First Time Great Dane Owner Checklist – an Overview

You’ve been waiting for this day. You’re driving home with a fury little bundle of joy snuggled up in your lap and it hits you… “I don’t know the first thing about potty training a puppy, much less a Great Dane puppy! What’s the best food for a Great Dane Puppy? How much do they eat? Will I break it!?” All the questions and insecurities hit you like a 50 lb. bag of kibble.

It’s true that there’s a lot to know and learn but don’t be overwhelmed, you’ll figure it out and below is a quick overview of the high points for bringing home your first Great Dane puppy.

Bringing Your Puppy Home

It’s a big day for you and your family but don’t forget – this is a big day for the puppy as well. This little life has only been around for a couple months and it’s likely that they’ve never traveled away from the breeder’s home. You’ll be introducing them to a new environment filled with new sights, sounds and smells.

To help the puppy transition, ask the breeder to give you a small blanket or towel that has been in their den with their mother and siblings. The scent on this blanket will be helpful during this time of transition. We call it their “baby blanket.”

Lucy coming home in our daughter’s lap.

If you have a kennel that will fit in your vehicle it is recommended that the dog travel in it. But to be honest the kennel (or crate as we call it) has never worked for us. We started home with our first Dane (Abby) in the crate but after she started with the pathetic whimpering and whining we pulled over and she finished the ride home in our daughter’s lap, snuggly wrapped in her baby blanket.

A laundry basket can serve nicely as a puppy bassinet if your puppy is docile or sleepy, but if your new puppy is awake and wound up requiring something more like hand-to-hand combat, the laundry basket will not work as well as the kennel.

This reminds me of an important point. Always bring someone with you when you pick up your puppy. The puppy will require some focused attention during its first car ride to keep it calm, comfortable and under control. Trying to drive home alone with a new puppy would bring a new definition to the term, “distracted driving.”

Puppy-proofing the House

Before you leave to pick up your new puppy you’ll want to spend some time “puppy-proofing” your house. If you already have small children in your house you’re probably already pretty close to puppy-proof.

You don’t need to puppy-proof the whole house!

I’ve often said that having a Great Dane puppy is similar to having a very athletic toddler in your home.

Sometimes Abby needed a break from the new puppy. The gate helped Abby get some alone time.

The first thing to understand is that you don’t need to puppy-proof the whole house! You’ll want to section off a portion of the house for the puppy to stay until it earns the right to have the run of the house. For us this required purchasing a couple of baby gates to keep Lucy in the kitchen and family room.

Since these gates might be up for a couple years I suggest getting something that’s easy to operate and looks nice. (We use the one in this picture. It’s metal and was pressure fit so it didn’t leave any screw holes when it was time to come down.)

Inside the cordoned off “puppy-zone” you want to:

  • Remove any fragile objects from coffee tables or end tables
  • Make sure there are no accessible electrical cords
  • Provide a bed or blanket to lay on
  • Provide several chew toys
  • Remove all shoes!

If at all possible a hard floor surface is best (for obvious reasons). Which brings us to the next topic.

Potty Training Your Puppy

There have been volumes of material written on this topic. Let’s just take a quick look at the basics.

The first things you’ll need are patience, and an equal portion of diligence. Up till now if they had to go – they went, whenever and wherever they were! They now need to learn that there’s a time and place for everything– a very specific time and place.

There are a few elements to process of Potty Training.

Confinement

The first step is confinement. Puppies will not normally potty in their crate, unless the crate is too big. If the crate is too large your puppy will simply use one end of the crate as a bathroom and sleep in the other. Since you probably have a large crate in anticipation of the future size your Dane, you will want to make the crate smaller by moving the back wall forward or creating a partition to reduce the accessible space.

Consistent Routine

Puppies learn well with routine. Develop a routine for going outside to go potty.

With Lucy the first thing we did when we woke up in the morning – we’d go outside to go potty. As soon as we got out of the crate – we’d go outside to go potty. As soon we were finished eating – we’d go outside to go potty – every time.

Lucy is now five years old and still to this day as soon as she’d done eating she will go stand by the back door and wait to be let out. They learn well with a consistent routine.

Eagle Eye

Whenever your puppy is out of their crate you need to be watching – watching closely – watching for that body language that says, “I’m about to do it.” If you see them starting to strike-the-pose, or if they’ve already started, immediately pick them up and take them outside.

You will quickly learn what to look for, and will develop cat-like reflexes (maybe that’s not the best analogy in this context) in your ability to jump and run your puppy outside.

Dogs instinctively want to please you. They will first learn that you make a big deal when they potty inside the house. They will also learn that they get praised when they potty outside the house.

Praise

Be sure to offer abundant, enthusiastic praise when they potty in the right place. Praise is your best tool. Your tone of voice and body language also are key. It makes no difference what you say, it’s all about HOW you say it.

Praise is your best tool!

As I’ve mentioned in other articles Lucy is not food driven, rather she’s praise driven. As positive reinforcement she would much rather have a happy ear rub accompanied by some happy words of encouragement than any tasty treat.

Don’t Freak Out!

