What is a Great Dane, and what makes them so special? If you’re considering adding a Great Dane to your family. There are some things you should know. Buying any dog is a big decision, considering a big dog is an even bigger decision. Let’s look at some pros and cons of owning a Great Dane by looking at some of our experiences.
With a big dog everything is bigger! Bigger rewards and bigger responsibilities – Bigger feet and bigger laughs – Bigger food bags and bigger poop bags – Bigger lips and bigger loves.
The Lips and the Lean
Beyond the initial “wow” factor when a Great Dane enters a room. There are many characteristics that are distinctly “Great Dane.” As I mentioned in the About Us page our first exposure to a Great Dane wasn’t a pure breed. She was a Great Dane/Boxer mix named Bobbi.
Two of our favorite things about Bobbi where what we called, the lips and the lean. The way she would lean on you was a way of saying, “I love you, and want to be close to you.” When she leaned on you, it was a sign that you had been accepted into the pack. Of course when a big dog shows you THAT kind of love, it might pin you to the wall.
The other thing about Bobbi was her abundant lips. It’s as if her face was a little too big for her head. Around our house we affectionately call it “squishy face” while holding those amazing squishy jowls.
Since Bobbi wasn’t a pure breed it wasn’t until we went to a couple dogs shows that we learned these were Great Dane traits. There are so many other things to love about Great Danes, such as their gentle demeanor, loving nature and of course, imposing size.
The “Elephant in the room,” or is that a Great Dane?
The obvious considerations regarding owing a Great Dane are related to their size. We wanted a big dog for several reasons. Personally, I like a dog big enough that I don’t need to bend over to pet. (At my age I try to avoid bending over whenever possible.)
I also like things that are unique. Nothing against a Golden Retriever or Yellow Lab, in fact we have a couple of these that live next door and are Lucy’s best friends, it’s just that breeds like these are very common – a Great Dane always turns heads and brings smiles to faces simply by their presence.
Size is Relative
Yes, a Great Dane is big. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard the comment, “What? – is that a pony!?” I just smile and nod as if that’s the first time I’ve heard such a witty comment. If you’re a Dane owner you know what I’m saying…
I don’t really think of Lucy as being big – she’s 135 pounds (which is small by Great Dane standards) when I see other dogs in the neighborhood they just seem small.
While Great Danes are indeed large they don’t take up much more space in your home than a typical Labrador. Lucy spends most of her day on the couch, on our bed (don’t judge) or on the living room floor.
I tell people she’s really more like a piece of furniture.
I’m often amazed at how small she can make herself if she wants to curl up in a ball on the floor.
If you live in a studio apartment I might reconsider owning a Great Dane, but you don’t need a huge house, however a big yard is nice, especially when the zoomies hit.
Danes do love to run (They’re related to Greyhounds). They’re prone to short bursts of tearing around the house in what are commonly referred to as the “zoomies.” It’s best to just sit still, safely out of the path while the zoomies are happening – they will won’t last long. Young Danes are more susceptible to the zoomies. Lucy’s five years old now and rarely gets the zoomies anymore, and if she does they’re very short lived.
Food; IN and OUT
Yes, a big dog will eat more … which means they will poop more. It’s just physics (or something else scientific). We buy food in 30lb. bags.
PRO TIP: get your food from Chewy.com and it will deliver to your door with free shipping and save your back, unless you’re looking for a workout.
No carrying a 30lb. bag through the store, to your car, into your house. We use their Auto-Ship program because I forget things and sometimes forget to order it. I used to get our food at a local farm feed store because they had 50lb. unlabeled “breeder packs” but they stopped carrying our brand. That’s when we found Chewy, and I love Chewy!
So if you feed a dog 30lbs of food, you will indeed get 30lbs of poop in your yard. Here’s an advantage I’ll bet you never considered – given the size of the piles you won’t have any trouble finding them, even in tall grass they kind of stand out. You may trip on one and twist an ankle but you WILL be able to find them.
I travel a lot for work and a dog that weighs more than a middle-schooler provides a sense of security in our home. If anything larger than a squirrel enters our yard it’s announced with one or two deep “woofs” – enough to strike fear in anyone who hasn’t met Lucy.
The deep voiced “woof” is enough to make any potential home invader reconsider their life choices.
When I’m away my wife feels safer with 135 pounds of Great Dane sleeping at the foot of our bed.
Training is Critical
A big dog carries with it some big responsibilities. An untrained Great Dane can be dangerous to itself and others.
We didn’t always have big dogs. Our first dog was a Dalmatian and I learned with her that proper training is not just for my convenience but for the dogs safety. If the dog is chasing a squirrel towards a busy street, your ability to call them back could save their life.
This is still true for a Great Dane but due the size and strength of the breed proper training can help ensure that the dog doesn’t cause harm to other people with it’s unbridled enthusiasm for life. Even though Lucy is well trained I’m alway cautious and keep a tight, short leash on her when meeting new dogs or people.
I suggest starting Puppy Training as soon as possible. At the young age of 8-10 weeks we start taking our Danes through two 8-week sessions of Puppy Training. This is critical for the dog’s safety, your safety, and the safety of others.
One of the most critical things for your Great Dane puppy to learn early on, is to not pull on the leash.
After learning to “come” when you call, one of the most critical things for your puppy to learn early on, is to not pull on the leash. If you don’t train them to this when they’re a puppy, every walk will become a wrestling match that will become increasingly difficult to win as they grow larger.
Another thing to decide and start training at a young age is whether you want to allow them on the furniture in your house. Great Danes are giant couch potatoes – if allowed they will occupy every inch of a 6’ couch.
Our first Dane (Abby) was not allowed on the couch. She did however take over one chair in our family room that ultimately just became “her chair,” but the couch was off-limits. We decided that we’d change the rules with Lucy as you can see.
The same goes for your bed. Decide early if you want to share your bed with 130-180 pounds of puppy early and stick to your guns. It’s easy to give in to the puppy crying in the crate at night, but what you allow as a puppy will become the norm as an adult dog. Choose wisely.
Become One with the Slober
If you’ve spent any time around a Great Dane you’ve been introduced to the slober – or as my wife calls it, “Liquid Love.” All Danes are not created equal in this area – some are more “moist” than others. They all make a mess when they drink (or eat for that matter), but some are just more prone to slober than others.
If “liquid love” grosses you out this might be a deal breaker for you. We just keep a good supply of small towels on hand. If we go out in public I try to remember to bring one with me and keep it in my back pocket.
Understand that slober will get everywhere. If Lucy vigorously shakes her head while having a “moist moment” the liquid love may find it’s way to the walls, cabinets or even the ceiling. More than once we’ve found a stalactite of dried slober hanging from the ceiling. It’s both gross and impressive at the same time.
Slober doesn’t pose any real health issues unless they’re fed a diet of raw meat, or are in the habit of raiding the cat’s litter box. So just accept the slober as part of the package and carry a towel.
There are things to consider before buying any puppy much less a Great Dane puppy. These are but a few of the ones that we’ve encountered. If you have questions or experienced any unexpected issues with your Great Dane puppy let me know in the comments below. We’ll figure it out.
Remember we’re in this together.
Checkout this Dog Owner’s Handbook
Over the years I’ve learned many tips and tricks for training and living with dogs of all sizes. “The Dog Solution” offers a lot of good information in their “Dog Owner’s Secret Handbook” for a reasonable price. You might consider picking up a copy a reference on a variety of topics related to life with your fur baby. I didn’t write this book but I’ve used many of the tips contained in it. (If you pick up this publication I will receive a commission and I will be grateful.)