Written by Jen, proud owner of a 3-year-old Great Dane/Poodle mix named Luna, who is her once in a lifetime “heart dog.”
Jen specializes in the care and training of large dog breeds. She particularly enjoys working with Great Danes (for their big, goofy natures) and Poodles (for their intelligence).
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So, you have been thinking about getting a Great Dane? That’s wonderful!
Owning a Great Dane is the highlight and joy of many people’s lives.
Great Danes are extraordinary animals with big hearts (and even bigger personalities). This giant breed has been around since the 1800’s.
Before that, their canine ancestors can be traced to 3000 BC. Pet Health Network claims all the way back through history to ancient Egypt
Of course, times have since changed. Would-be owners often find themselves wondering, “What are the pros and cons of adding a Great Dane to my life?”
As a half Great Dane, half Poodle owner myself, I am happy to provide answers!
Why are Great Danes the best dogs ever?
6 Persuasive Pros
In 2020, Great Danes ranked #15 on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular breeds.
Clearly, there is a lot of love about these gigantic goofballs.
But what makes Great Danes so in-demand today?
Don’t Fear a Great Dane…These Guys are Gentle Giants
Despite their size, Great Danes are really gentle giants. Their temperament is excellent. Great Danes are known to be affectionate, sensitive, friendly, and loyal.
Though they stand at between 71 – 86 centimetres tall, these big love bugs wouldn’t hurt a fly!
My girl Luna might weigh as much as a small pony, but she’s a huge softie. She enthusiastically gives kisses to total strangers and is gentle enough to play with small dog breeds, including her best friend, a little Yorkshire Terrier!
In addition, Great Danes have an average prey drive.
Meaning, if raised properly, they can get along fine with cats, bunnies, and other small furry creatures.
These gentle giants are happy to share their home with other four-legged friends.
How to Introduce a Great Dane to Other Pets?
To make sure your Great Dane doesn’t accidently hurt their furry sibling, be sure to introduce new pets slowly. Great Danes rarely go after other animals.
However, their gigantic size means that playing too rough or mistakenly stepping on a smaller dog or cat’s feet or tail can cause serious damage.
Always supervise your Great Dane with smaller pets. Chances are, they will fall totally in love with their four-legged brother or sister! But still, it’s key to proceed with caution in the beginning.
Great Danes are Good with Children and Seniors
Great Danes make good family dogs.
They have a docile nature and laidback attitude.
Since they adore physical affection, Great Danes can tolerate the rubs (and occasional pulls) from little hands.
Children who are taught to respect their pet will know nothing but kisses, cuddles, and happy tail wagging from their Great Dane.
In fact, The Smart Canine points out that Great Danes are known to be one of the most patient dog breeds when it comes to being around little humans.
They are dependable, sweet natured, and know when to walk away if playing is getting a bit too rowdy.
Often, if my Great Dane Luna has “had enough,” she will simply walk herself over to her bed and flop down and go to sleep.
Likewise, Great Danes are good companions for seniors and the elderly.
Older individuals regularly benefit from spending time with dogs. There are many Great Dane therapy dogs out there for exactly this reason!
A Great Dane who is fully trained not to bump people over or jump up can be a lovely addition to a household containing kids, adults, and seniors alike.
Often, a Great Dane will simply lay their head down on a senior’s lap for pets.
A Great Dane wants nothing more than to please its owner – that’s you!
By the age of four, most Great Danes are calm enough to be around all sorts of people.
Great Dane Care shares that by the age of two, this breed begins to calm down and by their late teen and early adult years, they are quite peaceful household dogs.
These Dogs Only Require Moderate Exercise
Another huge plus of owning a Great Dane is their exercise needs.
Even though they have extraordinarily long legs, Great Danes do not require a ton of physical activity.
Believe it or not, they are actually known to be lazy couch potatoes!
According to AllAboutGreatDanes.com, a 1-hour walk “should be planned at least once a day.”
But of course, dogs thrive when we go above and beyond to meet their needs.
Offer your Great Dane multiple opportunities to go outside.
This includes for potty breaks.
Have a backyard? Close to a dog park? Even better.
