My humans get lots and lots of people telling them that they would love a doggie like me – a Great Dane.
Well, it’s not hard to see why – after all, us Danes are one of the most beautiful and majestic of dog breeds – we’re not known as the “Apollo of Dogs” for nothing!
We’re also known for our placid, easy-going temperaments and for being “gentle giants” despite our huge size.
But us Danes have a dark side too (see below) - Hee! Hee!
So - because I know lots of people, who think they would like a Great Dane, read this blog - I thought it was a good time to tell you a bit more about what it’s really like living with a Dane - especially now with the ‘Marmaduke’ movie coming out.
Of course, I’m very proud that Hollywood is making a star out of Great Danes but I am also sad because it is often a bad thing for our breed, because movies are only make-believe and only show the cute side of things - but humans can be very silly and just rush out to get a doggie like the ones they see in a movie, without taking time to find out all the problems that such doggies can bring.
This makes the Evil Puppy Farmers and Backyard Breeders very happy because then they can force their prisoner mummy dogs to make lots and lots of sick puppies to sell to the Dummy Humans who have done no research…
…and then when the Dane puppies get to 5 months and are the size of baby elephants with no manners at all or lots of sickies, the Dummy Humans decide they are too much trouble and try to throw them away.
That’s how you end up with lots of lost, scared Danes looking for homes but often with mental sickies or back and leg sickies which make it really hard to adopt them – and even if they are all fine, not many people want or can have a giant, slobbery doggie in their homes so it can be really hard finding homes for them…
…and so sometimes, they are forced to go to the Rainbow Bridge early, even though they are still puppies, really; even though they’ve done nothing wrong except be born; even though all they ever wanted was just to find somebody of their own to love…
Lots of puppies die tortured, unloved, scared and lonely, just because some silly human thought it would be fun to get a doggie like they saw in a movie.
* In 1998 – the year following the “101 Dalmatians” movie – over 2,000 unwanted Dalmatians were dumped at Southern California’s shelters alone – and the Dalmatian Rescue people were only able to save 69. The following year, the number was over 3,000… and this was just in one part of the US.
So if you really love Great Danes, I hope you will read the rest of this post and think carefully before you rush out to buy that cute puppy.
Honey the Great Dane
(by my human, Hsin-Yi – COPYRIGHT: please ask for permission before reprinting)
The Truth About Great Danes
“With great power comes great responsibility”
Everyone remembers the first time they fell in love – and so it was with me. We were on holiday in Spain – sitting out late one evening enjoying paella and the balmy summer weather, at a cafe in Madrid – when I saw the most magnificent dog sitting with his owner a few tables away. At the time, I wasn’t sure what breed it was but I was captivated by his majestic beauty and noble presence. The massive, chiselled head with the gentle, dark eyes; the rippling muscles in that great body which whispered of strength and power, and yet moved so lightly and gracefully; the patient dignity with which he sat and waited – it epitomised everything I thought a dog ought to be.
I watched as he got up every so often and wandered over to another table, regarding its occupants with a gentle curiousity – but at a snap of his owner’s fingers, he would turn and instantly return to his master’s side. After seeing so many small dogs out-of-control with their ‘spoilt brat’ aggression, this combination of great size and power coupled with such gentle obedience was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. I knew then that this was the dog for me. When we returned to England I searched eagerly for more information and learnt his name at last: the Great Dane.
The Wonderful Things
Ask any Dane-lover what makes this breed so special and he will probably start telling you about their gentle natures, their sweet, soppy personalities, their goofy antics, their elegant beauty…but in practical terms, I think what makes Danes so wonderful is that they are such easy-going dogs to live with (- IF you have trained and socialised them properly).
Easy-Going Housemates: Danes are generally very calm, placid dogs who take life at a slow and easy pace. While they like to be with you, they do not demand constant attention and interaction like some other breeds – not for them the need to constantly chase a ball or dig a hole or scavenge for food or chew their surroundings to pieces – if nothing is happening, they tend to lie down quietly in a corner and more often than not, go to sleep. (Yes, there are Danes who are hyper and bark and destroy and constantly ask for attention but this is probably more due to poor training and socialisation and the owners rewarding ”attention-seeking behaviours” – or even poor temperaments due to poor breeding. A well-bred Great Dane should have a stable, calm personality).
And while we’re on the subject of sleep, let me tell you – these dogs sleep. A lot. We have counted and Honey sleeps on average 18 hours a day – not kidding. What always surprises us is how tired she seems when she returns to bed straight after breakfast – surely a dog that’s been sleeping since 10pm last night and only woke up at 8am this morning for a toilet visit and breakfast can’t need to sleep so deeply again, snoring as if she hasn’t slept for days?
