffon, a French naturalist in the 1700's believed the Irish Wolfhound was the main ancestor of the Great Dane. He based his theory on the fact that both the English and the Romans took large dogs with them which they crossed to the Irish Wolfhound.

The debate however, continued with the Baron Cuview believing that the breeds responsible for creating the Great Dane were in fact the Irish Wolfhound and the English Mastiff with the earliest crossed having been called "Boar Hounds" because they were used to hunt wild boar. It was during the 16th Century that these dogs were called English Dogges. By the end of the 16th Century, German aristocracy and noblemen bred large hunting dogs which were known as Kammerbunde which translated means "Chamber Dogs" because they were kept inside rather than in kennels outside.

It was the Comte de Buffon who named the breed the "Great Dane" after having travelled through Denmark where he spotted similar looking dogs to the Boar Hound that were slimmer much like the Greyhound. He thought it was because of the Danish weather that the dogs had changed in appearance and decided to call them the Grand Danois which then became the Great Danish Dog with heavier dogs being called Danish Mastiffs.

The "Dane" side of the breed's name stuck even though the Great Dane was not developed in any way whatsoever in Denmark. Breed enthusiasts all agree, that these handsome, statuesque dogs were developed in Germany having been imported by noblemen during the 17th and 18th Century. By the end of the 18th Century, it was decided that the dogs found in Germany were vastly different to the heavier dogs found in Britain, namely the English Mastiff and as such they decided to call them the German Dog or Deutsche Dogge. The Deutsche Doggen Club of Germany was then established.

However, other European countries did not take to the breed being called Deutsche Dogge with the Italians calling the breed the "Alano" even to this day. In other parts of the world, the breed is known as the Great Dane with their first appearance in the UK being in 1877 when they became a very popular choice with owners of large estates where they continued to be used to hunt game by nobility. In 1885 the first breed club was established in the UK and from then onwards, these proud and noble dogs have become a popular choice as family pets and companions all thanks to their wonderfully loyal, friendly natures and stunning looks.

Interesting facts about the breed

  • Is the Great Dane a vulnerable breed? No, they are among some of the most popular dogs in the UK
  • Similar dogs were around in Ancient Egyptian and Roman times
  • Noblemen prized them so much, they kept Great Danes in their Great Halls rather than in kennels outside
  • Great Danes are extremely large dogs, but they are renowned for being “gentle giants”
  • They were originally bred to be guard and hunting dogs and more especially, to hunt wild boar
  • Although they have “Dane” in their breed name, they do not originate from Denmark
  • The dog in Scooby Doo is a Great Dane
  • A Great Dane called Zeus holds the record for being the tallest dog standing at 44 inches at the wither

Appearance

Height at the withers: Males 76 - 81 cm, Females 71 - 76 cm

Average weight: Males 54 - 62 kg, Females 46 - 54 kg

There is no doubt that Great Danes are among the most impressive looking dogs on the planet. Their size disguises the fact they boast kind and gentle natures. Their heads and jaws alone are large and show just how powerful these dogs are when they need to be. They boast having broad muzzles and well chiseled faces with long forefaces and very wide bridges to their noses which is a typical characteristic of the breed.

Their nostrils are large and open which adds a blunt appearance to their nose and their lips hang slightly at the front. Eyes are deep set and medium in size being dark in colour although dogs with harlequin coats can have either wall or odd coloured eyes which is permissible. Ears are triangular and moderate in size being set high on a dog's head and they fold forward without being too pendulous.

A Great Dane's jaw is strong and dogs boast a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have long necks that dogs carry well arched. When Great Danes take a proud stance, their heads and necks are very well defined. Shoulders are well developed and muscular without being too loaded and they slope well back. Their front legs are perfectly straight showing lots of bone.

