Saddle Breaking a Great Dane

If you’ve ever owned a Great Dane, you’re familiar with the typical reactions a dog of this size invites. On an average walk, you’ll hear “Is that a dog or a pony?”, “Can you ride that thing?”, “What kind of horse is that?” And then there’s my favorite: “Where’s the saddle?”

Since I have a rather twisted sense of humor sometimes, these comments tucked themselves away into the hinterlands of my brain and emerged a couple of months ago. On the last day of September, I gave my granddaughter a miniature horse for her birthday. Of course, she needed a saddle, so I bought one for her – a beautiful little Western saddle with a ten-inch seat.

After Snickers, the pony, died from a rattlesnake bite (I wrote a hub about it), the saddle somehow ended up at my house. One night as I was playing with my two Great Danes, Hamlet and Grendel, I noticed the saddle. Okay, you see where this is going.

Both dogs are super sweet and well trained. In fact, if you want to find a dog that loves kids, Great Danes are hard to beat. They're one of the best dog breeds for families. They even let the grandkids ride them. Hamlet will actually encourage the little ones to climb up on his back! The kids find it difficult to “hang on,” however. There’s really not much to keep them from sliding off. I figured with the saddle, riding the dogs would be a cinch. I thought it would be a simple matter of just placing the article on the dog’s back and drawing the belly girth.

According to veterinarians, a young, healthy dog can comfortably carry one-third of its own weight. The Danes each weigh at least 150 pounds and are in top physical condition, so that meant the “boys” could safely carry up to 50 pounds. The grandchildren in question weigh around 30 pounds each, and the saddle weighs about 20, for a total weight of about 50 pounds. Still, after deliberating the issue, I thought that was too much weight, so I decided that the dogs could just carry the saddle sans rider, kind of like a backpack. Maybe walking with the extra 20 pounds would help the dogs burn off some extra energy. I figured if Ceasar the Dog Whisperer recommended adding weight to the backs of dogs in order to achieve a better workout, it had to be a good idea. And the 20-pound saddle would certainly put no undue strain on the Danes.

In my younger, slimmer years, I trained numerous horses. In almost every case, the horses that had been properly handled had no objection at all to a saddle being placed on their back. And of course, the dogs were handled all the time, right? Piece of cake.

I placed the saddle on Hamlet’s back, and he took off like a shot! He hid in the office, curled up into a ball. Okay, I decided to go with doggie #2. I lifted the saddle onto Grendel’s back, and he just stood there for a minute, looking at me. He hardly seemed to notice it. When he started walking, however, he did not like the way the saddle felt – at all! He actually started bucking and spinning like a rank bronc in a rodeo. I had never seen a dog exhibit this particular behavior before and really didn’t even know a dog could “buck.”

Needless to say, we removed the saddle and aborted our attempts at saddle-breaking the dogs. I still don’t understand why they hated it so much. It’s a lot lighter than the kids who ride the dogs, and the dogs don’t mind their tiny human “back packs” at all. Maybe they have an aversion to leather?

I think if we ever decide to try this again, we'll remove the stirrups and stirrup leathers first. I don't think Grendel liked the way they moved as he walked. I've had the same experience with young horses before, so perhaps we'll achieve better results that way. Or maybe not...

NOTE: In the attached photo, the saddle looks much larger than it actually is because of the angle from which the pic was shot. This is a ten-inch saddle.

Grendel under saddle.
Grendel under saddle.
Hamlet giving Tristan a ride, bareback.
Hamlet giving Tristan a ride, bareback.

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Comments 69 comments

carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Hilarious!! What a funny concept... he looks a little dubious about the idea, though! LOL

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Kaie!

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

Honestly, habee, whatever are up to next? I am still giggling about your bra. Maybe that saddle toughing some bones in the back which is uncomfortable? Maybe if you put a little blanket underneath?

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Aw man, and I wanted a ride! Just kidding :D I've an affinity for Great Danes ever since I was a kid who avidly read Steven Kellogg's Pinkerton books. So much for that idea, huh? I had fun reading this, habee, thank you.

