Other names: Danish, Deutsche Dogge, German Mastiff
The Great Dane is the biggest dog in the world. It is difficult to go unnoticed by his side. His appearance is noble and his body is powerful. He is considered to be the Apollo of his species, as his presence and stature are remarkable. What’s more, his dedication to his family is proportional to his immense size. Very friendly among familiar faces, and especially with children, he remains suspicious of strangers. A very good watchdog, he is courageous and naturally dissuades with his mere presence.
Key facts about the Great Dane
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Origins and history
The Great Dane is of German origin. Its ancestors were the ancient "Bullenbeisser" (Bull catchers), who came from the Saupacker (sow-catcher) breed in the middle-ages. They were all big game dogs hunting for deer, wild boar and bear. Their build was midway between the powerful English-type Great Dane and the Greyhound. However, until the First World War, this breed was called "Great Dane" because it was widespread in Denmark. In 1920, the name "German Mastiff" was adopted to remind that among the Great Dane’s ancestors were the massive fighting dogs of the Alains, an ancient nomadic people of Iranian descent, who came to Germany.
Physical characteristics of the Great Dane
Female : Between 28 and 33 in
Male : Between 31 and 35 in
Female : Between 99 and 154 lb
Male : Between 110 and 154 lb
There are five coat colours:
- Fawn: Light yellow gold to intense yellow gold. A black ‘mask’ is common.
- Brindle: yellow or bright gold fur covered with slight black stripes. The Black Mask is, again, to be regarded as standard.
- Harlequin: pure white with all black or blue patches spread all over the body. Grey mastiffs with black spots are not excluded from the ‘standard’ but not specifically desirable, either.
- Black: Black coat with the possible white marks on the chest and feet.
- Blue: pure steel blue coat with possible white marks on the chest and feet.
- Mantle (Black & White)
Type of coat
The hair is short.
The coat is dense, smooth and shiny; it should not be dull. This big dog has no undercoat.
The eyes must be as dark as possible. Clear, haggard or amber eyes are undesirable and not recognized by the standard of the breed.
However, clearer eyes are allowed in blue Mastiffs as well as in Harlequin mastiffs.
The Great Dane is a proud dog with a powerful and elegant look. Since it is the world's biggest dog, it has a sturdy and well-built body. His appearance is noble and his proportions are balanced. There is strong sexual dimorphism between males and females.
Good to know
The biggest dog in the world was a Great Dane called Zeus. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 5 in 2014. He measured nearly 44 inches, which is more than 110 cm at the tourniquet. When he stood on his hind legs, Zeus could reach the height of 7 feet and 4 inches, which is to say, more than 2,10m.
Very close to his social group, he can sometimes even be clingy. He is very affectionate towards his masters and would give his life to protect them. This dog adores it when his masters take care of him and his tenderness and demonstrations of affection are limitless.
Enthusiastic and alert, especially when he spends time with his masters, the Great Dane puppy is particularly playful. This trait will decline with age but this giant dog will always be ready for a game.
Certainly one of the most peaceful dogs there is. The Great Dane is patient, discreet, and a calm Olympian.
Its large size can scare potential adopters, but this dog knows how to go unnoticed despite its build.
This mastiff is very intelligent; and understands quickly as long as one takes the time to teach him properly. He has very precise observation skills and analysis capabilities. In terms of education, his desire is to please and delight his master encourages him to quickly execute the various indications he receives.
Initially, the Great Dane was used for hunting games. In the Middle Ages, he accompanied men to hunt boars, bulls, bears or deer. Therefore, he retains a certain predatory instinct - but it is not excessive or unmanageable. Nowadays, this dog is valued for his good personality and noble stature.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This giant dog may be very friendly with his regular entourage; however, he keeps a certain reserve when in the presence of strangers. He analyses with great objectivity the potential danger of the person he has in front of him. He will always place himself between what he considers a possible threat and his master.
The largest dog in the world is brave, but he is anything but independent since he relies heavily on his master. If he feels that he can trust his owner, he considers him to be his go-to and will avoid contradicting him.
Behaviour of the Great Dane
The Great Dane does not like solitude. He will not be able to remain alone for a whole day without feeling bad. This dog needs to be accompanied and he needs to feel a reassuring and familiar presence to feel well.
Easy to train / obedience
The Great Dane is a docile and obedient dog if the education he receives is both firm, gentle, and coherent. He will absolutely not accept physical or even psychological violence.
This dog will never be stubborn but can quickly capitulate if he feels any animosity on behalf of his master.
His education will need to be initiated from an early age to guarantee the safety of all once this giant dog has reached his adult size and weight.
Proper walking on a leash should be particularly prioritized and any type of elevation must be banned.
You should use positive reinforcement training, while maintaining a certain degree of firmness and consistency in the various learning processes in order to achieve the desired results.
The Great Dane has a strong bark but he uses it very little. Indeed, his mere presence and impressive build are enough to deter potential intruders.
