Spartan Dogs - Great Dane or German Mastiff 

Category: Dogs, Working Dogs, Molossers, Mastiffs, Germany, Denmark, Europe, Family Dog, Guard Dog, Hunting Dog

Great Dane / German Mastiff
Names Great Dane, German Mastiff, Dogue Allemand, Grand Danois, Deutsche Dogge, Grosser Dänischer Jagdhund, Ulmer Dogge, Englische Dogge, Dänische Dogge, Hatzrüde, Saupacker, Grosse Dogge
Origins Germany, Denmark
Tasks Family Dog, Guard Dog, Hunting Dog
Height 76-110 cm / 71-90 cm
Weight 54-90 kg / 45-59 kg
Lifespan 7-10 years
Group Molossers, Mastiffs

The Great Dane or German Mastiff is a large sized, short coated, chizzeled dog that was developed in Germany and Denmark. The Great Dane is in origin a hunting dog, later a guard and now a family dog.

Great Dane History

As portrayed by Great Dane history, the Dane of old is certainly not the affectionate companion of today. From the 14th century forward, the early Great Dane was a courageous powerful hunter, capable of great speeds and swift attack.

This muscular dog was developed primarily in England and Germany to tackle Europe's Wild Boar by combining speed of the Greyhound, with the muscle and strength of the old English Mastiff. Since the Irish Wolfhound shows ressemblance with the Great Dane and was commonly mixed with the English Mastiff in the old days, many canine historians believe it to be a link in its history. The extinct Bullenbeiser is also a likely candidate as it shared a lot of purpose and playfield.

What was needed was a big capable hunting dog that was fast, agile, strong, and super tough to tackle the most powerful, savage, and well-armed of the Continent's big game. That is exactly what they tried to create with the early Dane, a super Boar Hound (Sauhund).

The ears were cut short and pointy as some would suffer shredded ears from the razor sharp tusks of the wild Boar. The cropping of today is a long show cut and in some countries it is now illegal.

These boar hounds of the past were physically different in size and structure than today's Great Dane. As detailed by Great Dane history, the early Dane dog was shorter, heavier, stocky and muscular, resembling more a Bullenbeiser with a slightly longer thinner head than the present Great Dane.

Things changed around the mid 1600's, when these big Hounds were being bred in great numbers. Many German noblemen would take pride in the biggest, most intimidating dogs and being able to keep them at their estates. These select dogs would enjoy the spoils of noble life and were referred to as Kammerhunde, or Chamber Dogs. Wearing collars lined with velvet, this era of Great Dane history began the metamorphosis of the breed from mighty hunter, to companion and protector.

As late as in 1780 in Germany the hound is referred to as "Grosser Dänischer Jagdhund" (English: Large Danish Hunting Hound). But in 1876, this dog now known as the Deutsche Dogge was elected the country's National dog. By 1880, a meeting was held in Berlin where judges and breeders agreed that the breed was now distinctly different, taller, leaner, and more chiseled than before and the breed was officially named "Deutsche Dogge", or "German Dog". The Deutsche Doggen Club of Germany was founded, and the new breed name spread across Europe.

Interestingly, the name "Grand Danois" or "Great Dane" was given by French naturalist Comte de Buffon during his travels in Denmark where the dog was prominently featured at the time. French were also calling it Dogue Allemand, or "German Mastiff" but the first variant stuck in a lot of languages.

Over time and through selective breeding, Danes became the ever larger, chiseled, more pet like Giants known today. Great Danes can still be found in Germany pacing the grounds of estates and mansions. Germans take great pride in the Great Dane, locally referred to as the "German Mastiff", or "Deutsche Dogge".

Although classified by the AKC as a working breed dog, the Great Dane is primarily a companion animal. In addition, the Great Dane is also used for therapy and service work. The gentle confidence the breed exhibits helps it remain calm and easy even among large groups of people. This solid sturdy giant also serves well as an assistance dog for people with mobility issues. Making present day selection criteria a well-mannered personality, along with its tall, sturdy foundation.

Great Dane Appearance

Body: the Great Dane gives a powerful and noble appearance that radiates pride, strength and elegance. The length of the torso is equal to the shoulder height. Bitches may have a slightly longer torso. The withers are the highest point of the strong, short back. The loins are slightly arched and strong and the full croup slopes slightly to the tail. The high set, moderately long tail visually ens as it reaches the hocks, is thick at the base and runs into a point. The chest has a good width and reaches to the elbows. The belly is tucked in. The shoulderblade is long and sloping, the elbows fit well. The legs are long, dry and upright. The round feet are straight and have short, arched and tight toes. The muscular neck is set high and is dry. It runs with a nice curve with a well-formed root.

Head: the head is long, narrow and appears striking. It gives an angular impression. Great Danes have a definite stop and well developed eyebrows. The skull and the nose are straight and run parallel to each other, the skull and muzzle are of equal length. Seen from the front, the head appears narrow, with a broad nasal bridge with little developed cheek muscles. The full lips fall straight down from the nose and should show a clear angle. The ears are set high and are pendulous, lightly worn against the head. The round eyes are of medium size and have tight lids. They must have a wise expression. Great Danes have scissor bite.

