Great Danes are a highly popular breed these days. The gentle giants are friendly, social and not too difficult to train. They come in a wide variety of coat colors and usually do not exhibit many problematic behaviors such as reactivity or aggression. However, as with any dog you are looking to purchase, you should be certain that this is the right breed for your family and your lifestyle.
According to SpiritDog Training, these are the 7 questions you should ask yourself before buying a Great Dane puppy:
#1 Are you ready for their short life expectancy?
Sadly, large breeds live much shorter lives than small breeds. This is due to the fact that larger dogs physiologically age faster. While small lap dogs can reach the ripe age of 15-18 years, giant breeds pass much earlier. Great Danes live anywhere from 7 to 10 years. It is very rare that they reach their 11th birthday. You should expect to see first signs of aging as early as at 6 years of age – your dog’s snout will become grey, he might experience age-related problems like hip and back pains and his activity level will drop.
#2 Will you search for the right breeder?
As with any dog breed, you should only buy a puppy from a responsible and ethical breeder. Sometimes these breeders are not the closest to you and they don’t have the cheapest puppies. Health testing, vet checks for the puppies, high quality food etc. all will be reflected in the price of a puppy. You should talk to several breeders and ask for their qualifications and experience in breeding Great Danes. If you are not satisfied with their responses, move on.
Finding the right breeder and purchasing a healthy puppy is the best start to a happy life with your Great Dane.
#3 Can you work with potential anxiety?
Great Danes are usually very friendly dogs that do not show aggression or difficulties in getting along with humans or other dogs. However, they tend to have anxiety and be quite nervous. This can be displayed in several different behaviors, such as:
- Noise sensitivity
- Separation anxiety
- Fear of new places
- Strong startle responses (such as when waking up)
- Difficulty in becoming comfortable once something scared them
These are not issues that are impossible to work with. Most cases of fearfulness can actually be improved on very well with the right approach. However, this will take work and effort – if you are not ready to put this in, you are not ready for a Great Dane.
#4 Which color do you want?
Did you know that Great Danes come in a wide variety of coat colors and patterns? They can be solid black, blue or fawn. In addition, they can be multi-colored as well, such as in the brindle pattern or the harlequin and mantle Great Dane.
Harlequin Great Danes are especially sought-after – if you want one of this color, expect to pay a higher price for your pup.
#5 Are you ready to feed a growing Great Dane?
Everyone knows that these are big dogs – but this never becomes as apparent as when trying to adequately feed a growing Great Dane. These dogs consume enormous quantities of food, especially as adolescents. Eating 10 cups of dry food or more is common between the ages of 8 and 18 months. This should also not be a low-quality food. In order to best support the Great Dane’s growth, choose a high-quality kibble that is formulated specifically for large breed puppies.
#6 Do you know how to prevent bloat?
Bloat is a potentially fatal condition that appears in large breed dogs that occurs when they swallow air while eating. Their stomach fills with this air and twists 180 degrees. This is excruciatingly painful for your dog and always requires emergency surgery.
Great Danes are the breed with the highest risk for bloat – a whopping 37% of Great Danes will develop bloat throughout their lifetime.
The best way to prevent bloat is to feed your Great Dane small meals from raised bowls and not let him gulp down the food. This can be tricky to achieve with a busy schedule. You should absolutely never just feed your dog one large meal a day out of convenience. Instead, try to feed your Great Dane 3-4 smaller meals, ideally out of slow feeding bowls to encourage him to slow down.
Some veterinarians offer the option of “stomach stapling” during routine spay or neuter surgeries. This can prevent future bloat and is a smart precaution to take.
#7 Does everyone around you agree?
Owning a Great Dane is a different ballgame than owning a tiny Chihuahua. This dog is going to take up considerable space, money, time and effort for up to a decade of your life. Do not make this decision without consulting everyone around you. On the one hand this is your family of course – on the other hand you want to also check with potential roommates, your landlord or even your HOA if they are on board. Some communities or apartment complexes have rules banning certain large breeds, such as Great Danes.
If you already own a dog, you also need to consider if adding a Great Dane to the mix is a smart idea. Like all puppies, Great Danes are boisterous and energetic – and they are very, very big on top of that.
If you already own a small breed in his senior years (such as a 12 year old Basset Hound), getting a Great Dane pup is ill-advised. Your current dog’s size and energy level should roughly match that of your Great Dane pup.
The bottom line
Great Danes are good-mannered, friendly giants. The breed has become more and more popular in the last decade due to their good looks, trainability, obedience and social behavior. However, you need to make sure that you are up for owning a dog that can reach 200lbs in adult weight! The best way to set yourself up for success as an owner of these gentle giants is to be really clear about the highs and lows of living with one. Will you invest the time to find a responsible breeder? Are you ready for their short lifespan? Do you know how to avoid the most common health problems, and is your family on board with the purchase?
If you are unsure about whether you should commit to buying a puppy, you can get your feet wet by becoming a foster parent. There are a lot of breed-specific Great Dane rescues, and they are always looking for new volunteers and foster families. By “trying out” a Great Dane for a bit this way you can decide if this is really the breed for you, without making a rushed commitment.