Great Dane Temperament: What’s it Like Owning One?

Nicknamed the “Apollo of dogs”, the Great Dane has proven to be truly one of a kind. Popularly used as a hunting companion, guard dog, or loving member of one’s family, this distinct species of dog stands confidently aside its owner. To understand all of the idiosyncrasies that make Great Danes what they are, I’ve comprised a guide explaining what it’s like to bring this gentle giant into your home.

Great Danes are known for their compassion and love for companionship with humans, as well as their protective, confident personality. Owning a Great Dane comes with its challenges, such as growing accustomed to their size, eating habits, and health.

Owning a Great Dane is a blast! You will love this gentle giant, and it will love you back and guard you with its life. Although, because of the peculiarity of this breed, owning a Great Dane requires a bit of extra care and attention at times. Here are some tips on what it’s like to own the Apollo of dogs!

Great Dane Personality

The Great Dane is known primarily for its love of human companionship. If you are looking for a dog that will be an active and loving member of your family while also offering a high level of security, this is the dog for you!

Max loves his family, and jumps with joy at the sight of his dad!

The nature of the Great Dane originates from their ancestors’ lines.

The Great Dane was originally bred as a hunting companion in Germany and England. These tenacious animals were used to hunt deer, elk, wolves, and the European Wild Boar. Hunters were seeking out a companion that would keep up with them, protect them, and assist in taking down such wild beasts.

Luckily, the Great Dane fit their job description!

Their size, endurance, affection, and other breed characteristics made the Great Dane an ideal candidate for these hunters. Additionally, due to their gentleness (when not hunting wild animals), Great Danes were often owned by royalty and the elite upper class.

After years and years of selective breeding, the Apollo of dogs was normalized as a household pet and family member.

Today, Great Danes are common in large households, especially with whole families, just like Max in the video placed above. As seen in this video as well, Great Danes are not commonly hyperactive.

They have not been used as “boarhounds” for many years, and as a result, have become more domesticated, gentle, and calm.

If you plan to own a Great Dane, do not expect to be trail running every week! Aside from daily walks or occasional outings, these are primarily inside dogs.

Most Great Danes are somewhat playful, but not super physically active. Typically, they are considered indoor dogs who enjoy sitting, casually playing, or cuddling with their family around the house.

Although, unexpectedly, Great Danes sometimes experience something commonly referred to as the “zoomies”! This sounds fun, right? Well, it kind of is!

Sometimes, Great Danes will be so overwhelmed with joy and glee that they will physically just lose control of themselves and end up leaping, spinning, and galloping with complete and utter joy!

This occurs occasionally in young or teenage Danes.

These large, loving animals are amazing companions to have around the family! Though it is not recommended to leave them with young children due to their strength and playful nature.

Anxiety has become a much more talked about issue among humans, but many are not aware that anxiety can occur in dogs as well! Great Danes, in particular, should never be kept alone for long periods of time in kennels, cages, or even small homes.

They like to be around humans so isolation can make them get nervous and anxious. That sometimes can lead to tearing up the couch.

This dog thrives on human connection. Attachment issues or anxiety can be caused by leaving your Great Dane alone or locked up for prolonged periods of time. They will require love and support regularly from their owner.

Temperament for Training

Great Danes were used for hunting and by royalty! This should mean they’re easy to train, right?

Well, yes and no. Great Danes are, quite literally, people pleasers! In the world of dog intelligence, Great Danes are considered to be quite average.

No, this doesn’t mean they’re dumb! Most Great Danes will respond to obedience training and can somewhat easily be taught to sit, stay, lay down, heel, and follow other basic commands.

Great Danes are wildly successful in competitive obedience or rally performances. This circles back to their inherent “people pleaser” attitude.

Since Great Danes grow much faster than humans, their first year of life is the best time to begin regular training. Months 3-6 are ideal times to begin. Gentle, but stern teaching techniques will ensure an obedient, smart Great Dane.

As puppies, it is strongly urged that they are not allowed to roam about the house as they please.

This will instill in their mind that they have the ability to do as they please as if the house is just as much theirs as it is yours! This puts your couches, chairs, carpet, and other furniture at risk!

Crate training is ideal for Great Danes. Crate training pertains to leaving your dog in a cage during certain times and only allowing them to leave their cage at certain times. This can be difficult with Great Danes due to their problems with anxiety.

If done properly, crate training can help Grate Danes with potty training, as well as anxiety around the home. By leaving them in their cage (inside), they see the cage as their home.

Due to their protective nature, leaving the dog in its cage will help it feel more protective about the cage itself and less anxious but equally as protective about guarding the house, since they know they are guarding your home rather than their home.

Gentle Giants

Great Danes are gentle, yet playful giants. If you get a purebred Great Dane, you can expect to have a giant pet.

A full-grown adult will be on average 120 lbs if female or 150 lbs if male. There are some that will be bigger and others that are smaller. Danes are individuals so it makes sense that the size fluctuates throughout the breed.

When it comes to the height, most females will be around 28-30 inches tall, standing on all fours. A male will be about 31-32.

Basically, you need to anticipate taking care of an enormous dog. I’m not kidding. For comparison sake, a division “A” mini horse is 34 inches in height. That’s not that much taller than a Great Dane.

A dog of these proportions can be intimidating. Just wait until you see a Great Dane on its hind legs. A male can be 6+ feet tall, some even reaching 7.

