The Great Dane - a gentle giant
The Great Dane is one of the world's tallest dogs, and was originally bred to hunt deer and wild boar.
It is thought that the breed developed through cross-breeding between the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound. Its ferocity for the hunt was bred out and they became ‘house-dogs' for the gentry, hence developing into the dog we now know. They come in a wide range of colours including the striking black and white combinations of the harlequin and mantle.
Great Danes have a reputation as a good-natured family dog however, as always, this temperament depends a lot on early socialisation. This requires exposure to as many different people, sights, sounds and experiences as possible when a puppy is young. Taking them to a puppy preschool class, inviting guests over regularly and taking them to dog-parks are all ways to achieve this.
They have a great desire to please, so a well socialised Great Dane should be easy to train - a dog of this size obviously needs to be kept ‘under control'. Although no longer used for hunting they can be fiercely protective and won't hesitate to defend their family. They are a rather sizable burglar deterrent!
These dogs have some quite specific requirements if you are going to care for them adequately. Diet is extremely important for a growing giant breed puppy like a Great Dane. A complete and balanced, high quality, large breed puppy food is essential and should be fed at correct amounts for around 2 years, depending on growth rate. Exercise during this time should be daily but limited to gentle walks or yard play. "Running" these dogs before they are fully grown can lead to developmental problems.
Health issues for Great Danes are primarily ones that generally affect all large breed dogs. Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition so finding out if a puppy's parents have been ‘hip-scored' is important when looking to purchase a Great Dane. Bone cancer (osteosarcoma), heart disease and gastric torsion (a twisted gut) are all life threatening issues.
It is very important to find a reputable breeder who will prove health clearances for both your puppy's parents - because in every sense of the word, you will be making a very big investment.