Great Dane

AKC Working Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Selective breeding of this type of dog began in the Middle Ages in Germany when mastiff-type dogs were crossed with Irish Wolfhounds. Despite the name, the dog does not originate in Denmark. The dogs were popular as estate guardians and big game hunters. The Great Dane was a favorite of the German chancellor Bismarck. This noble breed has been used in war, as a coach dog, boar hunter, guard, and watchdog. Today the Great Dane is primarily a watchdog and companion.


The Great Dane is a very large, elegant, muscular dog with a short, sleek coat. A height of at least 32 in. is preferred for males and 30 in. for females. The Great Dane comes in many colors, including fawn or brindle with black mask, black, blue, harlequin (white with ragged black patches), and mantle (black with white collar, muzzle, chest, and tail tip). The body length is approximately equal to the height, giving an overall square appearance, though bitches may be slightly longer if well-proportioned. The back is short and level. The rectangular head is long and sculpted, with a very pronounced stop. The flat forehead is on a plane parallel to the muzzle. The muzzle is deep and the jaw square. The nose is black, except in blue Danes (dark blue-black nose), and harlequins (black spotted nose permitted). A scissors bite is preferred. The dog can be shown with ears either natural or cropped to a point. The natural ears are triangular in shape and fold down. Cropped ears stand erect. The long tail tapers to a point; it is carried low.

Key Facts

  • Height:  More than 30 in. (male); more than 28 in. (female)
  • Size:  Very large
  • Weight:  135 to 150 lbs. (male); 120 to 135 lbs. (female)
  • Availability:  Widely available
  • Talents:  Tracking, watchdog, guarding, and carting


A short-lived breed. Be careful to buy from a conscientious breeder, as some very poor specimens are being sold to the unsuspecting public. Beware of hip dysplasia; buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip dysplasia clearance. Also prone to bloat, tumors, heart disease, and tail injuries. Costs a lot to feed. Do not jog with this dog until at least 1 year old, as doing so can damage the bones. Teach this giant dog not to lean against people, especially children.


A gentle giant, dignified and kind. Sweet and affectionate. A steady dog, responsible and dependable. Brave and loyal. Can be aggressive if provoked. Some individuals are dog-aggressive, especially with same-sex dogs. Because of its giant size, this breed should be thoroughly obedience trained when young so he will be manageable when full grown.


  • Children:  Excellent with children
  • Friendliness:  Loves everyone
  • Trainability:  Slightly difficult to train
  • Independence:  Needs people a lot
  • Dominance:  Low
  • Other Pets:  Good with other pets if raised with them from puppyhood
  • Combativeness:  Can be a bit dog-aggressive
  • Noise:  Average barker
  • Indoors:  Relatively inactive indoors
  • Owner:  Good for novice owners


  • Grooming:  Very little grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping:  No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat:  Short coat
  • Shedding:  Average shedder
  • Docking:  The ears are customarily cropped.
  • Exercise:  Moderate daily exercise needed
  • Jogging:  A fair jogging companion
  • Apartments:  Will be OK in an apartment if sufficiently exercised
  • Outdoor Space:  Best with a large yard
  • Climate:  Does well in most climates
  • Longevity:  Short (less than 10 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Great Dane Breed Standard

Great Dane Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Great Dane

Great Dane Gifts