Even though these dogs can be huge, they are still really sweet and sensitive. This means for your home that they are not likely to cause a mess or problems with anyone in the house.

The only problems that you might encounter is a Great Dane who is a bit clumsy and knocks something or someone over. This is a reason that Great Danes are not recommended in houses with very young children or babies.

It’s not an aggression issue, but more of a lack of self-awareness.

Change in Behavior Could Signal Health Problems

Every living thing on the planet has its own health risks. We are not immortal, and unfortunately, neither are our dogs.

A Great Dane will have a pretty steady temperament over time. They will be energetic as puppies and will phase out of this over the course of a couple years.

After puppyhood, a Great Dane will have a pretty steady attitude about things. This will include behavior and habits.

If this behavior suddenly changes, then something could be going behind the scenes that you don’t know about.

Mostly due to their size and weight, Great Danes have an average life expectancy of 7-10 years. As your dog gets older, he might stop eating as much or may spend more hours of the day sleeping.

However, if your Great Dane is still pretty young, it might be time for a trip to the vet.

Most common among their health risks is bloat. Bloat is a condition in some dogs in which the stomach is filled with air and, if severe enough, can twist and cut off the blood supply. This is a high risk among Great Danes also due to their size and weight.

If your Great Dane experiences bloat, you should seek medical attention immediately from a veterinarian for surgery. In addition, as your veterinarian about tacking your Great Dane’s stomach. This helps prevent bloat in the future since after experiencing bloat once, it is common to occur again.

Many Great Dane owners have their dog’s stomach tacked as a routine preventative measure.

Just like any other health issue, the internet is full of home remedies and quick fixes you can come up with at home. It is highly recommended that you seek professional help as soon as possible.

Bloat is considered the highest health risk for the Great Dane. Although, once again due to their size, they are still at risk for other health problems.

Cardiomyopathy and hip dysplasia are both high risks for large dogs, including but not limited to the Great Dane.

Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle resulting in a large heart, occurs occasionally at old age in larger dogs. This can be managed by prescribed medication, but should still be given special daily attention.

Hip Dysplasia, a hip socket irregularity, can be avoided by checking with the lineage of your Great Dane. Often, hip dysplasia is passed down by parents who had the same problem. If your Great Dane is at risk of hip dysplasia, make sure to keep him lean and strong when young! A build-up of muscle will minimize risk.

A lot of the risks will effect how energetic and social your Great Dane will be. Like stated earlier, if you note a change of behavior, it could be a sign that one of these things is going wrong.

Great Danes are Known to Be Hungry

One of the most important things to consider when looking at dogs you might want to bring into your home is their eating habits. Do you want a big dog? You’ll need a lot of food!

Great Danes have a lot of awesome personality traits, and you would think since they are not super energetic and don’t love running, that they wouldn’t be so dang hungry all the time.

Since these gentle puppies grow to gentle giants so quickly, their diets should be monitored closely and carefully. Typical dog food from your local stop n’ shop just won’t do! Great Danes have sensitive bodies that, if fed low-quality food, can develop bloat or malnourished muscle tissue.

When shopping for food for your Great Dane, it is important to remember that you need quality ingredients. Many dog foods will generically say “dog food, meat-based”. What kind of meat? Who cares, it’s meat!

Try looking for a dog food that uses organic ingredients. Instead of “meat based” products, look for one that is specifically beef or chicken.

Feeding your Great Dane the right food can help with energy levels, health and overall temperament. If your dog is not being properly fed, he or she may be grumpy or sick often.

Fat and Protein content should also be examined. For Great Dane puppies, a fat content of 12-20% is optimal, as well as a protein content of 25%.

Since Great Danes grow at such an incredible rate, it is also recommended that you use large breed puppy formula, which will slow down the growth speed, allowing your dog’s bones and muscles to mature at a normal speed.

Below is a table describing the daily intake of food for your Great Dane.

AgeFemaleMale
3-6 months 3-6 cups 4-8 cups
8-12 months5-8 cups6-10 cups
12-18 months8 cups9-15 cups
18+ months6-8 cups8-10 cups

Remember this is their daily intake! Spread out their intake to 3-4 meals in order to avoid any health problems.

Things to Keep in Mind for Your Great Dane…

I hope that after reading this article, you will have a good idea of whether or not you want a Great Dane! Hopefully, you’ll be thinking to yourself, “I sure wish I had a dog like Max!”

In conclusion, due to their ancestral breeding as hunters as well as among royalty, your Great Dane will live up to its nickname, “the gentle giant”. Your gentle giant will love you and appreciate your companionship. In addition, you will be protected wherever you go!

Your Great Dane will watch your back because he trusts you and knows you’re watching his.

These are inside dogs, make sure to set aside a spot for him! At times, his laziness will outweigh his playfulness. Don’t let that stop you from your daily walk! Daily exercise is important, even if they’re not running a marathon or hiking Mt. Shasta with you. A walk a day keeps the vet away!

You can always take your Great Dane to obedience school, but as long as you are loving, yet firm with your teaching, you will be happy with the response! Don’t forget to think about crate training.

Yes, of course, your Great Dane will be HUGE! Most Great Danes grow up to 32 inches and 150 pounds! Be prepared to give lots of attention to their exercise and diet.

You will love having a Great Dane as long as you provide lots of space, lots of food, and lots of love. Your Great Dane will stand by your side at all times with love, support, and security.

Matt Field

Dogs are great, right? I've had 3 dogs in my lifetime, and I don't plan on stopping there!

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