How long do Great Danes live? Not long enough! The world would be a better place if there were more of these friendly, affectionate, playful, gentle giants. Although the average Great Dane lifespan is only 7-10 years, you have it within your power to add to it. And we’re going to tell you all the ways you can do just that!

Why Do People Love Great Danes?

In addition to their comically expressive faces, Great Danes have an endearing temperament and personality. First, do you know the difference between temperament and personality? Temperament refers to an inborn genetic tendency toward certain behaviors.

In other words, temperament is a natural predisposition. Personality, on the other hand, is one’s identity based on temperament but developed over the years. It includes learned behaviors from parental upbringing, cultural surroundings, and exposure to other influences. Here are a few of the especially lovable traits that Great Danes possess:

  • Playfulness and Humor: Dane lovers observe that their dogs seem to respond to the sound of human laughter and quickly learn to keep doing things to make people laugh more.
  • Loyalty: Sometimes called “velcro dogs,” Danes bond closely with their humans with a high level of affection and devotion. They like to lean on you and want to cuddle in your lap.
  • Companionability: As a breed, Great Danes are generally accepting of new friends of all ages.
  • Tolerance and Gentleness: They demonstrate amazing patience toward the antics of small children, puppies, and other such lively creatures. As adults, they seem to sense the need for gentleness and care during play. A word of caution: as exuberant puppies, not so much!
  • Big Hearts: These sweet dogs have sensitive feelings so don’t make fun of them. As a matter of fact, they literally do have big hearts! The dog is the animal with the largest heart-to-body-mass ratio, more than elephants and humans.

Great Dane Breed Characteristics & Interesting Facts

how long do great danes live

Why Are Great Danes So Big?

Dogs have been partnering with humans all over the world for thousands of years. Just as humans adapted to the demands of the local climate and activities of survival, so did dogs. Big hunting hounds appear in ancient Egyptian art as well as in ancient Chinese literature. By the Middle Ages, several different kinds of muscular dogs were used for hunting boars, bears, and other large animals.

It was only natural that dogs were included as valuable commodities traded among the various kingdoms. Many of the dogs were kept indoors to guard the families against invaders and assassins. Since most of the bloodlines came from Germany and England, the reason for the breed’s name change in the 1800s is unknown. Although originally bred to corner and hold game during the hunt, today these hounds are known for lacking a strong prey drive.

The Great Dane Body

Great Danes characteristically stand out not only for their size but for their powerful, heavily boned, smoothly muscled bodies. They can stand well over 40 inches at the shoulders and weigh 100-200 pounds. Males are generally larger than females. They have big heads, big mouths, big teeth, and big drool.

Their ears are typically big, too, and naturally floppy. For protection against boars’ tusks, hunting dogs’ ears were cropped. Today, since Danes are mostly companion animals, the practice of cropping has been banned in many countries or only legally performed by veterinary surgeons. There’s no health reason to deprive anybody of their ears.

Coat and Grooming Needs

The Great Dane coat is short and flat and comes in a variety of colors. The only color to avoid is pure white because it’s frequently linked genetically to vision and hearing disabilities. Do Great Danes shed? Not only are they moderate to heavy shedders, but there are also many more square inches of furry skin compared to most other dogs.

Almost all dogs shed. Canine coats are divided into two types: single and double. Double coats have a thick, soft undercoat covered by a long, thick overcoat of guard hairs. Danes have single coats without the insulating undercoat. They shed year-round but usually more during spring.

Besides good nutrition and general health maintenance, the best thing you can do to manage shedding is to brush your pooch’s coat often. Brushing is also a wonderful bonding activity to share because it’s calming and soothing.

A large shedding brush or bristle brush used a couple of times weekly is good, although using it daily is even better. Bathing too often will cause dry skin, so it’s important to use a pH-neutral shampoo formulated for dogs with natural ingredients instead of dyes and artificial additives.

Natural Tendencies of Great Danes

  • Barking: Low
  • Digging: Low
  • Drooling: High
  • Energy Level: Average
  • Guarding Ability: Althogh naturally protective of their households and intimidating with their size and deep bark, Danes are not naturally aggressive.
  • Heat Tolerance: High; they like hot weather
  • Metabolism: High; they grow fast and their bodies require lots of energy to function
  • Playfulness: High
  • Snoring: Low
  • Shedding: High; easy to groom but need regular and frequent grooming
  • Social Needs: High; they easily become lonely and need your company
  • Trainability: Generally eager to please but need attentive training due to size; can understand 150-250 words and hand signals; however, thinking beings with brains are susceptible to boredom
  • Water Behavior: Varies from individual to individual; can swim but not genetically bred to work in water; although their body shape is good for swimming, lean muscle is dense and heavy

Activity & Exercise

what do great danes eat

The right kind of regular activity and exercise will not only extend the Great Dane life expectancy but their quality of life as well. In addition, sharing active fun together will strengthen your shared social bond and probably extend your own life expectancy. Although your Dane might be content to lie around like a giant bag of couch potatoes, the pent-up energy will break loose sooner or later.

