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If you’re thinking of adding a Great Dane puppy to your family, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the challenge! Learning how to care for a Great Dane puppy is easy and fun, but you must know this: Great Danes are not like other dog breeds!

These dogs are big and powerful, and they need plenty of the right kind of nutrition, exercise, and training. Today I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about taking care of a Great Dane puppy.

What do I Need to Know About Raising A Great Dane?

Proper Great Dane care requires a little bit of research. The great news here is that you’ve made it to this blog post!

Great Danes make incredible family pets. They are gentle, loving, and protective of their people. But before you bring one home, it’s important to understand what goes into taking care of a Great Dane.

Great Danes are large dogs, and they require a lot of space, including a large dog bed, a huge crate, proper nutrition, and a comfy couch to crash on.

To give you some perspective, I have two Great Danes. I buy multiple $80 bags of food each month, not to mention several $3 cans of wet food, $40 in joint support, and vet care (which this morning is running me upwards of $4500 for routine things such as gastropexy, teeth cleaning, vaccines and preventatives).

However, this bears repeating: these dogs are WORTH IT!

Danes were originally bred to hunt wild boar; it’s important to note that Great Danes are a lean, athletic breed that is far from lazy. Too much exercise, or too little, can be detrimental to their health.

Bored Great Danes can and will eat your house. Enrichment and training are key!

The Great Dane Breed standard says that these dogs should be friendly and courageous, not timid, shy, or aggressive.

They are among the largest of the giant breeds, second only to the Irish Wolfhound in size.



Everything you need to know! ↗

What Should I Expect From a Great Dane Puppy?

Your puppy will require a LOT of sleep.

A healthy, well-rested pup will need to sleep up to 18 hours a day.

Puppies also go through growth spurts, during which they may seem ravenous and never stop eating.

At around 6-8 months of age, they tend to not eat as much as before. Many people mistake this for pickiness! Don’t be fooled.

Adding toppers and bribery will only serve to unbalance their diet and encourage ‘picky eating’.

At this time your pup will be moving into the second stage of growth (the time when a well-balanced large or giant formula puppy food will be the most important thing).

Great Dane Puppy Supplies

The best gear for Danes will be sturdy and built for size. We’ve included our favorite must-have tools below.

The Best Crates for Great Dane Puppies

Crate training is one of the easiest and most positive ways to keep your puppy safe!

Read HERE for more information on how to crate train your Great Dane!

We recommend the following crates, which come with a divider that can be removed once your puppy is bigger.

Midwest Homes 52″ Crate >>

Frisco 52″ Single Door Crate + Mat >>

Frisco Double Door 52″ Crate >>

Great Danes of every size (even smaller Danes) require a 52″ kennel. You will not find these at Petsmart or Petco.

Chewy is one of the only reputable places to buy one and yes, they are HUGE.

You got a huge dog, what can we say?

If you don’t love the look of a giant wire crate in your living space, consider a custom wooden kennel from BB Kennels!

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How to crate train a Great Dane: click here

Great Dane Puppy Training Gear

Skip the harness! Harnesses are most Great Danes don’t go together.

There is nothing more dangerous than a Great Dane throwing its weight around in a harness that allows them to comfortably do just that.

We recommend a wide, flat martingale collar and a simple leather leash, in addition to beginning your leash training off-leash.

If you MUST use a harness, stay away from restrictive no-pull versions that can damage movement and orthopedic health. The “Easy-Walk” harness is a common example of a bad harness that should not be used.

When your pup is ready, we recommend modern e-collar training which is incredibly freeing, positive and fun!

The Best Beds for Great Danes

There are a lot of inexpensive beds on Amazon that often go flat and fall apart quickly. These beds do not support Great Dane joints and will need to be replaced often.

However, Great Danes are notorious for shredding beds, especially when they are bored or left to their own devices for too long!

Great Danes require orthopedic mattresses. Our favorites are Big Barker.

Kuranda Cots are great for destructive dogs.

Big Barker Dog Beds >>


Great Dane Puppy Food

Nutrition is arguably the most important decision you will have to make when bringing a large or giant sized puppy into your home.

Great Danes are not like other dogs. They have very specific nutritional requirements because of their fast and explosive growth.

Good food will support slow, even growth, muscle development, and skin and coat health.