Height at Withers: the dogs have a shoulderheight of 76 (minimum) up to 110 (record) centimetres and bitches measure 71 (minimum) up to 90 (record) centimetres. Dogs below the minimum are disqualified.

Weight: for dogs it's between 54 to 90 kg and bitches are between 45 to 59 kg. Depending on their size and build.

Coat: the Great Dane has a very short, dense and smooth lying coat.

Colors: there are three colors, blue, fawn or fawn brindle, and black or mottled. These three colors are not mutually crossed. Besides these three colors, there are the so-called mantle dogs or boston dogs and "plattenhunde", which are counted as the black color stroke. They are not recognized in most countries that are not involved with the FCI.

Blue, this color is preferably blue, with no hint of fawn or black. Small white markings and light colored eyes are allowed.

Fawn and fawn brindle, fawn dogs are a light golden yellow to dark yellow color with dark eyes and preferably with a black mask. Brindle dogs have the same qualities, only they have a strong chevron stripe pattern across their coat, sometimes called tiger-stripe pattern.

Black and mottled, black dogs are a glossy black with dark eyes. They may have small white markings. The spotted dogs are also called "harlequin". The have a pure white ground color with a jet black, unevenly torn and good spots well distributed over the body. A few gray or brown spots are allowed. Spotted is the only color variety in which (partly) blue eyes are allowed as well as a (partialy) flesh-colored nose. The preference is for brown eyes and a black pigmented eye rims, lips and nose.

In mantle dogs (or boston dogs) the black covers the dog like a cloak with chest, neck, blaze, belly, legs and the tip of the tail are white. The "plattenhunde" has the same markings as the mantle dog, only now the black cloak is interrupted by white.

Great Dane Temperament

Character: dogs of this breed are very affectionate and loyal to their own family. They are sensitive to the moods at home and harsh words don't go easy on them. They are highly intelligent and curious, they do not miss much of what is going on. They make a sensible and balanced impression. Especially the males make excellent watchdogs, it is said that a burglar can enter the house, but they won't have a chance to leave the house, when a Great Dane keeps guard. They are not barkers. Danes, like many other Mastiffs are not oversensitive. An illness or disability can therefore only be noticed later. Great Danes are not suitable for kennel life. They have a strong dislike for coldness and rain, and really appreciate a comfortable, warm resting location indoors.

Social Build: Great Danes are very devoted to their family, but they always are a little distant towards people they do not know. For well socialized dogs, however, this does not goes to extremes. Acquaintances of the family will be greeted enthusiastically. The breed can usually get along well with children and dealing with pets like cats and cattle is usually no hassle. Obviously, a good socialization is required for this. Dealing with peers generally goes well, although there are particular instances where males stand on their stripes towards same sex dogs.

Great Dane Socially

Care: Great Danes need relatively little coat care. In the period shedding period the dead hairs can easily be removed fromt he coat with a rubber massage glove . Always have a soft berth available for your Great Dane, in order to avoid unsightly calluses on the pressure points. Rapidly growing dogs such as the Great Dane should be raised carefully, a very good diet is the first requirement, the other half is dosed physical exercise. Keep the nails short.

Education: the Great Dane will grow into an extremely large dog in a very short period. He needs to be well educated at a very young age, in particular learning not tp pull on the leash is important. A consistent, clear, loving and gentle hand works wonders. Great Danes are very sensitive to the intonation of the voice, often it is enough to friendly request the dog what you want. A hard hand is the worst approach and gets little result with this breed. The breed is usually not suitable for prolonged and monotonous training, they quickly lose attention. With lots of variety and especially with rewards you can reach the best results. Make sure to use enough time for socialization, young Great Danes can be somewhat shy and need plenty encouragement.

Activity: this strong and elegant dog needs quite a lot of exercise, but not as much as is often told. They are always ready for unleashed running and romping in the wild. They rarely have the tendancy to follow their nose and run off. They usually stay close to their boss. Walks in the rain are usually of short duration, since most of these dogs hates rain and the cold. When a Great Dane gets sufficient excersize, he'll be very quiet indoors. A young Dane needs his strength for building a healthy frame and should only get dosed exercise. Because of their size this breed should not kept in an apartment home with no garden. Stairs are very bad for their frame and their hips.

Usability: this breed is almost exclusively valued as a family dog, but Great Danes are known to thrive in advanced obedience. Because of their extremely well-developed sense of smell they could work as a scent police dogs, they would definitely not look bad.

Great Dane Quotes / Trivia

Scooby-doo is a Great Dane. Two more recent films with a Great Dane in the lead are:
Chestnut: Hero of Central Park; two sisters live in a high rise apartment that does not allow dogs. But when they find Chestnut, they bring it home and hide him from their parents and the apartment manager.
Marmaduke; based on the comic strip by Brad Anderson. The movie follows the Great Dane Marmaduke and his family as they move from the country to trendy Orange County.

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