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Great Dane

Updated on December 1, 2016

Despite his size, the great Dane is fairly popular with people living in apartments and small houses. Somehow this huge dog manages to move his bulk around a house without knocking things over, although a sweep of his tail may wreak havoc with bric-a-brac. Indoors, a great Dane is usually quiet and dignified and affectionate with members of his human family. One common way he has of showing that he likes people is to lean against them or even try to sit on their laps.

Historically, the Dane is a hunter and guard dog. He was used to trail and kill wild boars, and was used as a war dog by the Germans and the English. The modern Dane still has a strongly developed protective feeling for his home and his master and makes an excellent watchdog. Fanciers of the modern great Dane claim that the ferocity has been bred out of the breed, but this writer has found some of them rather unpredictable and has known several who had bitten children with no apparent provocation. During the 1880's the breed was barred from dog shows in New York City because of ferocity and bad temper.

Being a true working dog, the great Dane can be trained, and many have performed well in the obedience ring, some being put through their paces by women and children.

In acquiring a great Dane there are two important points to be considered. One is the effect on the budget, since an adult dog weighing about 130 pounds requires a substantial amount of food daily. The other is that the great Dane is comparatively short-lived. A dog's life expectancy is influenced by his size, and the larger the breed, the shorter the life span.

Standard of the Breed

General Appearance: The great Dane combines, in its distinguished appear­ance, dignity, strength and elegance with great size and a well-formed, smoothly muscled body. He is one of the giant breeds, but is unique in that his general conformation must be so well balanced that he never appears clumsy and is always a unit—the Apollo of dogs. He must be spirited and courageous— never timid. He is friendly and dependable. This physical and mental com­bination is the characteristic which gives the great Dane the majesty possessed by no other breed. It is particularly true of this breed that there is an im­pression of great masculinity in males as compared to an impression of femininity in the bitches. The male should appear more massive throughout than the female, with larger frame and heavier bone. In the ratio between length and height, the great Dane should appear as square as possible. In bitches a somewhat longer body is permissible. Faults: Lack of unity; timidity; bitchy dogs; poor musculature; poor bone development; out of condition; rickets; doggy bitches.

Color and Markings: In brindle Danes, the base color ranges from light golden yellow to deep golden yellow, always brindled with strong black cross stripes. The more intensive the base color and the more intensive the brindling, the more attractive will be the color. Small white marks at the chest and toes are not desirable. Faults: Brindle with too dark a base color; silver-blue and grayish blue base color; dull brindling; white tail tip.

Fawn Danes: Golden yellow up to deep golden yellow color with a deep black mask. The golden deep-yellow color must always be given preference. Small white spots at the toes and chest are not desirable. Faults: Yellowish gray, bluish yellow; grayish blue; dirty yellow (drab) color; lack of black mask.

Blue Danes: The color must be a pure steel blue as far as possible without any tinge of yellow, black or mouse gray. Faults: Any deviation from a pure steel-blue coloration.

Black Danes: Glossy black. Faults: Yellow-black, brown-black or blue-black. White markings, such as stripes on the chest, speckled chest and markings on the paws are permitted but not desirable.

Harlequin Danes: Base color, pure white with black torn patches irregularly and well-distributed over the entire body; pure white neck preferred. The black patches should never be large enough to give the appearance of a blanket nor so small as to give a stippled or dappled effect. Less desirable are coats with a few small gray spots, also pointings, where instead of a pure white base with black spots there is a white base with single black hairs showing through, which tend to give a salt-and-pepper or dirty effect. Faults: White base color with a few large spots; bluish gray pointed background.

Size: The male should be not less than 30 inches at the shoulder, but it is preferable that he be 32 inches or more, provided he is well proportioned to his height. The female should not be less than 28 inches at the shoulder, but it is preferable that she be 30 inches or more, also well porportioned to height.

Substance: Substance is that sufficiency of bone and muscle which rounds out a balance with the frame. Faults: Lightweight, whippety-like Danes; coarse, ungainly Danes; always there should be balance.

Condition of Coat: The coat should be very short and thick, smooth and glossy. Faults: Excessively long hair or dull hair, indicating malnutrition, worms and negligent rearing.