CooperFlys profile image

CooperFlys 7 years ago from Ghostly Savannah,ga

Danes are without a doubt the most awesome dogs..My Dane lived to be 12 and she was the love of my life!!!One Halloween I tried to put a basket on her back, much like a saddle, to go trick or treating..and she did the same thing bucked like a bronco..funniest thing

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Carlina! Thanks for reading. Glad you got some chucks!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, HH. The underside of the saddle is lined with thick pile. I think the stirrups scared him. Thanks for reading!

Glad you enjoyed it, Dohn. You should get a Great Dane!

Cooper, you were lucky to have a Dane live that long. Thanks for reading!

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for the comeback and explanation. Something else I have learned.

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

What a sweet dog. Dogs are so funny and each has its own peculiar traits

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

HH, thanks for re-visiting! lol

Hi, Ethel. My dogs definitely have a sense of humor - especially the harlequin. He's a real clown!

Carol the Writer profile image

Carol the Writer 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I guess a dog bra is out of the question then.

Tammy Lochmann profile image

Tammy Lochmann 7 years ago

I laughed out loud very funny. I love dogs...thanks for the laugh!

Tammy :-)

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 7 years ago

So funny! Thanks for sharing.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Carol! Yeah, I don't think my boys would be too happy about a bra. Good to see you!

Tammy, glad you're a fellow dog lover. Thanks for stopping by!

Putz, glad you enjoyed it. It's always good to see you!

TattoGuy 7 years ago

The Captain returns, tattooed and bald lol ; )

GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 7 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

Great Hub... Habee!

Love dogs too... and a nature lover...!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Tatoo. You look kinda scary now! But thanks for reading.

General, glad you enjoyed reading about my boys! Thanks!

prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 7 years ago from US

it is nice hub and I like your humour habee, saddle with a dog, LOL< I like you more now, you love horses and a horse trainer one time, YIPEE< Maita

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Maita, I think I was born loving horses!! I'm so glad you stopped by for a read!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

habee - lovely hub. Great Danes are such wonderful, beautiful dogs. I wonder if they would like to pull some kind of little cart? They were bred as working dogs, weren't they? I knew a woman who had some huge dog, I forgot what kind, a working dog, and she had a little cart that the dog learned to really enjoy pulling. She put the dog to work when she was gardening.

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

Whoops, sorry to pop up twice, but I see you have a 99 score. Only one to go! I'll keep my eye on your score!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Dolores. I used to have a little wagon for one of my danes to pull. that was years ago, when my girls were small. Ebony used to pull all three little girls around the farm. Now, since we have two Danes, we could get a 2-dog cart!

Thanks for reading!

Nemingha profile image

Nemingha 7 years ago

What a gorgeous dog but I can see why they would attract so much comment. It must cost a fortune to feed them.

yass profile image

yass 7 years ago from kuwait

that is so nice

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Nemi. Actually, we spend more feeding the cats! Great Danes have slow metabolisms and are couch potatoes. Thanks for reading!

Well hello, Yass! Glad you stopped by!

Moranna 7 years ago

I have never had a Great Dane, but my Weimaramer used to sit on the front seat of my car, seat belt on, wearing a black french-style beret.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

I can picture that, Moranna! Weimaraners are beautiful dogs. Thanks so much for reading!

TattoGuy 7 years ago

Lol oh god that really made me laugh, I love great danes, really friendly dogs, cheers for that ; )

PeytonFarquhar profile image

PeytonFarquhar 7 years ago from So Cal

I think putting a saddle on a dog for the amusement of children -even a large breed and small children- is abusive. The dog isn't a pack animal. Teach the children better than trying to turn your pet into a circus sideshow.

Hammerj profile image

Hammerj 7 years ago from Cebu City

Its nice to take good care of our puppies..nice hubs...

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Great hub as usual habee. Love the saddle!