Honey usually goes back to bed around 9am in the morning and won’t wake again until about 4pm when she will stretch leisurely and wait patiently to be taken for her daily walk. Once her walk is done and she has had her dinner at around 7pm, guess what? Yup, she’ll head straight for her bed again. I sometimes think that unlike other dogs who consider sleeping a second-rate activity to fill the time when there is nothing better to do – for Danes, sleeping is an aim in itself. This is not a dog whose primary mission in life is to terrorise potential intruders, dig a hole to China, chase every moving object or consume every edible thing…this is a dog whose primary mission in life is to sleep - as much as possible!
Their quiet natures mean that they are actually ideal indoor dogs. Many people wonder how we cope with such a huge dog in the house but ask any of our friends who have stayed with us – you hardly notice her. Honey is so quiet and so inactive indoors - she is almost like an extra piece of furniture. You actually feel there is “less dog” than if you had two smaller excitable dogs running around, jumping up and barking all the time. Many people mistakenly believe that you need a mansion and estate to have a Great Dane (we lived in a tiny 2 bedroom garden unit back in Auckland) - in fact, in Europe, they are known as “apartment ponies” because their quiet natures mean that they are actually more suited to living in a limited space (as long as they get decent walks daily) than many of the smaller but more active working and sporting breeds.
It also means that – providing you have done the right training and got them used to the idea gradually – Danes can be easier than many other dogs to leave alone at home. They are generally happy just to sleep the day away, instead of getting up to mischief like trying to escape or ‘help’ you with your interior decorating.
When Honey was younger (5 months onwards), I was out working for the large part of each day – (certainly not ideal but unfortunately not everyone has the luxury of working from home and dogs can cope if they are prepared properly, exercised enough and given adequate boredom relievers while alone). Accordingly, we left her lots of things to occupy her time – from stuffed Kongs and raw bones to treats hidden around the garden and chewtoys galore. I used to come home to find most of these things untouched and Honey just stretching and coming out of her bed as I walked through the door…! It was almost like she had a switch and was in “OFF” mode when we weren’t around – and then tackled all her toys and treats with gusto as soon as we came home!
BUT this was only because we took time to traing & prepare her, gradually extending the time over days and weeks, so she felt secure and relaxed about being left home alone. AND we made sure that she had enough mental stimulation (through daily training sessions) and physical exercise (a variety of walks – we never missed a day, no matter how tired we were and if we were going to be late, we booked a dog walker) when she was with us, so that she was content to sleep when we weren’t there. (And of course, her fundamental stable temperament helped – dogs that are anxious, excitable or neurotic are much more likely to develop separation anxiety).
* I am not saying that Danes are suitable for being left alone for long periods of time – no breed is – and if your dog will have to spend most of his life alone, then you shouldn’t have a dog. Constant, prolonged solitary isolation is one of the cruellest things you can do to a dog.
Easy Exercise: This inherent “laziness” in Danes also means that they don’t have much stamina. A Dane tires really easily. Even when she was a boisterous teenager – 10 minutes of training games or playing Tug with Honey would mean that she needed to sleep it off for at least another 2 hours…not a bad trade-off!
And this means - contrary to what a lot of people believe – Danes do NOT need a lot of exercise. Yes, they are massive dogs but their energy requirements are low compared to other breeds. Thus, you don’t need to jog for 10km a day or throw a ball for an hour to satisfy your Dane – he’ll be quite happy with 2 shorter walks or 1 longer walk a day.
We tend to only walk Honey once a day in the afternoon, usually for about 40mins although occasionally for 1 hour, and she is very happy with that. We do make an effort to give her lots of variety – so over the course of a week, she gets a rotation of leashed pavement walks and off-leash runs at the park or beach. (Just by taking your Dane to an unfamiliar place – even if you’re not doing a long walk - will tire him out with all the new smells and stimulations. Dogs get bored with the same routine just like we do.) Of course, Honey also gets regular, short training sessions throughout the week – don’t forget, 10 minutes of intense training can equate to 20mins of running in tiring the dog out. People who just rely on physical exercise find they have to walk longer and longer as their dogs develop stamina faster than they can keep up with it.