Tendency to run away
His co-dependent temperament along with his instinct for protecting his own does prevent the world's largest dog from running away in search of adventure. Since he is very attached to his social group and protective too, he prefers to stay with his family members rather than elope.
He is especially destructive during periods of solitude, when he can destroy all that he finds.
It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that he meets his energy spending needs and finds a living environment adapted to his nature.
Greedy / Gluttony
This dog won’t turn down a proffered delicacy but will not be voracious either. His diet must be closely supervised, particularly during the first three years of his life.
Very protective and courageous, the Great Dane would give his life to protect that of his own. Fortunately, the world's largest dog never needs to attack or be aggressive, his mere presence is dissuasive.
Novice masters can adopt him but must be aware of the responsibilities that come with a dog of such great size.
If education and socialization are not good and offered early to the Great Dane puppy, this giant dog can quickly become uncontrollable and therefore dangerous in adulthood.
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Great Dane in a flat
Against all odds, the world's largest dog can live in an apartment and will be delighted with his surroundings. You might think that this dog needs a lot of space but he can cope inside without being invasive.
Of course, a life in a house with a garden will also suit him but be careful not to leave him outside, especially in winter. Lacking a proper undercoat, he will not tolerate cold or moisture.
Need for exercise / Sporty
Whatever his way of life, this dog needs daily outings to spend energy. His giant size does not allow him to engage in intense physical activities but he remains a rather active dog that needs daily exercise.
Walking is preferable to keep him healthy, and sports activities may be offered - but be careful not to do so too early given the fragility of his joints and backbone.
Any intense activity is, therefore, to be avoided during the growth of this large dog. A veterinary check-up is recommended in order to prevent bone disorders.
Travelling / easy to transport
Of course, the size of this dog prevents him from accompanying his masters everywhere. Even if he knows how to be discreet, his nearly 70 kg remains a limitation for transport.
Great Dane and cats
Rather sociable, this big dog will be able to get along with the feline species, especially if he grows up with them.
Great Dane and dogs
Of a friendly nature, this mastiff usually gets along well with his peers if he has had quality socialisation when he was a puppy. Positive, supervised encounters should be offered to him as regularly as possible.
Maintaining and strengthening canine codes for this giant is paramount to avoid any incident. Pay special attention to his interactions with small size dogs due to the difference in size.
Great Dane and children
Very patient and delicate, this dog loves to spend time with children. If they are part of his social group, he will protect them.
Pay attention, all the same: ground rules must be put in place and respected by all to guarantee everyone’s safety.
Even if this dog is quite suitable for family life, he is still a powerful dog, and very, very big.
Great Dane and the elderly
Despite his calmness, discretion, and moderate need for exercise, the Great Dane is not the ideal dog for vulnerable and potentially sedentary people.
The price of a Great Dane varies according to his origins, age and gender. An average of £1000 is to be paid for a dog registered with the Kennel Club.
The monthly budget for a mastiff is estimated at £80/month. It is quite consistent and ultimately proportional to the large size of this dog.
This Danish dog’s maintenance is very easy but still deserves regular attention.
Brushing will have to be done weekly. Your Great Dane will appreciate it because he loves being taken care of.
Eyes and ears should be monitored and treated regularly as well.
Hair loss is moderate but will be more consistent in spring and autumn, during moulting periods.
Nutrition of the Great Dane
Whatever the diet given to Great Dane, whether dry, raw or homemade, it must be specifically suitable for large dogs.
The growth of this giant dog is very fast. In fact, he will grow from 600g at birth to almost 70 kg in less than a year and a half. His diet is therefore critical; it must be neither too rich nor too light.
Many breeders recommend a traditional diet, especially raw meat, but there are industrial dog foods composed of high-quality products that can meet the needs of this Mastiff.
Several meals a day are advisable, three meals up to 6 months of age and then two meals a day: a light one in the morning and a more copious one in the evening.
Raised bowls are to be preferred to ensure better digestion.
Health of the Great Dane
Life expectancy is estimated at 9 years.
Strong / robust
Unfortunately, the large size of this dog does not make it perfectly healthy. He is rather sensitive, so he has a rather short life expectancy.
Heat can be tolerated, but he does not appreciate it much. Fresh and regularly renewed water will be indispensable and a cool place to rest should be made available.
Watch out for Harlequin Mastiffs who could quickly get sunburned if exposed too long outside.
Given the absence of a quality undercoat, cold tolerance is very limited for this large dog. So don't let him stay out in the winter or when it rains.
Tendency to put on weight
A Great Dane puppy’s diet should be closely monitored. Your dog’s food should not be too rich nor too nutrient-deficient. Daily rations must be adapted to the physical condition of the dog and his state of health. Avoid any excess.
- Joint and ligament problems: hip and elbow dysplasia
- Bloating-stomach twist syndrome
- Rapid growth that can lead to skeletal development disorders
- Panosteitis (inflammation of the bones)
- Hyperparathyroidism (Bone weakness)
- Wobbler Syndrome (malformation of the cervical vertebrae)
- Osteochondritis (thickening and cracking of cartilage)