The wrong food can lead to health problems and growth disorders such as knuckling, panosteitis, HOD, obesity, and even hip dysplasia.

How to Choose a Dog Food

When choosing what kibble to feed your Great Dane, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • The food should be formulated by an on-staff board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist, DACVN (call the company and confirm)
  • It should be backed by intensive feeding trials and peer-reviewed and published scientific research, proving that they are experts in kibble formulation and puppy growth
  • Is manufactured by an established and reputable company, using their own facilities, and are willing to issue recalls to keep your pet safe (“No Recalls” is a red flag!)
  • Is a large or giant breed PUPPY food, formulated specifically for the growth of large breed dogs (it’s 2022, read about why Great Dane puppies should not eat adult food)
  • Meat meal or meat by-product meal should be among the first ingredients
  • Grain inclusive. Never grain-free!
  • Calcium should be at or below 1.4% with phosphorus close behind. An ideal ratio, for example, might be 1.1% Calcium and .09% Phosphorus
  • Minimal ingredient splitting (a dirty trick that may mean the food is heavy in carbs, not meat even if “meat is the 1st ingredient”)

These guidelines are the most up-to-date recommendations for choosing foods that correctly support the growth of giant dogs.

The Best Food Brands for Great Danes

Here is our list of acceptable foods for Great Dane puppies:

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

Supplements and Toppers

Many enthusiastic pet parents get excited to feed their large breed puppy and start adding all manner of supplements and toppers such as raw egg, rice, sardines, bone broth, freeze-dried toppings or goat’s milk.

This practice is both largely unnecessary and may be disruptive to the nutritional balance of the food. Goat’s milk, for example, causes gastro-distress. Too many eggs can cause a biotin deficiency. Too much rice can fill the dog up so much that they don’t get the right amino acids and nutrients from other sources.

Many commercial ‘toppers’ and food items encouraged in ‘build a better bowl’ type marketing campaigns are overpriced revenue-generating nonsense.

Take it easy on the toppers! They should never be used as a form of bribery to encourage a puppy to eat.

If you want to use toppers for your Gentle Giant, we recommend:

How Much to Feed a Great Dane Puppy

Large and giant puppies need a lot of food to support their explosive growth and prevent health issues.

Too much nutrition can cause growth disorders, chronic loose stools, and obesity, however, so it’s important that you don’t overfeed your puppy.

We recommend a loose free-feeding schedule until 12 weeks of age. The trick with this is to not allow your dog to scarf food or overeat; habits that can lead to serious health problems. Offer 3 meals/day but let your pup graze on the food (or use some for training) between meals as well. Monitor intake: overfeeding is dangerous!

After that, offer 3 schedule meals each day and take the food up after 20 minutes. Don’t offer more than your dog can finish in that time, and closely monitor body condition.

Topping meals with same-brand canned food can reduce bloat risk and make meals more appetizing, without causing nutritional imbalance.

At 8-12 months of age, you can transition to 2 meals per day.

Encourage slow, stress-free eating. I like Royal Canin Giant formula food because the kibble pieces are huge to encourage chewing.

If your dog is resource-guarding their food, stop sticking your hands in the bowl. This outdated training technique encourages stressed eating and may increase bloat risk.

Use our guide here to learn how to safely stop resource guarding.

NEVER feed one large meal each day, as this will increase your dog’s risk of getting BLOAT, a deadly and common life-threatening condition in large dogs. Smaller more frequent meals are best.

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Great Dane Puppy Food Myths

Some people are still promoting the idea that Great Dane pups should never be fed puppy food and that the food must be low in protein.

Neither of these concepts is rooted in science. They are based on anecdotal evidence from a time when well-formulated puppy foods were NOT available to correctly support the growth of giant breed dogs.

15+ years ago, adult food was the safer choice, and low protein foods generally had better calcium and phosphorus ratios. It had nothing to do with the protein itself, though, at the time nobody knew that.

These ideas, at one time, justifiably made sense. Giant puppies grow extremely fast and over-nutrition is related to knuckling, HOD, panosteitis, and other orthopedic physical health and growth disorders.

By limiting the nutrition, breeders were able to effectively limit their run-ins with painful growth problems.

The choice to feed adult food was heavily promoted despite the fact that adult foods don’t have the complete nutrition that large breeds (including Great Danes) need to support muscle development, skin, and coat health.

