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The Great Dane

Learn about great Danes and their general characteristics.

At, we feel strongly about pet adoption. If you are considering getting a purebred Great Dane, we recommend you check at local shelters or with breed-specific rescue groups first.

Please keep in mind that the information regarding the health and personality characteristics of the Great Dane listed within this article is general only and may not apply to individual animals.

General Physical Characteristics of Great Danes

Great Danes are enormous. They can reach up to 175 pounds. When they are puppies, they are often clumsy and prone to knocking things over, including kids. That isn't because they're trying to be destructive—it's because they don't know their own size and are still working on learning coordination.

The Great Dane breed originated in Denmark and, while their entire genetic history isn't known, it's thought that their mix of ancestor breeds includes Irish wolfhounds, mastiffs, and greyhounds. Great Danes were originally bred to help hunt wild boars and later became property guards.

Great Danes can come in many colors, including fawn, blue, harlequin, and brindle.

General Personality Characteristics of Great Danes

In general, Great Danes are gentle, calm, and goofy. They are often called gentle giants, but they are natural guard dogs that can be protective of their people and territory. Most Great Danes love children and get along well with other dogs, but some of them can be aggressive toward other dogs, and many of them chase cats.

Because of their enormous size, it is even more critical to train and socialize your Great Dane properly. As a puppy, you must insist that they do not jump on people because, as an adult, they can easily hurt people by doing so. Even as a younger dog, a Great Dane can injure children by jumping on them.

Great Danes are family dogs that can be quite active and enjoy going for walks and exercising with the family or can be happy lounging around the home.

Health Characteristics of Great Danes

Great Danes don't require much in the way of grooming—weekly brushing, routine nail trimming, regular toothbrushing, and possibly regular ear cleaning will handle most of their needs.

However, some health conditions are more common in Great Danes and other breeds. Those include:

  • GDV: this is a condition during which the stomach can fill with air and then twist, and it is a serious emergency condition. You can learn more about it here: "Bloat in Dogs: Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)."
  • Cardiomyopathy: this condition is an enlarged heart that can result in congestive heart failure.
  • Hip Dysplasia: this condition is a genetic malformation of the hip socket that can result in chronic crippling lameness. Learn more here: "Hip Dysplasia in Dogs."
  • Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy: this is a condition that occurs in puppies and has to do with a Great Dane's fast growth. It can cause pain and lameness. Learn more: "Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy in Dogs."
  • Cancer: the number one type of cancer in Great Danes is bone cancer.

While it is impossible to tell if any individual Great Dane will have one or more of these conditions, if you are getting a puppy from a breeder, be sure to ask about the presence of these diseases in their bloodlines.

Great Danes can make fabulous family pets if you're aware of some of their specific needs.

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