Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, never timid; always
friendly and dependable.” From the Illustrated Standard, this is a
short description of Dane temperament. After 27 years of
owning Danes, I’ve had the gamut of everything desirable to
everything NOT desirable in Dane temperament. From personal
experience, I can describe what my idea is of the “ideal Great Dane
Great Dane should be calm. They should be relaxed in most
situations with a regal and dignified persona. They should have a
curious air if the situation arises.
Great Danes should welcome friends into their home
with the same enthusiasm as their owner. They should be joyful to
see the person(s), but with a sensible and intelligent demeanor.
Some might describe this attitude as slightly reserved; I call it
friendly (tail wagging, eyes bright, head held high, but not
barking, jumping or overzealous sniffing/licking).
public, Great Danes should greet approaching strangers with some
reserve until they determine that the owner accepts the person(s).
Their attitude should be the same as a greeting in their home.
Great Dane should always be your best friend; he wants to spend as
much time with you as possible. He’s the happiest when he’s
with you and his family. A Dane should be sensitive to
your moods, quiet at times and playful at others. A Dane should
always be loving. A Great Dane should always trust its owner
and family, and vice versa. A Dane does best when fully
integrated into their complete household as early in its life as
Danes with children, other animals and older people, early exposure
and training are essential. Great Danes are wonderful in all
situations if proper measures are taken to guarantee their success.
The temperament of
any dog is partly genetic and partly dependent on management,
training, socialization, nutrition and health care of the puppy.
Although the breeder starts this process during the first few weeks
of life, the process must continue with the new owner. Although
there are differing theories explaining canine behavior, it is the
consensus of most that raising puppies correctly is mandatory if we
are to maximize the potential of each puppy.
It is our job as breeders to breed only healthy, good-tempered
parents. It is the owner’s job to understand that only they can make
that puppy into the best it can be whether it is a conformation or
performance dog or a companion.
A Great Dane should be confident, bright and responsive and willing
to learn. It is important to remember that a dog’s temperament is
both nature and nurture and they are wholly dependent on us to make
their futures fulfilling.
Dale & Karen Desjardin
I agree with our Great
Dane Standard on what temperament should be. However, semantics has
a big role in developing confidence in our puppies, with
socialization being the key to developing this, especially the less
confident puppies. A Great Dane must love people and gravitate to
them as young as toddlers in the whelping box. A Great Dane needs
some basic obedience training so that a companion owner doesn't have
a 125+ pound monster on their hands by maturity, that nobody can
stand to be around.
I personally like a
spirited, intelligent Dane that is curious about everything that I
am doing, and one that is always happy and needs a job to do. In my
experience, great Danes are good with children, adults and seniors.
Children, however, (I had four) need to be taught how to behave with
a Dane and monitored at all times when in the presence of a Dane,
since children don't always do what they are told.
In response to the email
I would first say that the standard describes the ideal temperament
just as it would the other individual parts of the Great Dane. Her
anecdotal temperament stories are typical of the
"Love-the-one-you're-with" syndrome many exhibitors/Dane owners
have. Just because it lives with you, doesn't mean it has the ideal
anything. I differ with her opinion that the standard does not spell
My mental picture of the "Apollo of Dogs" is not leaning with tail
tucked between it's legs (those who think this is the temperament of
a Great Dane are confusing it with Scooby Doo, the cartoon) nor
bouncing against your body with wild abandon like a Labrador
Retriever nor snarling with teeth bared at other dogs ringside. My
picture is of a calm, dignified dog with intelligence in it's eye. I
particularly like the word "dependable" in the standard.
How to recognize it? For puppies: first, start with two stable
parents. I do temperament testing at 7.5 weeks...I am particularly
interested in seeing the startle reaction, time it takes to recover
then investigate the source: an indication of stability and
intelligence. Environment plays a large role in developing the
temperament of any dog.
I think that the "ideal"
Dane temperament would be described as intelligent,
dependable, self-confident, impressive by dignity, alert, a loyal
friend instead of a pet, playful, a sense of humor, not distrustful,
adaptable, and have endurance.
Where my thoughts are coming from would be that the very first Danes
I had 30+ years ago were the true "couch potatoes", easy going,
lazy, pretty much eat, sleep, eat, then sleep some more type of
dogs. Never really making their presence known except for that
they were there and would interact with you when they needed
Compared to the Danes I have had for the past 15+ years, they seem
dull, less intelligent, and not nearly the fun as the ones that I
have now. (maybe in about 5 years I'll be wishing for those old
ones..............) I now caution prospective puppy buyers
that mine are not happy being just a "fixture" in the house but ones
who thrive on activity and need to be occupied unless they want a
problem big dog. I do believe that Danes not raised with
children should not always be expected to like them. How can
they? That is putting a Dane (any dog) in an unfair situation.
