Truly a great breed, the Great Dane—also known as the “Apollo of Dogs"—is an energetic pooch with a large frame and a larger-than-life personality. Commonly referred to as gentle giants, Great Danes have been around for more than 400 years. They originate from Germany, not Denmark, as one might think. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1887.
Great Danes descend from mastiff-like dogs originally bred by German nobles to hunt wild boar and protect country estates. Despite their towering size, this breed is popular with families thanks to their reputation for guarding the homestead and fending off burglars.
Find out everything you need to know about this hunting breed with our in-depth guide.
How much does a Great Dane cost?
If you’re planning on welcoming a new Great Dane puppy into your home, it will generally cost around $1,000–$2,000 in the US. In rare cases, pedigreed Great Danes can fetch astronomical prices, with some listed as high as $3,000 to $5,000.
It’s not uncommon for large-breed dogs to be particularly susceptible to illness and injury. When you purchase your Great Dane puppy, it’s crucial to find a reputable breeder. Responsible dog breeders will always take precautions, including genetic testing, to try and prevent major health conditions from being passed down.
Did you know the most famous member of the breed was a mystery-solving cartoon character? Yep, the great Scooby-Doo himself was a card-carrying Great Dane. In fact, Great Danes surged in popularity—by more than 20 percent!—after the Scooby-Doo franchise hit the air in 1969. That popularity reached its peak in about 1980, right around the time Scooby’s nephew Scrappy-Doo made his feisty debut.
But the breed’s popularity has actually fallen in recent years as a growing number of owners have opted for smaller, more apartment-friendly breeds. Nonetheless, Great Danes are still quite popular. In their most recent rankings, the American Kennel Club found them to be the 17th-most popular dog out of 197 breeds.
One recent analysis of Google Trends data found that Great Danes are particularly popular in southern states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. It’s not too surprising that Great Danes are abundant in high-temperature climates. Thanks to their short coats, they’re known for enjoying warm weather.
Great Dane training
Gentle, sweet, and affectionate, Great Danes love to play. Their innate desire to please can make them easy to train, but they need early socialization with people, sights, sounds, and experiences to be well-adjusted in adulthood.
Great Danes love to be where family is and will bond with anyone and everyone. They’ll even be friendly with strangers! Despite their large stature, Great Danes also get along well with children, since they’re gentler and more patient than many smaller breeds.
As an extremely gentle breed, Great Danes can also get along well with other animals—even cats! This is especially true if they’ve been raised alongside these other pets.
Because of their size, Great Danes are best suited for people who have a spacious house and large yard; they’ll need enough space to burn energy and move around without knocking anything over.
Potential bad habits
One of the main issues that Great Dane owners face is destructive chewing. Lack of exercise or proper mental stimulation can cause your furry friend to become bored and look for ways to entertain themselves; chewing is one option. The best way to combat this is to redirect them from an early age to chew toys and treats and to let them know that these are the only items they can chew on.
Great Danes also tend to pull on their leash, which can cause a little bit of difficulty. As enormous dogs who sometimes outweigh their humans, Great Danes can pull their owners around and even knock them over. As a result, it’s important to teach your puppy proper leash-walking behavior, and that not pulling is the fastest way to get to where they want to go. While training is essential for all dogs, proper leash training is even more crucial when your dog is burly enough to drag you around.
Great Dane Gender Differences
Like most dogs, female Great Danes mature faster than males and are thought to be easier to train. They’re also much better at concentrating, and their attention span lasts longer during training sessions. Females like their alone time and will often seek out places to decompress by themselves, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like spending time with their owners! They’re known to enjoy bonding and cuddling.
Female Great Danes also respond well to positive reinforcement. They can be more attentive than males and will listen closely to their owner's commands.
Female size information
Height: 28-33 inches
Weight: 99–130 pounds
Male Great Danes can be extremely affectionate and even clingy. They constantly seek validation from their owners and crave human companionship throughout the day. Male Great Danes can sometimes play rough because they aren’t fully aware of their size, but overall they’re pretty easy-going dogs that love to be a part of the family.
Like females, males are eager to please. Training them won’t be difficult when you use rewards and treats as positive reinforcement. Male Great Danes are very social dogs and will usually be happy to meet new people and other dogs.
Male size information
Height: 30–35 cm
Weight: 99–130 lbs
Great Dane breed health
With a proper diet and the right amount of exercise, it’s possible to keep your Great Dane healthy. But be aware: Great Danes do tend to suffer from more health conditions and have shorter lifespans than the average dog.
Life expectancy for Great Danes
Great Danes have a shorter lifespan compared to medium- and smaller-sized dogs. The average lifespan of a Great Dane is typically between 8 and 10 years old, but some will only live to around 6 or 7.
