Great Dane

A Great Dane stands in a fenced backyard.

Originally bred to hunt ferocious boar in Germany, this colossal canine evolved into an utterly sweet-tempered dog deserving of its ‘Gentle Giant’ nickname. Great Danes will charm just about anyone with their noble carriage and affectionate natures, even those at first intimidated by their size. They love taking walks and playing off-leash in open, fenced-in backyards. Great Danes are courageous and dependable, but they also have some lap dog traits, like a desire to be near you whenever you are home. Because of their sheer magnitude, they require a close eye to prevent accidents, such as knocking over home decorations or pint-sized family members.

Other Names

Great Danes are also known as the Gentle Giant and the Apollo of Dogs.

Great Dane Mixes

Great Dane mixes are a commonly available mixed breed in shelters and rescues, possibly because their size turns out to be more than their original owner could handle. Great Dane mixes will have personality and physical traits of the other breeds in their family tree, but chances are good they’ll be big. Most shelters do not perform DNA testing on their rescues, so ancestry is generally determined by observed physical and personality traits, as well as information given at the dog’s surrender.

If you are sure you want a Great Dane or a Great Dane mix, locate a local shelter that does genetic testing on mixed breeds, and let them know you are interested in AKC-registered Great Dane surrenders.

Common Great Dane mixes include Labrador Retriever, Saint Bernard, Akita, Poodle, Mastiff, Doberman, Rottweiler, and American Staffordshire Terrier, also known as the Pit Bull.

Physical Description


The Great Dane’s coat is short, thick, and shiny. The coat colors are brindle, fawn, blue, black, harlequin (white with black patches), and mantle (black and white, with a solid blanket of black).


Average Height: 28-32 inches


Male: 120-200 pounds

Female: 99-130 pounds

Breed Standard & History

Great Danes are massive dogs with regal bearings—often referred to as the Apollo of dogs. Powerful and well-muscled, they are agile for their large size, with a graceful, loping gait. Their eyes are dark and intelligent, and they have friendly, spirited natures.

Great Danes originated in Germany where their ancestors were bred to have the size, strength, and courage to hunt fierce wild boars. These ancient ‘Boar Hounds’ date back to the 1300s. Today’s Great Dane is thought to have derived from a mix of ‘Boar Hounds,’ Irish Wolf Hounds, Old English Mastiffs, and Greyhounds.

AKC Breed Category

Working Group


General Temperament

Great Danes are gregarious, spirited dogs. Because of their sheer size, however, consistent training with abundant praise and rewards is critical. It’s unsafe to have an unruly Great Dane jumping on visitors or dragging you around for your daily walks.

Family Life

Are Great Danes Good with Kids? Yes. Great Danes love kids and can be surprisingly gentle with them. However, they must be watched closely with children, especially very young kids, because they can accidentally knock them over during play or with their wagging tails.

(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)

Are Great Danes Good with Other Pets? Great Danes are friendly with other pets in their home. They may be aggressive or friendly with other dogs they meet, depending on their personalities and how well they were socialized as puppies. They always need to be watched closely, however, to prevent playful jumping that could cause accidental injuries to smaller animals.


Great Danes are not overly protective, but will become aggressive if they sense a threat to themselves, their families, or their territory.

Are Great Danes Good Guard Dogs? Great Danes are naturally intimidating because of their size and their powerful barks. They will bark when people approach the house and they can be trained to be good guard dogs.

Energy Levels

Great Danes are energetic, but also have a laid-back quality. They’ll enjoy a rambunctious play session, as long as it’s followed by nap time.

Specific Concerns

  • They require specialty dog food for giant breed dogs.
  • They eat a lot of food.
  • Expect to pick up extra on walks and in the yard.
  • They shouldn’t be over-exercised, especially when their bones and joints are developing; a memory foam dog bed can help support joints, especially in larger dogs.
  • You may have to store your breakables higher up.
  • They have a tendency to drool.



Great Danes adapt very well to indoor living and can even adapt to a large apartment, so long as they have plenty of opportunity to get outside. If you let them, they’ll enjoy snuggles on your lap as much as any toy breed. They should learn early to save most of their boisterous play for outside so they don’t break your favorite trinkets or glassware with their wagging tails or jumping.


These giants are a hearty breed, but their short, sleek coats don’t protect them well from the cold and rain. For the most part, your Great Dane will enjoy being outside with you, playing fetch, going for long walks, or visiting the dog park.


Great Danes require moderately long walks two to three times per day, and a play session or two in the yard or a room with plenty of space. It’s important not to over-exercise Great Danes, especially when they are puppies and their bones and joints are still developing.


These hunting dogs have plenty of stamina. They will keep up with you on your walks and still have energy left over for playtime indoors.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: A healthy Great Dane will lope alongside you for a few strides, but because of joint problems in this breed, it’s important to let them decide when they feel like running and for how long.
  • Hiking Miles: Great Danes will happily hike with you for two to three miles.


Great Danes require a specialty diet for giant breed dogs, based on their size and health issues. Talk to your veterinarian about the ideal meal plan for your dog.

Alone Time

Great Danes are comfortable spending time alone, although they want it kept to a minimum. It’s important to ensure this giant breed gets outside for regular exercise and is kept mentally occupied through the day.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

7-10 years


Brush the short coat of the Great Dane every few days to get rid of shedding hair and keep it shiny. Great Danes require only occasional baths, unless they get messy outside. Trim their nails every few weeks and gently clean their ears every week to prevent wax buildup, which can lead to infection.

Common Health Issues

As a large breed, the Great Dane may have a short life span and significant health concerns, such as:

  • Bloat
  • Gastric torsion
  • Canine hip dysplasia
  • Hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Heart disease
  • Canine cancer

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Great Dane by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Great Danes are smart and eager to please, so they are easy to train as long as lessons are consistent and involve ample praise and dog treats.

Advanced Training

Great Danes usually don't have the sustained energy or interest required for agility training. They are simply too laid back. They will, however, enjoy brief backyard agility games as long as you keep them basic and appropriate for their size.

Sporting Dog Training

Though they descend from hunting dogs, modern Great Danes are too easy going to be sporting dogs. They'd much prefer a stroll to the dog park.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Great Danes.

Explore Other Breeds

No. Great Danes shed and, as a result, release pet dander into your home. Dander is the cause of most pet-related allergies.

No. Great Danes tend to be mellow dogs, though they can be overcome with bouts of rambunctiousness.

Not particularly. Great Danes are not natural swimmers. Some may enjoy playing in the water or wading in up to their chest to cool off on a hot day.

Yes. Great Danes’ gentle natures and massive size make them wonderful service dogs, especially for people with balance or anxiety issues.

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