Great Dane Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Great Dane Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2013
The Great Dane is typically a gentle giant, easygoing and mild-mannered.
He needs only moderate exercise, but does need space and shouldn't be cramped into studio apartments and postage-stamp yards. Above all, this sociable breed needs companionship. He doesn't do well when left alone.
With his deep, resounding voice, a Great Dane won't fail to announce visitors, but guarding and territorial instincts vary. Some lines and individuals are friendly with everyone, some are sensibly protective, while others are standoffish or skittish.
To build their confidence and promote a stable temperament, young Great Danes must be taken out into the world more frequently than most other breeds.
Some Great Danes are peaceful with other pets, while others are dominant and pushy.
Because he is so huge and can be bossy if undisciplined, obedience training is essential, but Great Danes are also very sensitive and should be trained with cheerful methods. Harshness only confuses them and makes them distrustful.
Great Danes drool and slobber and lumber around in a rather bumptious manner. They are not good choices for fastidious housekeepers, or for those with no sense of humor.
Young Great Danes (up to three years old) can be boisterous, and unless supervised, will dismay you with the magnitude of their destructiveness.
If you want a dog who...
- Is a giant mastiff-type, but more elegant in build
- Has a sleek, easy-care coat that comes in a variety of colors
- Is usually easygoing and mild-mannered
- Needs only moderate exercise
- Looks imposing, so makes an effective deterrent, yet is usually non-aggressive with people
A Great Dane may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- A huge dog who takes up a lot of space in your house and car
- A heavy dog who wants to sit on your feet or lean his weight against your leg
- Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
- "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness) when left alone too much
- Aggression or fearfulness in some lines, or when not socialized enough
- Possible aggression toward other animals
- Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
- Slobbering and drooling
- Gassiness (flatulence)
- Serious health problems and a short lifespan
- Potential legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
A Great Dane may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Great Dane
If I was considering a Great Dane, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Great Danes need enough exercise to keep them lean and healthy, but not so much that their soft growing bones, joints, and ligaments become over-stressed and damaged. The proper amount of exercise can be difficult to regulate in giant breeds.
Since you have to minimize their exercise, young Great Danes can be very rambunctious. They will romp with uncoordinated gawkiness all over your house. You need to substitute extra quantities of companionship and supervision. Otherwise, left alone, young Great Danes become bored and destructive -- and their powerful jaws can literally destroy your living room.
- Providing enough socialization. Most Great Danes have protective instincts toward strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone acts abnormally. Without careful socialization, they may be suspicious of everyone, which could lead to biting. Some Great Danes go in the opposite direction -- without enough socialization, they become fearful of strangers, which can lead to defensive biting.
If you have small children, or if you or anyone who lives with you is elderly or infirm, I do not recommend Great Dane puppies. Young Great Danes (up to about three years old) can be bulls in a china shop. When they romp and jump, they do so with great vigor, and things can go flying, including people.
- Animal aggression. Some Great Danes are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs, especially of the same sex. Some Great Danes have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures. If anything goes wrong in the breeding, socializing, training, handling, or management of this breed, it is capable of seriously injuring or killing other animals.
- The strong temperament. Great Danes have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. Some Great Danes are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Great Dane to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Great Dane Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Slobbering. Most people are not prepared for how much the Great Dane slobbers and drools, especially after eating or drinking. Some Great Danes have looser jowels than others, and when they shake their heads, you will be toweling saliva and slime off your clothes and furniture.
- Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. Fortunately, Great Danes who are fed a natural diet of real meat and other fresh foods have much less trouble with gassiness. See my Great Dane Health Page for more information.
- Serious health problems. Great Danes are not a healthy breed. Their bone structure is often flimsy and may break down under the heavy weight thrust upon it. They are frequently stricken at an early age by joint and bone disorders, heart disease and cancer. Their life span is extremely short.
To keep this breed healthy, I strongly recommend following all of the advice on my Great Dane Health Page.
- Legal liabilities. The Great Dane may be targeted for "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a history as a guard dog should be seriously considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
Frankly, most Great Danes are "too much dog" for the average household. Very few people really have the knowledge, facilities, or skills necessary to manage this breed.
To learn more about training Great Danes to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Great Dane the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Great Dane puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Great Dane might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Great Dane home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Great Dane...
When you're acquiring a Great Dane PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Great Danes who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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