Movement: Gait is long, easy, springy stride with no tossing or rolling of body. The back line should move smoothly, parallel to the ground. The gait of the Dane should denote strength and power. The rear legs should have drive. The forelegs should track smoothly and straight. The Dane should track in two parallel straight lines. Faults: Short steps. The rear quarters should not pitch. The forelegs should not have a hackney gait (forced or choppy stride).

When moving rapidly the great Dane should not pace for the reason that it causes excessive side-to-side rolling of the body and thus reduces endurance.

Rear End, Croup, Legs, Paws: The croup must be full, slightly drooping, and must continue imperceptibly to the tail root. Hind legs, the first thighs (from hip joint to knee) are broad and muscular. The second thighs (from knee to hock joint) are strong and long. Seen from the side, the angulation of the first thigh with the body, of the second thigh with the first thigh, and the pastern root with the second thigh, should be very moderate, neither too straight nor exaggerated. Seen from the rear, the hock joints appear to be perfectly straight, turned neither toward the inside nor toward the outside. Faults: A croup which is too straight; a croup which slopes downward too steeply; and too narrow a croup. Hind legs: Soft, flabby, poorly muscled thighs; cow hocks which are the result of the hock joint turning outward; barrel legs, the result of the hock joints being too far apart; steep rear. As seen from the side, a steep rear is the result of angles of the rear legs forming almost a straight line; overangulation is the result of exaggerated angles between the first and second thighs and the hocks, and is very conducive to weakness. The hind legs should never be too long in proportion to the forelegs.

Paws, round and turned neither toward the inside nor outside. Toes short, highly arched and well closed. Nails short, strong and as dark as possible. Faults: Spreading toes (splay foot); bent, long toes (rabbit paws); toes turned toward the inside or the outside. Fifth toe appearing at a higher position on the hind legs and with wolfs claw or spur; excessively long nails; light-colored nails.

Front End, Shoulders, Legs, Paws: The shoulder blades must be strong and sloping and, seen from the side, must form as nearly as possible a right angle in its articulation with the humerus (upper arm) to give a long stride. A line from the upper tip of the shoulder to the back of the elbow joint should be as nearly perpendicular as possible. Since all dogs lack a clavicle (collar bone) the ligaments and muscles holding the shoulder blade to the rib cage must be well developed, firm and secure to prevent loose shoulders. Faults: Steep shoulders, which occur if the shoulder blade does not slope sufficiently; overangulation; loose shoulders which occur if the Dane is flabbily muscled, or if the elbow is turned toward the outside; loaded shoulders.

Forelegs: The upper arm should be strong and muscular. Seen from the side or the front, the strong lower arms run absolutely straight to the pastern joints. Seen from the front, the forelegs and the pastern roots should form perpendicu­lar lines to the ground. Seen from the side, the pastern roots should slope only very slightly forward. Faults: Elbows in or out; a considerable bend in the pastern toward the front; a forward bow in the forearm (chair leg); an ex­cessively knotty bulge in the front of the pastern joint.

Paws: Round and turned neither in nor out. Toes short, highly arched and well closed. Nails short, strong and as dark as possible. Faults: Spreading toes (splay foot); bent long toes (rabbit paws); toes turned in or out; light-colored nails.

Head: Conformation- long, narrow, distinguished, expressive, finely chiseled, especially the part below the eyes, with a strongly pronounced stop. The masculinity of the male is very pronounced in the expression and struc­ture of head (this subtle difference should be evident in the dog's head by the massive skull and depth of muzzle); the bitch's head may be more delicately formed. Seen from the side, the forehead must be sharply set off from the bridge of the nose. The forehead and bridge of the nose must be straight and parallel to one another. Seen from the front, the head should appear narrow; the bridge of the nose should be as broad as possible. The cheek muscles show slightly, but under no condition should they be too pronounced. The muzzle part must have full flews and must be as blunt vertically as possible, in front; the angles of the lip must be quite pronounced. The front part of the head, from the tip of the nose up to the center of the stop should be as long as the rear part of the head from the center of the stop to the only slightly developed occiput. The head should be angular from all sides and should have definite flat planes, and its dimensions should be absolutely in proportion to the general appearance of the Dane. Faults: Any deviation from the parallel planes of skull and foreface; too small a stop; a poorly defined stop or none at all; too narrow a nose bridge; the rear of the head spreading laterally in a wedgelike manner (wedge head); an excessively round head (apple head); excessively pronounced cheek musculature; pointed muzzle; loose lips hanging over the lower jaw (fluttering lips) which create an illusion of a full, deep muzzle. The head should be shorter and distinguished rather than long and expressionless.

