Great Dane Breeder Round-Up

In creating the book The Complete Guide to the Great Dane” (written by Malcolm Lee and available on Amazon) we interviewed 15 of the top Great Dane breeders in the country.  We used their advice and expertise to help make the book the best possible guide book for a new Great Dane owner.

But… there was so much good advice in those interviews that we couldn’t fit it all into the book.  So we decided we’d compile the best answers to each question and present them here.  If you are thinking of getting a Great Dane, or are a current owner, the advice that follows will be invaluable to you as you proceed on your ownership journey.  Enjoy:

Question #1:  What are your tips for choosing the right Great Dane from either a breeder or rescue?

Consensus:
Great Danes are wonderful, loyal dogs who bond deeply with their families. The right match between hound and human is delightful, but a less than ideal match can be disastrous for both parties. If you are choosing a puppy from a breeder, you will want to be certain that the prospective parents have had both their hips and heart checked. Make sure that you choose a breeder or rescue who takes the time to get to know each individual canine, then let them help guide you to the right companion.

Best Quotes:

Even the most irresponsible breeder can claim that their dogs are part of their family, but actions speak louder than words. Breeders who do things with their dogs spend a lot of time with them. Breeders who just see their dogs as an income source do not spend money on classes and shows.

Both a reputable breeder and a reputable rescue will ask you a lot of questions. A LOT. Getting the wrong dog is miserable for everyone. Let the experts help you.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

 

I think it is essential for potential pet-parents to research a breeder’s history, philosophy, and health testing practices. General cleanliness, ease of communication, and the chance to meet the parents, or quality photos of them, are equally important. For families seeking to rescue a Great Dane, I think they need to be honest about their experience in canine behavior modification and general training. It is often the case that Great Danes in rescue organizations possess bad habits, that, coupled with their large size, makes for a challenging task.”
Nathan Bolby-  Grand Mimieux

Look for show breeders that fully OFA health test their dogs, including getting echocardiograms for both parents of the litter. With a rescue dog, make sure that the rescue actually has had the dog a while and knows it fairly well. Temperament and behavior are the most important factors when dealing with a rescue, especially if you have children.”
Cynthia Neet-  Neet Danes

Question #2:  What are some of the most unique characteristics of the breed?

Consensus:
One of the most unique characteristics of this breed is their sheer size. At maturity, Great Danes weigh between 110-145 pounds and average somewhere around 30 inches tall; it’s a hard characteristic to miss. Breeders of these giant dogs are quick to point out just how gentle and devoted a breed they are, however, stating that the steadfast loyalty of this breed is even more remarkable than their size.

Best Quotes:

Their size is what grabs people’s immediate attention. When you get to know the breed, you find that their devotion to their owners is unlike any other breed. The love these dogs give to their people is even more impressive than their stature.”
Brandy Massey-  Massey Great Danes

The most obvious is their size. Their size is what attracts most people to Danes in the first place. Believe it or not, one common reason for people to give their Dane up to a shelter or rescue is “He just got too big!” It requires some adjustment.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

They have an immense love for their people. Once a Dane decides you are a friend, you have a friend for life. They are giants with a heart to match.”
Jackie Herman-  Ace-Hi Danes

Question #3:  What do most people not know about Great Danes that would surprise them?

Consensus:
 Most people who are not familiar with this breed may not realize just how mellow these dogs generally are. While they are known for short bursts of activity, known as the Zoomies, they are otherwise fairly sedentary, making them an unexpectedly superb dog for apartment dwellers. Although Great Danes may not naturally gravitate towards activities such as service training, agility competitions, and therapy work, they often excel at them when given the opportunity. Unfortunately, like many giant breeds, Great Danes also have a surprisingly short life span, typically around eight to ten years.