However, for the few rare times when I’m really busy and can only spare 20mins or the weather is horrible, Honey is fine with a quick stroll around the block and won’t be climbing the walls at home with her excess energy. Conversely, if we want to go hiking for 3 hours on the weekend, Honey will tackle any trek with enthusiasm and have no problems keeping up (although of course, she will be comatose for the whole week afterwards! )
This again is what makes Danes so easy to live with – their flexible exercise requirements. It’s one reason why they were top of my shortlist – I wanted a breed athletic enough to cope with substantial exercise when I wanted it but mellow enough that I didn’t HAVE to devote hours to exercising him every day. I also like the fact that I can take Honey to a 2-day dog training workshop when I want to but she will also lie quietly and not bother me all day when I have work deadlines to meet and can’t spare much time to interact with her. I have friends who own a Dalmation/Border Collie-cross and they have to walk him 3 times a day (two of which are 5km jogs) just to keep him sane. I admire their dedication but I’m too selfish myself and like having a dog where I have the flexibility to be lazy sometimes – and not suffer any consequences!
Easy Management: In training language, Danes are known as “extremely low drive” – which basically means they can’t be bothered much, especially with anything that requires a lot of effort. They need to be given a LOT of motivation and “good reason” for them to do anything. This can be a nightmare when you are actually trying to train them in advanced obedience and competitive dog sports (like I am with Honey) as they lack the constant enthusiasm & focus of the traditional working breeds – but it’s a blessing when it comes to living with them.
Obviously, there are exceptions and puppies will always be puppies but in general, Danes are very easily deterred. They give up easily. This means that it’s not hard to stop them doing things – whether it is escaping from a garden or stealing food from the kitchen – they are easily daunted. Sure, they will seize an opportunity just like any other dog but if you make things just a little bit difficult – whether through poor access or constant supervision - they will often give up and not try again.
These are not dogs that will spend a lot of time cleverly working out how to open every cupboard in the house or repeatedly planning how to sneak past your defences…which has led some people to label Danes as “stupid”.
The truth is, Danes are no more stupid than any other breed – they can learn to open cupboards or any other clever trick – but the key is, they just can’t be bothered most of the time.
Much like cats aren’t stupid – in fact, they are probably more intelligent than dogs – but they are difficult to train because they often just can’t be bothered. To do something, an animal has got to not only be capable of doing it but also want to do it…this is the reason why many people struggle with training their Danes. They have a much a harder time motivating their dogs than owners of other breeds.
Some claim that Danes are “stubborn” and yes, they can be but it is not the same kind of stubborn persistence and continual enjoyment in defying you that you find in some other cheekier breeds. This doesn’t mean that there are no naughty Danes – of course there are Danes that steal food, dig holes and destroy things! – but more often than not, if you’re clear and consistent with the rules in the beginning and supervise so that they don’t get a chance to develop the bad habit, then they will accept the status quo and never think of questioning it again, unlike some other breeds that will keep testing you and pushing boundaries as long as they’ve got breath left in their bodies!
Danes are also known to be ‘sensitive’ – they value affection more than food or toys and really get upset by your displeasure or anger. Honey fears my Scary Face and Scary Voice far more than any other possible punishment. This means that they are often easily deterred from doing something naughty just with a Stern “Telling Off” – they really don’t like annoying you – compared to other breeds which may defiantly talk back to you or just shrug off your objections and turn a deaf ear.
Easy Grooming: Great Danes really are wash ‘n’ wear dogs. Their short, single coat requires minimal grooming – a run over with a rubber curry comb (eg. Zoom Groom) once a week to remove any dead, loose hairs is often more than enough. (This is another reason they topped my shortlist as I HATE grooming and wanted a breed I could get away with doing as little as possible! I’m ashamed to say that sometimes, Honey only gets groomed once a month!)
Any mud dries and falls off quickly – there are no long hairs to clump and matt together. Compared to other breeds, they do not shed excessively although they can “moult” twice a year in spring and autumn but as long as you’re a bit more conscientious with the grooming then, it is hardly any trouble. Certainly nothing like the huge clumps of hair and fur you will often see coming off other breeds.
After a bath, they dry extremely quickly – 10 minutes in hot sun. Their big size does mean they can be difficult to bathe IF you have not done the proper training and socialised them to baths from an early age – it is practically impossible to hold a squirming, soapy giant dog that is panicking. Even more so with nail clipping – Dane nails are like huge talons and are extremely hard and take a lot of strength to clip, and if they have dark nails like Honey, very difficult to see the quick – so it is essential that your Dane will lie quietly while you’re struggling to squeeze the clippers – otherwise things could get very ugly! . But get in early with positive associations & socialisation to these activities and you’ll be fine. Honey doesn’t enjoy her baths or her nail clippings – but she stands or lies quietly and complies dociley while I’m getting on with it.