Great Danes are a fantastic option for busy people because they don’t need to go on 3-hour hikes every day. However, even though they have lower activity level requirements than some other breeds, but Great Danes still need freedom to run and play.
How to Mentally Stimulate a Great Dane
When it comes to Great Danes, this breed needs both physical and mental stimulation.
While they are not exactly athletes (or as intelligent as high IQ breeds like Poodles) Great Danes nonetheless will appreciate efforts made to exercise their brains.
For example, they very much enjoy puzzle toys. Great Danes are super food motivated, remember! They will happily sniff, paw, and play with puzzle pieces to find tasty treats.
Chew toys and stuffed Kongs will likewise keep them mentally occupied.
Our household favorite? A Kong stuffed with mashed banana, apple slices, sweet potato, or cheese.
Sit! Down! Stay! They are Highly Trainable
Trivia question: What is the most trainable dog breed?
If you said, “Great Dane” then sadly, you are mistaken!
A Great Dane is smart. But he’s not a genius.
While breeds such as German Shepherds, Poodles, and Border Collies top the list of most trainable dogs, a Great Dane is a people-pleaser.
Thankfully, this willingness to perform makes them fairly easy to train.
Luckily, Great Danes are also food driven.
Yummy treats paired with consistency is a recipe for success.
Start them young. Praise often. Reward good behavior.
The American Kennel Club suggests all Great Danes learn the following commands: Sit, Down, Stay, Recall, and Drop It. From nine months onward, a Great Dane is capable of knowing most basic obedience skills.
As well, because of their massive size, Great Danes puppies are easier to potty train.
Compared to small breeds, they learn not to pee and poop faster.
Bigger bladders. That mean less accidents in the house.
Mistakes to Avoid When Potty Training a Great Dane
Never had a Great Dane before? Don’t make these training mistakes!
First, avoid using pee pads.
This is because 1) it creates an unnecessary mess in the house 2) Great Danes pee…A LOT and 3) pee pads create confusion in the long run for puppies trying to learn how to go potty outside – not inside.
The other big mistake I see very often is Great Dane owners using a crate that is too small for their dog.
Crate training can be very beneficial. It gives your Great Dane a safe place to relax and also helps teach them how to “hold it” until they get on a consistent potty schedule.
But a crate must be tall and wide enough for your dog to stand, stretch, and lay down comfortably.
When shopping for dog crates, always search for ones made specifically for Great Danes.
Short and Smooth Coats
Imagine the length of time it takes to brush out a Golden Retriever coat…
You can spend hours.
With a Great Dane, this isn’t an issue! Great Danes have short fur. A simple brush every day to loosen and remove dead hairs will suffice.
People with allergies can also consider a mixed breed, such as a Great Danoodle.
The slightly curly Poodle hair isn’t 100% hypoallergenic, but it does cut down on shedding.
Looking at a Purebred Great Dane? Dog Shows and Competitions can be Fun and Rewarding
Additionally, thanks to their majestic physiques and easy to groom coats, Great Danes make wonderful show dogs.
Competing is a great way to get involved in the Great Dane community, meet new friends, bond with your pup, and advocate for the health, standards, and integrity of this special breed.
Not Excessive Barkers
Tired of the neighbour’s barking dog at 5am each morning? Worried about disturbing your roommates or landlord?
The good news is, Great Danes don’t bark!
Okay, that’s not 100% true… all dogs are born with the ability to bark. Yet Great Danes are extraordinarily quiet creatures.
They don’t yip and howl incessantly.
That’s due to their loud and deep voice. Usually, a Great Dane will give one or two warning barks – that’s all.
This makes them ideal housemates where noise is a concern.
But wait – aren’t there negative aspects to owning a Great Dane, too?
6 Undesirable Cons
As much as we love Great Danes, just like with any dog breed, there are some issues to be aware of. Before rushing out to buy a Great Dane puppy, you must seriously consider the following.
Sadly, Great Danes are what’s known as a “Heartbreak Breed.”
Dog Blend veterinarians warn that the average lifespan is only 8 – 10 years.
Hearing about a dog who passed away before their fourth birthday is also very common in the Great Dane community.