Best Quotes:

They are not as active as people suspect. They are rated as one of the top dogs for apartment living because they are lazy. Yes, they do take up more space, but they are happy staying home and watching Netflix.”
Kim Amaral-  Ca European Great Danes

Danes generally have very soft demeanors and are followers, not leaders. If they are not given direction on what behavior is expected of them, they will make bad decisions.”
Janie Pronto-  Nuttree Great Danes

Great Danes can be a very versatile breed. They are excellent agility, service, and therapy dogs. They are also exceptional companions and family dogs. They want to be with their people; not left alone.”
Loren Bengston-  Glacier Danes

The most surprising thing about Great Danes is that even though they can appear very intimidating they have a very gentle nature to them. They are not an aggressive breed at all. I would also say that their life span is much shorter than people realize. Many individuals think that because they are a large dog that they would live a long time, but unfortunately, that is not true.”
Shawna Howard-  Cottonball Danes

Question #4:  How would you recommend people prepare their home for the arrival of their new puppy?

Consensus:
When it comes to bringing your new Great Dane puppy home, preparation is the key to success. This breed responds well to crate training, and it is recommended that new pet parents have the crate at home and in place before bringing their new canine companion home. Giant breed puppies like Great Dane puppies can be more susceptible to joint damage during their formative periods, so it is important to ensure that they don’t overstress their joints when exercising or playing and the surfaces that they walk on have good traction to prevent slips and falls.

Best Quotes:

Prepare ahead of time! Don’t wait until you get your puppy home to go buy what you think they need. Talk to the breeder or rescue and find out what is needed at that age. Puppies love to play and chew, so if you leave shoes and such out they are bound to find them and play with them. If you plan to crate train your pup, have the crate already put together and in the position where you plan to have your Dane sleep.”
Shawna Howard-  Cottonball Danes

I believe strongly in crate training to not only give the dog a sense of their own space but also to aid in housebreaking the pup. Having a crate in the home upon your puppy’s arrival is important. New Great Dane owners should take a look at their floor coverings as well. A growing Great Dane needs traction for their paws, muscles, and bones to form correctly and work together. If they are kept on slippery surfaces during their early development, joint issues can develop. Laying down area rugs is a great solution to this problem.”
Nathan Bolby-  Grand Mimieux

Have a plan. You should have a few days to spend with your puppy when you first bring them home. This will help you to bond with your canine companion and get the puppy in some sort of routine for going outside, eating, playtime, etc. If you are working away from home, make sure you can come home at lunch or have a pet sitter to come and let the puppy out. As an alternative you can have some type of safe indoor and outdoor area for your puppy, so they can access the outdoors during the middle of the day for playtime. If your situation requires you to crate the puppy all day while you are at work – don’t get a puppy.”
Janie Pronto-  Nuttree Great Danes

Question #5:  What are some unexpected things a new Great Dane owner might encounter in the first few weeks?

Consensus:
Even those that are familiar with the Great Dane breed are astounded by the speed at which these dogs grow. Puppies that are just a few months old are often tall enough to counter-surf without any trouble. Behaviors like jumping up or mouthing, which might appear cute when your pup first comes home, can be downright dangerous within just a few weeks. For a happy, healthy Great Dane, start training your dog as soon as you have the opportunity and ensure that they have plenty of time to expend their extra energy, especially during early development and adolescence.

Best Quotes:

How incredibly fast they grow. I have had Great Danes since I was five years old and this phenomenon amazes me every single I have the privilege of watching it. How much food they require during those rapid growth phases is also impressive.”
Brandy Massey-  Massey Great Danes

Again, the size! Even if you have a puppy instead of an adult, they grow REALLY fast. A four-month-old Dane is usually tall enough to counter surf easily; a six-month-old Dane may weigh 90 pounds or more. That makes training very important from the start! Although any puppy can be destructive, Dane puppies often are less destructive and less hyper than many other breeds.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

Separation anxiety should be short-lived for most puppies. Older animals that are being rehomed may take longer to adjust. Communication between the owner and puppy can be greatly improved by taking obedience classes. Not only do these classes help owners address areas of concern, but they also provide both bonding time and socialization with other critters.”
Roger S White-  GreatDanes4U.com

Dane puppies need a lot of exercise especially during their rapid growth period, between three and six months of age. Never forced exercise, but plenty of playtime, either with a companion or by themselves with toys, as well as walks. If they can’t expend their energy outside, they will expend it inside. Dane puppies that are frustrated by lack of activity can be extremely destructive and you will only have yourself to blame.”
Janie Pronto-  Nuttree Great Danes

Question #6:  What house-training advice do you have for a new owner?

