Great Danes are the gentle giants of the dog world.
Breed name: English Bulldog
Lifespan: 7 to 10 years
Height: 28 to 32 inches
Weight: 110 to 175 lbs
Dubbed the ‘Apollo of dogs’, Great Danes will usually grow to a height of up to 32 inches (0.8128 metres).
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the world’s tallest dog is a Great Dane living in Texas, USA. Zeus, a two-year-old grey and brown American Great Dane, stands at 1.046 metres (3 ft 5.18 in)!
Don’t let their size fool you as the American Kennel Club’s website describes the Great Dane as an easygoing dog that’s a joy to live with.
Great Danes have a reputation for being relaxed canine companions that are patient around children and make friends easily with new people and other dogs.
For the purposes of this feature, we’ll be taking a look at Great Dane pros and cons to give prospective owners an insight into these noble canines.
In this article, we’ll hear from Haley who owns a Great Dane called Dior (@haleyandthedane), Butler (@life_with_leia_and_butler) and Zander’s owner Lexi (@zander.thegreat) to give our readers a pet parent’s perspective on the breed.
With the introduction over, let’s take a look at Great Dane pros and cons.
Great Dane Pros
Growing to a height of around 28 to 32 inches, it’s easy to see why these dogs have been dubbed giants. But they’ve got a reputation for being gentle thanks to their friendly personalities. The breed standard outlines that a Great Dane should alway be friendly and dependable but never timid or aggressive.
In her experience with the breed, Haley (@haleyandthedane) shared that she believes Great Danes live up to their Gentle Giant nickname.
Great Danes are known as the ‘gentle giants’ of the dog world and there is definitely a reason for that! Despite their overwhelming size, they truly do handle themselves with grace and have an extremely calm, loving demeanor. Of course all dogs are products of their environment in which they were raised so there are exceptions to the rule, however I have yet to see that in the 15 years I have spent around the breed.
Baille, who has a Great Dane called Butler (@life_with_leia_and_butler), emphasised the “gentle giant” point.
They are extremely friendly. I think any dog has the capability to get aggressive under certain circumstances and I genuinely believe upbringing has a lot to do with it. The Great Dane breed, overall, has received the name “gentle giant” for a reason, though.
Great guard dogs
While the AKC outline in the Great Dane’s breed standard that these tall dogs should never be aggressive, their sheer size is sufficient to deter unwanted visitors to the home. The organization writes:
Despite their sweet nature, Danes are alert home guardians. Just the sight of these gentle giants is usually enough to make intruders think twice. But those foolish enough to mistake the breed’s friendliness for softness will meet a powerful foe of true courage and spirit.
Bailee (@life_with_leia_and_butler) underlined this point by stating that Great Danes act as an effective deterrant.
Though Great Danes are known for being gentle and sweet, you can’t help but notice their size and stature. Even though they may not protect you in a moment’s notice, they certainly help deter people from messing with you in most cases, purely by how the dog looks and how deep their bark is.
A Reddit user emphasised the impact of a Great Dane’s bark on a potential intruder.
Their bark is loud enough to be felt in your chest. While I don’t think mine would bite an intruder (my pug would), he would definitely sound the alarm. There’s not too many people that will stick around to find out if the bite matches the bark.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a large dog like a Great Dane and a small living space like an apartment wouldn’t be a good combination – but that’s a misconception. Great Danes can excel in apartments provided they get sufficient exercise. For instance, a quick stroll around the neighbourhood will usually suffice and your Great Dane will be happy to nap on the sofa for the rest of the day before another brisk walk in the evening.
Haley (@haleyandthedane) further debunked the myth that you can’t live with a Great Dane in an apartment (or smaller dwelling).
Despite what you might think, Great Danes are excellent apartment dogs. A lot of people will stray away from getting an extra-large breed dog if they don’t live in a big house with a yard, but the truth is – having a backyard doesn’t always equal exercise. I currently live in an apartment with Dior and have raised two out of my three Danes in less than 800sqft. They do usually get daily bursts of energy and we make sure to take Dior out when he wakes up and before he goes to sleep, but honestly, he spends 80% of the day sleeping! He was six months old when I started working from home and while we do sometimes go out for an afternoon potty break – sometimes he sleeps the whole day away!
Continuing on from our previous point, Great Danes are often described as indoor dogs because they’re happy to chill on your sofa. Provided they get sufficient mental and physical stimulation, Great Danes will be relatively sedate inside.
Haley (@haleyandthedane) explained why these giant coach potatoes need some indoor time.
Great Danes are DEFINITELY indoor dogs. Actually, I think all dogs are ‘indoor’ dogs and deserve a spot on your couch, BUT Great Danes are prone to overheating. It takes a lot of effort to cool their big bodies down and unless you have a kiddie pool for them to cool off in during the day, I would not recommend ever leaving them outside for hours on end.
