rec.pets.dogs: Great Danes Breed-FAQ

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John Thomas

Mar 18, 2004, 4:12:35 AM3/18/04
Archive-name: dogs-faq/breeds/greatdanes
Posting-frequency: 30 days
Last-modified: 10 Nov 1997

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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below.
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
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It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
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Great Danes


Georgia Alyce Thomas
Copyright 1993-1995 by Georgia Alyce Thomas.
May be contacted through John Thomas at for additional questions,
comments or corrections.

Table of Contents

* Dane Personality
* Size, Color, Ears
* Grooming
* Health Concerns
* Care and Training
* Is the Dane the Right Breed for You?
* Resources


Dane Personality

"There is nothing like a Dane!" is often heard from fanciers of this
breed. And while size alone makes him unique, the Great Dane's
personality is the quality that most find so appealing. The Dane is a
"people dog" - a sensitive and affectionate companion. They can be
elegant and dignified one moment, and then playful and silly the next.

They were originally developed in Germany to hunt wild boar. And
although they are no longer used for that purpose, they should still
possess the confidence that made them suitable for that work. Because
of their temperament, and the fact that they are generally clean and
quiet, they make ideal inside-the-house pets. They do not make good
"yard" dogs, because when segregated from human companionship, they
can become very unruly and destructive.

Puppy buyers should always be sure to see at least the dam of the
litter (and the sire if possible). Puppy temperament is influenced by
both heredity (from sire, dam, and other ancestors), and by
environment (which is greatly influenced by the dam, and the breeder's
rearing practices). Anyone buying a puppy should ensure that the dam
does have a temperament that conforms to the breed standard, and that
the breeder is raising the puppies properly (in the house as part of
the family), and is providing adequate socialization and early

Size, Color, Ears


not be less than 30 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that
he be 32 inches or more, providing he is well proportioned to his
height. The female shall not be less than 28 inches at the shoulders,
but it is preferable that she be 30 inches or more, providing she is
well proportioned to her height." It is common for males to stand
about 35 inches at the shoulder, and to weigh about 150 pounds.
Females are commonly about 32 inches tall, and weigh about 120 pounds.
Puppy buyers should remember that "bigger", is not necessarily


There are five colors that are described by the AKC, and permitted to
be shown in the breed ring. They are:

"Glossy black..."

"Pure steel blue..."

"Base color shall be yellow gold and always brindled with
strong black cross stripes in a chevron pattern. A black mask
is preferred..."

"Yellow gold with a black mask..."

"Base color shall be pure white with black torn patches
irregularly and well distributed over the entire body..."

The _GREAT DANE CLUB OF AMERICA_ (parent club for our breed) has
established a Breeders Color Code, which states: "There are only five
recognized colors; all these basically fall into four color strains:
2. HARLEQUIN and Harlequin-Bred BLACK
3. BLUE and Blue-Bred BLACK

Color classifications being well-founded, the _Great Dane Club of
America, Inc._ considers it an inadvisable practice to mix color
strains..." Puppy buyers who are interested in showing or breeding,
should be sure to purchase a puppy with show potential, who is also
one of the five recognized colors, and who is also pure color bred.

Boston and merle are colors that are often seen in harlequin litters,
and while these colors are not permitted in the conformation ring (in
the U.S.), individuals of these colors can make fine pets, and can
also participate in other types of competition (obedience, tracking,
agility, flyball, etc.).


Danes are born with ears that (according to the breed standard) should
be "high set, medium in size and of moderate thickness, folded forward
close to the cheek. The top line of the ear should be level with the
skull." Ears may also be cropped. "If cropped, the ear length is in
proportion to the size of the head and the ears are carried uniformly
erect." Ear cropping is an optional cosmetic surgery which enables the
ears to stand. Aftercare (taping, etc.) is also necessary to ensure
that the surgery will be successful. If you choose to have your
puppy's ears cropped, please contact your breeder, or your local Dane
club, for a referral to a Veterinarian in your area who is proficient
at performing this surgery and after-care.


The Dane is a short-haired breed, and therefore requires little in the
way of coat care. Most do well with weekly brushing (more often during
periods of heavy shedding), and bathing as needed. The Dane also
requires ear cleaning, dental care, and toenail trimming like any
other breed.

Health Concerns

The Great Dane, like many other breeds, is prone to a variety of
health problems - some hereditary (or believed to be hereditary).
Responsible breeders should do the following health screenings on all
dogs that are used in a breeding program:

OFA Certification
Hip Dysplasia is a poly-genetic hereditary disease which can
cause pain and lameness - even to the point of being crippling.
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals will review radiographs
on dogs (two years of age or older) and certify the hip joint
conformation as normal (free of Hip Dysplasia) with grades of
Excellent, Good, or Fair.