Consensus:
 According to the experts, Great Danes tend to take to house-training fairly easily, especially when it is combined with crate training. In many cases, breeders start the process of house-training before they are sent home, making this process even easier. As with any pup, the best predictor of success is the use of consistency and good timing by the pet-parent. To avoid confusion during training, find a schedule that will work for your household before bringing the dog home, then stick with it.

Best Quotes:

Be consistent; have a plan and stick to it. The whole family needs to be helping your new puppy succeed. Your breeder may have started the groundwork for house training, so you would just need to keep the puppy going in the right direction.”
Brandy Massey-  Massey Great Danes

Absolutely and without question, crate training is the number one training method. Taking your dog out at key times will help in the housebreaking process. As soon as they wake up from sleeping, take them outside. As soon as they get done playing, take them out. About 20 minutes after they eat, take them outside. Being consistent will make housebreaking a smoother process.”
Loren Bengston-  Glacier Danes

Being consistent is key for house-training! Make a schedule and stick with it. If you are home in the evenings then feed your puppy in the evenings. Putting a puppy on your schedule helps ensure that you will be there when your Dane needs to go potty. As your puppy grows you can make adjustments to their schedule.”
Shawna Howard-  Cottonball Danes

A pleasant surprise – Dane puppies tend to be easier to housebreak than many smaller breeds. They still need regular meal schedules, potty schedules, and constant supervision but housebreaking is usually not a problem.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

Question #7:  What tips do you have for socializing your Great Dane with other pets?

Consensus:
Socialization is especially important for giant breed dogs. Fortunately, Great Danes are generally friendly animals who are not often fearful, so socialization is not particularly difficult. For your new canine companion’s health, wait until their vaccinations are completed before acquainting them with other dogs. Introduce them to new animals slowly, and teach them to be gentle at an early age. Make sure you are there to supervise any interactions. If not addressed, a frightening interaction at a young age can set your dog up for anxiety in the future.

Best Quotes:

As Danes grow so quickly it is particularly important to start training and socializing them early. For the puppy’s safety, you should wait until they are fully vaccinated before taking them to public areas. If you have a family member with healthy dogs this can be a great time to plan a visit. Before venturing out take the time to leash train your puppy at home. It’s important to slowly build your puppy’s confidence. If the puppy is fearful of something stay calm— don’t push them and slowly work your way up to the challenge.”
Carrie Michaelson-  Gem Danes

If you are socializing with existing pets, cats or dogs, remember that your current pet is the top dog or cat. Your Great Dane puppy will ultimately weigh between 100 or 150 lbs and they must be taught how to treat other animals while they are still little. It’s up to you to teach them to be gentle with all other animals they meet. It’s up to you to set the rules and make sure your puppy accepts them. Dane puppies are very willing to please and should accept well set out rules.”
Janie Pronto-  Nuttree Great Danes

Make first experiences positive. Never, ever let your Dane baby loose with other dogs without knowing that they are safe dogs. A bad experience can teach the puppy to distrust other dogs.”
Carolyn McNamara-  Divine Acres Great Danes

Question #8:  How much exercise does a Great Dane need? What are some good exercise habits to develop?

Consensus:
 While Great Danes are known for their habit of occasionally running around the house frenetically for ten to fifteen minutes, a behavior referred to as the Zoomies, they don’t generally require an inordinate amount of exercise to keep them healthy. They have a fairly slow metabolism and most of them are satisfied with twenty minutes to an hour of activity per day. This breed is more prone to joint damage during their growth phases than most breeds. They enjoy short, leisurely walks, but running, jogging, and other high-impact activities should be avoided until they are at least eighteen months old.