Common health issues in Great Danes
Because of their size, Great Danes can be prone to a few health conditions that can shorten their lifespan. Some of the most common health problems they face include:
Bloat (Gastric Dilation Volvulus/GDV)
Great Danes are susceptible to bloat (AKA gastric dilation volvulus, GDV, or gastric torsion). This dangerous and often fatal condition results in the stomach twisting and cutting off the blood supply. While veterinarians are still unsure of the primary cause, potential risk factors include feeding one large meal a day, eating rapidly, drinking large volumes of water after eating, or exercising vigorously around mealtimes. Even if your dog survives bloat, the consequences can be severe: After a dog suffers from bloat once, they’re more likely to experience the condition again.
It’s extremely important to speak with a veterinarian to discuss how to tackle this issue. Since bloat can be fatal if it’s not addressed as soon as possible, it’s important for owners to recognize the signs and seek veterinary care immediately. Potential symptoms include retching (acting as though they’re coughing/vomiting while nothing comes up), panting, pacing, inability to settle, and unwillingness to rise. In cases of full GDV, surgery is required to fix the twist in the stomach and then stitch it to the abdominal wall to prevent repeat episodes. The sooner GDV is treated by a vet, the higher the likelihood of a successful outcome.
For high-risk breeds like Great Danes, many vets will even suggest a preventative stomach-stitching procedure called “gastropexy” to help minimize the risk of severe GDV. It’s often performed at the same time as your dog’s spaying/neutering surgery.
Hip Dysplasia is a genetic condition where the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the hip joint, causing pain and lameness. An X-ray screening is the best way to diagnose the condition.Treating hip dysplasia can be quite expensive, especially when medication and supplements aren’t enough. Certain dysplasia surgeries cost as much as $3,500 per hip.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM)
It’s often said that Great Danes have big hearts — a sentiment that’s best taken literally as well as figuratively. With this progressive disease, the heart muscle gradually stretches and becomes weak, slowly losing the ability to pump blood efficiently. While genetic factors do play a big role in Great Danes’ propensity for developing DCM, nutrition can also have an impact. Regular vet visits are helpful in picking up early changes (such as a heart murmur) that may indicate whether further testing — or even a visit to a veterinary cardiologist — is warranted. Watching your pup for signs of cough, weakness, lethargy, or exercise intolerance may also indicate a heart issue.
Various prescription medications can help manage the condition, but DCM is the most common cause of fatal heart failure in Great Danes, as well as several other large-breed dogs.
Sometimes known as osteosarcoma, this is the most common type of bone tumor in dogs. It’s usually found in middle-aged or elderly dogs. However, due to their size, Great Danes can develop this condition when they’re young. The first sign of bone cancer is lameness, but your furry friend will need an X-ray to confirm that this lameness is due to cancer. Osteosarcoma is usually treated aggressively, with the amputation of the limb and chemotherapy
Unfortunately, treating cancer in dogs is very expensive. It’s not unusual for an aggressive round of cancer treatments—factoring in surgeries and chemotherapy—to cost upwards of $10,000. In such situations, dog insurance can help pet parents afford the otherwise unaffordable.
Vet tips for Great Dane owners
“Admittedly, Great Danes are one of my favorite breeds. They have the loveliest personalities and are incredibly fun to work with,” says veterinarian Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM, MRCVS.
“We adore these gentle giants and want them around as long as possible. Great Danes have some extremely serious conditions they are prone to, so I encourage owners to become familiar with signs of issues like bloat (GDV), heart disease, and lameness or limping so that if a problem does arise, they know when to seek care.”
Great Dane colors
The gentle giant of the canine world, the Great Dane, is actually a mix of three other breeds: the Mastiff, the Greyhound, and the Irish Wolfhound.
The breed standard colors for the Great Dane are:
Black & White
Caring for a Great Dane
Great Danes are large but loyal dogs who love to have their family around for company. Like most dogs, they’ll get upset if they’re left alone for extended periods of time.
Great Danes are very active and playful dogs who need plenty of exercise to keep them fit and healthy. Since they’re such large dogs, they need a lot of space both inside and outside the house.
To burn off all of their excess energy and help keep them in shape, adult Great Danes need at least an hour of exercise daily. It’s best to spread this out over the day and combine walks with off-leash exercise in secure areas.
Since Great Danes need plenty of daily exercise outdoors, you’ll need to be mindful of the weather, as these gentle giants are not immune to the cold. They were not originally bred to spend prolonged amounts of time outside, and their short coats mean that they can be quite sensitive to low temperatures.
Great Danes are most comfortable between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. They don’t do well in cold weather. If it’s below 44 degrees Fahrenheit, you may need to bring them indoors or put a jacket on them to keep them warm. This means that Great Danes may not be well suited to living in cold climates.
At the same time, while they can tolerate hotter climates, spending too much time in the hot sun can lead to dehydration, heat stroke, or sunburn. In extremely hot weather, it's wise to take them out for their daily exercise in the early morning and evening.
