I recently received the following Email and thought I would pass it along to some breeders who I considered to be well qualified to provide input.  I told them to please write a short response (a paragraph or two) as to what they considered to be the ideal Dane temperament, how to recognize it and any other thoughts considered pertinent to the subject.  After I received their responses, I compiled them onto a page and published it here on DANELINKS.   
Ray Cataldi

                                                                   THE INQUIRY
I have been looking for a complete idea of the temperament of Great Danes online for ages.   I keep coming across the standard for the breed "The Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, always friendly and dependable, and never timid or aggressive."  There is more information on what the forequarters should look like.  What is a reliable source for this information?  Personally, I think that the overall health and temperament should be the main concerns of breeders and dog enthusiasts alike.  Is this naivety?  For someone like me, a person that wants a pet, but a healthy one with a reliable temperament, how am I to know what I am going to get.  I can find anecdotal temperament stories but nothing that seems concrete for example some sites say that the dogs make good guard dogs, others say that they do not.  Some sites say that they are dependable with children others say that they should not be trusted with children (or old people?).  Others say that they are both difficult to train but do well in obedience.

I think that you can see how I could be confused.  I have been through all of the websites that are obvious (AKC, GDCA etc.).  Where can I go next?  Shouldn't someone in the world of Danes address this lack of reliable information?
Have a Good Day!
Kellyne Terese
Chronicles Bookstore


“A 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 temperament”.

A 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). 

In 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. 

A 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 possible.

As for 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.

Paula Heller

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.

Betsy Phelan

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 it out.

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.

Lorraine Matherly

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 something.

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?

Sharron Barney

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. 

Sue Mahany

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
Sandale Danes

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.

Ed Lyons

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. 
Patrice Lawrence

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

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