Great Dane

Great Dane

Group: Working Group
Origin: Germany
Male: No less than 30 inches (76cm) at the shoulders. Preferred height is 32 inches (81cm) or more
Female: No less than 28 inches (71cm) at the shoulders. Preferred height is 30 inches (76cm) or more

Male: Approximately ranging from 140 to 175 pounds
Female: Approximately ranging from 110 to 140 pounds

Great Dane
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Breed Profile

The Great Dane’s original purpose was to hunt wild boar, however, today he is a companion, show dog and protector. The Great Dane is a wonderful family dog. He is affectionate, loyal, devoted and a good guardian. The Dane is very people-oriented and needs to be made a part of the family. This is not a breed that does well in a kennel situation nor should he be left outdoors for extended periods of time. Besides their need for human companionship, the coat is insufficient to keep them warm in the winter in colder climates.

The Great Dane, known as the Apollo of Dogs, is a calm and well-balanced dog. He is spirited, courageous, always friendly and never timid or aggressive. He has a natural suspicion toward strangers making him a good protector of home and family. The Great Dane if raised with children is usually very gentle; however, due to his size and as can happen with any dog, accidental injuries can occur and small children should never be left unattended. His appearance is one of dignity, elegance, strength and power. His gait is compared to that of a Thoroughbred horse with his long, easy strides.

The Great Dane’s coat is smooth, glossy, very short and thick. Coat colours are:

  • Brindle — With a base colour ranging from light golden yellow to golden yellow with strong black cross stripes;
  • Fawn — Ranging from golden yellow to deep golden yellow with a black mask;
  • Blue — This should be a pure steel blue without any tinge of yellow, black or mouse grey;
  • Black — glossy black;
  • Harlequin — A pure white base colour with black torn patches distributed over the entire body;
  • Boston or Black Mantled — A black and white dog with black mantle extending over the body, a white blaze or muzzle or both, white chest, white on part or whole of the forelegs and hind legs, part or whole white collar, and white tipped tail.

As a boar hunter, tradionally, the Great Dane’s ears were cropped to help prevent them from being shredded by the boar’s long, sharp tusks during a hunt. Today, however, ears may be cropped or left uncropped. In North America, breeds that traditionally have ears cropped and tails docked can be shown either way. In many European countries including the Kennel Club in the UK, ear cropping and tail docking is no longer allowed. For more information on ear cropping and tail docking see:


A Brief History of the Great Dane

While some believe that the Great Dane’s origins include a combination of Irish Wolfhound and Old English Mastiff, others believe the Greyhound and Tibetan Mastiff were involved in the breed’s development. Drawings of dogs resembling Great Danes have been found on Egyptian monuments dating back to 3,000 B.C. and artifacts in Babylonian temples from about 2,000 B.C. also depict Dane-like dogs resembling today’s Great Dane. Some believe that the breed originated in Tibet where literature from 1121 B.C. describes dogs similar in type to the Great Dane. However, the Great Dane, or Deutsche Dogge, as he is known today is said to have originated in Germany.

For some time, these “mastiff” type dogs were selectively bred in several countries and were known by many different names. In Germany, where they were used to hunt wild boar and as estate guard dogs, they became the country’s national dog in 1870. By 1880, a meeting was held in Berlin where judges and breeders agreed that the breed as developed by the Germans was a distinct breed and would therefore be known as the Deutsche Dogge (German Dog). During the mid-1800’s fanciers in the United States began importing dogs mostly from Germany and, by 1891, the Great Dane Club of America had been formed.

The breed today is known by several names. While it did not originate in Denmark, most English speaking countries use the name “Great Dane”. In several central European countries, it is recognized as the “Deutsche Dogge”, except in France where it is known as both the “Dogue Allemand” and the “Danois.” In Holland, it is referred to as the “Duitse Dogge” and the “Deense Dogge” and in Italy it is named the “Alano.”