But don’t think it’s all plain sailing with Great Dane personal care - the Curse of the Slobber (see The Dark Side below) more than cancels out any grooming benefits you get!
The Dark Side
Despite their wonderfulness, Great Danes have a lot of negatives too and much as I love them and consider them to be the epitome of what a dog should be, I would be the first to admit that a Dane is not for everybody. In fact, I would go so far as to say a Great Dane is not for most people. They require a more dedicated, committed owner than average so if you can’t embrace the following things 100%, then DON’T get a Dane!
You absolutely CANNOT skimp on the training. Danes aren’t any worse behaved than other breeds – in fact (as mentioned above), in many respects they are easier to manage but this does not mean you can skimp on training in any way. Why? Because if they DO misbehave, the consequences will be 10 times worse than other dogs – just because of their sheer size and strength.
This is not a dog that you can afford to have even a bit ”out of control” – he can be a serious danger to himself and others. I hate the double standards that seem to apply to dog breeds based on size but in this case, I have to admit that there is a point. Not that it excuses them or makes it right but you can hang on to or pick up a toy breed that is misbehaving – whereas you will be lucky to escape injury or a lawsuit with a Dane. It is like the difference between you not knowing how to ride a bicycle: the worst that can happen is you fall off or crash into 1 pedestrian – and you not knowing how to fly a Jumbo jet: you could kill hundreds of people, damage airports and cities or worse.
And an untrained Great Dane can seriously impact your quality of life – you can’t just “put up with it” as many owners of smaller dogs do and just get on with life, albeit with some exasperation and discomfort. A Jack Russell pulling on a leash is a nuisance – a Great Dane pulling on a leash is a hip replacement waiting to happen. A chewing accident won’t just be a favourite shoe destroyed – it will be half the house demolished. I’m not kidding. I have seen Danes chew up half a kitchen wall. Yes, the wall.
I had a friend whose Dane lunged and took off down the street, dragging her face down on the concrete road behind him…she only stopped when she smacked into a telephone pole and had to be hospitalised for days with concussion and “burns” all over her body where her skin had been ripped off. It may seem funny on a YouTube video but it’s not when it is happening to you. Which it will. Guaranteed. If your Dane is not trained properly.
Sure, there will be those who can rely on brute strength to hang on – maybe one reason why Danes are often walked by big, tall, beefy men – but unfortunately, we can’t all be Arnold Schwarzenegger. And besides, you shouldn’t have to.
One of the things people say to me more than anything else is how surprised they are that such a small woman as myself can handle a Dane. And not only just “hang on” as many people seem to but have her behave beautifully.
Er…why? Leadership is not about how much you weigh but about how much authority you have. And only training gives you the kind of authority that allows you to control an animal that weighs 20kg more than you and whose jaws could rip you in half.
I actually prefer controlling Honey when she is off-leash – I rely on my voice and authority – and not on a length of nylon to restrain her. But I can only do that because she respects my leadership, which was established through training.
Of course, I totally understand that not everyone is as interested in dog training as I am and I don’t expect them to be. For me, it is almost like a hobby – no different to golf or knitting or even shopping for some. But not everyone wants to spend large parts of their spare time training their dogs and that’s fair enough. But just don’t get a Dane then. I hate to say it but get something smaller that you can “get away with it” . It still isn’t right – every dog, not matter what size or breed, should be trained and I’m constantly disgusted at the number of small dogs I see who are allowed to behave like canine terrorists – but it is true that you can get away with less training with a smaller, less powerful dog. At least you CAN hang on or physically drag them away.
And if you’re thinking I’m just being a goody-goody and you can probably get away with it – trust me, you won’t. We get on average 5 messages coming through the ‘Contact Honey’ page every week and a lot of them are Dane owners begging me for help because their Danes are out of control. A lot of them thought they could “get away with it” and didn’t bother to put in any time training when their Danes were young. They’re all suffering for it now. And the sad thing is, it could all have been so easily prevented.
Of course, there will be those reading this who will be thinking, “But I hardly trained my Dane and he’s an angel!” Good for you – but you’re one of the very few, rare lucky ones. Yes, there are some dogs who grow up magically well-behaved with you hardly doing anything (just like children) but can you take the chance? Like playing Russian roulette - if you’re lucky and get an empty round, that’s great, but if you happen to get the bullet…
I’m not saying that you have to go to the extremes I do with participating in dog sports, etc, if you get a Dane but you HAVE to be prepared to commit a significant amount of time to training, especially in the first year and even thoughout your Dane’s life. With great power comes great responsibility and you have a duty, if you get a Dane, to ensure that he is not a danger to himself or others.