For optimum health provide up to two hours of activity daily in separate sessions lasting 20-40 minutes. One to three walks every day plus some form of brisk freestyle activity is recommended. Unlike some breeds, a Great Dane’s bones and joints, especially in rapidly growing puppies, can be harmed by too much exercise.

Daily Walks And Plenty Of Cardio

Hip damage in the first year or two will last a lifetime. While daily walks provide physical, mental, and social stimulation, humans walk too slowly to give long-legged dogs the level of activity they need. Jogging and visits to dog parks can supplement the daily walks as well as games such as fetch and opportunities to swim.

Be ready to slow things down if your Great Dane starts getting tired; an exhausted animal risks becoming injured. When Shakespeare commented that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak,” he might have been thinking of the welfare of an exuberant giant hound. Instead of asking about the Great Dane lifespan, you might ask about what age they’re considered to be seniors.

By age seven most of them have developed joint problems such as arthritis, pain, and lameness in the hips. Your dog’s veterinarian can help you adjust the kinds and amounts of activities accordingly.

Signs Of Lack Of Exercise

If your Great Dane isn’t getting enough exercise, you might observe:

  • Obesity: You should be able to see ribs under the muscle.
  • Abnormal restlessness: Pacing, barking, and other signs of unrelieved energy.
  • Destructive behaviors: Chewing and even aggression are often caused by frustration.

Walking Big Dogs Safely

To walk your big dog safely, train your dog from an early age — taking a training class together will be one of the best investments of your life. The rest of this section is about choosing the right gear for your safety. To have physical control of your dog, you need a good-quality collar or harness that fits properly without causing pain.

You also need a strong non-retractable leash. Slip your thumb through the leash loop and use your other hand to control the amount of slack between you and your dog. While you don’t want your dog to escape, neither do you want surgery to repair your fractured hand. You’ll need to wear snugly fitting footwear with good traction in case the dog lunges or pulls.

You may even want knee protectors. Because both hands need to be free for handling the leash, some people wear a fanny pack for reward treats, cleanup bags, and other belongings. Remember that walking is not just for your dog “to do his business” or to hurry through 20 minutes of required exercise. It’s an opportunity for bonding as you and your buddy explore the world together.

Can Great Danes Swim?

Hundreds of years ago, the mastiff-like hunting dogs were bred to chase down and corner large game animals on land. Consequently, the modern Great Dane is not automatically compelled to gallop into bodies of water the same way retrievers often do. However, many enjoy getting wet. You can gradually introduce your Dane to water with the garden hose or sprinkler if the water isn’t frigid and the spray is gentle.

Many people start with a kiddie-type wading pool in the security of their backyard without distractions or loud, frightening noises. The idea is to make the first experiences pleasant. Since you and your dog belong to the same pack, you can enhance the experience by getting wet together.

Share the joy! This is where training comes in handy because when you direct your dog to HEEL, fear is replaced by the need to follow. Bring a favorite toy into the water as an added temptation.

If your Great Dane has joint problems, or any issues with pain or stress, hydrotherapy might provide a welcome activity option. The water is relaxing, offering buoyancy as well as resistance without stressing the joints. To learn more about recreational hydrotherapy at home or a supervised rehabilitation program, talk to your dog’s vet.

average lifespan of a great dane

Medicinal Benefits of a Biologically Appropriate Diet

A natural, nutrient-dense diet of fresh ingredients is one of the key factors in the Great Dane lifespan and quality of life. Scientists aren’t fully sure why large dogs have short lifespans but research is ongoing. It seems related to a high metabolism — needing more energy to carry out cellular functions while battling oxidative stress.

An ongoing invisible war rages in all of our bodies as antioxidants try to stabilize the damage caused by an overabundance of free radical molecules. Free radicals are generated by both internal and external sources. Although some enzymes scavenge free radicals, a large number of certain antioxidants are supplied by a biologically appropriate diet.

paw prints

BARFing is good! A BARF diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) means fresh, natural, unprocessed food containing a balance of proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other ingredients necessary for optimum health. The nutrients are bioavailable in a form that is easily absorbed by the body. For example, it’s not enough to give your dog protein: shoe leather is protein but it’s barely digestible and it contains toxic chemicals.

