Are you considering adopting a Great Dane? Read on for a detailed description of this giant dog breed.

Great Dane
By Kristopher Chambers

The Great Dane is sometimes called the King of Dogs. While this may not be literally true, they are certainly among the most elegant and distinctive breeds. Courageous, spirited, and friendly, they are not overly aggressive, nor are they overly timid, and this makes them well suited as both a hunting dog and a domestic companion.

Tall and regal, the Dane is a very large dog. Adults usually weigh between 100 and 120 lbs, and their impressive height and surprising gentleness has earned them the colloquial nickname of "gentle giants." Danes have a short, thick coat of fur with a glossy appearance, and are are usually yellow-gold with a black mask around the face. However, their fur may also be steel blue, glossy black, or pure white with irregular black patches.

Despite their large size, this breed of dog is sensitive and needs gentle handling. They are social creatures, family dogs, and do not like being confined to a backyard as they need to interact with others. Protective and loyal, they get along well with humans, dogs, and other animals. They are both courageous and gentle, loyal and independent. Although some Danes have dominance issues, this is not usually a serious problem.

The Great Dane is a very old breed, probably over 400 years, and was originally bred to hunt wild boar. The name is an English translation of the French designation "el grand danois," which may also be translated as "big danish." Why the English use a translation of the French name is as mysterious as why this breed was associated with Denmark, as it is, and always has been, German. In the year 1880, a meeting of dog judges in Berlin was called. They officially declared that the breed should be known as the "deutsche dogge," and that all other terms, especially the spurious "Great Dane", should be abolished. In general this effort was successful. However, to this day both the English and the Italians still continue to use their own terms for the breed.

As with any dog, when buying a puppy it is important to buy only from certified and reliable breeders. One should make a decision based on the pup's temperament, such as how well it reacts to its prospective owner, and how it treats it's litter mates. It is also important to make sure the breeder has screened it's parents for genetic conditions such as Hip Dysplasia, which is a common illness among this breed.

It is a good idea to buy a puppy a crate. Having a crate makes house breaking much easier, and will give the dog somewhere to retreat or hide. It will also allow you to restrain a puppy when needed, which is very important, as these puppies are precocious and go through irregular growth spurts. They will chew on almost anything they can get in their mouths, so it is important to keep a stock of more appropriate toys for them to play with.

Danes have relatively slow metabolisms, and first time owners need to keep an eye on their weight, lest they become obese. They need very little grooming compared to other dogs. The coat should only need a weekly brushing with a brush and soft comb, and an occasional bath when the animal is dirty. Like all dogs, the toenails need to be kept short and will need regular trimming. They should not click on the ground when the animal walks.

Illness is always a concern with this breed. They are susceptible to several illnesses, but a particular danger is Gastric Tortion, commonly called "bloat." Bloat is where the stomach fills with gas but is unable to expel it. This causes the stomach to become distended, and could cause damage to the blood vessels and nerves. The exact cause of bloat is not known, but it can be fatal. 25% of deaths in this breed are caused by bloat. There are several treatments, each of which should be discussed with a veterinarian before an animal has actually had an incident. One very good idea is to elevate the dogs food and water dishes, this decreases the amount of air entering the stomach and helps prevent bloat from developing.

Although not as popular as the Labrador Retriever or Yorkshire Terrier, Great Danes make excellent pets. Their friendliness, loyalty, and courage make these gentle giants skilled guardians and loving companions.

American Kennel Club. "The Complete Dog Book." 19th ed. New York: Howell Book House. 1997.
Swedlow, Jill. "A New Owner's Guide to Great Danes." New Jersey: T. F. H. Publications, Inc. 1997.

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