Breed of the Week - Great Dane

by Stephanie Teed

The Great Dane, also called the Deutsch Dogge or the German Mastiff, is a breed of dog one can easily identify. They are known for their giant size and are even referred to as the: "Apollo of all breeds." To this day, a Great Dane named George holds the record for the tallest dog! He stands 43 inches from paw to shoulder and around 7 feet from head to tail!

Great Danes are wonderful dogs, but are very large in stature - making them not for every family. They require enough room to live in harmony with you and can go through large bags of dog food in as little as a week even though their food intake per pound is less than some smaller breeds. They are charming canines and can be a wonderful addition to any family, as long as everyone is well educated in the needs of this noble breed.

Great Danes are almost always outgoing and friendly. They should never be shy or aggressive. They are known as the gentle giant, and do very well with other animals and people. Despite their size, they are also very good with children and can make a great companion. They are patient and gentle and will have no problem with child interaction, though one should never leave a child unattended with any breed of dog. Because of the Dane’s size, they could easy knock a small child down by accident.

A Great Dane-like dog appears in Egyptian monuments dating back from around 3000 B.C. and the earliest literature written about a similar Great Dane-like dog was found in China 1121 B.C. The Great Dane is a very old breed of dog and is considered to be a cross between the English Mastiff and Irish Wolfhounds. The breed is probably a product of the ancient Molosser war dog. They were extremely admired for their size and power and ability to bring down large game such as boar. In present day, they do not serve much of a hunting purpose, and are primarily family companions.

It is generally accepted that the Great Dane is a product of Germany or England, and did not originate in Denmark at all. In the past, they were also used as guard dogs and even tracking and carting dogs! They became a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1887.

Great Danes are a short-coated breed, which comes in several different colors: blue, black, mantle, brindle, fawn, harlequin and, sometimes, a merle color. A firm bristle brush will do in order to keep the coat shiny and free of dead hair and skin. Though the coat may be easy to groom, bathing your Dane can be a MAJOR chore because of their size, so it is important to keep consistent in brushing to keep their coat healthy. Dry shampoos are also known to work well in keeping your Dane smelling clean and fresh!

Great Danes are very smart and always willing to please. They are striking in the show ring, and also fare well in rally and agility. Like all dogs, they need daily walks in order to stay in top shape. Because of their size, it is important not to over exercise them while they are still young. A Great Dane grows very large, very fast and that in itself can put them in danger for joint and/or bone problems. Once your Dane is older (about 2 years old) they can also become great jogging and hiking companions. Anything that involves spending time with their owner will make them happy! Also teaching your Dane not to lean or jump on people is always important. Although it may seem cute when they are puppies, they grow into large, heavy dogs and could accidentally hurt someone. It is recommended that you teach them when they are young to sit before giving them affection because even as a puppy, a Dane can be substantial enough to cause harm.

Bloat is the number one cause of death in Great Danes. It is important with all large breed dogs that you feed them two to three meals a day, rather then one large meal. Avoiding heavy exercise one hour before or after they eat also may help, along with purchasing specialty food bowls which help slow down eating.

Like many other breeds, Dane can also suffer from many different types of cancer. Lymphoma and Osteosarcoma, bone cancers, are two of the most common varieties. Puppies can also suffer from painful rapid growth of the bones, known as Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy and Panosteitis, which can cause a dog to become lame. This is an extremely serious problem in young puppies, and owners should remember it takes between 1-2 years for a Dane to fully develop. Monitoring the intake of your puppy’s protein, fat and calcium definitely helps your puppy grow up safely. You should not over exercise your Dane until he/she is fully grown and developed. Some Great Dane owners even avoid steps for the first year of life.

The breed also suffers from hip dysplasia, an inheritable disease, as well as Wobblers Syndrome (CVI), which is an abnormality of the neck vertebrae which causes an inability to control the rear legs and can result in paralysis. Wobblers can be inherited, nutritional based or a result of an injury. It is always important to purchase from a responsible breeder when considering a Great Dane and to have a vet with large breed dog knowledge and experience, especially if adopting.

For more information about this breed, visit the National Parent Club Website , The Great Dane Club of America.

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