Jess Killmenow profile image

Jess Killmenow 7 years ago from Nowheresville, Eastern United States

You are such a scream. Thanks so much for this hub :)

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Peyton - is this your real name, or is this in reference to an Ambrose Bierce character? I love that story, by the way. Dogs aren't pack animals? Do some research, my friend. You'll discover that dogs have been and are still often used as work animals, including pack animals.

This was not for the amusement of children - no children were present. Dog trainer Ceasar Milan recommends using back packs and other weights on your dog to increase the value of their walks. Most dogs who live inside do not get enough exercise. My dogs were not harmed by this at all!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Tattoo, Danes are truly AWESOME dogs!

Thanks, Hammerj for reading and commenting!

Thanks, Ernesto, for the kind words!

Jess, I love your sense of humor, too! Thanks for visiting.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

What a fun Hub! I wonder what the difference might be between the saddle and loaded saddle bags? My daughter's 80-pound Chow mix happily carries those bags fully loaded, and never had a problem adjusting to them. But then, the loaded bags hug the sides and don't have anything like stirrups dangling, as you mentioned. I think this was a great experiment.

About Peyton's comment, dogs love to work because they love to please. You were informed about the weight guidelines for your Danes, so there was no problem there.

Thumbs up for a great read!

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

My Grampa had a horse like that. You could ride her bareback forever but she hated saddles! Funny critters ;)

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Sally, for your thoughtful comments. Anyone who knows my furkids know that they are spoiled rotten! They even sleep with me!

Hi, Redelf! Funny, I had a horse like that once, also. Dancer hated saddles. I still think it might be the dangling stirrups.

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

And the dogs are still talking to you? :) That was hilarious.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Yes, UW, the only time they pout is when we leave that at the doggie hotel for a family vacation. Even then, Grendel doesn't pout, but Hamlet sure does! He's so funny - he won't even look at us for a day or two after we pick them up. Thanks for reading!

ralwus 7 years ago

I am laughing my beer out me nose! Too funny.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Well, at least that should clean your sinuses! Good to see ya!

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

This was a fun hub to read. We remember when we put the first collar and leash on our Irish Setter pup Kelly...he bucked just like a bucking bronco. Fortunately he soon got the hang of it. I can just imagine your dogs bucking with that saddle. Too funny!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Peggy! Irish setters are gorgeous! Thanks for reading - I appreciate it.

karirosepink profile image

karirosepink 7 years ago from Oregon

Great Hub! I love Great Danes! Maybe someone needs to invent a saddle specifically made for Great Danes and their comfort! :)

akirchner profile image

akirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

I love Great Danes too - just got hung on mals - I'm wondering if I could possibly get the mals to tolerate a saddle - oh I so doubt it since they are totally into pulling....but maybe they could pull a Great Dane with a saddle on. I'm thinking I'm in the next town parade! Great hub - Audrey

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Good idea, KAri! Maybe I could get a patent.

Hi, Audrey. I had a mal once named Yukon. Thanks for reading!

MrsMoe 7 years ago

When I put my dog's reflective jacket on (he WILL wear it - it was just hunting season!) he always does a little dosey-do as though he's trying to walk out of it. He looks at me with those doggy eyes, then settles into our run.

We laugh every time. It's adorable.

6inchboot 7 years ago

I like it!Thank you for sharing!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

I'll bet that is cute, MrsMOe! Glad you stopped by.

Thanks for the comment, Ginch.

BrianS profile image

BrianS 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

I saw that photograph and thought 'no way', then I read your dialogue and realised I was right. A very funny idea though, and glad you took the issue of whether it would harm the dog seriously. Enjoyed reading this, it was a refreshing change.

Michael Willis profile image

Michael Willis 7 years ago from Arkansas

Really enjoyed this Hub Habee. My last 2 dogs were Great Danes. The last one was Blue Dane, with papers and while I had him he was the best friend any owner could ever have. Danes are awesome, but not for everyone. My Dane had a very loving nature around children, but extremely protective nature of me around adults. I think my Dane had a jealous streak! lol

From my experience with Danes, they do have a unique personality. Mine were easy to train. I never tried the saddle...loved what you did there. My Dane's favorite "item" he claimed to was a 2x4x8 he drug around to gnaw on. That was the one thing he did not like for me to touch.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Thanks, Brian! So nice of you to stop by.

