We are HUGE fans of our Great Danes having nice tight feet.
The feet are the foundation for the whole body, and these dogs have HUGE bodies!
When their feet are weak or flat, it’s not only an aesthetic problem, it’s a functional one.
The development of the feet is especially important in growing puppies (read our article on puppy knuckling here), but in adolescent and adult dogs, poor structure and weak joints are something that could eventually lead to pain, early arthritis and even permanent joint damage.
Read on to learn how to strengthen your Great Danes feet!
Genetics do play some role in the overall structure, shape and direction of the feet on your Great Dane.
The written standard states that the feet should be straight and parallel when viewed from the front. The feet should be ‘well knuckled’ and the pastern should have an 8 degree bend.
Deviations from this, including ‘East-West’ feet, splayed toes, bone deformities and otherwise are considered faults.
The written standard is based on building an appropriate structure for such a giant dogs. The ideal Great Dane structure is illustrated below:
If your dog has feet that ‘turn out’, genetics may be at play.
Angular Limb Deformities (caused by damage to the growth plate) are another form of incorrect feet and joints that typically requires surgical intervention.
If you are concerned, always ask your veterinarian first!
Below are some examples of adult and puppy Great Danes that have flat, weak and otherwise incorrect feet.
Some of these dogs have poor structure (genetic), some have nutritional deficiencies, some are just weak. All can be helped with the information we share below, though some may never be perfect.
This illustration, from the written standard outlines common feet in Great Danes. Hare foot, flat/down in pasterns and splayed feet are not acceptable.
“The strong pasterns should slope slightly. The feet should be round and compact with well arched toes, neither toeing in, toeing out, nor rolling to the inside or outside. The nails should be short.”
1: TRIM THOSE NAILS
We cannot stress this enough. Overgrown nails are extremely common and they are also a major reason why so many Great Danes have splayed toes, weak knuckles and flat pasterns.
Nails that are allowed to grow too long (touch the ground, click on the floor) alter the shape of the foot and the way that your dog walks.
With time, it leads to pain, arthritis and irreversible joint damage.
Start trimming nails the first week you bring your puppy or dog home, and make it a weekly or bi-weekly habit! If your dog is resistant, work with a trainer and learn how to condition your dog.
The Millers Forge cut through nails like butter, eliminating a lot of the pressure into the nail that many dogs find uncomfortable. They also stay sharp FOREVER! The Dremel is fantastic for rounding the nail off and helping the quick to shorten (which will be important if you need to shorten the nails a lot).
Need to learn how? The group ‘Nail Maintenance for Dogs’ on Facebook is a fantastic resource. It may take time and dedication to get nails trimmed back to an appropriate length again. Be patient.
Think your dogs nails are ok? Here are some examples of overgrown nails:
2 – GET OUT & PLAY
Great Danes and especially puppies benefit greatly from lots of free-play and exploration on soft, varied terrain.
Structured walks on hard surfaces are hard on the joints and should be limited, especially if the nails are overgrown.
Slick surfaces in the home (tile, hardwood, laminate) are also hard on the joints. Use runners and yoga mats.
Purposefully seek out hills, grass, dirt piles, sand, soft pea gravel and even the trampoline! Use a long leash so that your dog can move and explore without restriction, safely and supervised.
We highly recommend that puppies especially be exposed to a variety of surfaces and textures, and that they are encouraged and challenged to safely explore and use their bodies. Ramps, tunnels and even splashing in a pool are all great for building confidence AND making those feet extra strong!
AVOID INJURY! It’s important that your puppy or adult dog not make a habit of jumping or jumping off of things (beds, furniture, etc.). Damage to the growth plates is serious and may be expensive and painful to properly address.
3- CANINE FITNESS
Dogs are no different than humans! They require movement and exercise to stay strong.
Find a Trainer that offers a Canine Fitness or ‘Fit Paws’ class, and learn how to use balls, peanuts and teeter boards to help your dog develop balance and strength.
My favorite feet strengthening exercise involves a simple wobble disk (find it on Amazon here) and some treats.
Put this flat on a surface where it won’t slide and then lure your dog to put both front feet onto it.
The disk will wobble and your dog will balance.
If you do this right, your dog will quickly learn that standing with two front feet on the wobble disk is SUPER fun! Gently lure your dog up towards the treat so that he stands up tall on the knuckles of the feet.
Don’t spend too much time on this and don’t ask. your dog to stretch super far. You don’t want your dog sore or injured. It is helpful to work with a Physical Therapist or qualified fitness trainer.
4- BALANCE GAMES
Balancing requires humans (and dogs) to activate our tiny muscles and tendons and ligaments.
To help your dog strengthen these muscles, encourage activities that require balance!
Remember, be safe and chat with a veterinarian and a Canine Physical Therapist for help.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Standing on beds and couches
- Walking on a trampoline
- Using balance pods
- Walking across a ‘plank’ of wood on the grass
- Sit-Stand-Down-Stand ‘pushups’
For puppies especially, we love the ‘puppy playground’. Use tunnels, ramps, gym mats, couch cushions and more to encourage exploration, body awareness and confidence building.
Remember, supervise and keep your dog safe! NEVER force a dog into an activity or pick them up and place them on an unstable surface. Encourage your dog to use their own choices and body to do these activities, and reward with praise and treats.
5 – NUTRITION
Poor nutrition can lead to overall poor health.
A dog that is struggling with food may have excess gas, loose stools, a dull coat, poor muscle tone, inappropriate weight (over or under) and/or low energy.
Innapropriate nutrition for growing Great Danes can lead to knuckling, hip dysplasia and more.
Chat with a Giant Breed experienced veterinarian to find a diet that is appropriate for your Great Dane.
We recommend raw food and holistically formulated kibbles.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. We do our best to present the most up-to-date research, however it is up to the reader to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of their dog. We make no claims here to prevent or treat bloat or any other condition related to Great Danes. Find a veterinarian with GIANT breed experience, and chat with them.
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