A sacrifice had to be made to ensure that their bones didn’t grow too quickly.

Many teenager Danes (5-24 months) on ‘adult’ foods will overeat to try and get enough protein, fat, and calories.

This often results in chronic loose stools and a lanky body condition with very little muscle tone. I believe that most adult foods starve them of the nutrition they need to thrive.

The great news here is that it’s 2022 (or beyond!) and established dog food manufacturers have used science to graciously solve this problem for us. Dane puppies can now have research-backed puppy food AND still grow slowly so their joints develop properly.

As a matter of fact, board-certified Veterinary Nutritionists believe that Great Dane dogs should be on puppy food until 18-24 months of age.

Let’s put these large breed food myths to rest.

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If you plan on choosing a food that is not formulated by a board-certified Veterinary Nutritionist (common examples include Fromm, Diamond, Victor, Costco, and 4Health), it may be safer to choose the adult formula for your puppy.

These foods are not backed by dedicated growth and development research or qualified formulation professionals and aren’t ideal, to begin with.

Fromm – formulated by a chemical engineer

Victor – formulated by a guy with an online certificate in dairy cattle nutrition

Diamond / 4Health / Taste of the Wild / Costco / Nutranuggets – co-packed brands under the same parent company with canned recipes that may or may not have been looked over by an off-site consultant who has marginal credentials.

Purina – multiple board-certified veterinary nutritionists, M.S. and Ph.D. professionals with advanced degrees in animal nutrition, food science, and quality control are on staff to formulate and research the foods.

Royal Canin – over 400 professionals with top degrees in nutrition, veterinary nutrition, and nutrition science

Hill’s Science Diet – same as Purina & Royal Canin (see a pattern, yet?)

If you are interested in modern health and nutrition science and want high-quality food that was formulated by qualified professionals and then proven in feeding trials for the growth of big dogs, we recommend the following brands and formulas from Purina, Hill’s, Royal Canin, Eukanuba, and Iam’s.

Notice, all of these are large or giant formula puppy foods:

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


Great Dane Puppy Health

Great Danes are not like other dogs. They are big, they grow fast, and they have some special health needs that other puppies don’t.

That’s why it’s important to find a good breeder who will give you the foundation for a healthy puppy. A good breeder will:

  • Start your puppy on a quality food
  • Have OFA clearances on both parents
  • Study the pedigree and only pair exceptional, well-structured, and beautifully tempered dogs that compliment and enhance each other
  • Use Puppy Culture to socialize the puppies
  • Keep the puppies until at least 8 weeks of age, no matter what
  • Support you as the buyer for life

A good breeder will not breed aggressive or timid dogs or dogs that carry common genetic linked disorders such as bloat, DCM, wobblers, Addison’s, blood clotting, seizures, megaesophagus, IMGD, or otherwise.

The biggest step you can take towards ensuring your puppy is healthy for life is to be very choosy about your breeder.

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Knuckling, HOD, and Panosteitis

As above, these painful orthopedic growth disorders are often a direct result of unbalanced, poorly formulated nutrition, overfeeding, and incorrect exercise (see ‘how to care for puppy joints’ below).

Knuckling in Great Dane puppies is when the ankles appear to “knuckle over” the foot. It is easily corrected with proper nutrition. Left untreated, it can lead to deformity and arthritis.

HOD is short for Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, which is a disease that affects growing Dane puppies between the ages of four and eight months. It is characterized by fever, loss of appetite, stiffness, and pain. X-rays will often show a thickening of the long bones in the legs.

Panosteitis (AKA “Growing Pains”) is a condition that causes inflammation in the long bones of Dane puppies. It usually affects dogs between five and fourteen months old and manifests as lameness and pain that comes and goes.

All three of these orthopedic growth disorders are largely preventable with good breeding, feeding, and exercise practices.
Additionally, they are treatable if caught in time.

Flat feet, downed pasterns, and cow hocks are other symptoms of growth, genetics, improper nutrition, or a lack of correct exercise. Make sure your pup gets plenty of off-leash play on soft, varied terrain and steer clear of breeders whose adult dogs don’t have exceptional structure.

The bottom line is that if you are feeding your puppy correctly formulated food, and exercising them properly (see below), they should not be as susceptible to these problems.

If you notice knuckling, stiffness, pain, or lethargy, talk to your veterinarian!

