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Adopting a Great Dane: What to Know & Expect

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If you are considering adopting a Great Dane, we at Hello Danes LOVE you for that. There are many beautiful, wonderful Great Danes in rescue right now waiting for a new couch to lounge on. Great Danes are not for everybody though, and it’s important to know about the breed and what to expect before you commit.

Great Danes are known for their gentle nature, imposing size, and unique characteristics. They make wonderful companions for the right owners! However, like any pet, they come with their own set of considerations and responsibilities, especially if they come from a past of neglect, abuse, and poor genetics.

In this blog post, we’ll explore what you need to know and expect when rescuing a Great Dane!

BONUS – I’ve included a helpful shopping list at the bottom of this post so you know exactly what to get for your Great Dane!

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Understanding the Breed Before Adopting a Great Dane

It is so important to know and understand what it’s like to live with a Great Dane before you adopt one. Great Danes, often referred to as “gentle giants,” possess distinct characteristics and requirements that may not align with every lifestyle. They take up a lot of space, are expensive, and can be intimidating to strangers and children. Not only that, Great Danes eat a lot of food.

Great Dane Size

One of the first things that come to mind when thinking about Great Danes is their size. Great Danes are HUGE.

You may have noticed that many Great Dane rescues will not adopt Great Danes to owners with no giant breed experience; this is a big reason why. People return big dogs to rescue all of the time, not realizing how much space they take up.

Adult Great Danes can weigh between 140 to 175 pounds or more, and they can stand over 30 inches tall at the shoulder.

An untrained Great Dane is a danger to themselves and to others, because it’s easy for them to accidentally hurt somebody by pulling, lunging, running, and jumping.

Many new Great Dane parents are shocked at how much space these dogs take up.

Personally, we live in an average suburban home with an open floor plan and there are times when I just want my big male Dane to stop following me around! These dogs are human sized and you absolutely notice their presence jamming up the hallways, crowding you in the bathroom, and using up all of the space on the couch.

We still love them for it, but you’ve been warned…

Great Dane Personality: the Gentle Giant

Despite their imposing stature, Great Danes are often referred to as “gentle giants.” They are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, making them great family pets.

Unfortunately, many rescued Great Danes come from poor genetics and lack socialization; this can make them nervous, timid, or even reactive and aggressive. These behaviors are not normal or acceptable for Great Danes, but it is a reality for many.

It is VERY important that you work closely with your Great Dane Rescue to make sure you are being placed with the right Great Dane for your family. Some people have a lifestyle that is conducive to adopting a fearful or reactive dog. Others do not, and that’s ok.

We adopted one of our Great Danes in 2019. She is the most wonderful, perfect family dog despite her past history of trauma and abuse. She is gentle and loves people, kids, and other dogs. Spend time with the dog you are wishing to adopt, and get to know them! You may find a gem (just like we did).

Great Dane Exercise Requirements

Great Danes may be large, but they are not as high-energy as some smaller breeds. It is a huge myth, however, that they are lazy and don’t require walks or enrichment!

My friend Natalie and I have (between the two of us) five very health, active Great Danes. We regularly meet up so they can run together. This is the only way to truly wear them out!

Many Great Danes participate in sports such as dock diving, lure coursing, and scent tracking too. They are smart, athletic dogs for owners who allow and encourage them to be.

If having a couch potato for a pet is a requirement for you, we highly recommend adopting an older Great Dane (age 4-5+). It’s still VERY important to keep your new Great Dane fit and lean.


Preparing Your Home & Budget for a Great Dane

Crating & Space to Live

Great Danes need ample space to move around comfortably. Make sure your living environment can accommodate their size, and create a safe space for them to eat, sleep, and play.

We recommend a Midwest Double Door 54″ crate for your home before your Great Dane joins your family. This crate is INSANELY large but the only size that will reliability for the solid majority of Great Danes.

See the Midwest Double Door Crate + Crate Pad on Chewy HERE

The use of a crate can help your new Great Dane transition to your home in a safe and comfortable way. You can use a lot of positive reinforcement to introduce your new Great Dane to a crate (if the rescue hasn’t already done it for you).

Safety & Great Dane Proofing

Remove any hazards or items that could be harmful to a large dog, especially one that is new to your home. Until you get to know them, do not trust that your newly adopted pet to know the rules! A timid dog may bolt out the front door, and a young dog may eat your socks.

