Great Danes – Choosing a Great Dane – Dog Breeds

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The Great Dane is a striking and regal dog. Powerful and elegant, the breed is often known as the "Gentle Giant."

History and Origin

The Great Dane is an old breed whose appearance distinguishes him from other members of the giant working breeds. As with many breeds, the history of the Great Dane is uncertain. It is believed that in 407 AD, the German Gaul, part of Italy and Spain, was invaded by the Alans, who brought their powerful mastiff dogs with them. Eventually, the Irish wolfhound and Old English mastiff were used in the dog's development and the breed gained popularity as an excellent boarhound.

The Great Dane is known by many different names throughout the world. He is known as the German mastiff and Grand Danois, among others. Even though there is little dispute that the Great Dane hails from Germany, the English chose to name the dog after his French name of Grand Danois. In 1885 the Great Dane Club of England was formed and by 1891, the Great Dane Club of America was organized and the breed standard established. From this point the Great Dane became popular all over the world. The American Kennel Club recognizes the Great Dane as a working class breed.

Appearance and Size

The Great Dane, with his magnificent size and grace, is characterized as the "Apollo" of all dogs. The head of the Great Dane should be long and narrow with an expressive appearance. The eyes are medium sized, round and set deep with an intelligent expression. Black should always appear on the eye rims and eyebrows of the Great Dane. The nose is all black, except in the blue and the Harlequin. The ears can be cropped or natural. If they are cropped they are long, pointed, and stand erect. If natural, they hang down to the side of the head. The tail of the Great Dane is long and tapering to the hocks from the muscular body. The Great Dane has short, thick, and clean smooth glossy hair. The coat comes in brindle, fawn, blue, black, Boston and Harlequin, as well as other colors.

The breed stands 32 inches at the shoulder and weighs 120 to 160 pounds.

Personality Traits

The Great Dane has nobility and courage with endurance and speed. They are friendly, spirited and dependable, but can be timid and aggressive if provoked by animal or man.

Home and Family Relations

The Great Dane is good-natured and devoted to his family. The breed is alert, affectionate and sweet, but make excellent protective dogs that conduct themselves with tact. The Great Dane makes a good companion, but they are large and need plenty of room to live and exercise.


The Great Dane has a stable, sweet temperament with proper obedience training. Unfortunately, due to poor breeding and poor training, the Great Dane can have a reputation of bad temperament. With proper socialization and training, the Great Dane can do well in typical training classes.


The Great Dane has short, thick hair that needs to be groomed daily with a body brush to keep their coat shiny.

Special Care

The Great Dane does not require much special care. Be sure to get radiographs of their hips early for they are prone to hip problems.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the Great Dane is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately. Without enough thyroid hormone, illness can occur.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Glaucoma is a painful and serious condition that causes pressure within the eye to increase. It can lead to blindness if not treated early.
  • Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bone.
  • Demodectic mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by a mite. Hair loss and itchiness are common.

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