Called the Apollo of Dogs, the Great Dane is great by any standard. But as great as his stature, his heart is even greater.
The Great Dane's ancestors were a blend of ancient Mastiff-like war dogs and swift Greyhounds, crossed in the Middle Ages to produce a fast and fearless big game hunter capable of tackling wild boar. German nobility valued them as hunting dogs and estate guardians. Called the Deutsche Dogge in their native Germany, nobody really knows how they got the name Great Dane.
Danes are divided into three color families (fawn/brindle, harlequin/mantle, and blue/black) for breeding purposes in order to avoid producing colors not sanctioned by the AKC standard. Some people contend the three color families have slightly different temperaments.
Companion to warriors, royalty and celebrities, Great Danes are equally happy to share your everyday life. Just make sure you have a big car, a big bed and a big budget!
Despite their size, Dames are gentle giants. They don't always know their own strength, so they do need training to avoid accidents. And they also need Dane-tested toys!
The Great Dane's great size brings some special concerns, including joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size---just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also vital for protecting joint health throughout life.
One of the Dane's biggest problems is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that need immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Torsion is a major killer of Great Danes. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.
Coat care is simple. Brush weekly to remove dead hair, and bathe occasionally. For most Danes, we suggest a deodorizing or color-enhancing shampoo. If your dog has itchy skin, then an avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo can prove helpful.
Danes have a tendency to form calluses and even bursas on their elbows. Encourage your dog to rest on soft surfaces (even carpeting can be abrasive, but is still better than hard tile). Using a cooling blanket or simply placing a fan so it blows over a soft cushion can help steer him to the better surface. Moisturizers applied to the calloused area can also help, as can wrapping the elbows with padding.
Most Danes have healthy ears, but you should still check them for signs of redness, itching or debris weekly. Any time they get goopy, clean with an ear-cleanser. If the goop comes back, see your veterinarian.
Brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.
Danes can be affected by age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, at an early age. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.