Here are some common dangers:

  • Counter tops. Great Danes love to ‘counter surf’ and can easily snatch food from the kitchen. Get in the habit of keeping counters clear, especially of dangerous items such as chip bags (suffocation hazard), chicken carcassas (obstruction hazzard), and grapes (toxic).
  • Cords & Remotes. Most dogs do fine with these, but young dogs may chew them (and can harm themselves doing so)
  • Doors & Exit points. Especially while your pup is new to your home, it’s very important that doors and fences are secured. This extra tall pet safety gate is a helpful item to have!
  • Socks, Underwear, & Kid’s Toys. These items may be enticing for Great Danes to chew or swallow.
  • Tennis Balls. These are too small for Great Danes and honestly, the felt is bad for their teeth anyways.
  • Slippery Floors. We recommend washable rugs for cleanliness and traction.
  • Trash Cans. Lock your trash cans up with these baby proofing locks. Great Danes love to dig in the trash and many learn how to open cabinets and doors.

Great Dane Grooming Needs

Despite their short coat, Great Danes do shed, so regular grooming is necessary to keep their coat healthy and reduce shedding.

That shedding ADDS UP.

We recommend the 5″ SLEEK EZ brush for Great Danes to reduce shedding. Never use a furminator (this tool destroys the coat by cutting the fur).

The Bissell Bark Bath is an amazing tool that allows you to bath your Great Dane at home with minimal mess.

A nail dremel is a must; Great Danes have huge nails and regular trimmers just don’t cut it.

What to Feed a Great Dane

Proper nutrition is crucial for the health of any dog, but it’s especially important for large breeds like Great Danes. Consult with your veterinarian to establish a suitable diet plan based on your dog’s age, weight, and activity level. At Hello Danes, we recommend large and giant breed foods from companies that meet WSAVA guidelines.

For ADULTS over the age of 18-24 months:

For PUPPIES under the age of 18-24 months:

Check out THE GIANT DOG FOOD PROJECT to compare brands and values.

Never feed boutique or grain-free kibbles to Great Danes, and no matter what you hear, do not feed adult maintenance foods to puppies! We cover this topic in depth on this blog, utilizing science, research, and the popular opinion of board certified veterinary nutritionists. Check out our Great Dane NUTRITION posts here.


Health and Veterinary Care for Great Danes

Before you adopt a Great Dane, it’s important to consider common health issues that you and your new pet may face. Great Danes are a giant breed dog that come with, well, giant health concerns.

Common Great Dane Health Issues

Like many large breeds, Great Danes are prone to certain health issues, including hip dysplasia, bloat, and heart conditions. Bloat (AKA “GDV”) is a deadly emergency that affects 25-50% of Great Danes in their lifetime.

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to catch any potential issues early and ensure your dog’s well-being.

Additionally, being proactive about addressing any potential health issues early on can contribute to a longer and healthier life for your Great Dane. Lumps, bumps, sores, limping, excessive drooling, panting, pacing, chronic loose stools and whining all require veterinary attention.

Great Danes have sensitive orthopedic needs, too! You have to take care of their joints by keeping nails short and allowing them plenty of time to play freely on soft, varied terrain.

By subscribing to best practices (feeding a quality food, having their teeth cleaned, and keeping them lean) you can save money and your pet’s health in the long run.

Great Dane Veterinary Care Costs

Embracing the companionship of a Great Dane undoubtedly comes with joy and warmth, but responsible ownership also involves acknowledging the financial commitment, especially when it comes to veterinary care. Simply put, veterinary care for giant breeds costs more money than it does for small breeds.

Routine check-ups, vaccinations, and preventive measures (such as flea and tick medication or gastropexy) are essential.

We tell Great Dane owners to anticipate roughly $1500-$2000/year in preventive veterinary medicine (vaccines, checkups, teeth cleaning, flea/tick prevention), and keeping an emergency fund of at least $3000-$5000 (average cost for a life-threatening ER visit).

Additionally, we recommend paying for monthly veterinary health insurance (average $150-$300/month); many plans will cover prevention, emergencies, and things like cancer (which can add up FAST).

Owning a Great Dane is absolutely expensive, and while we’d rather see a Dane in a home with no emergency fund than a Dane sitting in rescue, there is a stark reality associated with emergency veterinary care that should be considered.

The amount it costs to get vet care for a Great Dane doesn’t include the expenses associated with food, treats, chews, toys, and beds!


The New Great Dane Shopping List

Now that you’ve made a decision to adopt a Great Dane, and you have one picked out and ready to join your family, here is a checklist of items you may need or want! These are some of our personal favorites that we use every day with our own Great Danes!

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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