An Enormous but Gentle Guard Dog With the Elegance of a Young Horse
One of the largest of all dog breeds, the Great Dane is an enormous dog. However, it is the combination of this dog’s very special qualities which makes this such a beloved breed. Besides its huge size, impressive intelligence and exceptional courage, the Great Dane has a heart of gold, the patience of a saint and a true love for children – this is a dog that will guard you with its life. Graceful with an elegance similar to that of a young horse, this breed is a joy in every way imaginable.
The Great Dane is not just a great breed; it also is one of the oldest. With possible origins in Egypt as well as Greece and China, dogs resembling the modern Great Dane have been seen on Egyptian monuments that date to about 3000 BC, with others on Greek money in 36 BC. Chinese literature speaks of dogs that clearly resemble Great Danes as early as 1121 BC, and in 409 AD, powerful mastiff-like dogs that resembled Great Danes accompanied the Asiatic peoples who invaded Gaul.
Some experts speculate that the breed began in modern Germany, perhaps as a cross between the Irish Wolfhound and English Mastiff. Others attribute their beginnings to Denmark; however, no one is quite sure of the truth. The American Kennel Club sets the breed’s existence to at least 400 years, with its initial role as hunters of the dangerously fierce and savage boars of Germany.
In 1891, the Great Dane Club of Germany established its first standard, and in 1889, the German Mastiff or Great Dane Club of America was formed in Chicago, Illinois. Two years later, it became officially known as the Great Dane Club of America. Today, the AKC classifies this breed within its Working Group.
It isn't often that you can use the word “elegant” to describe a dog this large with Mastiff in its lineage, but that is probably the first word that comes to mind when you see the Great Dane. Another word is "regal." Unlike other large dog breeds, though, the Great Dane's proportions are so exquisitely balanced and its gait so smooth and powerful that it is truly a marvel to behold. Its lean, almost equine form, with long legs and streamlined body, make it perfect for the dog racing it's so well known for. Indeed, it's no mistake that it's often compared to a small horse, given its effortless ability to run.
Danes stand about 30 inches at the shoulder, but heights of up to 43 inches have been recorded. Traditionally, Great Danes are repeatedly listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for "tallest dog in the world" at any given time.
The Great Dane's coat is short, thick and smooth, with colors of black, blue, brindle, fawn, merle, harlequin (white with patches of black over the body), or mantle (black and white with a black "blanket" on the body, black head and white muzzle, perhaps with a white blaze).
The Great Dane has been known to be high-strung, which is really an unfair reputation. It's true that racing Danes can be viewed as temperamental and difficult, but these dogs live very hard lives that are also generally very short.
When raised as a pet, the Great Dane is an absolute joy to have, provided a few simple boundaries are provided by an owner who takes on the role of alpha dog (or leader of the pack). Like other working dogs of Mastiff heritage, the Great Dane needs a strong owner that will set clear guidelines. One of the reasons for this, of course, is that the Great Dane is so intelligent. It's quite possible that if the dog senses that the owner is weak or somehow unwilling to take on alpha-dog status, the Dane will try to do so itself. The best owner is one who will have the time to devote to the care, attention and training that this dog will need.
Once this gentle, elegant, dignified creature respects you as its leader, it will be much better-behaved, and will become a truly valued member of the family. Properly trained and socialized from puppyhood, Great Danes are so calm and gentle (despite their size) that it's no problem at all to trust this large dog around small children. In fact, you'll find your pet is very protective of the smallest members of your family. Great Danes are excellent guard dogs, as documented in their history as protectors of grand estates.
A very active dog, the Great Dane needs a lot of exercise. However, because it is a rapidly growing breed, you must be careful not to over-exercise your pet especially during puppyhood. Great Dane puppies grow so fast that if they are physically taxed at a young age, they will have significant bone and joint problems in adulthood. It's important to realize that your puppy will not actually want to limit activity, since Great Dane puppies are also naturally exuberant. But for your pet's long-term health and safety, you should carefully control activity to make sure growth occurs safely without harm to your dog’s physical structure. Daily walks are absolutely necessary, but otherwise, exercise should be kept at a minimum for over a year. Even when puppies reach a year of age, they'll still continue to grow for at least several more months.
Surprisingly, your pet will be very happy in an apartment as long as you provide sufficient exercise. Great Danes are naturally well-behaved with just a little direction and therefore will be quiet indoors, although they do need almost constant companionship. Provide your pet with lots of love and affection, carefully controlled exercise, and your constant presence, and you will be happy together wherever you want to live.
Generally, Great Danes are quite healthy. Like the Mastiff, a breed as large as the Great Dane may only have a lifespan of seven to nine years. However, there have been many known exceptions to this guideline, with pet Danes living as long as thirteen years with great care and careful attention to nutrition. (Great Danes who race have significantly shorter lifespans because of the difficult lifestyle they must lead).
Your pet can be prone to bloat as most large dog breeds are, and should be carefully monitored for this condition. Bloat has a very rapid onset and can be fatal. If your pet appears uncomfortable, depressed, tries to vomit unsuccessfully, won't eat, etc., take your dog to a vet immediately. Bloat occurs because of gastric torsion, where gas cannot escape from the stomach resulting in enormous pressure. Short-term first aid for this condition can often be administered such as vet-recommended simethicone or another medication to temporarily relieve symptoms. However, this is not a cure, and only buys you some time to get proper treatment. Surgery is often recommended. To prevent bloat from occurring, feed your dog small meals and don't allow eating just before or right after vigorous activity.
Danes have short, thick, smooth coats that are very easy to take care of. You should simply be able to comb and brush your pet with a firm bristle brush on a daily basis, occasionally "bathing" with dry shampoo if necessary. You can bathe your dog with water, too, of course, but because this dog is so large, it's wise to do this outside. Great Danes shed only moderately.