"I Don't Want A Show Dog; I Just Want A Pet..."

This is one of the most pervasive sentiments that puppy buyers, especially families, express when they're looking for a dog.  What they really mean, of course, is that they don't want a show BREEDER - don't want to pay the high price they think show breeders charge, don't want to go through the often-invasive interview process, and think that they're getting a better deal or real bargain because they can get a Lab for $300 or a Shepherd for $150.

I want you to change your mind.  I want you to not only realize the benefits of buying a show-bred dog, I want you to INSIST on a show-bred dog.  And I want you to realize that the cheap dog is really the one that's the rip-off.  And then I want you to go be obnoxious, and when your workmate says she's getting a puppy because her neighbors, who raises them, will give her one for free, or when you brother-in-law announces that they're buying a goldendoodle for the kids, I want you to launch yourself into their solar plexus and steal their wallets and their car keys. 

Here's why:

If I ask you why you want a Cardigan, or a Lab, or a Poodle, or a Great Dane, I would bet you're not going to talk about how much you like their color.  You're going to tell me things about personality, ability (to perform a specific task), relationships with other animals or humans, size, coat, temperament and so on.  You'll describe playing ball, or how affectionate you've heard that they are, or how well they get along with kids.   The things you will be looking for aren't the things that describe just "dog", they'll be the things that make this particular breed unique and unlike other breeds. 

Read more: "I Don't Want A Show Dog; I Just Want A Pet..."

Finding a "Great" Great Dane

How to find a "great" Great Dane...
The best place to obtain a well-bred Great Dane is from a reputable breeder. The key here is “reputable”. At all costs, avoid backyard breeders, on-line brokers and puppy mills, who work with poor quality bloodlines which may be genetically prone to a host of health problems. White Great Danes may be deaf or blind and ‘designer’ colors are usually bred by back yard breeders with no regard to quality or health. Backyard breeders and puppy mills are only interested in making a profit, frequently advertising in local newspapers or selling entire litters to pet stores for resale.

Never buy a Great Dane from a pet store or an on-line "broker" or auction!

Pet store Great Danes and those from on-line brokers come from backyard breeders and puppy mills. Most likely, you will not know who bred your dog or have anyone to contact if you have questions or a problem. The health of these Danes is generally at risk because they were not bred by knowledgeable breeders devoted to improving the health and appearance of the Great Dane. Pet store puppies are separated from their mothers at too early an age and usually do not have the chance to develop healthy bodies and temperaments. In fact, pet store Danes often become seriously ill and end up costing their owners hundreds and even thousands of dollars in veterinary expenses. Pet stores, puppy mills and on-line brokers do not guarantee the long-term health of a puppy.

Most poorly bred Great Danes are smaller than those from reputable kennels and often lack the majestic head and expression that define the breed. They may, instead, look more like Greyhound or Labrador Retriever mixes. Despite the inferiority of the dogs they sell, pet stores usually charge as much, if not more, than reputable breeders of quality Great Danes do.

No matter how impatient you or your children are to get a Great Dane, it is always better to wait, even a few months or longer, and get one from a good breeder!

Adapted from the GDCA

The Great Dane Standard

Official breed standard for the Great Dane. 
Review the Illustrated Standard at GDCA.org

General Appearance
The Great Dane combines, in its regal appearance, dignity, strength and elegance with great size and a powerful, well-formed, smoothly muscled body. It is one of the giant working breeds, but is unique in that its general conformation must be so well balanced that it never appears clumsy, and shall move with a long reach and powerful drive. It is always a unit-the Apollo of dogs. A Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, never timid; always friendly and dependable. This physical and mental combination is the characteristic which gives the Great Dane the majesty possessed by no other breed. It is particularly true of this breed that there is an impression of great masculinity in dogs, as compared to an impression of femininity in bitches. Lack of true Dane breed type, as defined in this standard, is a serious fault.

Size, Proportion, Substance
The male should appear more massive throughout than the bitch, with larger frame and heavier bone. In the ratio between length and height, the Great Dane should be square. In bitches, a somewhat longer body is permissible, providing she is well proportioned to her height. Coarseness or lack of substance are equally undesirable. The male shall not be less than 30 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that he be 32 inches or more, providing he is well proportioned to his height. The female shall not be less than 28 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that she be 30 inches or more, providing she is well proportioned to her height. Danes under minimum height must be disqualified.

Read more: The Great Dane Standard

Breed Information and Resources

The Great Dane Club of Des Moines actively encourages ALL Great Dane owners - past, present and future - to devote themselves to ongoing education and understanding of our beloved breed.  The Great Dane Club of America provides a solid foundation for learning more and gaining realistic expectations about life with Great Danes.  Whether you're considering a Dane or you're already lucky enough to share your life with one, please take some time to study and absorb the materials at the following links:

GDCA - The Illustrated Breed Standard

GDCA - Is a Great Dane right for you?

GDCA - Purchasing a Great Dane

GDCA - Great Dane Health & Research

GDCA - Quick Reference Guide for GDV/BLOAT

Is A Great Dane Right for You?

From the GDCA:

Is a Great Dane right for you?

Before making the decision to purchase a Great Dane, ask yourself the following questions:

  • The Great Dane is a giant breed that takes up more room in the house, needs an appropriate sized car to ride in safely and will cost considerably more to maintain than a small breed. Have you taken all this into consideration?
  • A Great Dane, especially a rambunctious puppy, can knock down a small child in play. A Great Dane must never be left unsupervised with small children.
  • A Great Dane can be very destructive to your furniture, woodwork, garden, and personal belongings. Are you prepared to deal with this?
  • Big dogs have big medical expenses and require the same amount of medicine as an adult person. Are you prepared to purchase canine health insurance or face huge bills in the event of a health emergency?
  • A Great Dane MUST be obedience trained to obtain control. Are you willing to put in the time and effort to train your dog properly?
  • The Great Dane is a sociable, friendly breed. Great Danes needs to have human contact, affection, regular socialization with other people and animals, and firm, consistent training. Are you ready to provide this?
  • Great Danes require exercise appropriate to their age. Many do not “self-exercise.” Are you committed to providing proper exercise in all types of weather?
  • Great Danes have good noses and many have a “stubborn streak.” When not on a leash, they need a fenced yard or they may “follow their noses.” Can you commit to putting up a sturdy, appropriate fence?
  • Great Danes can be excellent companions for almost any activity you wish to pursue including jogging, but you *must* wait until after your pup is two years old to avoid damage to growing joints. If you are looking for a puppy, are you willing to wait for it to grow up?

Unless you can answer yes to ALL the above questions, then a Great Dane is not the dog for you.

Adapted from GDCA.org