Besides – you want to enjoy your dog, don’t you? You don’t want to spend your life panting behind your dog, with your arm dragged out of its socket…or breaking into a cold sweat every time you see another dog/cyclist/jogger/cat coming down the street whilst your dog has turned into a cross between Godzilla and a Giant Mexican Jumping Bean…or skulking around, walking your dog at midnight in the hopes of not meeting anyone…(all things I’ve known Dane owners to do)…if life with a dog has to be like that, what is the point?
You might not believe it looking at Honey now but we went through a very bad time with her when she was about 7-8 months old. I would get panic attacks just at the thought of having to take her out for a walk. I would be dragged behind her until the rubber soles of my shoes were almost smoking, as she lunged and barked at other dogs. I was flipped off my feet, flat onto my back. We were expelled from training class for being “out of control”. I could not enjoy her at all and yes, I did even think about giving her up. (GULP)
But then we decided to get professional help from a wonderful trainer called Flip at Flip’s Top Dog in Auckland and the rest, as they say, is history. So I’m telling you all this not because I enjoy preaching but because I have lived through the nightmare of having an out-of-control Dane myself and I would not wish that experience on anybody.
You have to do MORE socialisation – and never stop. You know all those stupid things that people are told NEVER to do to strange dogs? Like stare at them, point at them, run up and hug them, scream and make sudden moves, touch them from behind…? Well, they’ll do it to your Dane. Guaranteed.
I am constantly staggered at the kind of things people do to Honey – from joggers giving her rump a smack as they run past (??!!) to children mauling her head and crawling underneath her. One little girl in a park even came up and patted Honey’s tongue as she was panting! Not to mention the construction worker who asked me how much Honey weighed and then before I could reply, proceeded to try and lift her in his arms to find out for himself!
Of course, they are at fault for doing those stupid things and would totally deserve it if they provoked a reaction from your Dane but if anything did happen, who do you think would be blamed? Especially when there is a “big dog” involved? And sure, all of this applies to all dogs but a lot of breeds can get by relatively unnoticed – with a Dane, you can never avoid it - he will always be drawing attention – and bringing out the worst in stupid behaviour.
So it is up to you to make sure that your Dane sees all this excessive attention as a good thing. That he is very tolerant of stupid behaviour – because he will have to put up with a lot more than most other dogs. And you can only achieve this through adequate socialisation.
Be aware, also, that some Danes can be quite timid and ‘skittish’ – you can try your best to avoid this by selecting a reputable breeder who only breeds from stable dogs with good temperaments - but to some extent, there is a definite tendency in this breed. Therefore, it is even more important that you “bomb-proof” your Dane because a fearful Dane that can’t cope with all this attention may resort to aggression – perhaps justified, you feel – but in the end, it is your Dane who suffers (and might even be put to sleep).
Sure, you can protect your Dane if you never take him out ever or only live up in the mountains – or build a Force Field around him to prevent anyone coming near…but realistically, you will have to rely on socialisation. So can you spare the time, especially in the early months, to take your Dane to a host of places and expose them to a variety of people, animals, objects and experiences in a positive way? And ideally continue doing this for the rest of his life, to cope with the constant new social challenges he will have to face? You just never know what the next stupid person might do or when it might reach your Dane’s breaking point – so you have to continually ”put credit in the socialisation bank”. If you can’t invest this kind of time, then DON’T get a Dane.
SLOBBER!!!!! Danes are definitely NOT for the houseproud. There’s no delicate way to put this – unless you’re very “relaxed” about home cleanliness and decor (or you want to spend most of your days manically cleaning), forget having a Dane. These dogs can drool like there is no tomorrow. Yes, some of them have ‘tighter’ mouths and only produce a dainty dribble but there is no guarantee for this and no way of predicting, especially when they are a puppy, just how ‘slobbery’ they are going to be.
As someone who lives with a “slobbery Dane”, I can tell you that it is not for the faint-hearted. Honey drools constantly. She drools when she is hot; she drools when she is excited; she drools when she is walking; she drools when she is sleeping; she drools when she eating food; she drools when she thinking about food; she drools when she rides in the car; she drools when she is playing; she drools when there is nothing better to do…it is non-stop and relentless.