Best Quotes:

Danes are a breed with a relatively low metabolism. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise is generally adequate. Know your particular dog and what their needs are. Walking with them is great, but we don’t recommend running or jogging with them until they are over eighteen months of age due to their rapid growth. They can run and play on their own but don’t encourage them to take long runs when they are young.”
Loren Bengston­-  Glacier Danes

Danes are generally considered to be a “moderate activity” breed. There is a wide variation within the breed though, with some Danes being true “couch potatoes” and others being very, very lively, active, and energetic. When planning to get a Dane, be honest with yourself about what level of activity you want. Talk to the breeder or rescue and they should be able to help guide you to the right dog. Start training your puppy to walk on a leash very early. Short leash walks are fine; never force exercise on a young puppy. As the dog gets older, the walks can get longer. The best exercise for small puppies is free-play.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

Great Danes need moderate exercise. They tend to get the “zoomies” for about 10 minutes morning and evening and then most of the day just want to lay at your feet. Great Danes continue growing until two years of age. It’s important to not push it and keep exercise moderate, particularly the first year of life. Too much impact on the joints can affect the growth plates. Our mature show dogs run a couple of miles about three or four times a week to keep them conditioned for the ring.”
Carrie Michaelson-  Gem Danes

Question #9:  How easy or hard are they to train? What advice do you have for a new owner?

Consensus:
 These are very large dogs, making it difficult to force them to do anything. Fortunately for those who share their homes with a Great Dane, they are also very tractable dogs who truly enjoy pleasing their humans. Danes are typically very trainable, but they respond poorly to punitive training methods and tend to get bored more quickly than other breeds. They learn best when you keep training sessions short and fun, and they thrive on repetition and consistency. Start training your Great Dane pup as early as possible for the best results.

Best Quotes:

Very easy! They catch on quickly. Be consistent and repetitive with your training methods. Be patient and start with short three-minute training sessions. Make it fun and start training from day one so they will know what is allowed and not allowed.”
Janice R Brewington-  Brewington Precious Danes

Great Danes are very intelligent but do not like drill sergeant style training. They also get bored easily. If you keep training fun and rewarding for them, they learn very quickly.”
Jackie Herman-  Ace-Hi Danes

Overall, Danes are extremely easy to train. It’s important to keep training short and sweet, especially with puppies. Just a few minutes a day of leash work is plenty to start. Keep it positive— you don’t want them to get bored. Work on focus. When you have focus and recall, everything else is easy.”
Carrie Michaelson-  Gem Danes

Danes are very trainable as either puppies or adults. They respond very well to positive reinforcement training and are generally willing to please. However, you must establish yourself as a leader that commands respect. Puppy obedience classes are a must for every new Dane owner to give the new owner confidence in their ability to handle their dog. If you have confidence in yourself, your puppy will have confidence in you as well and accept you as their leader.”
Janie Pronto-  Nuttree Great Danes

Question #10:  What are some of the unwanted behavior that a Great Dane might display, and what advice do you have for dealing with them?

Best Quotes:

A growing Great Dane may quickly realize that it is becoming large enough to reach your face, the place where all the talking and love comes from. They will inherently, at some point, feel like jumping up to greet you is a brilliant idea. It is our job as pet parents to make this very unpleasant. Using a short and strong “off” command at the moment they jump, sometimes coupled with turning your back to them, makes it clear to the dog that this behavior is unwanted.”
Nathan Bolby-  Grand Mimieux

Great Danes may display several unwanted behaviors. Jumping on people is a common problem. Since they are so heavy they can accidentally hurt someone if the jumping doesn’t stop. Some Danes bite walls and furniture. If this is not corrected, you can say goodbye to the furniture and walls. Crating the Dane for overly long periods or neglecting socialization can lead to an aggressive Dane.”
Arthur Rivera-  Royalty Great Danes

Danes do not do well with long periods of crating. Long hours of crating can result in a higher incidence of growth issues in puppies and can encourage compulsive behaviors such as barking, separation anxiety, and compulsive licking leading to lick granulomas. The best way to avoid these issues is to ensure your puppy is not left unattended for long periods of time.”
Carolyn McNamara-  Divine Acres Great Danes

Question #11:  Do Great Danes make good travel companions? Why or why not?

