How to Select a Great Dane

Great Danes were bred from Irish wolfhounds and English mastiffs.
great dane image by goce risteski from

The Great Dane is sometimes referred to as the "king of dogs" due to his large size and elegant appearance. These dogs were originally bred to hunt boar but over time they transitioned into the role of estate guard dog and family pet. Great Danes make friendly, loving companions, but due to their size they should be supervised in the presence of small children. If you are considering a Great Dane for your next family pet, decide whether you can provide for the needs of this energetic breed so both you and your new dog have a long, happy life together.

Things to Consider

Step 1

Examine your house and your yard to determine whether you have enough space to accommodate a Great Dane. Great Danes require a large, fenced-in yard along with plenty of indoor space to roam. Great Danes are not recommended for small apartments.

Step 2

Do not select a Great Dane if you plan to keep him exclusively outdoors. Great Danes have thin coats that are not sufficient to protect them during cold weather and they may fail to thrive without close human companionship.

Step 3

Consider whether your children are old enough for a large breed like the Great Dane. Though Great Danes are typically gentle with children, accidental injuries can occur due to the size of this breed. Never leave a Great Dane unsupervised around your children.

Step 4

Examine your finances to determine whether you can afford to feed a Great Dane. In adulthood, Great Danes can eat as much as four cups of dry food two or three times a day. Dog food expenses can easily total $50 or more per month.

Step 5

Determine whether you and your family have enough time to devote to exercising a Great Dane. Like most large breeds, Great Danes need about 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Step 6

Realize that Great Danes have an average life span between 7 and 10 years. Do not purchase a dog if you cannot commit to keeping him for that long.

Step 7

Research the common health conditions affecting the Great Dane breed and decide whether you can commit to making regular visits to the veterinarian and whether you can afford to pay for necessary veterinary treatments. Some of the health issues Great Danes are likely to experience include gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, heart problems and wobbler syndrome.

Step 8

Set up a crate or cage for your Great Dane puppy before you bring him home. The crate or cage should be just large enough to accommodate a dog bed and there should be enough space for the puppy to stand up, turn around and lie down. This crate will provide your puppy with his own personal space and can also be used in housetraining.

Purchasing a Great Dane

Step 1

Search for local Great Dane breeders using a telephone directory or go through the American Kennel Club website to find registered breeders in your area.

Step 2

Contact several of the breeders in your area and ask them questions to determine their knowledge and experience in breeding Great Danes. Ask how long the breeder has been in business and what the breeding facilities are like.

Step 3

Tell the breeder what qualities you are looking for in a Great Dane puppy and ask whether he thinks the puppies he has would be a good fit for you. The breeder should be able to tell you about the puppies he has available.

Step 4

Ask the breeder if there is an application process or questionnaire required before purchasing a puppy. Requiring an application or interview is a good sign that the breeder wants to be sure his Great Dane puppies are going to good homes with families that are able to provide the appropriate level of care. If no application or interview is required, it could be a sign that the breeder is only out to make a profit.

Step 5

Select the Great Dane breeder who seems most knowledgeable and visit the breeding facilities. Take a good look around to see whether the facilities are clean and that the dogs are provided with adequate space and shelter. Do not purchase from the breeder if the dogs appear to be poorly kept.

Step 6

Ask to see the parent dogs to determine whether they appear healthy. A Great Dane should have a smoothly muscled body, and its movements should be well balanced. There should be no visible deformities on the bodies of the parent dogs, and they should be about as long as they are tall.

Step 7

Look over the health screening results for the parent dogs if the breeder will show them to you. If genetic conditions common in Great Danes such as bloat, thyroid problems or bone cancer show up on the results, it may be best to select another breeder.

Step 8

Ask the breeder what the mother dog was fed during pregnancy and, if the puppies have been weaned, what they are being fed. A high-quality dry food is best for pregnant Great Danes and puppies -- if the breeder is serious about breeding healthy dogs, he should be feeding them quality food.

Step 9

Determine whether the Great Dane puppies have been vaccinated and, if so, whether the breeder vaccinated them himself or took the puppies to a veterinarian. Puppies should not be vaccinated before 6 weeks of age, and it is best if the puppies have been vaccinated by a veterinarian, so a health check can be performed on the puppy at the same time.

Step 10

View the Great Dane puppies your breeder has available and watch them interact with each other for a little while before you step in. Healthy Great Dane puppies should be alert and playful, not hiding or lying listless in a corner. Great Dane puppies that have been properly socialized should also be curious rather than shying from human contact.

Step 11

Interact with the Great Dane puppies to decide which one is the right choice for you. Do not be tempted to select the first puppy who runs up to you -- spend some time getting to know each individual puppy's personality and temperament so you can make an informed decision.

Step 12

Narrow down your selection of puppies to your top three choices. Once you have narrowed down your options, you can perform a few tests to determine whether the temperament of those puppies is right for you. You can also assess the health of the puppies more closely.

Step 13

Pick up one of the Great Dane puppies and roll him over on his back, cradling him in your arms. If the puppy remains calm, he most likely has a submissive personality -- puppies with this type of personality are recommended for new dog owners. If the puppy struggles or whines, he may either be poorly socialized or has a dominant personality, which could be difficult to deal with.

Step 14

Examine the puppy's head. His nose should be moist and cool to the touch -- there should be no nasal discharge. Look for tear stains in the corners of the eyes and examine the eyes themselves to determine whether they are clear and that the pupils are dark with no visible lines or white spots.

Step 15

Peel back the puppy's lips gently with your hand to examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be a healthy pink color rather than pale or white. The puppy's incisors should meet at the edges, giving him an even bite rather than an overlapping one.

Step 16

Select the Great Dane puppy that best suits your preferences for temperament, personality and appearance. Great Danes come in six different colors - fawn, brindle, black, blue, harlequin and mantle - and the coloration of the puppy will be determined by the coloration of the parent dogs.

Step 17

Ask the breeder to reserve your puppy for you if the puppies are not old enough to take home yet. Great Dane puppies should not be removed from their littermates until they are 8 or 9 weeks old. The breeder may ask you to put down a deposit to reserve the puppy.

Step 18

Return to the breeder and pick up your Great Dane puppy when he has reached the proper age. If the breeder doesn't offer, ask for a written health guarantee that you can take with you to your puppy's first checkup with your veterinarian.


  • Consider it a red flag if a breeder dodges your questions or refuses to show you the parent dogs or the breeding facilities prior to your purchase of a puppy. Breeders who cannot answer your questions should not be considered reputable and should be avoided.

  • If you don't think you can handle raising a Great Dane puppy, consider adopting an adult rescue dog from your local humane society. Older dogs are often well socialized and already housebroken, as well as of established temperament. Call ahead to see whether the shelter has any Great Danes available for adoption or perform an online search for Great Dane rescues in your area.



About the Author

Katherine Barrington has written on a variety of topics, from arts and crafts to pets, health and do-it-yourself projects. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a creative writing concentration from Marietta College.

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