Teeth: Strong, well developed and clean. The incisors of the lower jaw must touch very lightly the bottoms of the inner surface of the upper incisors (scis­sors bite). If the front teeth of both jaws bite on top of each other they wear down too rapidly. Faults: Even bite; undershot or overshot; incisors out of line; black or brown teeth; missing teeth.

Eyes: Medium size, as dark as possible, with lively, intelligent expression; almond-shaped eyelids, well-developed eyebrows. Faults: Light-colored, pierc­ing, amber-colored, light blue to watery blue, red or bleary eyes, eyes of different colors; eyes too far apart; Mongolian eyes; eyes with pronounced haws; eyes with excessively drooping eyelids. In blue and black Danes, lighter eyes are permitted but are not desirable. In harlequins, the eyes should be dark. Light-colored eyes, two eyes of different color, and walleyes are permitted but not desirable.

Nose: The nose must be large, and in the case of brindled and "single-colored" Danes it must always be black. In harlequins the nose should be black; a black-spotted nose is permitted; a pink-colored nose is not desirable.

Ears: Ears should be set high, not too far apart, medium in size, of moderate thickness, drooping forward close to the cheek. Top line of folded ear should be about level with skull. Faults: Hanging on the side, as in a foxhound. Cropped ears; high set; not set too far apart; well pointed; but always in pro­portion to the shape of the head and carried uniformly erect.

Torso: The neck should be firm and clean, high-set, well arched, long, muscular and sinewy. From the chest to the head it should be slightly tapering, beautifully formed, with well-developed nape. Faults: Short, heavy neck; pendulous throat folds (dewlaps).

Loin and Back: The withers form the highest part of the back which slopes downward slightly toward the loins, which are imperceptibly arched and strong. The back should be short and tensely set. The belly should be well shaped and tightly muscled, and, with the rear part of the thorax, should swing in a pleasing curve (tuck up). Faults: Receding back; sway-back; camel- or roach-back; a back line which is too high at the rear; an excessively long back; poor tuck-up.

Chest: Chest deals with that part of the thorax (rib cage) in front of the shoulders and front legs. The chest should be quite broad, deep and well muscled. Faults: A narrow and poorly muscled chest; protruding sternum (pigeon breast).

Ribs and Brisket: Deals with that part of the thorax back of the shoulders and front legs. Should be broad with the ribs sprung well out from the spine and flattened at the side to allow proper movement of the shoulders extending down to the elbow joint. Faults: Narrow (slab-sided) rib cage; round (barrel) rib cage; shallow rib cage not reaching the elbow joint.

Tail: Should start high and fairly broad, terminating slender and thin at the hock joint. At rest, the tail should fall straight. When the Dane is excited or running, the tail is slightly curved (saberlike). Faults: A too high- or too low-set tail (the tail set is governed by the slope of the croup); too long or too short a tail; tail bent too far over the back (ring tail); a tail which is curled; a twisted tail (sideways); a tail carried too high over the back (gay tail); a brush tail (hair too long on lower side). Cropping tails to desired length is forbidden.

Are you owned by a Great Dane?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I had a beautiful baby boy who looked like the puppy in the picture. The beginning of this article was very interesting, especially the statement that indicates that some danes are somewhat unpredictable behavior. My boy had some unsavory behavioral issues. Having said that, I wouldn't trade the memories and unconditional love he gave me and those who knew him for anything in the world. He was such a great dog and I look forward to the day when I bring another dane into my home.

    • Miss Lil' Atlanta profile image

      Miss Lil' Atlanta 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      I love Great Danes. I have to say that they probably have to be my favorite dog breed!


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