Consensus:
 If you plan on traveling with your Great Dane, you will want to get them used to riding quietly in your car or van early in their lives. Once habituated to the method of travel, they tend to be mellow, easy-going travel companions that don’t take a lot of extra effort. The logistics of traveling with the supplies needed for a large dog like the Great Dane tends to be more difficult than traveling with the dog itself and should be taken into account when planning your trip.

Best Quotes:

Yes and no. If they are taught early on to ride quietly in a car or van then they usually ride very well. The problems are due to their size. It’s a common joke (with a grain of truth) that first time Dane owners often decide they need a bigger car after a few months! Some hotels have weight limits and won’t take big dogs. And of course, all the Dane’s luggage, such as their food, bedding, and crate, take up a lot more space than a smaller dog’s luggage.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

My family travels often from Pennsylvania to the Carolinas. Our dogs travel well in the car, use the bathroom at rest stops with ease, and generally seem to appreciate the change in scenery as much as we do. I do not think flying them around the country would be good for them or the owner. This type of stress is significantly different than a car trip, and a stay at the kennel may be a better alternative.”
Nathan Bolby-  Grand Mimieux

They make excellent travel companions. It’s a great way to bond with your dog, teach them how to behave in strange places and have a well-rounded, socialized dog. When you travel with your dog, you are forced to make sure your dog exhibits good manners. This is the best training you can do with your dog.”
Janie Pronto-  Nuttree Great Danes

Question #12:  Do they have any specific dietary needs or differences from other Great Dane?

Consensus:
As a puppy, the dietary needs of the Great Dane breed differs significantly from many other dog breeds. Due to the speed at which this breed grows, particularly in their first year, the wrong ratios of nutrients like phosphorous, calcium, and proteins, can have disastrous results. The dietary needs of adult Great Danes are not that different from other dogs, however, they should be closely watched for signs of bloat, a life-threatening situation that requires immediate medical attention.

Best Quotes:

Danes have very specific dietary needs. As puppies, it is important to keep their growth slow or they can develop serious skeletal issues. We provide low-calorie diets with proper phosphorous to calcium ratios. The Dane puppy’s immune system is compromised during their fast growth stages, between two months and a year of age. Their energy is focused on growth— we must protect their immune systems by keeping their diets very consistent.”
Cynthia Neet-  Neet Danes

You may have seen all the “large breed” or “giant breed” puppy foods at the pet stores. That’s because giant breeds have unique needs. They need LESS of many nutrients like protein and calcium rather than more. This is to keep them from growing too fast. They grow very fast anyway, but too much of the wrong nutrients will cause their bones to grow faster than the tendons and ligaments, which can cause terrible deformities. Dane puppies should be kept lean after about nine weeks or so. Too many calories can cause the same problems as too much protein.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

The Great Dane breed in general, is more prone to bloat or torsion than other breeds. We recommend not feeding for one hour before any strenuous activity and then waiting for at least two hours after.”
Jackie Herman-  Ace-Hi Danes

Question #13:  What grooming tips do you have?

Consensus:
This breed does not require great amounts of effort in the grooming arena, although most breeders recommend getting your Dane used to grooming as a pup. They should be brushed once or twice a week with a soft brush to remove dead hair and to maintain their shine, but they should only be bathed as needed. Bathing your Great Dane too frequently can lead to dry skin and flaking skin. It is particularly important not to neglect the toenails when grooming this breed as walking on overgrown toenails can cause serious damage to the joints of the foot.