And we’re not talking about a few dainty little drops, either, but great long stringy gobs of slime which smell and stick everywhere – on your clothes, your hair, your walls, your furniture, your carpets, your floors, your cars, your friends…
The walls in our house are always covered in slobber. From great big splatter patterns that look like an alien was slaughtered in the room to small blobs that have hardened into lumpy projections. Nor is the furniture safe, even though Honey is not allowed on the sofa – a good toss of her head means she can fling her drool far and wide. A lot of Dane-owners have forgotten what their lounge suites look like as everything is always perpetually covered with sheets.
And even when she is not actively drooling, Honey’s mouth is always wet. This means wherever she lays her head, there is likely to be a slimey damp patch afterwards. It also means that the area around her mouth is always moist and a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, especially given all the folds and wrinkled skin underneath her chin. This is one reason why so many young Danes suffer from pimples and acne on their chin.
Of course, we do our best to fight it. We keep Honey’s water bowl outside and feed her outside and wipe her mouth with a towel before she comes back in the house. We keep a ‘slobber towel’ in several locations in the house and wipe her mouth at every opportunity. But it is a losing battle.
We’ve got used to it and don’t mind it. My personal pet peeve is noisy dogs and I cannot stand dogs that yap a lot at every small thing – so I’d rather deal with slobber than excessive barking and howling. It’s not a judgement – neither problem is better than the other – but just what you are happier to put up with. But just make sure that if you do decide to get a Dane, you can put up with this.
And if you want proof, just watch this video:
Great Danes could be the most expensive mistake you’ll ever make. When people ask me about the cost of having a Dane, the only thing they tend to think about is food. Actually, I think – once they are fully grown – Danes don’t cost significantly more to feed. They might even eat less than a slightly smaller but more active working or sporting breed. It also depends on what you feed them – some foods deliver very little nutrition so have to be fed in huge amounts. But when they are growing puppies (which can be up to 2 years), you will have to invest in an expensive, high quality diet. Danes are already prone to developmental problems as it is – you really have to do everything to ensure good growth and health - if you skimp on the quality of food now, you’ll be paying for it in vet bills later.
Make no mistake about it: EVERYTHING about your Dane will be expensive. Like the look of that dog bed? Wait until you see what the price is in XXL size. Want to buy some flea treatment? You’ll be paying what other owners pay in a year just for one sitting. Thinking of getting a crate? Better start saving for the cost of the Giant model. Need to put your Dane in a kennel? Double the standard rate just to start with. Searching for a Dane-friendly dog coat? Be prepared to pay designer prices. Looking for a new car to transport your canine friend? You’ll be looking at models with hefty space at the back and a hefty price tag attached. And as mentioned above – any damage your Dane causes (whether in destructive behaviour or accidental injuries) will be MAJOR and likely to cost you a LOT in repairs/treatment.
Any time you think something is good value for money – wait until you see the same thing in XXL size. It is incredibly frustrating but there are no good deals in the giant range of anything. And any vet treatment and pest control is always calculated by weight – and your dog will have a LOT of it. Even a simple course of antibiotics could easily cost you hundreds. NOTHING with a Dane is cheap.
As for pet insurance, I only have 2 words: get it. Even a simple operation for a Dane is likely to cost thousands, especially if anaesthesia (again calculated on weight) is involved. And don’t just go on the standard premiums quoted on the website – Danes will fall into their “special breeds” group where the premiums are extra high (told you nothing with a Dane is cheap!) so make sure you double check and read the small print. If you feel that insurance is not worth it, at least set up a dedicated savings account where you’ll put money away every month for your Dane’s medical expenses. Trust me – you’ll need it.
The curse of the celebrity. You might think it’s really cool to have everyone oohing and aahing over your dog every time you go out but believe me, it wears really thin very quickly.
Please don’t think I’m ungrateful – I am very honoured and flattered that people think Honey is so beautiful and want to meet her and ask questions about her – and I am more than happy to oblige a lot of the time and enjoy making new friends - but sometimes, I really just want to walk my dog or go to a cafe in peace. But it’s NEVER an option. You are stalked wherever you go and we have had people literally queue up to take photos with or pat Honey.
If you’re someone who craves being the centre of attention all the time then yes, maybe you would enjoy it. (But I really worry about those who just get a Dane because they want to show off having “the biggest dog in the street”).
I’m not a particularly shy person and I’m comfortable getting attention and talking to strangers – but I still find the constant onslaught a bit of a strain, as would any normal person.
