If one looks at their pictures it might not be hard to imagine that the Great Dane was once used to hunt large game and at times accompanied warriors into battle. Spend time in their company though, and it is hard to imagine that today’s Dane has much besides size in common with those ancient ancestors.
While the history of the breed is debatable the breed as we currently know it developed in Germany where it is known as the Deutsche Dogge. The Dogge’s ancestors were known as fierce boar hunters but these days the breed is known to be good with other animals.
These are also excellent family dogs as a general rule. Some blood lines are known to be a bit prone to shyness and socialization from a young age is important. These are very people orientated dogs and can develop separation anxiety if left alone too often for too long.
Danes are not suited to living outside — these dogs are the ultimate couch potatoes even though they do need daily exercise.
A proper diet is important as this breed is slow to physically mature. One also has to be cautious about not exercising Danes immediately after feeding and making sure they do not bolt their food, as this breed is more susceptible to bloat and gastrointestinal twisting.
While there are a range of coat colors possible in the breed, the most common practice is to breed particular coat colors in isolation from other colors:
fawn and brindle
blue and black
harlequin and mantle (also known as Boston.)
Breeders will sometimes need to breed outside of a dog’s ‘normal’ color group in order to maintain a bloodline that is inline with the breed standard; this may produce an unusually marked pup or puppies that may or may not be suitable for the show ring and breeding.
When I was a child the Irish Wolfhound was considered the tallest breed of dog and was generally at least several inches or centimeters taller than the Great Dane as a breed.
There has become a strong market though for over-sized Great Danes. It has become common for individual Great Danes to be the world record holders (according to Guinness World Records) as the tallest living dog. With this exaggerated size comes increased likelihood of joint and other health problems, including heart failure.
A healthy, “normal” sized Great Dane can live 7 – 10 years and some individuals do live longer. Diet, exercise and genetics all play a role in how long an individual dog will live. However long a Great Dane graces one’s life it is said that if you’ve lived with one you will never be satisfied with any other breed.
This is a breed where adoption is always an option. I suggest working with a reputable local rescue or breed specific rescue when adopting a Great Dane; personality and health issues are something to be aware of up front when bringing such a large individual in to join your family. There is always an amazing Great Dane looking for a new home in rescue and the Great Dane rescue network will often help relocate an individual to the right home.