The ideal BARF diet contains no fillers, only useful and usable nutrients. Tragically, many dogs forced to consume certain popular commercial dog brands are not only overweight but malnourished and hungry at the same time because of the excessive amount of non-nutritive additives designed to preserve the food, make it palatable, and alter the appearance so consumers find it visually appealing.

Avoiding Preservatives And Fillers Create Longevity

Because foods manufactured in bulk are difficult to market fresh, they require shelf-stable ingredients such as cornmeal and preservatives in order to last for months instead of days without molding or becoming rancid. Although cooking destroys most bacteria, it also destroys many vitamins and proteins, which then have to be added later in synthetic form during the processing.

So what should you feed your beloved Great Dane for a longer lifespan? Avoid foods causing gas. Read labels so you understand what’s in your dog’s food. Research unbiased reviews of commercial dog foods online. Learn to add natural foods as supplements for a healthier, happier dog. (While you’re at it, check out some of our Tips for Happy Tails posts including the one on seaweed for dogs!).

Not only will your pooch enjoy the variety, but will benefit from the needed nourishment. Because a natural diet is satisfying, it aids in maintaining a healthy weight for your Great Dane. Weight control is a major factor in extending the Great Dane life expectancy.

Clean Purified Or Spring Water A Must

A word about water: opinions differ about the best water for your pets. Many experts believe that if your local tap water is safe for you, then it’s safe for dogs, and local water suppliers can provide information on state regulations and compliance records. Home filtration devices and bottled spring water are alternatives to tap water. A greater concern is poor hydration due to the lack of available fresh water at all times.

Canine Mental & Emotional Health

great dane lifespan

Canines are pack animals, and you’re the pack. What’s more, Great Danes are “people persons” and want to be with you. They want physical contact with you. Because you’re the pack, you have the responsibility of learning to understand their body language and vocal sounds as well as to teach them some of yours.

Have you ever been in love and cherished every glance, every smile, every touch, every message? Great Danes love their humans and crave frequent contact throughout the day.

To strengthen your bond of trust, take advantage of every opportunity to include your pooch in everyday activities. Talk to your dog … express your feelings … show your dog the computer screen … play music to your dog … it’s all good. You can also have fun with toys and games together. Some Dane lovers report that their dogs especially love small squeaky toys. Finally, you can teach your dog things, as we’re going to explain next.

great dane life expectancy

Training Your Great Dane

Training is not boot camp and you are not a drill sergeant! Training represents communication and teamwork. There is no punishment, yelling, or name-calling. Your dog wants to please you but neither one of you is fluent in the other’s language so things will get easier as you learn to work together.

The benefits of training include safety, control during crisis, and the pleasure of working together. Good training classes are available through dog clubs, pet stores, and online. Although many training techniques exist, the most successful ones emphasize a good learning environment, communication, consistency, repetition, and rewards.

  • Learning Environment: The best time for anyone to learn is when they’re comfortable, rested, relaxed, and feeling safe in a distraction-free setting. Knowing that learning will be rewarded with snacks provides a good motivation. Creating teachable moments is important in childhood education but it works for your big dog children, too.
  • Communication: Teacher and pupil need to share a relationship of respect and willingness to communicate. The first step is learning how to learn and learning what to expect in future sessions.
  • Consistency: Consistency breeds confidence. Inconsistency breeds confusion.
  • Repetition: Repeating the steps often will reinforce the desired behaviors.
  • Rewards: Rewards clinch the deal! Choose small, nutritious tidbits for formal training but reward good behavior anytime with affection or a playtime session.

Learn Basic Commands First

Teach these basic commands first for safety, then have fun teaching tricks after these are mastered:
1. Come!
2. Heel!
3. Sit!
4. Down!
5. Stay!
Begin communication training early and reinforce it often. Most trainers use a hand sign with each verbal command. These life-saving directions extend the Great Dane lifespan by ensuring that these big dogs are never out of control because your Dane knows that you’re the top dog providing leadership for the welfare of the pack.

A final point: consider choosing universal terms that other people would use automatically in an emergency if you’re not around. While issuing commands in another language or choosing funny words might seem like fun, your dog’s life might depend on being under control.

Special Considerations for Big Dogs

The growing trend in nursing homes and other medical facilities is “person-centered care” that focuses on the individual needs and preferences of each patient instead of using a “one size fits all” philosophy. The best practices in pet care are tailored in the same way.

Large breeds have special needs. Because of their high metabolism and extra stress on their hearts and joints during rapid growth, you’ll add to the Great Dane lifespan by making some adjustments just for them. How long do Great Danes live? They live longer when their special needs are met.