For more information on the history of the breed:


Health Issues

Unfortunately, in general the Great Dane breed has a relatively short life span, typically about 7 to 10 years. As with all breeds of dogs, the Great Dane is predisposed to certain health problems. Some of these include:

  • Gastric Torsion (bloat) — According to the Great Dane Club of America, Bloat is the number one killer of Great Danes and Great Danes are the number one breed at risk for bloat. Bloat is a condition caused by a twisting of the stomach and thus trapping the stomach contents and gases resulting in a rapid swelling of the abdomen accompanied by pain and eventual death if untreated. It is an emergency, requiring immediate veterinary action. This condition is most often found in large, deep chested dog breeds. For additional information, see: Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) – Bloat and First Aid for Bloat prepared by: Siefried Zahn D.V.M
  • Cancer — As with many breeds as well as mixed breeds, Great Danes can suffer from a variety of Cancers. The two forms most commonly seen in the Great Dane are Osteosarcoma and Lymphoma. These along with Heart Disease and Bloat are the leading cause of death in the Great Dane.
  • Heart Disease — The Great Dane can suffer from a variety of heart diseases as well as congenital heart defects including Dilated Cardiomyopaty (DCM), Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) and others. See Heart Disease in the Great Dane: Cardiomyopathy and Congenital Disease from the GDCA for futher details.
  • Hip Dysplasia — Canine Hip Dysplasia is a very common disorder in many large breed dogs and can result in debilitating orthopaedic disease of the hip. It is caused when the femoral head does not fit properly in the hip socket, causing instability of the joint. Over time, this malformation can cause degenerative joint disease which causes increased pain and immobility.
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Wobbler’s Syndrome (CVI) — (CVI: Cervical Vertebral Instability) — Symptoms of Wobbler’s Syndrome in the Great Dane usually appear between the age of 3 and 18 months, and include weakness, uncoordination and confusion (ataxia). These symptoms generally worsen over several months and, with time, an affected dog may develop a stiff, high-stepping, and exaggerated gait that gradually worsens. This is a painful condition caused by an abnormality of the spine. It is a chronic, progressive disease and, without treatment, the dog’s condition will deteriorate.

If you are considering the adoption of a Great Dane puppy, or any breed, it is very important to be selective in choosing a responsible and reputable breeder. Ensure that the prospective puppy’s parents have all health clearances. Breeding of any dog should not be done until after they have been proven to be free of evidence of significant hereditary diseases. The Great Dane Club of America (GDCA) Code of Ethics strongly recommends that all breeding dogs be x-rayed prior to breeding and found free of hip dysplasia by a knowledgeable Veterinarian or the OFA. In addition, any and all technology available should be used to screen all breeding dogs for any known problems within the breed (e.g. OFA, cardiac check, thyroid check, vWD, PRA, etc.). (For more information on selecting a breeder, see the articles on the main General Information page.)

Additional Health Resources:


Grooming Information

  • Grooming — This section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website includes tips, articles and information covering all aspects of dog grooming along with a listing of Groomers from across Canada.


Training Resources

The Great Dane has a natural instinct to protect. Generally, the Dane’s size alone is enough of a deterrent and intimidation and there is no need to encourage over-protection or aggressiveness. Early socialization and proper training is highly recommended for this breed.

  • Training — For training information, see this growing section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website for tips, articles, as well as listings of training centres across Canada.


Additional Information

  • Before You Choose a Great Dane
  • Is a Dane Right for You? — From Danes in Distress
  • — The site includes information on health, nutrition, and general care for the Great Dane.
  • DaDane Links — Over 1000 links, including health and welfare, breeding and genetics, clubs and organizations, rescue resources, breeder directories and personal pet sites
  • Clubs, Sports & Activities — For information on the many sports and activities you can get involved in with your dog.
  • Working Dogs — The Working Dogs section of the Canada’s Guide to Dogs website provides information and listings of organizations that are involved in various dog jobs, such as Guide Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Police Dogs, Protection Dogs, and much more.

*NOTE 1: CHIC – The Canine Health Information Center “is a database of consolidated health screening results from multiple sources. Co-sponsored by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Health Foundation, CHIC works with parent clubs to identify health screening protocols appropriate for individual breeds. Dogs tested in accordance with the parent club established requirements, that have their results registered and made available in the public domain are issued CHIC numbers.” To learn more, visit:

*NOTE 2: The Fédération Cynologique International (FCI) is the World Canine Organization, which includes 91 members and contract partners (one member per country) that each issue their own pedigrees and train their own judges. The FCI recognizes 344 breeds, with each being the “property” of a specific country. The “owner” countries write the standards of these breeds in co-operation with the Standards and Scientific Commissions of the FCI, and the translation and updating are carried out by the FCI. The FCI is not a breed registry nor does it issue pedigrees.

Breed Listing

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