Great Dane: Breed of the Week

One recent summer Sean, Bodhi, and I visited Fire Island. While waiting for the ferry, a gentleman walked up with what resembled a small horse that weighed — according to the owner — a whopping 200+ pounds! This was the largest Great Dane I had ever seen.

People were in awe of a dog of this size. We watched as person after person approached the owner and dog to ask: “What does she eat?” … “How much does she weigh?” … “Do you have special poop bags?” … “Where does she sleep?”

Great Dane
Bodhi meets a Huge Great Dane

The Great Dane can only be described as magnificent. One of their nicknames is the “Apollo” of dogs, for the ancient Greek Sun God. They’re an extra large breed dog, with a regal head and stance, and an impressive bark. The Great Dane is a very old breed. There are depictions of dogs resembling Great Danes on Egyptian artifacts. The modern Great Dane is actually a German dog. It was called the German Mastiff, German Boarhound, or German Dogge. The name eventually changed because of bad international relations between Germany and other European countries.

Westminster Urban Dog
In the Ring (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

According to the Dog Breed Info website, The Great Dane’s temperament has earned it the nickname “The Gentle Giant.” Weighing anywhere from 125 to 200 pounds, they stand 34 inches at the shoulder. That’s almost 3 feet! They are great with children and other pets; they love to spend time with their owners.

If you are considering a Great Dane, training is a must. Keep in mind, if you don’t train your Great Dane, your Great Dane will train you. A part of that is establishing yourself as the leader. Doing so will result in a more secure dog, who will be less likely to show any signs of aggression or bad behavior.

Westminster Urban Dog Great Dane
Great Dane (Photo: Natalie Siebers)

They score “Average” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first commands about 30% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes about 40-to-80 repetitions for them to learn new commands.

Great Dane
Great Dane Puppy

These dogs come in a variety of colors: black, white, fawn, brindle, and harlequin. They can have brown or blue eyes. They are shorted coated dogs. That doesn’t mean they don’t shed, they just shed shorter hair.

AKC Dog Show Urban Dog Great Dane
Great Dane and Handler Checking Out a Text from Owner

Possibly the biggest downside to being a Great Dane owner is they tend not to live long. Ten years is the expected lifespan. A shorter lifespan is more common among large breed dogs versus smaller breeds. Chihuahuas can live up to 17 years.

Great Danes are prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, and mast cell tumors. These are common ailments of large breed dogs. They are also susceptible to hypertrophic osteodystrophy or HOD. (To read more about HOD, click here.) That’s a debilitating illness that can be deadly for large dogs. If you are considering a Great Dane as your Urban Dog they can make great apartment dogs as long as they get plenty of exercise outside of the apartment. Keep in mind that many apartment buildings in New York City have weight restrictions, so while the Great Dane is gentle dog, you may face obstacles with your building’s board because of the unfair prejudice agains large breed dogs.

Watch Animal Planet’s Dogs 101 video below to learn more and click here for the American Kennel Club’s profile of the Gentle Giant.


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