Lexi described the Great Dane as a versatile dog, sharing that Zander (@zander.thegreat) loves to chill on the sofa but is equally content to go on an adventure.
Zander is pretty versatile. He can be a couch potato, or come hike with me for a few miles. We try to get out for at least an hour every day though!
Butler’s owner Baille (@life_with_leia_and_butler) highlighted the importance of keeping their temperature regulated.
They need to be kept primarily at regulated temperatures. Nothing too hot or too cold for too long. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t hang on a 3+ mile hike or go to the beach or do some other outdoor activity. I just wouldn’t leave them out unattended in extreme temperatures. Also, I would try to acclimate them and desensitize them to higher energy activities if that’s what you’d like to do with your Great Dane.
Great Danes have earned a reputation for being great family pets because their patient with children. Having said that, parents will need to educate their kids on how to handle and respect this large dog. You should never leave a dog alone with children unsupervised irrespective of breed.
Asked whether Great Danes are a family-friendly breed, Haley (@haleyandthedane) was emphatic in her response to this question!
Absolutely! 100% the best family-friendly dog to ever exist. I can’t wait to have children of my own because I know he is going to teach them how to walk, steal food off of their highchairs, and protect them to the ends of this earth!
A Reddit user described the Great Dane as a “nanny dog”.
I’ve spent my entire life around Great Danes. They are wonderful dogs. Very gentle and tolerant of the shenanigans that a small child is tempted to pull. However I definitely encourage you to teach them that some things (i.e. riding on their back, climbing, yanking on their tail) are not nice to the dog. If anything, a Dane will probably act more like a nanny to the kid.
Easy to train
The Great Dane is ranked as the 48th smartest breed in the Intelligence of Dogs alongside the Boxer. According to Stanley Coren’s book, they understand new commands in 25 to 40 repetitions and obey the first command 50% of the time or better. Based upon our Great Dane owner’s experience, they’re eager to please and easy to train.
Haley recommends that new Great Dane owners start training their pup from a young age.
No matter what breed of dog you have, it is just in their nature to strive to please their owners. Great Danes are no different, just a lot bigger! If you start training at an early age with positive reinforcement and discipline, they will grow up to be very obedient.
Haley shared that Dior is also her service animal, underlying their deep bond.
Not only are Great Danes extremely intelligent, they also have no issues picking up on your emotions and body language. My Great Dane, Dior, is my service animal and I feel more in sync with him than I do with just myself most days!
Bailee revealed that Butler (@life_with_leia_and_butler) was easy to train!
I’ve only had one Great Dane so I cannot speak fully from broad experience, but our guy was very easy to train as a puppy. He caught on quickly, almost instantly. Great Danes are very smart. They can be very stubborn, as well. So even if they know the right thing to do, they may not necessarily do it.
Great Dane Cons
These dogs may be great but unfortunately they’ve got limited lifespans. Great Danes will usually live between 7 and 10 years, according to the AKC. However, in some rare cases, they may live much longer. For example, Millie is a 13-year-old Great Dane living in Sunderland. A quick search on Google will show lots of results for Great Danes that eclipsed the 10-year milestone.
Great Danes are low-to-moderate shedders but their gigantic size means owners can expect to encounter quite a bit of hair. It’s a good idea to brush your Great Dane at least a couple of times a week.
While Dior does shed a lot, Haley (@haleyandthedane) doesn’t really notice it!
Before I got my first Great Dane I read a lot of articles and blog posts talking about how their short hair and lack of shedding was a HUGE plus… Well – I don’t know what kind of unicorn Great Danes they were talking about, but you should see my car. I think there is more hair embedded in the ceiling than is on Dior’s body. LOL! But – don’t let that deter you from getting a Dane. They do have really short, fine hair and unless you see their fur on something of the opposite color, you really don’t even notice it is there!
Lexi admitted that Zander’s (@zander.thegreat) level of shedding surprised her.
I was honestly pretty surprised by how much Zander can shed! Since Zander has allergies I try to bathe him 1–2 times a month with his allergy shampoo. They require regular nail trimming and ear cleaning.
Baille told us that Butler (@life_with_leia_and_butler) sheds quite a bit but not an outrageous amount!
Great Danes are not exempt from shedding. They are large animals so it only makes sense that they produce more hair than smaller dogs do. Although their shedding isn’t outrageous – if you go from no dogs (or pets) to having a Great Dane, you will definitely notice the hair and the shedding.
If you haven’t heard of separation anxiety in dogs, it’s a good idea to research this chronic canine condition before you bring your dog home. It can affect any dog irrespective of breed or mix. Dogs can experience separation anxiety when an owner is about to leave the home or exits the front door. The possible result is barking, howling, whining, destructive chewing or digging and even defecating or urinating inside the home.