Hypothyroidism can cause a variety of medical problems, and has
been linked to auto-immune disorders. It is diagnosed with
blood screening.

Von Willebrand's Disease is a bleeding disorder (similar to
Hemophilia in people), and is diagnosed with blood screening.

The Canine Eye Registration Foundation will certify a dog to be
free of apparent heritable ocular disease based upon
examination of a veterinary opthamologist. The dog must be
re-examined and re-certified every 12 months.

This testing is done to determine hereditary heart disease,
including Cardiomyopathy. It is generally performed by a
veterinary cardiologist.

When interviewing breeders, a puppy buyer should ask for proof of (the
above listed) screenings, and should also ask about other health
problems including Gastric Torsion (Bloat), Seizure Disorders,
Wobblers, and Orthopedic Disease (OCD, HOD, etc.). Breeders who deny
any knowledge of any possible hereditary disease in their lines, as
well as those who are not familiar with these diseases (and the
screening process), should be avoided. Dogs who have been diagnosed
with any heritable disease should NOT be used in a breeding program.


The Great Dane is unfortunately not a long-lived breed. Their lifespan
is generally 7-10 years. Longevity can be promoted by breeding healthy
individuals (whose ancestors were long-lived), and by practicing good
health management. But, even though the Dane is not long-lived, Dane
lovers would agree that they'd rather have eight years with these dogs
than twenty with another breed.

Care and Training


Danes need a moderate amount of exercise. A long walk each day seems
to suit most Danes nicely. Of course, Danes can also be trained to
participate in very athletic activities, such as competition
obedience, tracking, agility and flyball.


Because of their size, an un-trained Dane can be a very serious
hazard. Dane puppies should be started in a puppy training and
socialization class at about three months of age. At that stage, they
are very impressionable, and a relatively manageable size. For their
own safety, and for the safety of their owners (and others), all Danes
should be taught not to bite (even in play), and not to jump up on
people (unless invited). They should also learn (at a minimum) the
five basic obedience commands: heel, sit, down, stay, and come. Danes
are a very sensitive breed, and (for the best results) should be
taught using motivational/inducive methods.

Is the Dane the Right Breed for You?

Because a 25 pound eight-week-old male puppy will generally grow to
about six times that weight, special consideration needs to be given
before acquiring a puppy. Dogs are abandoned every day because their
owners didn't realize that their cute little puppy would grow up to be
a very large dog with real needs. Therefore, anyone considering a Dane
as a pet (puppy or adult), should first spend time with adults of the
breed, and then ask themselves the following questions:
* Will I be able to provide enough food for a giant breed dog? They
eat about three to six cups of high quality dog food twice each
* Can I afford the other expenses involved with owning a dog of this
size? Medication, crates, bedding, equipment, supplies, toys,
etc., all cost more for a giant breed dog.
* Am I prepared to provide a Dane with the companionship and
exercise he requires?
* Am I able, and willing, to provide positive and consistent
training, beginning as soon as my Dane enters my home?

If after considering all of these questions, you are still determined
to add a Great Dane to your family, then do consider adopting a
homeless dog from a rescue organization. Danes of both sexes, and all
colors and ages, are often available for adoption. If you must have a
puppy, then screen breeders very carefully before buying. Make sure
that any puppy that you consider, has been bred and reared to have a
correct temperament, and that the parents have been screened for
genetic defects. An aggressive Great Dane can be a very dangerous dog,
and a crippled or chronically sick Dane can be more of a burden than a
pleasure. Remember that your decision to acquire a Dane, is a decision
that will affect you (and your Dane) for a lifetime.


Suggested Reading List

_The New Complete Great Dane_ (Book)
by Noted Authorities, Howell Book House, 1972

_The Great Dane, Dogdom's Apollo_ (Book)
by Nancy-Carroll Draper, Howell Book House, 1982

_The Great Dane_ (Book)
by Anna Katherine Nicholas, T.F.H. Publications, 1988

_The Great Dane Reporter_ (bi-monthly magazine)
Sally Silva, Editor-Publisher: P.O. Box 150, Riverside, CA
92502-0150. Phone: (909) 784-5GDR; Fax: (909) 369-7056.

For More Information About Danes, Please Contact

_GREAT DANE FOUNDATION_ (Rescue/Education/Referral)
Cathy Mitchell
10055 Belknap Suite #115
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
Phone: (713) 496-5130
Fax: (713) 530-6438

Great Dane FAQ
Georgia Thomas

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