  • Eating: To prevent orthopedic strain, put food and water bowls on a low table or in a custom elevated dish holder.
  • Bathing: Don’t force a giant dog into a slippery bathtub. A shower stall, basin bath while standing, or outdoor set-up is safer.
  • Nail Trimming: Reread our section on training. If you start early with short, positive sessions, your dog will become conditioned to nail trimming as a regular part of grooming. Trimming your dog’s nails is another way to establish leadership and trust, therefore, reinforcing the bond.
  • Stairs: If your Dane becomes ill or disabled, you’ll need to find a way to navigate stairs in and out of the house as well as into rooms on different levels.
  • Space: Have you been the parent of a teenage boy? Known a teenage boy? Been a teenage boy? Are you a teenage boy? It’s challenging to be unaware of your own size, and nobody should get impatient with you for something that’s not your fault! That’s how it is with Great Danes: they need ample space for zoomies, flinging drool, all those big legs, and their muscular, wildly whipping tails. And don’t be surprised to see a big head resting on the countertop or even stovetop.

Genetic Health Tendencies

How are big dogs different from little dogs? Big dog bodies are prone to unique health issues. Orthopedic problems such as arthritis, hypertrophic osteodystrophy (HOD), and hip dysplasia are unfortunately common in large, fast-growing animals. Arthritis develops over the Great Dane lifespan but can be slowed down or minimized in the ways we’ve discussed.

HOD is a painful autoimmune bone disorder appearing in puppyhood. Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in which the knob at the top of the thigh bone doesn’t fit correctly into the hip socket. Giant canines can also acquire cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition commonly known as enlarged heart. You see why weight control is so important for your Great Dane.

One of the most severe conditions requiring emergency treatment is bloat. Often but not always the result of a large meal, gas becomes trapped in the twisted digestive tract as pressure builds up. Bloat can also result from gas-producing foods, allergens, poor quality kibble, eating too quickly, exercising after eating, and swallowing air. Dogs following a BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Diet) are much less prone to bloat.

If your dog develops a firm, swollen abdomen or begins retching without vomiting, get veterinary help immediately.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Great Danes

paw prints

Are Great Danes dangerous?
1. Their tails (Some of their enthusiastic “happy tails” run over a foot and a half long and sting like a whip.)
2. Their farts (Large dogs don’t suffer from excessive flatulence but might make the humans around them suffer! Many commercial food ingredients cause indigestion and gas. Anxiety or stress can cause dogs to swallow air as well.)
3. Their size
4. Their drooling

How Old Was the Oldest Great Dane?
Pirate was a handsome gray gentleman in the UK who lived to be 11-1/2 years old. His human, Sarah attributed his longevity to cuddles, love, and happiness. She also said that he wouldn’t have lived so long without a natural diet made of chicken, vegetables, whole grains, and balanced nutrition without artificial ingredients and specially formulated to his age, weight, medical conditions, and taste preferences.

What Is the Difference Between a Watch Dog and a Guard Dog?
A watchdog is like a burglar alarm, ready to alert you to the presence of invaders. A guard dog may or may not bark; some silently go after a perceived threat, either cornering or attacking the offender. Great Danes are protective of the ones they love and appear menacing with their size and deep bark, but since they’ve been bred as companion animals for centuries, they’re not likely to attack without special training.

Do Great Danes Need Another Great Dane to Be Happy?
One of the reasons that dogs inspire the best in humans is their sense of gratitude. Dogs appreciate everything good in their lives even when their needs aren’t being met. In the perfect world, your Dane would have another Dane companion along with you, and you’d all be together all the time!

FACT: If not the same breed or breed type, most dogs do like having at least another compatible pooch of some kind in the household.

How Fast Can Great Danes Run?
They’ve been clocked at 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour), around the average speed of a galloping horse! That’s why the Great Dane lifespan depends on adequate exercise, the right kind of nutrition, and obedience training.

So How Long Do Great Danes Live?

Five years? Twelve years? Some people wonder if smaller Danes live a little longer than larger individuals, and the answer is that they do. And similar to the human species, female Great Danes tend to live a bit longer than males. None of us knows how long we’re going to live, but we’re grateful for whatever time we have.

In fact, think about all the short-lived things in life you enjoy: holidays, parties, meals, sunrises and sunsets, favorite songs, pet hamsters … the list goes on and on. You focus on quality over quantity. Check out this peek into life with a Great Dane.

Final Thoughts

Is a Great Dane right for you? Are you right for a Great Dane? What is the Great Dane lifespan, and how can you extend it? Now you have some answers. You and your Great Dane are members of a very special pack, and you’re very privileged indeed to be adopted by such a gentle giant.


General Info about Great Danes and Choosing a Healthy One

Information about the BARF Diet

Online Dog Training Courses