Those of you reading this with young Danes probably won’t agree – you’re still enjoying being singled out with all the attention…I used to think like you when Honey was 2 yrs old – after all, I agree, it’s nice to feel “special” – but now that we’ve had it for nearly 7 years, the novelty is definitely wearing off!
And don’t forget all the ‘smart comments’ you will get. This can wear REALLY thin. I have to grit my teeth now every time someone passes us and says “You could put a saddle on that thing” or some other “horse” remark.
I know they are only trying to be funny – and often they look at you, expecting you to laugh uproariously at their “witty” comment – when in truth, I’ve heard it so many times I can barely stretch my lips into the semblance of a smile.
I wouldn’t mind it so much if people actually came up with something original but everyone says the same stupid things and thinks they are so creative. I don’t understand why they feel the need to comment anyway? Do they think I haven’t noticed that my dog is very big??
As for the stupid questions, don’t even get me started. They range from “Will she eat my dog?” (in all seriousness) to “Did you know she was going to get so big when you got her?” I mean – huh? It’s like ordering a Vindaloo Curry and then asking, “Did you know it was going to be spicy?”
Can you cope with a Special Needs dog? Getting a Great Dane compared to getting a more common breed is like keeping exotic tropical fish instead of common guppies. I don’t mean they are more valuable or special but just that they require more expert knowledge and ‘work’ to raise them well and ensure optimal health.
This particularly applies to Dane puppies. They have to be carefully watched, fed and exercised during their first year as their rapid growth (and genetic heritage) means that they are very prone to developmental & skeletal diseases. Even when they are fully grown, you will have to continue with special routines and procedures to avoid things like bloat & gastric torsion.
So think carefully about whether you are able to put in the time & effort for all this extra “special care”. Just like how if you haven’t got the patience, know-how and time to tend & prune & trim & fertilise a garden full of exotic orchids, then it might be better if you just stick to a less ambitious garden with hardier plants that don’t need so much specialist care.
NOT the ideal dog for a young family. If you have children under 5 yrs old (AND ESPECIALLY if you’re a first-time owner), please think twice about getting a Great Dane puppy. As mentioned above, you really cannot afford to skimp with a Dane puppy’s training and socialisation – and it is hard to find the time when you have your hands full with tantrums and Teletubbies.
Of course, this could apply to puppies of all breeds but you have a lot less leeway with a Dane. Why? Because of their growth rate. A 4 month old Dane puppy will be the size of a large Labrador already – and probably much stronger. It will still have the mind of a puppy and all the same puppy issues but behave like a small rhinocerous in your home. It can also hurt your children a lot harder if there are any accidents.
I can’t tell you how much it upsets and angers me to get the messages we get through the ‘Contact Honey’ page every week – almost all identical – from people with Danes about 5 months old which they just cannot control and are now becoming a threat to their families. It is always the same age: 5 months – when it is no longer a cute, lumbering puppy but a huge boisterous young dog causing havoc. Invariably, none of them will have done any training. Why? Why? Why are people so stupid?
Of course, there will be those indignantly reading this now who have welcomed a Dane puppy into their family of young children and raised a wonderful family dog. I’m not saying it can’t be done but it usually requires a lot of dedication and hard work. And a large dose of luck too.
Life is unfair with a Great Dane. If you’re going to get a Dane, brace yourself for some serious discrimination. This probably affects all owners of large breeds – and Danes are probably better off than those breeds which have a certain (usually undeserved) ‘reputation’ such as Rottweilers, but nevertheless, you will find life with a very big dog very uncomfortable at times.
There is a terrible double standard that exists in people’s perception and tolerance of dog behaviour, based on your dog’s size. Little dogs can behave atrociously, barking ferociously, lunging aggressively, even biting – and people will often laugh it off or call it “spunky” or “cute” – whereas if your Dane ever so much as sneezes in the wrong direction, people will be all over it, accusing it of aggressive, threatening behaviour. You will suffer far more and far quicker judgement on your Dane and be forgiven less.
When it comes to incidents between dogs, the bigger dog is ALWAYS blamed. And when you’ve got a Dane, you’ve got the biggest dog in the park. Doesn’t matter if he didn’t start it. Doesn’t matter if he is standing 3 metres away. It will be his fault. We learnt this the hard way when a Manchester Terrier attacked Honey in a park back in Auckland and when she tried to defend herself, the Terrier’s owners reported her to Animal Control, wanting her to be muzzled for being a “dangerous dog”. Their argument was that a big dog had no right to defend itself against a little dog because of the size difference.
