Mastiff Breed Types -Which One Is Yours?

German Mastiff / Great Dane

Posted by John Paul Trueman on

German Mastiff / Great Dane

German Mastiff / Great Dane

The Great Dane is one of the best known dog breeds in the world, in addition to being one of the tallest.  Despite the breed’s name, it was developed in Germany, not Denmark.  Originally bred to hunt boar and wolves, the Great Dane is now much better known as a loving family companion.  Due to the breed’s massive size and often comical nature, the Great Dane regularly appears in film, television, and print.  There is perhaps no breed with as many names as the Great Dane, which is also known as the Danische Dogge, Danish Mastiff, Grand Danois, Dane, Deutsche Dogge, Dogge, German Mastiff, Doggen, German Dog, Dogue Allemand, Boarhound, Boarhund, German Boar Dog, German Boar Mastiff, Gentle Giant, Marmaduke Dog, Scooby Dog, and the Apollo of Dogs.

The Great Dane was developed many centuries before written records were kept of dog breeding.  As a result, virtually nothing is known for sure about its ancestry.  Many have attempted to fill in this knowledge gap with speculation and wild guessing, but most of what his said has little to no basis in fact.  There are a number of theories with a solid basis in reality, and a few facts are indisputably clear.  The Great Dane was definitely developed in Germany at least several hundred, and perhaps several thousand, years ago.  The breed is almost certainly a member of the Molosser family, also known as the Mastiffs, Dogues, and Alaunts.  Although each breed is different, these breeds are characterized by large size, great power, brachycephalic (pushed-in) faces, a strong protective instinct, and a Western European ancestry.

The Great Dane is perhaps the most visually impressive of all dog breeds with its immense size, athletic appearance, often beautiful coat, regal bearing, and gentle eyes.  This dog is often so finely chiseled that it has been nicknamed the Apollo of Dogs.  The Great Dane is one of the world’s tallest dog breeds.  Although its average height is slightly less than the average height of a few other breeds such as the Irish Wolfhound, the last several individual record holders for world’s tallest dog have all been Great Danes.  The average male Great Dane stands between 30 and 36 inches tall at the shoulder, but several have exceeded 40 inches.  The slightly smaller females typically stand between 28 and 34 inches tall at the shoulder. The weight of the Great Dane is tremendously influenced by the height, build, and condition of the individual dog, but generally ranges from 100 to 200 pounds (it is far from unheard of for this breed to top 300).  Despite its great size, the Great Dane is not an exceptionally heavily-built dog.  The ideal Great Dane should be the perfect balance between power and athleticism, and this breed has plenty of both.  Although now primarily a companion, the Great Dane should maintain the appearance of a working dog, and this breed is often incredibly muscular and fit.  The Great Dane is a generally squarely proportioned dog but may be slightly longer than it is tall.  The legs of this breed should be long and sturdily built, and are very comparable to small trees.  The tail of the Great Dane is of average length for a dog of this size, and should always be held straight down when the dog is at rest.

The Great Dane is almost as famous for its gentle and affectionate temperament as its striking appearance.  Known as the Gentle Giant, the Great Dane is renowned as a family pet all across the world.  This breed forms extraordinarily strong attachments to its family, to whom it shows intense loyalty and devotion.  Great Danes want to be in the constant presence of their families, and this breed is known to suffer from severe separation anxiety.  This is the classic example of a big dog that thinks it’s a lap dog, which is undesirable for those who do not wish to be crushed by 200 pounds of bone and muscle.  When properly socialized, most adult Great Danes are very gentle and affectionate with children.  Great Dane puppies are usually not a good choice for a house with very young children as they are very likely to bowl them over in youthful exuberance.  Because of the size of this dog, careful supervision around children is always necessary. 