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Check out our science-based and constantly always growing knuckling resource page.

How to Care for Puppy Joints

Puppy joints are very soft and susceptible to injury.

It is very important to avoid hard and slick surfaces whenever possible. Put runners down in your home, and avoid long walks on the hard pavement.

Better alternatives include free movement on grass, sand, gravel, hills, and other soft varied terrains. These things will strengthen joints, toes, and balance as well as encourage confidence.

Angular Limb Deformity is a common and painful disorder that happens when the large knobby growth plates are damaged by running, jumping, or injury. For many dogs, amputation or invasive and painful surgeries are the only way to move forward.

We know you are excited to have your new puppy as a running partner, but hold your horses!

Proper nutrition and exercise are key for taking care of your puppy’s delicate joints. Patience will pay off in the long run when your big puppy is more mature (around 18-24 months).



Everything you need to know! ↗

Taking Care of Nails, Teeth, Coat, and Ears

Great Dane grooming including nails and teeth are a few things that pet owners tend to neglect.

Teeth should be brushed daily

Nails should be trimmed weekly

Take advantage of your puppy’s enthusiasm and take the time now to make both of these things a matter of routine in your house.

Daily hair brushing can also help reduce dander, itching, and shedding in your Great Dane’s coat. We recommend using a SLEEK EZ tool. Do not use a “Furminator” as those tools cut the hair.

Practice handling your puppy all over, brushing your puppy, picking up each paw, and inspecting your puppy’s teeth. An adult Great Dane that wants to fight these things can and will, so make this a positive experience now while you can.

If you have a little bitey Great Dane gremlin on your hands, restrain the urge to use your hands to tap, shove, choke, or pinch your puppy’s mouth! These outdated training techniques are the fast track to making sure that your 140 lb adult Great Dane is resistant to handling.

For your Great Dane’s nails, use a Dremel! Tap each toe and offer a treat. Make this a fun, positive experience now while your puppy is still at a young age.

Regularly inspect your dog’s ears for signs of irritation or infection, too.

How to stop puppy biting, read here!

Puppy Training & Socialization

Next to nutrition, training and socialization are some of the most important things you can do for your new puppy.

Puppies need to be socialized early and often to different types of people, animals, places, experiences, and handling.

This helps ensure that your puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted dog that can go anywhere and do anything without being fearful or anxious.

You can read more about positive, modern socialization in our popular Puppy socialization guide. We are also including a few tips, below!

Great Dane Socialization

Socialization does not just mean going to the dog park or pet store or letting people squeal, hover, and handle your puppy.

As a matter of fact, these common ‘socialization’ exercises can be detrimental to their well-being and temperament!

Good socialization will be the foundation for all of your training exercises for years to come, so this is important. The single best piece of advice I can give you is this:

Make sure every experience is a good one.

That means that if you are going to introduce your puppy to new people, make sure those people know how to properly greet a puppy.

Set your pup up for success by making sure they can’t get into trouble or hurt themselves, but also have plenty of new experiences, smells, noises, and textures to explore.

Our favorite socialization exercise is the puppy playground! Grab a variety of interesting objects such as cushions, large balls, a kiddie pool, noisy toys, and household items and gather them in a large area.

Encourage your puppy to explore and play with all of the new things, and make sure to give lots of praise and treats!

This is a great way to get your pup used to different textures, smells, noises, and objects in a safe and controlled environment.

We have more tips like that one in our socialization guide HERE.

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Puppy Training Basics

Positive reinforcement training is the best way to install new behaviors.

All puppies should be taught:

  • Acceptance of handling by veterinarians and groomers
  • Sit, down, stand
  • Wait
  • Leave it
  • Come
  • Place
  • Stay
  • Loose-leash walking/heel

We recommend finding a highly qualified trainer who uses positive + balanced training methods. Start attending classes now and continue through intermediate and advanced obedience!

The STAR Puppy and AKC Canine Good Citizen programs are fantastic ways to set goals for yourself. Consistent training will pay off in the form of calm, indifferent, friendly, and safe adult dogs in your home.

Large dogs require obedience training and lots of mental enrichment. Putting the time in beyond puppy class is a hallmark trait of responsible dog owners.

Obedience & Off-Leash Training

We believe that all Great Danes should be obedience trained and have exceptional off-leash skills.