Having a bigger dog also means that any un-dogfriendly attitudes are magnified. Even if people are willing to consider it for a little dog, there is no way they will allow it for a Great Dane. These double standards also often apply to the things you can do and places you can go. Lots of so-called “dog-friendly accommodation” only welcome dogs below a certain size.
You will even suffer negative attitudes from other dog owners – especially ladies of a certain age with dogs of a certain fluffy, white type - who will be snatched up and cradled in their owner’s arms as you walk by with your perfectly behaved, perfectly disinterested Dane - whilst they sniff disapprovingly and coo to their bristling, yapping bundle that “Mummy won’t let that big nasty dog hurt you.” Like the smart aleck comments, this one is easy to shrug off once in a while but when it becomes a daily occuremce, it can really get you down.
Big size means big incoveniences. While you don’t need a huge house & garden to have a Great Dane, their big size does make things pretty inconvenient at times. For example, any cafe you want to stop at will need a lot of room around the tables. You can’t just tuck your Dane out of sight under the table – more likely than not, they will sprawl halfway across the pavement, blocking everyone’s way.
Their height also means that you ‘d better train some very good food manners or have very high counters! Things that are out of the question for most dogs are an easy reach for Great Danes. And while you can get away with a small car (as we did for our final year in Auckland), you really do need to get a decent-sized station wagon or 4X4 to transport your Dane. And remember, if your dog gets exhausted or injured while out on a trek, you won’t be able to carry him back easily. Come to that, if he gets stuck in a narrow space, you won’t be able to get him out easily!
With a dog this size, it’s never a quick “get up and go” – you will have to plan every outing and check every destination for enough space and welcoming attitude to cope with such a big dog.
You won’t get a ’Honey’ We get a lot of people writing in saying they would love to have a dog like Honey, ie. a Great Dane – but we also get quite a few saying they would love to have a dog like Honey. Literally. They don’t just want a Great Dane – they want a ‘Honey’.
This also happens a lot when we go out and meet people marvelling at Honey’s good behaviour and lovely temperament. I am always in a quandry in these situations. Of course, I am delighted that Honey is being such a good ambassador for the breed but I also worry that she is giving people unrealistic expectations.
Honey wasn’t bought – she was made - through blood, sweat and tears. And unless you’re going to put in the same amount of time and commitment I have in training and socialisation – which most people can’t or won’t – then your Dane won’t be Honey. I’m not saying Honey is better – your Dane doesn’t have to be Honey to be wonderful – not all Danes have to learn how to stay out of the kitchen, do advanced Obedience or dance. But please don’t think you’ll be able to get a ‘Honey’ easily.
Some of you may remember Honey’s little niece, Raffy, who she babysat back in Auckland. Raffy was 4 months old at the time and her owners had visited Honey’s blog and wanted a Dane like Honey in their home. They had brought Raffy especially to our trainer, Flip, and that was how we met. I was really sad to learn a few months later that they had decided to rehome Raffy. Apparently, they decided Raffy was just “too much” and they couldn’t cope. I suppose at least they did the responsible thing by looking for a more suitable home for her. She was really just a typical boisterous 6-month old Dane puppy but unfortunately, I think them reading Honey’s blog had led them to false expectations
I had had the chance to spend some time ‘working’ with Raffy myself and she was just the most gorgeous, normal ‘little’ puppy – she reminded me a LOT of Honey at the same age: very bouncy & rambunctious, overly-confident and fearless – a LOT of spirit which, yes, if not channelled right, could be a handful. Her owners complained about her wrecking things in the house when they went out and left her alone or being too rough around their young children….which is really just all normal puppy behaviour.
Sadly, I think in this instance, Honey’s blog did more harm than good because they were obviously expecting a replica of Honey and were disappointed. I got the impression that they couldn’t understand why she wasn’t perfectly behaved, given that she came from Honey’s breeders, was related to Honey and had been taken to the same trainer! Thankfully, our breeders took her back and found her a lovely new home with a lady who had just lost her old Great Dane.
You can’t always buy everything – sometimes, if you don’t put in the time and hard work yourself, you will never get the results you want. Even if you took a puppy cloned from Honey, you would not get a ‘Honey’ if you don’t do all the things I have done with her training and socialisation.
But if you CAN put in the dedication and work required, then yes, you can get your own ‘Honey’.
And for those of you who haven’t seen this before – I’ll leave you with this video which shows just how wonderful life with a well-trained, well-socialised Dane can be:
If you’re interested in finding out more about Great Danes, check out my Great Dane FAQ page