Giant breeds don’t live as long as small or medium-sized breeds.
This is the biggest con of adding one of these magnificent animals to your life.
As soon as you fall in love, they are gone far too soon.
It can be devastating to lose a dog at such a young age.
The Great Dane Club of America has an entire page on their website dedicated to Emergency Veterinary Resources – and for good reason. According to their website, the following health issues are common among Great Danes.
- Risk of bloat – this is the #1 killer of Great Danes
- Hip dysplasia
- Wobbler’s syndrome
How to Avoid Bloat
To minimize the likelihood for your Great Dane experience bloat, Pet Health Network recommends avoiding activity (like running and playing) before or after meals, feeding your Great Danes several smaller portions throughout the day, and slowing down eating.
Costly Dog Food
A dog weighing up to 200 lbs eats… a lot!
Food costs for a Great Dane are high.
It can easily cost $100+ per month to feed a Great Dane.
They also have special diet needs. Since Great Danes grow so quickly, puppies require careful amounts of calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
A full-grown adult will chow down on between 6 – 8 cups of kibble per day.
And that doesn’t even include raw meats, treats, or added vegetables.
So, if you are on a strict budget, owning a Great Dane may be a poor choice.
Expensive Vet Bills
Similar to the point above, Great Danes also cost more at the vet.
Their big bodies need larger doses.
Medications, antibiotics, pain relievers, and steroids will all be twice to three times as expensive for a giant breed dog than for a smaller one.
Not to mention, their surgery is pricier too.
Great Danes who get spayed or neutered have longer recovery times, which translates into a harder hit on their owner’s wallet.
They may also require gastropexy – a lifesaving surgery for bloat. This procedure runs at $1,000 or more.
What is Great Dane Gastropexy and Laparoscopic Surgery?
Vet Help Direct explains that during a gastropexy surgical procedure, the stomach of a Great Dane is stitched to the body wall.
The goal of doing so is to permanently position the stomach in such a way that prevents it from abnormally twisting in the future (AKA bloat).
Great Danes are Difficult to Travel With
Unless you drive a van, travelling with a Great Dane takes serious planning.
Unlike small dogs, Great Danes take up a ton of baggage space.
In fact, many Great Dane owners pack separate luggage containers, just for their pup!
Luna has her own backpack. Inside, we bring food, bowls, toys, leashes, raincoats, a K9 first aid kit, etc.
In addition, flying with a Great Dane is next to impossible. They don’t travel well by air. Same goes with camping in tiny tents. Both are a no-no.
If you are somebody who globetrots and loves to travel, owning a Great Dane will make continuing with this lifestyle a challenge.
With Great Danes, slobber is a given. There is no escaping getting slimed by a long string of dangling drool.
After a Great Dane drinks water or eats, their jowls naturally produce saliva. Since their lips are loose and floppy, they cannot help but drool.
Of course, this can feel gross.
People who get upset over wet spots on their clothes, furniture (and yes, even ceilings and walls) need to think twice before adding a Great Dane to their home.
Is there Any Way to Reduce Great Dane Drool?
Thankfully, even though Great Danes drool more than the average dog, it’s easy to address. While we can’t actually stop a Great Dane from drooling, here are some ideas to keep your house (and yourself) less slobbery.
First, install a rubber mat under their water/food bowl. This will save your floors – trust me.
Next, keep a rag handy. When you notice a long string of drool dangling, simply wipe it up. This prevents slobber from messing up your Great Dane’s chest, neck, or getting onto clothes and furniture.
Lastly, give your Great Dane lots of dental chews.
Brush their teeth.
Tartar buildup can result in excessive drooling, so keep their pearly whites sparkling!
Is a Great Dane right for you?
Ultimately, Great Danes are fabulous pets. Their companionship is like no other. If you ever experience the joy of owning a Great Dane, it’s likely that no dog will fill up your heart with as much love as these gentle giants do.
But that being said, they aren’t suited for everyone.
Before deciding on a Great Dane, think about the pros and cons. Or better yet, ask to visit a Great Dane Club member.
Spending quality time with a Great Dane will show you exactly what to expect, so you can make an informed choice.
Photo by Brad R.