The right amount of food for your Great Dane will depend on various factors, such as their dietary requirements, health issues and how active they are. To keep them healthy, it’s best to consult a vet to ensure they get the necessary nutrients.
Remember that Great Danes will eat more than smaller dogs do due to their size.
They’ll continue to grow physically as a puppy until they’re around 18 months old. You’ll need to adjust their diet progressively to accommodate their changing needs. It’s important to divide their meals into at least two feedings per day rather than feeding them one big meal, which can lead to bloat.
Always make sure to measure out your dog's food and never leave food out for them (AKA free-feeding). Stick to set feeding times so their digestive system falls into a natural feeding routine.
Great Danes are notoriously avid sleepers, with puppies sleeping up to 18–20 hours a day. As for adults, they’ll spend around 12–14 hours of the day snoozing.
For elderly Great Danes, it’s not unusual for them to sleep for 16–18 hours every day.
Great Dane temperament
Despite their large frame, the Great Dane is one of the kindest dogs in the canine world. Since they have a protective nature when it comes to their family, it’s vital that your Great Dane is taught not to be aggressive. Behaviors like nipping need to be trained out of them from an early age.
Are Great Danes good with kids?
Great Danes know it’s important to be cautious around small children. But, because of their large stature, they may unintentionally swing their tail and hurt children who are too close to them.
Great Danes should therefore be socialized from an early age. Older children who can properly understand that the Dane isn’t intentionally trying to hurt them may have an easier time during this period.
How affectionate are Great Danes?
Danes are highly affectionate dogs; they’ll often behave like “lap dogs” despite their size!
They can show their affection in many ways, but mostly they’ll:
Wag their tail
Indicate that they want belly rubs
Lean against you
Follow you around
Bring you their favorite toys
“Smile” at you
How territorial are Great Danes?
Since they were originally bred to be hunting dogs, Great Danes have a powerful guarding instinct. They can be highly protective of their people and their property. If a person or animal they don’t recognize threatens their home or space, they may defend themselves.
How friendly are Great Danes with other dogs?
Great Danes have a reputation for being friendly with other dogs, regardless of their breed or size.
Still, in most cases it’s best to keep your Great Dane on a leash when they’re interacting with other dogs. Most Danes don’t recognize their size and strength, which can sometimes result in accidents or injuries to other dogs, even if your gentle giant is just trying to be friendly.
Will Great Danes tolerate other pets?
When properly introduced or raised alongside other pets in the household—even cats!—Great Danes can get along pretty well with them
Small dogs or other pets should be introduced with proper care and supervision, as the Dane can unintentionally hurt them when trying to play.
How much attention do Great Danes need?
Great Danes form such a strong bond with their owners that they may not cope with being alone for long periods of time. They crave attention and human interaction.
To keep them from developing separation anxiety and engaging in destructive behaviors, you should never leave a Great Dane alone for more than four hours. This breed won’t do very well with owners who work long hours and may be out of the house for a large portion of the day.
Great Dane coat and grooming tips
Great Danes require a bit of grooming but are generally clean and easy to care for.
The Great Dane has a short, smooth coat that doesn’t provide much protection in cold weather. Even though they only have a single coat, the Dane is considered to be a moderate-to-heavy shedder. A big reason for this is their sheer size. Their hair loss will be more profuse during the shedding seasons, which come twice a year. During this time, daily brushing is recommended.
Since they can spend a lot of their day outside, they can get dirty pretty quickly. It’s important to make sure their coat is clean after every adventure.
How often to groom a Great Dane
Great Danes require regular bathing and grooming; however, this can change depending on how active they are.
They can be washed as frequently as every week, up to no longer than every six weeks, depending on their activity levels. With this smooth-coated breed, regular bathing is essential to minimize shedding and help maintain a healthy coat and skin.
Are Great Danes hypoallergenic?
No, Great Danes are not considered a hypoallergenic dog breed. However, their short coat tends to cause fewer allergic reactions.
Great Dane barking
The Great Dane has a very loud, deep, far-carrying bark and is considered a very vocal breed.
The Great Dane isn’t afraid to use his bark to communicate and will do so for just about any reason. They’ve been known to bark when they’re hungry, bored, lonely, want to exercise, or if they spot something out of the ordinary outside.
The breed is naturally communicative and boisterous in their youth, meaning that they can sometimes become easily excited and show this with sharp yaps or a loud bark.
Great Dane popularity
Frequently asked questions about Great Danes
How Fast Can a Great Dane Run?
Great Danes are known to push their bodies to the limit in short bursts, but aren’t very good at running long distances. A fully grown Great Dane can reach top speeds of 30 mph.
Are Great Danes Smart Dogs?
Great Danes can be stubborn, but they are an intelligent breed who learn quickly.