They boast a deep brisket with well sprung ribs and their belly is well drawn up. Their back is strong with loins being slightly arched. A Great Dane's hindquarters are extremely well developed and muscular showing that these dogs have a tremendous amount of power when needed. Back legs are powerful and well-muscled and their feet are very cat-like with dogs boasting well arched toes and strong, curved nails that are dark in colour with the exception being in harlequin dogs when their nails are lighter in colour which is permissible as a breed standard. Their tail is thicker at the root, but it tapers to the tip which dogs carry level to their backs and slightly curved when they are on the move.

When it comes to coat, the Great Dane boasts a short, thick coat that is sleek to the touch and not rough feeling at all. The accept breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Brindle
  • Fawn
  • Harlequin
  • Mantle (Black Body with white on Muzzle, Collar and Chest)

Great Danes with brindle coats have a lighter buff to deep orange ground colour with black stripes.

Fawn coats can be a light buff right through to a deep orange with darker shades around a Great Dane's head and ears which is allowed under the KC breed standard

Blue coats can range from a lighter grey right through to a much deeper slate

Gait/movement

When a Great Dane moves, they do so with a light, free and spring action covering a lot of ground. Their hocks move freely and heads are carried high with dogs having a tremendous amount of drive and for such large dogs, they are surprising agile and light on their feet.

Faults

The Kennel Club frowns on any sort of exaggeration or departure from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.

Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a Great Dane may be a little shorter or taller as well as slightly lighter or heavier than set out in the KC breed standard which is given as a guide only.

Temperament

Great Danes are renowned for their friendly and outgoing natures. They may be imposing to look at, but they are extremely mild mannered and affectionate dogs that enjoy nothing more than being given lots of attention. They are a great choice as family pets and companion dogs although care should be taken when these larger than life dogs are around toddlers simply because they may knock a very small child over, albeit by accident.

They very rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour and this includes towards other dogs. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because Great Danes need to be correctly trained and handled by someone who really understands the breed. Their training needs to start early and it must be consistent for dogs to understand their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household. If they are not handled correctly and given the right sort of guidance from a young age, a Great Dane might well become wilful and unruly which in such a large dog can present a massive problem given their size when fully grown.

They are renowned for being incredibly loyal to their families and are especially good around children. However, the downside to their devotion, is that Great Danes hate it when they are left on their own. As such, they are better suited to households where at one person stays at home when everyone else is out so that they never spend too much time on their own.

Are they a good choice for first time owners?

Given their sheer size and the fact they are powerful and sometimes stubborn dogs, Great Danes are not the best choice for first time dog owners. They must be well handled, socialised and trained from a young age by people who are familiar with the needs of such a large breed, bearing in mind that a cute albeit robust puppy quickly grows into an extremely powerful and large dog. Great Danes love to laze around, but they also need enough room to sprawl out and to express themselves as they should.

What about prey drive?

Great Danes are social by nature more especially if they have been well socialised from a young enough age. However, they do have quite a high prey drive and will happily chase smaller animals if they get the chance. Owners should always take great care as to where and when they let their dogs off their leads and should always pay special attention to the "recall" command when training a Great Dane and it’s a command that should be reinforced throughout a dog’s life.

What about playfulness?

Great Danes have a very playful side to their natures and are renowned for being "goofy" when they mood takes them. They adore being entertained and entertaining their families and being so clever, a Great Dane quickly learns what their owners like and don't like. With this said, playtime can get a bit boisterous and given their sheer size, games are best played outside in the garden to prevent too many breakages in the home.

What about adaptability?

Great Danes are large dogs that need to have enough space to express themselves as they should. As such, they are not the best choice for people who live in smaller apartments or houses, but are quite happy to live in towns providing their owners have large, secure back gardens for their pets to romp in whenever they can. Another thing prospective owners need to take into account is that Great Danes do not fit well in smaller cars thanks to their large size.

What about separation anxiety?

Great Danes form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.

What about excessive barking?

Great Danes are not known to be barkers and will only voice an opinion when they think it is necessary to do so. In short, when a Great Dane barks, it is for good reason and not just because they feel like it.

