Great Dane Life Span – What You Can Expect

No one likes to think about this, but with a giant breed it’s something to consider.

How Long?

Even though Great Danes are one of the largest breeds they have a relatively short life span. According to the AKC life expectancy is between 8-10 years. On a rare occasion a Dane will live as long as 12 years while some only make 6-7 years.

In my opinion this is the biggest drawback to owning a Great Dane, but in my experience this “down-side” is far out-weighed by the quality of the years you get to spend with these wonderful animals.

Where to start

To spend as many years as possible with your Great Dane the first step is to find a quality breeder. I’m sure you know to avoid the puppy mills that advertise puppies at bargain prices, or pet stores where the origin of the puppy is unknown, but how do you find a quality breeder?

When we started considering a Great Dane we went to a couple local Dog Shows to meet some Great Danes and of course, their owners and breeders. If you can find a Dog Show you will find a wealth of information. People love talking about their dogs, you will have no problem getting answers to most if not all of your questions. When you find a dog that you especially like ask the owner about their breeder. Most good breeders won’t sell to just anyone, so ask about the process they went through to purchase their dog and if the breeder maintains any show or stud rights to their puppies (this is a common practice with high quality dogs).

You can also ask your veterinarian. Your vet sees a lot of dogs and will have a good gauge on the relative health and well-being of the dogs they see. They may even have a good working relationship with breeders in your area.

The best breeders will have a good reputation among Dog Shows and veterinarians and have built their business on “word of mouth” referrals. Quality breeders don’t normally advertise because their reputation brings them more business than they can normally handle resulting in a waiting list for potential puppy owners.

How You can Help

There are things you can do to help ensure a long healthy life for your Great Dane.

FEEDING: From the very start you need to feed your puppy properly. Great Danes grow alarmingly fast by nature so DO NOT feed them traditional puppy food. Puppy food typically has additives to help a puppy grow – let’s just say that a Great Dane doesn’t need any help here. In fact if you give a Great Dane traditional puppy food it will cause the puppy to grow too fast and likely cause bone and joint problems.

Our breeder recommended feeding our puppy a mixture of white rice, ground chicken and a splash of whole milk for the first few months, then slowly adding some adult dry kibble as they grew. There are some puppy foods on the market that are specifically formulated for large breeds, but the needs of a Great Dane puppy are very specific and I’m not convinced that any commercial puppy food can match the rice/chicken/milk recipe. I know it seems high maintenance to cook rice and chicken for your dog. (I’ll be honest there were days when I was cooking rice and chicken for the dog and making PB&J sandwiches for my kids – don’t judge.) I just boiled up a bunch of chicken breasts (Sam’s Club or Costco for these) and made a large batch of rice – chopped the chicken up in a food processor and put them in separate containers in the fridge. It’s not like I was cooking rice & chicken every day.

Great Danes are prone to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) or “Bloat.” Bloat is the #1 killer of Great Danes but it’s easily avoidable with some simple tips. Don’t give your Dane water within 30 minutes after feeding. Keep your Dane calm and quiet for at least 30 minutes after feeding – no rough play or running around the back yard (or living room for that matter). Both of these are major contributors to bloat. We’ll be covering this in more detail in future posts about feeding. (For more information about bloat read the article about Raised Feeding Bowls.)

EXERCISE: Contrary to common belief Great Danes are relatively quiet indoors. I tell people they’re more like furniture for the amount of time they spend laying on the living room rug. But it’s important for your Dane to get daily exercise. A large backyard to play in is great, or a long walk at least once a day. Your Great Dane should get 30-60 minutes of exercise or “yard play” every day to ensure good health.

VETERINARIAN: It should go without saying but you’ll want to take your pup to good vet for regular checkups at least once a year and keep them up to date on vaccinations and flea & tick treatments. We were able to find a vet that specializes in giant breeds, (They have English Mastiffs themselves) but a good vet will know how to care for your big puppy.

When to say, “Goodbye”

This is the hard part! No one wants to think about this day. When your Dane enters the “golden years” you’ll need to consider at what point are you keeping them alive for their benefit or your own. It can be hard to put your own desire to keep them aside and accept what best for the dog only you can make that call. Let your dog’s comfort and quality of life drive that decision.

Puppy Overlap

We’ve always had what we call “Puppy Overlap.” (see photo of “Abby” and “Lucy” at the top of this post) To ensure our home is never without a dog and to help ease the transition, we normally purchase a new puppy before we lose our adult dog. I think it’s good for both the older dog and the new puppy to have the companionship during this transition time. I know it’s makes this traumatic time easier for our family.

Don’t let the relatively short life span spoil your opportunity to share life with these magnificent creatures.

How many years have you been able to share with your Danes? Do you have any experiences or suggestions on how to ease the transition time? We’d love to hear your story.