Accidents happen, and they WILL happen. This is where we use the flip-side of praise. Drop your voice and let them know you’re disappointed but not angry. Don’t yell or get loud and of course never hit your puppy for having an accident in the house.

You want your dog to respect you but not be afraid of you. You are the Alpha – the leader of the pack. You can let them know you’re in charge without frightening them.

Once they have received the message that what they did was not OK, you can resume normal happy puppy talk. Don’t linger on the event.

Feeding the Puppy

Much can be said on this topic as well, but there are a couple things that are unique to a Great Dane puppy.

No Puppy Food!

This may sound strange but DO NOT feed your Great Dane puppy with “puppy food.” One of the fascinating things about a Great Dane is how fast they grow.

DO NOT feed your Great Dane puppy with “puppy food.”

Typical puppy food has additives to help a dog grow fast. Danes grow plenty fast on their own, they don’t need any help in that area. In fact, if a Great Dane is fed traditional puppy food they will grow too fast causing issues with their bones and joints.

Ask your breeder what they’ve been feeding them up to this point. If possible try to match what they’ve been eating, at least for a little while. Make any food changes gradually.

No Rough Play After Eating

Great Danes are prone to a condition called gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) which is way too hard to say (much less spell), so it’s commonly referred to as bloat. Bloat happens when the stomach get flipped, twisting and blocking the intestines, which leads to shock and rapid death.

Nap time.

So, it’s kind of a big deal to not let your puppy play rough, especially rolling around after eating. As a rule-of-thumb we say no rough play for 60 minutes after eating. A good after meal activity would be a quick cuddle or short nap.

We started Lucy with 1/4 cup brown (or white) rice and a 1/4 cup of ground chicken mixed with 1 1/2 cup of adult Eagle Natural Rice and Lamb formula. As she grew we weaned her of the chicken and rice. (OK, not all the way off – we still give her a little chicken on top of her food but we don’t need to grind it up any more.)

The main thing is to avoid traditional puppy food and talk to your breeder to get feeding recommendations to start.

Exercise

Exercise is important for your new puppy but don’t over do. We already talked about how fast they grow, but it can take 18 to 24 months for their growth plates to close.

Growth plates are areas of soft tissue at the ends of their long bones. These areas generate cells that add length and strength to your pups bones. Until these plates stabilize too much running or jumping can cause permanent damage to bones and joints, and nobody wants that.

So avoid repetitive activity like jogging for extended periods of time or jumping from high spots. Understanding that “high” is a relative term, avoid letting them jump off chairs or the couch until they can do it without a big impact. It won’t be long until they will simply step off the couch.

Walks on leash are good, but no extended running until they’re two years old.

Take your puppy for short walks on a leash throughout the day. This is good exercise and will start to familiarize them with the whole “leash” thing. If you’re a runner I know you’d like to take your puppy on runs with you, but you’ll need to wait until they’re two years old for that.

Great Dane puppies like to explore and engage in their surroundings. If you give them plenty of things to engage with it will help keep them from “engaging” with things they shouldn’t (like your shoes, or the table leg).

The Puppy Playground at our breeder, Von Sheer Great Danes

Our breeder creates a pupply-playgound filled with lots of fun things to explore. Many of the toys she uses are regular baby or toddler toys. It’s so much fun to watch a new litter romp in this playground. You might consider visiting the local thrift store to find some toddler toys

Puppies will play in short bursts, then, as if someone hit the off switch, it’s nap time. Let them play when they want but don’t force long play sessions. When it’s nap time – it’s nap time.

The Bottom Line

So don’t freak out, you’ll do fine and just remember a few high points:

  • Get a baby blanket from the breeder
  • Create a “puppy zone” in your home
  • Adjust the size of your crate for effective potty training
  • Don’t feed regular puppy food
  • Exercise is needed but don’t over do.

There are lots of resources out there with tons of information. We at DaneStuff strive to bring you the best information possible combined with our personal experience. You can always come back here for more info. If you have questions or would like to see an article on a specific topic please let us know. You can leave a comment below or use our Contact Us page.

We’d love to hear from you – remember we’re in this together.

16 comments on “First Time Great Dane Owner Checklist – an Overview

  1. Jen

    Wow, you’re right! I wonder how they potty train little puppies. That is a great idea to give them a baby blanket so at least they have something to remind them of their original home. That gate looks like a great idea. Definitely make sure to remove all breakable and damageable items and remove all electrical cords. That is great advice. Thanks so much for helping us know what to do to take care of our puppy.

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Puppies are a ton of fun – but they’re also a lot of work. However I think they are worth the effort.

      Great Danes introduce so unique challenges, the gate is helpful to keep them in the “puppy safe zone” until they learn how to behave in the house.

      Reply
  2. Aly

    This is fantastic information to know when bringing home a Great Dane puppy. I would imagine that you are correct about it being similar to having a very athletic toddler in the house! It’s great to see the tips for potty training, as that always seems like the toughest part for so many new pet owners. Each dog has their own specific tells, and it helps to have that eagle-eye looking out and ready for them! Also, thanks for the tip regarding puppy food… that one was a big surprise!!

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      The food thing is a big one for Great Danes feeding regular puppy food and cause some real problems.

       The potty training is one of the biggest challenges with a new puppy and these tips will work for any dog.

      Glad you found this helpful. Let us know if you have any questions or would like to see an article on any other specific topic.

      All the best!

      Reply
  3. Bill Gluth

    What a great article. As a long-time dog owner and former dog trainer, breed-specific information on day-one at home and raising a puppy is very helpful. In fact, anytime I’ve gotten a puppy, I always look up breed-specific informatoin for brining home, raising and training. 

    I have known a couple of Great Danes but never owned one. What do you find is the best training method to use with these gentle giants. They are so mellow, I would think a treat or reward-based training is best at puppyhood and beyond. What training method have you found works well for training Great Danes?

    Again, great info for anyone considering a Great Dane puppy.

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Bill,

      Thanks for your insights – as a trainer I’m sure you’ve seen your share of puppy issues.

      We always take our puppies to training between 2-4 months of age. It’s especially important for large breeds to be well behaved  – for their safety and the safety of others.

      Treat/reward-based training works well. Our last two Great Danes responded very well to food treats. Lucy has been different. She is not food-driven. If I give her a treat she might eat it or she might take it politely, then drop it on the floor and walk away. – It’s weird!

      So with Lucy I use praise. She is a gentle soul that response to emotional treats, or discipline. All I have to do is drop the tone of my voice and she knows she messed up. And the best treat for her is my happy enthusiastic voice with a hug and ear rub. They’re all different.

      Thanks again for visiting. I will always welcome your professional insights.

      Reply
  4. Jordan Smith

    My Puppy is 8 months old. It wees inside the home. I feel bad. My parents use stick when it does so. I need my doggy to wee out side the home. I use to be very embarrassed, I believe this guide will go a long way on what to do. If all goes well, I might not be able to thank you enough. The other points will definitely help too.

    Regards!

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Jordan – I do hope this helps. It’s best if you can catch your dog in the act and correct them by immediately taking them outside. If we discipline them after the fact, they may not connect the discipline with their behavior. This is why watching them very closely when they are not in their crate is very important.

      And of course, LOTS of praise when they go wee outside! Dogs like to please us – the praise will go a long way.

      Come back and let me know how it goes.

      Remember we’re in this together.

      Reply
  5. Anthony Hu

    Thank you for your post. It is informative and helpful for anyone who is planning to have puppy. We don’t have dog right now, but my wife and I are plan to get one next year.

    Your article is very useful for us. I particularly like the training part. Looks like it is an art and psychology class. I definitely need a lot of knowledge on this. I have some time to adopt a puppy and would like to some book on dog training. Do you recommendation on such book?

    I just think that we are going to have a lot of fun to play with the dog and forget that there is so much work associated with the fun.

    It is kind of you sharing this useful information with us.

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Training can be tricky, and every dog is a little different. It can be a lot like psychology class. 

      There is a lot of work involved with a new puppy. It’s best to not get one unless you can be home with it for at least the first year. But rewards are priceless!

      Reply
  6. Queen

    Oh this is such a comprehensive article or should I call it a guide.

    You have just eliminated my fears and worries as to how we will handle things with Rosy, the little Dane that is coming home to us in a few days time…

    The idea of getting something of hers that she is familiar with is a really great idea, it will surely make her have that feel of homeliness.

    And about their dietary need, it’s really good to learn more about what to feed them with, will surely ask the breeders what they feed them and start out with that.

    I guess for me, puppy-proofing the house is the easiest part of this checklist. But I do believe we will do fine.

    will always pop in here if I need help along the way.

    Thanks so much for sharing this…

    Cheers

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Queen,

      I’m glad you found this helpful! I’m excited and a little jealous that you’re getting a new puppy soon.

      The “baby blanket” is a big help getting them acclimated to new surroundings.

      Please feel free to stop by anytime and message me if you have any specific questions or topics for which you’d like to see another article.

      I love to see some pictures of Rosie when you get her. You can send me pictures through the upload link at the bottom of this page. With your permission I’ll add them to the picture collection of Lucy’s Friends.

      I look forward to hearing how it goes with Rosie.

      You’re not alone – We’re in this together!

      Reply
  7. shirian

    Hi,Thanks for this informative post about “first time great dane” new comer lovely dogs. I did not know about gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) at all. I got surprise!.You’ve mentioned about body language in which I am totally agree about that.I actually went trough your link to see the Summer Infant Multi-Use Deco Extra Tall Walk-Thru Gate .I think it meets my need and suits to my lovely dog. I would like to say many thanks for valuable information you are offering on your site.
    Warm Regards

    Reply
    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Shirian,

      Yes, GDV (or Bloat) is a real problem with Danes. We have to be extra careful with them around feeding time.  I’m glad you found this info helpful. 

      Do you have a Great Dane or a different breed? If you send me pictures I can add them to the collection of Lucy’s Friends at this link. scroll to the bottom of that page for an upload link.

      Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

      Reply

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