Haley (@haleyandthedane) shared that Dior does experience some separation anxiety when he’s left at home alone.
Now, I mentioned that Dior doesn’t bark but if we leave for longer than an hour or two he will howl his dang head off. He used to pull out all of the socks in my sock drawer and scatter them throughout the house, but he is very sensitive to me being disappointed in him that he only did it twice. It is hard to correct a behavior when you are not there, seeing it in action, but we have found that if we leave Dr. Pol on for him when we have to go somewhere, it keeps him occupied enough until we get back. (I guess he really is high maintenance).
Proving that all dogs are different, Baille hasn’t experienced the issue of separation anxiety with her Great Dane, Butler (@life_with_leia_and_butler) .
Not that I know of. I can tell my Great Dane doesn’t want me to leave and would rather I say home with him or him go with me, of course, but he does not express any anxiety-like symptoms or give any reason for me to believe he is anxious while we are away.
Sadly Great Danes are prone to some health problems so prospective owners will need to learn about some of the symptoms to look out for. The AKC list bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), as the number-one killer of Great Danes. They recommend that owners educate themselves to recognize the signs that bloat could be happening and what to do if so.
Haley (@haleyandthedane) explained that pet insurance is a must with the Great Dane breed.
Unfortunately, this is where their size puts them at a disadvantage. Any prescribed medication or procedure where your dog has to be put under anesthesia is expensive. The more the dog weighs, the more medication they need, therefore skyrocketing your bills! In addition to that, big dogs eat a large amount of food so that gets tacked onto your monthly bill as well.
We spend around $200 a month on food (dry kibble and the food I prepare and cook for him), and $200 a month on vet bills / pet insurance. If you are considering getting a Great Dane, I would highly recommend looking into pet insurance. The deductible is not hard to meet and you’ll be thankful you have it if you ever need it!
If you’re budgeting for the purchase of your Great Dane puppy and month-to-month costs of owning these gentle giants, you’ll need to set aside a large chunk of money for their diet.
Bailee (@life_with_leia_and_butler) revealed some of the costs associated with owning a Great Dane.
They are expensive. Food bills, toy/treat bills, vet bills – they all add up. You have to think about this… Great Danes are massive. This means they will require all the “XL” and “Giant” sizes of dog supplies and equipment. Bigger items cost more because there is more material and labor involved. So get ready to buy the biggest and most expensive bed, bowls, toys, treats, and grooming tools. On top of that, prepare to pay for good insurance and good vet and grooming care.
Haley (@haleyandthedane) shared that she spends $200 a month on pet food.
Big animals eat a large amount of food – that is just the way it works (it comes out big, too! LOL). You can expect your adult Great Dane to eat anywhere from 10-14 cups of food a day! However, their energy demands will be lower if they are resting so during the week you may feed them a bit less if all they’re doing is being lazy!
Need to start training early!
Touching upon her earlier point, Haley (@haleyandthedane) warned first-time Great Dane owners not to neglect training as their puppy will grow really fast!
However, I do think a lot of first-time Great Dane owners underestimate how fast they grow in such a short period of time and neglect to train them until it is too late. There will always be an option to hire a trainer or to send them to a doggy obedience camp, though I don’t think it is necessary. You have to establish very early on who is alpha and what you expect from them or else they will think they run the house!
This was a point emphasised by Lexi (@zander.thegreat).
Zander is a big people pleaser and very smart so he likes to train. But they get big (and strong!) really quickly. I would recommend beginning training early, and doing it often, so you can lay a good foundation for when your Dane is an adult.
Anything Else To Consider?
We’ve run through some of Great Dane pros and cons but Lexi (@zander.thegreat) had three key takeaways for anyone thinking about bringing home a member of this giant breed based upon her experience with Zander.
• Find a reputable breeder: health tested parents, early socialization, breeder support make a much different and better experience. Zander has a lot of health and behavioral issues.
• Get pet insurance or plan a savings for medical expenses : big dogs = BIG BILLS. Accidents happen and you really don’t want to have to choose between proper medical care and finances.
• Find a trainer: these puppies get big FAST! Training a 6 month old, 100lb puppy can be a challenging experience. Laying a good foundation only helps you in the long run.
Meanwhile, Baille (@life_with_leia_and_butler) emphasised the issue of bloat as one that all prospective owners should educate themselves about before bringing home a Great Dane (or any large dog for that matter).
Danes are very susceptible to bloat and every Dane owner needs to be aware of that. Be advised that every Dane owner is different and there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there. Do your research on bloat, stomach tacking, resting before and after a meal, and raised food bowls. Along with your research, consult with your vet. Then make educated decisions on how to proceed with your Dane.
To learn more about Haley and Dior, you can check out their website: haleyandthedane.com.