God Bless,

10 comments on “Great Dane Life Span – What You Can Expect

  1. Phil

    Hello Dave, 

    As I get to read about one dog breed after the other, I realize how challenging each one is, and choosing an ideal breed is really not easy! I definitely am very fond of Great Danes, and I see that there are many issues, but it sounds like they are manageable. 

    I really didn’t know that large dogs would have shorter lives, but to think of it, like about several dogs I’ve known, that sounds about right. That’s bad and sad. 

    So I’m not at all decided on which breed, the Great Danes are in the running, but also the Irish Wolfhound and the Bouvier des Flandres. Any pros and cons comparing the three? 

    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      The shorter life span is definitely something to consider when looking at any large breed. The Irish Wolfhound has a life expectancy very similar to a Great Dane, but the short hair of a Dane makes shedding less of an issue.

      The Bouvier des Flandres on the other hand has a slightly longer life expectancy at 10-12 years. The Bouvier has a double coat that doesn’t shed much but requires regular brushing to keep it from matting. 

      I have a friend who has had several Bouviers over the years. They are wonderful dogs that don’t always understand how big they are when they try to sit on your lap.

      Of course my first choice would be a Great Dane, but my second choice would have to be the Bouvier.

  2. mjds

    a propos des chiens de race, j’en connais pas assez mais j’ai été instruit et ca m’aiderai car je commence a frequanter une Maison ou il y a un chien Berger. Je vais pouvoir m’amuser. Les instructions son Claire, je vais bien gerer. Au niveau de l’alimentation quel aliment specifique pour nous leur donner pour les avoir en Bonne santé

    1. admin

      I’m not good with French, but with the help of Google Translate I believe I understood your comment. 

      If you’re spending time in a house with a Great Dane there are definitely some things to know. You asked about food. There are many opinions for which food is best, but it varies greatly depending on the age of your dog. 

      Lucy is 5 years old – in the middle of her life and we use Eagle Natural, Giant Breed dry food. To make it special we normally sprinkle a little shredded cheese on top and give it a healthy splash of whole milk. If my wife if fixing the meal for Lucy she even tops it with a squirt or two of whipped cream. – Yes Lucy is spoiled.

      The biggest thing to know about feeding is to not offer the water bowl for 30 minutes after feeding.

      Enjoy your time with the big dog and if I can answer any questions or if there’s a topic you’d like to see an article about, please let me know.

      All the best,

  3. Aabidah Ahmed

    I love dogs, all shapes, breeds, and sizes. I never had a Dane Breed before, but I won’t mind adopting one of them. I will take care of any dog in need of love and caring home.

    2 of my dogs, a mother, and a daughter passed away, or shall I say was given away to be put down. But I have no idea what happened to them. they were both sick and in pain, the best thing I could have done was to ease their pain a Veterinarian told me.

    It’s hard getting over it but I had to deal with it. After that, I never got a dog again. It’s only recently that I decided that I want a dog in my life again and to accept what happened in the past. I accepted that they were in a better place.

    Thank you for sharing this breed and your story. All the best.

    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      It’s always hard to let go of these furry family members when the time comes. Some people won’t get a dog simply because they dread having to make that decision in the future. While no one wants to think of end-of-life, it’s my experience that the joy, fun, companionship, and love we share with them far out weighs the sorrow of saying “goodbye.”

       If you have any questions when it comes time for you to get another dog, please feel free to reach out.

      Remember, we’re in this together!

  4. Daniel Tshiyole

    This article came at the right time. I am looking to buying a new dog seeing that my old one passed away, but I do not know where to start looking or what breed to get. I never really considered a great Dane until today. I will be sure to keep an eye out for it. Thank you 

    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      You won’t regret inviting a Great Dane into your life. They are the most affectionate and fun breeds to own. If you’re seriously considering a Dane I have two recommendations. 

      1. Find a good breeder – avoid random ads in the paper or pet stores.

      2. Find a veterinarian that specializes in giant breed dogs. If you find a good vet they may be able to direct you to a good breeder. 

      Glad you found this helpful. Feel free to reach out anytime with questions or if you need advice on other topics related to Great Danes.

  5. Carolyn

    Such an informative post. The first step in getting your pet is finding a reputable breeder. Going to dog shows makes a lot of sense. Every one there would be proud of their pet and eager to tell their experiences with whoever was willing to lend an ear. 
    I never thought of transitioning a puppy with an older dog. I was wondering how puppy overlap works. When we lost our older pet, the younger one spent quite a bit of time grieving for the lost pet.

    1. Dave Gillaspie Post author

      Glad you found this helpful. A good breeder will continue to be a helpful resource. We keep in touch with ours and consider her, she appreciates hearing stories and seeing pics of our pup. She always considers our pup part of her family. 

      I believe ‘puppy overlap’ is good for both the puppy and the mature dog. And while it’s always hard to loose a friend, having the new puppy already in place keeps the house from getting too quiet. After the transition we spend a lot of hands-on time playing and interacting with the puppy helping her find her own place in our home. As you can imagine the puppy makes the transition easier on us as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *