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.)
Hi! Thank you for sharing your experience taking care of Lucy. Great Dane are big, and I can relate to that comment “What? – is that a pony!?”, but I’m also impressed how small they can make themselves when they curl up.
Thank you for the tip concerning Chewy. No, thanks. I’m not looking for a workout. 🙂
Our last Dane could curl up in this tiny little wingback chair – it was hilarious to watch her climb in and wedge herself in. I need to find some pictures of that. It was several years ago, but I’ve been looking for some pics.
Chewy.com is the best! Even though I could use the workout I really like the delivery to my door. Right now they have a 30% off deal on your first autoship order.
Come back again – we’ll be adding new fun stories every week.
I know somebody who has a Dane, and really, they’re amazing dogs. Yes they are big, and you need to be careful when they jump on you, but given how innocent they are, my heart melts of them. But again, be careful with their size, you need to be strong on your legs. Thanks for this article, I’ve enjoyed reading it.
You’re right, you need to be squared up with a firm stance and a solid grip on the leash when handling a Great Dane, but when properly trained they can be taught to not pull on the leash or jump up on people. These are two of the first things we train our puppies when they’re young.
I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Please come back again!
I love dogs of any breed, and I’ve read how good a Dane breed is.
I’ve always liked bigger dogs, I don’t know why but I always have. They are expensive to maintain but they are worth it.
This is the first time I’ve read an in-depth post of a dog and I must say I’ve learned a lot about the Dane breed in this post. The previous dogs I had were put-down because they were really sick and in pain, so I find it difficult to bond with another great dog.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful Dane breed. Maybe in the future, I’ll get a dog again once I’m ready.
All the best to you.
I’m glad you’re learning a lot about Great Danes – that is my hope. They are worth all the extra work and expenses.
It’s always hard to deal with a sick dog, especially when you’ve done all you can and are forced to put them down. I try not to focus on those painful times but rather enjoy the years of love and fun I get to share with my dogs.
I hope you find yourself in a position to get a dog again soon.
I always think of Scooby doo when I hear the word Great Dane. Bobbi sounds like a great dog, she just gives you love that is priceless. Mine dog Shiro, a husky, like to put his butt around my head when I lay down, I prefer her leaning.
My friend in Arizona has 2 great danes. When I first see them I got a little intimidated but after playing with them, they are just not that scary anymore. They act like they are small, rolling on the floor wanting me to pet their bellies. Wanted to sit on my laps and such.
I did not know that they are related to Greyhound. Does she get depressed when she doesn’t get to run? My Shiro does and he makes sure to let me know by being naughty.
Is great dane docile? Or hyper?
They do think they’re small, or at least don’t understand how big they are, which think in part is what makes them so endearing. They will definitely try an sit in your lap which never ends well.
Lucy needs to get out and run a couple times a day. You’re right, if a dog doesn’t get out to run they will be more likely to get in trouble in the house.
Great Danes are very docile. I mean puppies will be puppies but once they get past 2 years old they calm down quite a bit. Lucy is 5 now and spends most of her day on the couch. My wife doesn’t like high-strung, hyper dogs which is one of the reasons we’re attracted to the Great Danes.
Thank you for the wonderful article! I love dogs; I have a Pinterest Pin called cute puppies. My uncle had two Great Danes, he lived on a farm, so there was plenty of room for them. I remember being afraid at first, but I got over it quickly because they both were such sweethearts.
Would you ever consider getting a second one?
Thanks again for a great article, no pun intended!
We actually had two at one time. If you have room in the house, and a big enough yard, I think it’s a good idea. We had 2 sister from the same litter. They provide companionship and entertainment for each other. And walking them together on a shared “brace” leash was spectacular, it was like driving a team of horses. Cars would stop in the road to look when I’d have them out for a walk.
Watching them chase each other around the back yard was a sight to see. You just needed to be sure to stay out of the way.
I remember once I was walking across the back yard sipping a cup of coffee when I got completely blind-sided by both of them. They were running full steam trying to tackle each other when I inadvertantly wandered into their path and had my legs completely swept out from under me landing on the top of my shoulders. Understand that I weigh 250 lbs. – this was not a small task. I could only pick myself up, laugh and go get another cup of coffee.
I learned right there that you don’t wander through the yard while Danes are playing with each other. If I stood still they wouldn’t run into me – but don’t wander around.
The Great Dane is sweet, always eager to please people, very easy to housetrain, and he reacts well with a positive reinforcement. In the same way as other giant dogs, Great Danes are short-lived. Great Danes needs a lot of space. Despite the fact that they make a great housedogs, they need a lot of rooms just to move around.
Awesome write up Dave.
You’re right about responding well to positive reinforcement. Lucy is not very food driven so training her with treats has proven difficult. However she thrives on praise. I give her praise in a happy voice and rub her ears as a “treat.”
The short life span is really the only down-side I’ve found with the breed. I talk about Life Span – What to Expect in another post.
Lucy doesn’t need a lot of room in the house – she just turned 5 so she doesn’t get the Zoomies much any more. If she has a couch to lay on and a yard to run in, she has all she needs.
Thanks for you comments and insights! Stop back again to find out what Lucy’s been up to.
A great post about a great dog. The Great Dane is generally a gentle giant, but their size does put some people off of them.
My first encounter with a great Dane came when I was just 5 years old. I was at my grandfather’s house and just had lunch. I carried my plate into the kitchen not knowing there was something much bigger than me there. Prince as I later found out got up as I entered the kitchen and I just dropped the plate and scrambled under the table. I was crying and of course, Prince was licking me like crazy.
Something I have never forgotten as we became great friends after I got over the shock. I would love any kind of doy but because we live in a small flat with no garden it would not be fair.
When I started reading your story I could tell where it was going. When a 5 year old meets a Great Dane, nose-to-nose it’s a sight to see. I can only imagine your shock.
You’re right in your assessment that a small flat with no yard to run would not be the best environment for a Great Dane, you are wise to hold off for now. But if you ever get to a larger home with a yard you won’t regret owning a Great Dane.
For now you can come back to DaneStuff.com and follow the antics of Lucy.
All the best,
This dog breed is rare in my country Uganda and like many of my fellow countrymen, little is known about it. I personally got to know and love the Great Dane because of one of my favourite childhood cartoon characters, Scooby Doo.
One thing that I have been certain about is that it has an imposing figure that can be intimidating; which builds a greater sense of security. This is what I like about the Great Dane.
I hope I am right to say that happy Great Dane owners got them when they were puppies! I imagine there is a lot of effort and patience that goes into nurturing a grown one.
Apart from the “liquid love”, is there any characteristic about this gentle dog that I should know about?
Funny that you should mention Scooby Doo. I grew up watching that cartoon but didn’t make the connection that he was a Great Dane until we got our first one (I felt a little stupid).
I’ll sometimes get Lucy “talking” – (low toned growl/woofs) – and she really does sound like Scooby when he says, “Rut Row.” The artists obviously did their homework in creating Scooby.
Great Danes are very affectionate once they know you, but they can be very protective (which is good). You need to use caution when introducing them to new people. I always keep her on a short lease and introduce a new person with a happy encouraging tone in my voice. Once she is convinced this new person is a friend she’ll rub up and lean on them like their one of the family.
Your article is quite helpful! I have so many questions, and you have answered many. Thank you! Such a nice and superb article, we have been looking for this information about great dane things to know before you buy. Great post…
I’m glad to hear you found our experience helpful. If you have any specific questions feel free to reach out and ask. Lucy and I would be glad to help where we can!
We have 3 smaller dogs and a chow chow mix. I completely understand the 30lb in and 30lb out balance. My favorite part is when the vet asks if we’ve noticed any change in their bathroom habits. Seriously? Are we expected to follow four dogs checking? We use chewy’s as well. Two cases of wet cans delivered twice a month. Definitely better than hauling them home for sure.
I remember hauling giant bags of dog food from the local feed store – not any more now that I found Chewy. Thanks for your comment. Enjoy your fur babies.
That is the first time that I have read the reason for having a big dog so as not to bend down to pat it as you get older. Had to laugh at that one. I too prefer bigger dogs to smaller ones. My reasoning is that I may as well get a cat than a small dog as they are more useful.
Great Danes are certainly beautiful animals to own, but my recommendation is to get good pet insurance, as they seem to get ailments a lot easier than the mixed breeds for some reason. I know quite a few people who own great Danes, but they do need medical treatment a lot more often than our dogs do.
Michel – thanks for your comments! If you’re a fan of the TV show “Parks and Rec” you’ll remember Ron Swanson, who famously said, “Any dog less than 40 lbs. is a cat, and cats are pointless.” I know there are many fans of small dogs and even cats, but that quote always makes me laugh.
Insurance can be a good idea. We’ve always purchased our Danes from a top breeder, while they cost more up front we’ve found that they have much fewer health issues long term. That’s not to say that even standard maintenance for a Dane can be expensive enough to warrant insurance.
Great article!! I am picking up my new Great Dane puppy in 2 weeks, and cannot wait!! I grew up with a Great Dane and have been begging my husband for 20 years to get one. Now that are kids are adults, we are ready. I have a question about the training you mentioned. When you say to start training at 8 weeks, do you recommend signing up for training classes, or just working with our puppy at home. Thanks!!
We start taking classes at 8 weeks. The first 12 weeks are the most crucial weeks for socialization and training. It’s important to start early and establish patterns and expectations. Our local trainer runs two classes for puppies. We normally take advantage of both. The longer you wait to harder it will be to establish yourself as the leader. There will be daily homework to be done along with your class, but the class can be very helpful to give you direction and instruction on how to train your new puppy.
I agree with our trainer when he says that the classes are more for training us than the puppy.
I’m excited for you getting your first puppy! Please let me know how it goes and feel free to contact me with any questions. You can email me direct at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing some pics of your new puppy.
All the best,