Breed of the Month: Great Dane

by Alexis O.

Managing Editor

The absolute largest breed in the canine kingdom, the Great Dane towers over every other breed of dog. Not to be fooled by its enormous size, the Great Dane is considered a gentle giant and is by far one of the sweetest dogs.

The Great Dane supposedly originated in Germany and was bred as a hunting dog to hunt wild boar. However, there are hieroglyphics in the mountains of Egypt depicting the large breed, drawn around 3000 B.C. Also, there are pictures of the breed in Chinese literature from around 1121 B.C. As one can see, this breed has been around for quite a while. Great Danes are believed to be a cross between an Irish Wolfhound (a large, wiry-coated dog) and a the majestic English Mastiff (another large, black and tan breed.)

As anyone cAO great dane 1an see, the Great Dane is a huge, powerful dog. It has a square body type and is the tallest breed. As with any other breed, Great Dane females are slightly smaller than males. “My neighbor owns two Great Danes, and the girl is much shorter than the male. They both are much taller than my bulldog though,” says senior Christian Taylor. The breed has a very large snout, and its nose is either black or blue, depending on the coloring, or spotting on the harlequin patterned (almost like a cow’s coat) Great Danes. The coat coloring varies and comes in mantle harlequin, merle (resulting from harlequin breeding,) black, blue, fawn (cream with a reddish tint), and brindle (faded/blended stripes, usually black and brown). Chocolate (brown) is not an AKC (American Kennel Club) recognized color, but it does result when the recessive gene is present in the phenotype (the physically visible gene that is present in the dog). The body is rather muscular, with long legs and a long tail.  Great Danes typically have large brown eyes, but sometimes the recessive blue eyes are present in harlequin Danes.

Its size can be intimidating to some, but the Great Dane is one of the most affectionate, loyal, loving breeds of dog. It gets along wonderfully with children, other dogs, cats, and any other pet. Aggression is rarely an issue according to breed standards, but every dog is different, and each individual should be assessed, well, individually. Given its boundless energy and size, Great Danes should be trained right from the get-go not to jump up on people and to contain their composure when excited. “My aunt just got a blue Great Dane puppy, and he is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. She already has taught him the ‘down’ command when he jumps on people, which is good because he is going to be huge!” says senior Cindy Nielsen. Great Danes make excellent service dogs and are very patient with the disabled. Its name “gentle giant” holds truth, and a Great Dane can easily fit into any type of family. However, apartment living is not ideal because of their large size. Climate-wise, Great Danes can thrive almost anyAO great dane 2where, but extreme heat should be moderated to avoid heart conditions.

The Great Dane belongs to the Working Group, according to the AKC, and can reach up to 200 pounds. Males can be as tall as 34 inches. Sadly, this loveable breed is prone to an array of health issues, and its life expectancy is not very long. Living roughly 7-10 years, Great Danes can develop hip dysplasia (prolonged overuse of the ball and socket in the hip.) This makes it crucial for any owner to provide adequate vet care on a routine basis. Great Danes are also at a very high risk for the devastating “bloat,” which is when a dog’s stomach twists and turns itself inside out, causing the dog excruciating pain, and inevitably is fatal. If caught early, a veterinarian is usually able to surgically twist the stomach back to its original state, but the recurrence rate for this condition is extremely high. For those familiar with the movie Marley and Me, bloat is what ultimately took Marley’s life. Such a gigantic breed requires blood circulation throughout a much larger area, which makes heart disease and heart failure another risk. Running with young puppies is not recommended until the Great Dane has reached at least a year and have fully developed.

In all, the Great Dane has the ideal disposition desired by any type of family. They can be energetic, calm, and docile all in one. They do not live entirely long lives, but the years spent with them are guaranteed to be filled with endless love, loyalty, humor, and affection. Veterinary care is necessary, especially as the dog reaches “senior” status (6+ years of age). Early obedience training is key to managing this breed’s sheer size, but this can apply to any large breed. Great Danes live up to their positive expectations, and accepting one in as a companion will never disappoint.

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