Do Great Danes like water?

Most Great Danes love swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Dane off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing.

Are Great Danes good watchdogs?

Great Danes natural watchdogs just because of their size alone. It would be fair to describe them as being "great watchdogs", but not particularly good "guard dogs". In short, they always let an owner know when there are strangers about or when they don't like something that's going on in their environment, but other than that they would typically greet a person rather than attack them.

Intelligence / Trainability

Great Danes are intelligent dogs, but they need to be trained correctly by someone who is familiar with this type of dog. Their education and training needs to start when they are still puppies and it needs to be consistent throughout their lives for them to be manageable and well behaved mature dogs.

The key to successfully training a Great Dane is for puppies to be extremely well socialised as soon as they are fully vaccinated and to use positive reinforcement methods because like many other breeds Great Danes do not respond well to harsher training methods because they are sensitive dogs by nature. Owners must set ground rules for puppies so they understand what is expected of them, bearing in mind that a young Great Dane will always tests these from time to time. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:

  • Come
  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Quiet
  • Leave it
  • Down
  • Bed

Children and Other Pets

Great Danes are known to get on well with children and are known to have a real affinity with kids of all ages, but due to their large size any interaction between dogs and children should be supervised just in case playtime gets too boisterous and a child ends up getting accidentally knocked over which could end up frightening or injuring them.

Rarely would a Great Dane show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards other dogs and they are known to get on with other animals which includes family cats if they have grown up together. However, care needs to be taken when a Great Dane is around any smaller pets because they do have quite a high prey drive and as such any introductions must be done carefully so that things go smoothly.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Great Dane Health

The average life expectancy of a Great Dane is between 8 and 10 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.

The Great Dane is prone to some health problems, and prospective owners should consult their breeders about the following known issues in the breed.

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DM) - Breed Club - Heart testing
  • Bloat/gastric torsion
  • Hip dysplasia - stud dogs should be hip scored
  • Wobblers syndrome
  • Sensitivity to specific anaesthetics
  • Addison's Disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Flea Allergic Dermatitis
  • Splenic Torsion/Twisted Spleen

More about colour ethics for the breed

Responsible Great Dane breeders would always follow the guidelines set out below which covers colour ethics for the breed:

  • A black Great Dane when mated fawn/brindle dogs must not have any mantle or harlequin in their lineage/pedigree
  • A black Great Dane when mated to a mantle/harlequin dog must not hav any brindle/fawn in their lineage/pedigree
  • A blue Great Dane when mated to a fawn dog must not have any mantle or harlequie in their pedigree which applies vice versa too
  • A blue Great Dane when mated to harlequin dogs must not have any brindle/fawn or mantle in their lineage/pedigree

Prospective owners should also be aware that breeding harlequin Great Danes to white, merle, piebald and tweed coloured dogs could result in puppies carrying the gene mutation responsible for deafness, blindness and skin issues. As such, breeders are strongly advised not to carry out such breeding programmes.

What about vaccinations?

Great Dane puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:

  • 10 -12 weeks old, bearing in mind that a puppy would not have full protection straight away, but would be fully protected 2 weeks after they have had their second vaccination

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.

What about spaying and neutering?

A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old and because the Great Dane is known to suffer from osteosarcoma, some vets recommend waiting until a dog is older before they undergo the surgery.

Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered because they could be medical and health reasons for doing so early or later in a dog's life.

What about obesity problems?

Some Great Danes gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older Danes too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart.

What about allergies?

Great Danes are prone to suffering from allergies and more especially flea allergic dermatitis and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:

  • Certain foods and more especially commercially produced pet food that contains high levels of cereals
  • Airborne pollens
  • Dust mites
  • Environment
  • Flea and tick bites
  • Chemicals found in everyday household cleaning products

 

All notes and photo with thanks to  www.pets4homes.co.uk 

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