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Breed Profile: Great Dane, the "Gentle Giant"

By Ruthie Bently

I have known several Great Danes during my career as a pet care professional. I had clients that lived in an apartment with three of these “gentle giants.” A Great Dane can do well in an apartment if they get plenty of exercise at the dog park or on long walks, though I would not recommend them for everyone.

The Great Dane is the second largest dog, behind the Irish Wolfhound. A male Great Dane stands between 30 to 34 inches at the withers, and weighs between 120 to 200 pounds. A female stands between 28 to 32 inches at the shoulder, and weighs between 100 to 130 pounds. The AKC standard states “The male shall not be less than 30 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that he be 32 inches or more, providing he is well proportioned to his height. The female shall not be less than 28 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that she be 30 inches or more, providing she is well proportioned to her height. Danes under minimum height must be disqualified.”

Due to their size, there are a few things to consider before getting a Great Dane. They don’t have to jump up on a counter to surf; they are tall enough to set their head on the counter or the kitchen table. They can empty a table of its contents with one wag of their tail. Great Danes are good with children but they could knock over a small child unintentionally, so they need to be supervised with children. The size of your residence should also be considered. They won’t fit in most cars, and you need a fairly large vehicle for them to fit into comfortably. They have an energetic, friendly personality and are known for being elegant though strong. They require daily exercise, but their short coat is easily groomed. Acceptable coat colors are black, blue, brindle, harlequin, fawn and mantle.

The Great Dane is a member of the working group and was recognized by the AKC in 1887. The translation of the breed’s French name (grand Danois) means “big Danish,” though Denmark has nothing to do with their lineage. They were developed in Germany to hunt wild boar and to guard estates, and the breed is believed to be over 400 years old. Their lineage can be traced back to crosses between old English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. Drawings on Egyptian monuments from around 3000 B.C. are believed to resemble the Great Dane, and the earliest documentation of a dog resembling them dates back to 1121 B.C. in China.

I grew up reading the Sunday comics, and Marmaduke was one of my favorites. It’s drawn by Brad Anderson, who created it and it focuses on the Winslow family and their irrepressible Great Dane, Marmaduke. The movie Marmaduke (based on the comic strip) opened in theaters this past June. My definition of responsible pet ownership includes thoroughly researching a breed you are interested in adding as a member of your family. I mention this because every time Hollywood introduces a movie about a specific dog, everyone wants one. However, many of these dogs end up in shelters, because they were not the right breed for the person. After Beethoven, Saint Bernards flooded the shelters; after 101 Dalmatians it was Dalmatians, and after Beverly Hills Chihuahua it was Chihuahuas.

The Great Dane Club of America and the AKC both advised people against rushing out to get a Great Dane after seeing the Marmaduke movie. Read more about this giant breed here, and help prevent a plethora of Great Danes from ending up in shelters.

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