What to Know About Great Danes

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on April 08, 2022
7 min read

Originating in Germany about 400 years ago, the Great Dane was originally bred for hunting wild boars and deer. The Great Danes also served as estate guards. 

Today, the Great Dane is a companion for its owners. Exhibiting qualities, such as playfulness and confidence, the Great Dane is a good domestic dog, especially for homes with children. Since the breed is mild-mannered, it's easy to train and get along with. 

The Great Dane is a German dog breed that's a cross between the Old English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound. Due to this, the Great Dane is also called the German Mastiff. 

Great Danes are known for their height and big bodies. Being one of the tallest dog breeds in the world, the Great Dane can stand as tall as 100 centimeters. Despite their big stature, the breed is friendly and loves getting physical affection from humans. 


The Great Dane has a smooth coat with a short length. The shedding level is somewhat moderate, but you can still expect to find hair around your house. Likewise, the breed drools heavily, so it's good to have a towel around. 

The Great Dane requires monthly coat grooming. Other Great Dane characteristics to note are the coat color and markings. The standard coat colors are black, black and white, brindle, fawn, merle, silver, or mantle. 

Most Great Danes also have white or black markings on their skin. 

How big does a Great Dane get? The average height for males is 30 inches to 32 inches, while that of females is 28 inches to 30 inches. The average weight for males is 140 pounds to 175 pounds, while that of females is 110 pounds to 140 pounds. 

The Great Dane lifespan is around seven to 10 years. 


The Great Dane personality is quite friendly. They also have a moderate trainability level, which makes them good pets. Since they have high energy levels, they're fun to have around kids. 

They also have high mental stimulation needs. You'll have to keep them busy with activities. As Great Danes are athletic, active, and energetic, keeping them busy isn't exactly hard. 

However, do note that the Great Dane may be rowdy, especially during their younger years. The breed is also prone to unusual chewing behaviors and separation anxiety. 

If you don't train them for social interactions, they may become snappy or aggressive.


The Great Dane is moderately social, which means if you train them well, they'll become friends with everyone easily. They're also very playful and active, allowing them to interact with other dogs and humans comfortably. 

Since the Great Dane is highly vigilant and active, they perform watchdog duties perfectly. They also adapt quickly to new places, things, and activities. 

Due to the well-mannered and friendly Great Dane temperament, it is simple to look after the breed. Great Dane care includes dental hygiene, ear cleaning, exercise, and good nutrition. 

The Great Dane does not have high grooming needs, so you should only have to brush their coat every month or every week if needed. 

The breed also has good teeth, so brushing them twice a week should keep your pet's dental health in check. You should also clean their ears every week. 

Since the Great Dane is an athletic and active breed, keeping them occupied is essential. Otherwise, your pet might get bored. Great Danes also have high prey drives. So, when you take your pet out for a walk, keep them on a leash. Your home should have a sturdy fence too. 

Great Danes are also at a high risk of joint problems. It's best to give your pet a soft bed to prevent any early joint issues. 

Feed the Great Dane based on their age and avoid feeding them human food. You can consult their veterinarian for more information on this. 

Even if you choose to feed table scraps to your Great Dane, avoid giving them high-fat foods or cooked bones. Bloat is very common in Great Danes and is the top cause of death in the breed. Although the causes aren't understood, vets agree that you should feed small meals to your pet every day to prevent bloat. 

The Great Dane is naturally active, so they know how to get their daily workout. You should make sure, though, that your dog exercises daily. 

While exercising is good for the Great Dane, your pet should not exercise heavily around mealtimes. This can increase the chance of bloating, which is life-threatening in Great Danes. 

Great Dane care also includes taking your pet for regular health tests. It will ensure early detection in case your dog is sick. 

  • Hip evaluation 
  • Thyroid tests 
  • Cardiac exam 

Consult your vet if you see any questionable changes in your dog or have particular concerns. These are just a few concerning signs that require medical attention:

  • Mental dullness or laziness 
  • Scaly or dry skin with hairless patches on the paws or face 
  • Unusual weight gain and sluggish behavior 
  • Change in appetite 
  • Bad breath, broken teeth, or red gums 
  • Excessive aggression or fearfulness 

The Great Dane lifespan is comparable to most other breeds, but they are prone to specific health issues that owners should know about. Most diseases that affect the Great Danes are genetic. While the Great Dane may be at high risk of these diseases, that does not mean that every dog will experience them. 

Heart Disease

The Great Dane sports the nickname the Heartbreak breed because it is prone to a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. As a result of this condition, the heart becomes so thin, weak, and large that it cannot pump blood to the dog's body properly. 

As the disease gets more serious, the Great Dane may become tired and weak. They may also have labored breathing and faint. 

The common treatment for this condition includes dietary supplements and medication. You should take your Great Date for an echocardiogram every year. The vet will look at the dog's electrical heart screening to see if there's anything to worry about. 


Cancer affects many dogs in their old age, but Great Dane characteristics make them prone to cancer in youth. It's important to detect cancer early to provide the best treatment to your dog. 

The common treatments are chemotherapy and surgical removal of the tumor. When you take your pet to the vet for the annual checkup, they will look for lumps and conduct blood tests. The vet will use the results of these tests to make further deductions. 

Lymphoma is a type of cancer more common in Great Danes than other dogs. In this cancer, the body starts producing abnormal white blood cells called lymphocytes. As blood is present everywhere in the body, lymphoma may appear anywhere. 

Another cancer that affects the Great Dane is osteosarcoma. It's a bone cancer that affects large breed dogs more commonly than smaller breeds. Since the tumor can be very aggressive and painful, early detection is important. 

A part of Great Dane care is taking your pet to the vet for a checkup every six months or annually. If your Great Dane doesn't want to play anymore or is less active than usual, you should take them to the vet. 

If you notice that your pet is limping or has leg pain, that could be an early symptom of osteosarcoma. Other symptoms of osteosarcoma are lameness, swelling in the leg, lethargy, and loss of appetite. 

Osteosarcomas mostly affect the radius or ulna above the front knee, the tibia below the hind knee, or the femur above the hind knee. Bone cancer can also affect your dog's hip. 


One of the Great Dane's characteristics is its narrow and deep chest. Due to this, the breed is prone to bloating. The stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. If bloat is not treated on time, it can kill your dog in under an hour in some cases. 

If your dog lies down in the prayer position or acts restless, it may be bloating. You might notice an enlargement of their stomach. Depending on your dog's condition, the doctor may conduct preventive surgery. 

In this procedure, they suture the stomach in place so that it cannot twist on itself. 

Since Great Danes are powerful and large, obedience training is important. Owners should start socializing Great Danes to people and places gently. 

Expose the puppy to different situations, places, and people. Great Danes are generally sociable, so they respond well to training. They also need human contact and affection. 

If you train your Great Dane well, they will be great with other pets and humans.

The Great Danes are a German breed. Their German name is Deutsche Dog, which translates to German Dog. Back in the day, Great Danes helped German nobles hunt wild boars. Later, they became watchdogs for their families. 

Some Egyptian monuments from 3,000 BC show dogs resembling Great Danes in height and form. These dogs were also seen in Germany and Austria in the 18th century. The University of Copenhagen Zoological Museum also has seven skeletons of large hunting dogs from thousands of years ago. 

It's possible that the Great Danes were bred to have the same features and characteristics as those hunting dogs.