I would, though, want a Dane to know to leave if they are
uncomfortable with children or the owner to realize the Dane is not
happy and remove them from that situation. These dogs should
not be expected to be a Lab. They are Great Danes.
As far as selecting the ones for the temperament I want, I look at
the litter interact with each other. Then I try and set up
"situations" where they have to problem solve and I watch their
reactions. Do they
run and hide? Do they startle but then recover to see what is
going on? Do they go as a group or individually? Did they
remember that thing that scared them yesterday was not so scary
after all today? Will they look me in the eye and hold contact?
How do they react to strangers? How do they react to older
dogs? Are they happy?
The Great Dane is a very social and sensitive dog. While
some things are inherited, I believe temperament is somewhat
formed via early experiences and environment. Owners
should introduce the puppy to new things with confidence.
If the owner, who the puppy is looking to for guidance, is
nervous and concerned that the puppy will be afraid, it probably
will. If they introduce the puppy to new things calmly and
confidently, the puppy will learn that behavior.
The Great Dane should seek to
be with people. If given a choice of walking out of a room
of people or going up to them, they should choose the latter.
When approached, they should have a soft eye and move in the
direction of the person, not shy away or lean away. Great
Danes are consistent in their behavior. It is rare that a
Dane will be very social one day and desire to be away from
people the next.
I think that the lady
that wrote to you regarding temperament is correct in saying that it
has to be right up there with health as a breeders concern. The
majority of our litters go to companion homes and many of these
homes have never owned a giant breed. Their concern as to
temperament is a valid one. Danes should be a dependable,
steady companion that can adjust to almost any situation. I
find that they are easily trainable with repetition and praise. They
like to have "jobs" whether it be walking and playing with their
family, as therapy dogs, obedience, agility or as a show dog...they
love to be doing something with people! I think of a good Dane
temperament like that of a Lab...only in a bigger package. We have
to realize, as breeders and owners, that to be confident of all
situations, a puppy needs to be raised
well, well socialized and exposed to many different situations.
I like to see confident baby puppies who come to anyone happily and
without hesitation. To make sure your puppy has good temperament in
his future, meet his parents, both if you can. Are they social,
happy beings?? See where they are raised. Mine are whelped and grow
up in my busiest room exposed to many noises and lots of
strangers. I also give them different toys for different
stimulations as they are growing and I handle them a lot from the
moment they are born.
I consider Danes as "guard" dogs only as barkers who sound an alarm
when something different is happening in their domain. They are
devoted to their people and I'm sure any Dane will react to help
it's owners if a bad situation occurs. But to be sold for that
reason is not something I advocate and I worry about a breeder who
does. Aggression is not to be tolerated.
I have seen too much timidity in the last 10 years and really feel
that it is a problem breeders must address. It is not as bad as
aggression...but it isn't a good trait for a Dane to have. I think
the wording in the Standard under temperament actually does sum up a
Dane temperament very well, "spirited, courageous, always friendly
and dependable, never timid or aggressive" .
Dale Suzanne Tarbox
A Dane should be sound both in mind and movement.
The Apollo of the dog world should
not be timid nor aggressive. They should be stable,
friendly and secure within themselves. I do not criticize a male
for being dog aggressive. However they should respond to verbal
commands to cease the aggression. Also, I expect them to
have the innate instincts to react when they feel their owners
are in jeopardy. I would say your Hustler had a great
temperament conversely, for his father and uncle.
They should not be aggressive under normal circumstances.
I don't like shy or aggressive.
In my experiences, I believe Great Danes are more like
people than any other breed I have been involved with.
Within any population there are diverse varieties of
personalities, whether it be in Labrador Retrievers, Great
Danes, or people. The Standard identifies the
temperament traits that are desirable in the ideal Great
Dane. Not all dogs exhibit these traits. For
example, some dogs are courageous and some are not.
Some dogs are good with children some are not. Some
make good guard dogs some do not, etc.
In general, I believe, Great Danes are smart and easily
trainable. They are devoted family dogs that are good
with children. They are patient, tolerant and eager to
please. They are good guard dogs because their size is
intimidating and their bark is loud. Not because
they are aggressive or fearless. And of course...most
everything depends on the way they are raised.
I personally believe our standard does describe "ideal"
Great Dane temperament. Just as in all things of
nature, there are individuals, so you should not expect all
Great Danes to be cut from the same cookie cutter. They all
have their own personalities.
In looking for the Great Dane that will fit into what you
want to accomplish, you must trust your breeder. The breeder
must be reputable and knowledgeable as to what the
individual puppies within a litter are capable of doing
physically and mentally. This only comes from studying
structure and watching the interaction of the litter and
exposing them to as many different situations as possible.
The new owner is responsible to carry on the socialization &
training the breeder started to insure a healthy well
rounded social dog.
Mary Lee Williams