By nature, leashes and collars rely on physical restraint. This restraint can become impossible or dangerous with large adult Great Danes.

It is much safer and better for their mental and orthopedic health that they have good off-leash obedience.

Start training your large breed dog to be off-leash now!

In your living room, reward your puppy for looking at you, engaging with you, and walking next to you around obstacles in the house.

Outside, we recommend using a long Biothane leash and practicing recall in low-distraction areas such as empty lots and baseball fields.

Never scold your puppy for not coming when called. This creates superstitious dogs that do not come back.

Instead, make coming to you the most fun thing in the world!

Use praise, treats, and play to make coming back a positive experience.

A positive training program will produce positive results!

When your puppy can reliably come when called from 20 feet away in moderately distracting areas, it’s time to layer in a modern, positive e-collar so you can ditch the physical restraint.

Hello Danes E-Collar Shop >>

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Great Dane Puppy Veterinary Care

Getting regular veterinary care for your puppy is an important part of responsible dog ownership.

In the first year, your puppy will need to see the veterinarian several times for a well-check, growth-check, vaccinations, and deworming.

After that, yearly well-visits are all that is needed!

Puppy Vaccines

It is extremely important that your puppy is vaccinated against common and often deadly dog illnesses such as Distemper, Parvo, and Rabies.

Your veterinarian will provide you with a vaccine schedule. Additionally, your breeder should have already begun the vaccination process.

Keep in mind that Rabies vaccination is legally required in many places.

Some breeders may encourage you to hold off on Rabies or Leptospirosis vaccinations until your puppy is more mature, especially if your puppy has had problems with orthopedic growth disorders. Only HEALTHY puppies should be vaccinated.

Talk to your veterinarian!

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It is also very important that until your puppy is fully vaccinated, they not be exposed to places where diseases tend to be common. Positive socialization is VERY important, so we encourage you to take your puppy with you whenever you can.

However, it is smart to avoid pet stores, dog parks, and the floor of the veterinarian’s office as much as possible while your puppy is young.

Parvo, for example, is extremely contagious and deadly.

However, poor socialization can set a puppy up for a lifetime of stress, frustration, and anxiety. It’s important to find a safe, healthy balance.

Flea & Tick Prevention

Flea, tick, parasite, and heartworm prevention are important for all dogs.

Bugs and parasites bring with them diseases that can cause permanent damage to your dog.

You may have seen alarming blogs and media about dogs becoming sick and suffering seizures from flea and tick medications. While side effects are possible, it’s important to note that they are rare and often associated with other health problems. This kind of alarmist media is emotional and drives clicks and revenue, skewing our perception of the problem.

The reported side effects of veterinary flea and tick preventatives are minimal compared to the side effects associated with leaving your dog unprotected.

Parasites, including fleas and ticks, can cause devastating health problems such as Lyme’s disease, malnutrition, anemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, deadly heartworms, and more. Thousands if not millions of dogs suffer from these things every year, at an astronomically higher rate than the rare dog who has a severe reaction to preventatives.

There are many products on the market that can help you keep your puppy safe from these pests. Do not be afraid of preventatives, and beware of pseudoscience and clickbait media that teaches you otherwise.

Talk to your veterinarian about deworming, as well as which flea and tick products are right for your puppy and your area.

I personally use Bravecto and Sentinal, on the recommendation of our veterinarian. My dogs have had no side effects and I like knowing that I don’t have to shelter them from fun, enriching outdoor activities.

Great Dane Toys

Finding a Veterinarian

It’s important to find a veterinarian whose opinion you value and trust.

Ideally, they have experience with giant dogs and understand their unique orthopedic, nutritional, and growth needs.

I like to find veterinarians who:

  • Are up to date on the current research and will support delayed spay and neuter for well-tempered giant breed dogs with responsible owners
  • Are supportive of preventative gastropexy and have lots of experience with the procedure
  • Understand why large and giant breed puppy foods are important and can give you evidence-based recommendations
  • Will be honest and straightforward about your pet’s condition, including its overall body condition score
  • Are willing to sit with you and answer questions
  • Have a well-respected portfolio of ear crops, if cropping is chosen, and are supportive of the procedure

A Great Dane’s life may be short, but there are things you can do to make it as long and wonderful as possible. Enjoy your puppy!

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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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