Best Quotes:

Danes are a pretty easy breed when it comes to grooming. Only bathe them when it is needed so as not to dry out their skin. After baths make sure to get all of the water out of their ears. It is essential to keep nails short. Long nails can cause pressure on the joints in the foot, eventually causing injury or arthritis. I recommend teaching the dog to get used to a wireless Dremel, as it is the easiest way to do nails quickly— without the uncomfortable pinching of clippers.”
Carrie Michaelson-  Gem Danes

Pet often! Brush weekly. Danes do not have an underlayer of fur as many dogs do. They should not be exposed to cold temperatures for any longer than you would want to be.”
Roger S White-  GreatDanes4U.com

Brush your Dane often with a soft brush; boy does it bring out the shine! Baths should start when the pup is young and they don’t mind having their teeth brushed. Don’t neglect their toenails. Start grooming them as puppies and make it pleasant so you won’t have to struggle when they get big.”
Jackie Herman-  Ace-Hi Danes

Get a big shower!.”
Kim Amaral-  Ca European Great Danes

Question #14:  What kind of shedding should an owner expect? Any advice?

Consensus:
Although it may seem like these dogs shed a large amount just due to the sheer size of the Great Dane, their shedding is actually fairly moderate. Daily brushing and a good diet will normally help to reduce the amount of hair deposited around your home, as will changing the dog’s bedding frequently. These dogs do tend to shed more heavily when the seasons change and should be brushed more frequently during these times.

Best Quotes:

Danes shed moderately. Brushing every day and bathing regularly helps to keep the shedding at a minimum. They will fully “blow” coat about twice a year. They might look “moth-eaten” at those times.”
Cynthia Neet-  Neet Danes

Danes do shed, like any short-haired dog. Regular brushing and a high-quality diet usually keep this to a minimum but it seems to happen year-round.”
Barb Bristol-  Symmetry Danes

They are an average shedder. The Dane does shed and it can seem like a lot of hair since they are a big dog. They shed more during seasonal times. Changing bedding and brushing often will help manage shedding.”
Janice R Brewington-  Brewington Precious Danes

Question #15:  Can you speak to some of the genetic health concerns associated with Great Danes?

Consensus:
There are several disorders common to this breed that have a genetic basis. One of the most common and devastating disorders to plague this breed is dilated cardiomyopathy, which can result in sudden heart failure. Responsible breeders will avoid utilizing dogs that have DCM or have a close relative with DCM, but there are no reliable screening tests to show heritability of this disease. Parents should be screened for other disorders, such as hip dysplasia and thyroid imbalances. Bloat, a life-threatening disorder common to large, deep-chested breeds, may also have a genetic component.

Best Quotes:

Disorders common to Great Danes include DCM, also known as Dilated Cardiomyopathy, hip dysplasia, thyroid disorders, and eye issues. All four of these issues are highly genetic and parents should be screened before being bred.”
Carolyn McNamara-  Divine Acres Great Danes

The biggest concern you see in Great Danes would probably be hip dysplasia. Entropian, a disorder that causes the eyelids to roll outward, is also common in some Great Danes. This is usually seen more in dogs that have loose, droopy skin. One unusual health concern is stomach torsion or it is often labeled as “twisted gut ” or bloat. This is when the stomach rotates or twists. You typically see this when a dog eats and then is very active. Although being active on a full stomach is the most common contributor to bloat, it is not the only thing that can cause it.”
Shawna Howard-  Cottonball Danes

Our breed is being plagued with DCM-Dilated Cardiomyopathy. There is considerable research being conducted to help breeders to steer away from this disease but we currently have no solid testing to remove carriers from our breeding pool. Bloat is also still a very real concern. It’s another issue we can’t seem to get enough answers to completely breed it out. This issue, however, can be made non-life threatening by having a gastropexy done at the time of your dog’s spay or neuter.”
Brandy Massey-  Massey Great Danes