Great Danes vary substantially in their reactions to strangers.  When properly socialized, most breed members will be very polite and accepting.  However, some lines are extremely eager to meet new people and see every stranger as a potential friend while others are very reserved and potentially even suspicious.  Human aggression is not a common problem among Great Danes, but when it occurs it is an extremely serious one due to the dog’s size and power.  This makes socialization and training extremely important.  Most (but certainly not all) Great Danes make alert watchdogs whose bark will make most potential intruders seriously reconsider.  The majority of Great Danes make very poor guard dogs as they are more likely to welcome an intruder than show one aggression, although some owners have successfully trained certain lines of Great Dane for protection.  Breed members do seem to be aware of when a loved one is in physical danger, and a Great Dane defending its family would be an extremely undesirable foe to have.


Great Danes have relatively low coat care requirements.  This dog does not need to be taken to professional groomers as a regular brushing will suffice.  However, this regular brushing can take quite a bit of time due to the size of the dog.  Great Danes are considered average shedders, but because of their size produce many times the amount of hair that smaller dogs will.  This breed can and will absolutely cover a home with dog hair.  Though this breed does not need too much maintenance, every individual task is very time consuming because of the dogs size.  It is absolutely imperative that owners begin regular maintenance procedures as early and as carefully as possible.  It is much easier to give a forty pound and interested puppy a bath than a scared 150 pound adult.

Issues with health 

The Great Dane is generally regarded as being in poor to very poor health.  This breed suffers from very high rates of a number of very serious health conditions, and has one of the shortest life expectancies of any breed.  The average life expectancy for a Great Dane is between 5 and 8 years, and it is extremely rare for a breed member to reach 10.  These health problems have been greatly exacerbated by irresponsible and commercial breeding practices.  Veterinarians and Great Dane breeders are currently working together to develop tests and breeding programs that will hopefully reduce or eliminate these problems, but their efforts are hampered by breeders who do not test their dogs. 

Bloat is easily the greatest concern to all Great Dane owners.  Bloat is the leading killer of Great Danes, and is responsible for between 1/3 and ½ of all Great Dane deaths.  Great Danes are also easily the breed at greatest risk of bloat.  Bloat occurs when the stomach and other body organs twist around inside the chest cavity, sometimes multiple times.  This causes a multitude of severe problems, many of which are fatal.  Bloat is very commonly fatal without emergency surgery.  Perhaps the greatest danger of bloat is the speed at which it develops and kills.  A perfectly healthy Great Dane can be dead in a matter of hours.  Bloat is not entirely understood, but dogs with wide chests that do not firmly embrace the internal organs are at greatest risk.  Overeating followed by over exercising can cause bloat so it is recommended that owners prevent their Great Danes from exercising immediately after eating and also that they be fed three or four small meals a day rather than one or two large ones. 

Great Danes are extremely expensive to keep, often many times what an average sized dog will.  Obviously, they need to eat a great deal more, but the specialty food the need is also typically more expensive.  Everything else they need is larger and therefore more expensive as well, such as crates, dog beds, toys, and treats.  They also require larger and therefore more costly amounts of medicine such as flea preventatives and anesthetics.  Because many breed members are in poor health, they also require frequent veterinary visits and costly procedures.  Families considering acquiring a Great Dane need to seriously think about whether they can actually afford one of these dogs.

Diet -Feeding 

The recommended diet for a Great Dane varies depending on age. For puppies less than 2 years a light lean diet is recommended. As your puppy may have quite a bit of energy you want to provide it with a healthy diet, yet at other times it will be lazy. This is due to the rapid rate of growth that danes undergo. Most large breed foods are too protein rich for danes and it is advised that you avoid these. Between 2 and 5 years a protein level of no more than 24 to 28 percent is recommended. As the modern great dane is not a high performance animal, but that of a regal lap dog, a high protein level may simply cause loose stool in your dane. Be sure that your food has a healthy range of pro-biotics for essential health and to prevent immune-deficiencies. The teeth should be maintained weekly with either raw natural bones, or regular tooth brushing. As with all dogs, ensure you always have clean, fresh and cool water available at all times.