Yay, Michael, another Dane lover! They are awesome, aren't they? For some real giggles, read my hub, "The Ultimate LAp Dog"!

Albertttt profile image

Albertttt 7 years ago

I didn't even know there was such a thing.

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hello, Al. Thanks for reading!

lewgard profile image

lewgard 7 years ago from Southern Michigan

Oh, too funny ! My husband grew up with Irish Wolf Hounds. Talk about a large dog (I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of them). He recalls the most often suggestion from those who met the hounds: "put a saddle on him and you can ride him."

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Big dogs are great! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Lewgard!

Calling Crow 7 years ago

Very funny! I think I might pay money to see a dog buck! ;)

sweetie1 profile image

sweetie1 7 years ago from India

Hi habee,

i donot have a dog but my friend has a GS. i love her but great dane are too big and we got very small flats ( apartments) in delhi but i did like the kid on the Gr. Dane. Lovely pic

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Hi, Crow. Glad you enjoyed it. How much do you think I should charge for a performance? lol!

Sweetie, thanks for the compliment.

Calling Crow 7 years ago

Haha! Let's keep it old fashiond, a quarter a head! ;) LOL!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

That sounds fair, Crow! I'm an old-fashioned kind of gal. lol!

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

wonderful great hrse/uhhh/dane hubs here habee :)

however, I will NOT be letting baby girl read least not until she has her bachelor degree in culinary arts(2013)then she can read them : ) shes always wanted a great dane...well,she gets her chef hat and she can cook for them too!!

actually I had a friend of a friend who had two and they were wonderful,well behaved, never jumped up on yo, looked right at you when you were speaking to them...I swore they understood me!!

but when we have the space...we will get a dog/but it will be a german shepard, I haven't had one since a teenager and hubby hasn't had one since the 70's

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia Author

Danes are awesome, but I also love German shepherds. Great to see you!

mythbuster profile image

mythbuster 6 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

I wonder... are there miniature chuckwagons? (wondering also if, in 3 or 4 months, Habee will hub about "Hamlet and Grendel Chuckwagon Champions" or something of the sort).


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia Author

Myth, I did see an old photo from WWII where the Germans had a wagon that was pulled by 8 Great Danes! I guess I need 6 more for a full team. lol

Kat 5 years ago

Hi Habee,

Thanks for sharing your photos and story. I have a Mantle Merle named Duke, he is a retired, mobility/balance Service dog and has a leather harness that he is used to wearing so I am wanting to find a saddle and I do not think he will have much issue with wearing that since the harness is kind of like that. But it sets on his shoulders, not directly on his back, so who knows till I actually put it on him. Then I have a gentle leader where I can fix it to look allot like a bridle. I have a couple small boys next door and he loves to give the 3 and 1 year old rides. Duke is a bit larger than your Danes, he is over 200lbs. He is 3/4 Euro in his lines, he stands 40 inches at the shoulders, so I definitely get the look at the horse comments all the time lol

Amanda 5 years ago

My mom tried a soft saddle when I was a child on our great dane I wont say it was entirely effective but he didn't mind so much ! I too used to ride on ours ! I cant wait my husband has finally agreed to let me purchase my first great dane and I have found a gorgeous blue puppy !!!!

noble 4 years ago

I have a boxer mix (about 55lbs) and I am always trying to get him to wear a bridle but he hares the bit.I've never tried him with a saddle!

Melody 3 years ago

Hi!! We have a dane puppy who who will be one yr old this halloween. For halloween I wanted to dress up my 3yr old daughter as annie oakly and get a saddle for emmett. Any idea where I can get one for him? I don't actually let her ride him haha He's hearty but I don't want her to be in the habbit of doing that when she starts to get too big for it, so I just want something he can walk around in. Any help or suggestions?

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