While he's one of the largest breeds, some of the Great Dane's needs are surprising for such a big dog. Don't rule out a Dane if you live in an apartment. They can actually do quite well there, as they're not particularly active dogs. He's known as the "gentle giant."
They're big dogs and they eat a lot. That's rather obvious, but unless you feed your Dane carefully you could inadvertently kill him. Danes are prone to gastric torsion, better known as bloat. According to the Great Dane Club of America, it's the number one killer of Danes, and they're the breed most at risk. In bloat, the stomach descends and twists, cutting off the blood supply to the rest of the dog's body. Not only it is extremely painful, but only immediate surgery can save your dog's life. To help prevent bloat, feed your dog several smaller meals daily rather than a large amount at one feeding.
The Dane's short coat requires only basic brushing to keep it spruce, but he does shed a lot. He also drools, so you may be cleaning up large amounts of dog saliva in your living quarters.
Danes aren't the easiest dogs to train, and a big untrained dog causes more problems than a small untrained one. Take your Dane to obedience school as soon as possible—puppy kindergarten is a good idea. He can be very protective of his person or his family, but because of his size he can seriously injure someone if he takes that protectiveness too far. While he's a good watchdog (and not a dog a burglar wants to encounter) once he starts barking it might be hard to get him to stop. Because he's so large, he requires training so any potential problems can be nipped in the bud. What's cute but naughty in a little dog can have dire results when the Dane tries it, such as jumping up on people.
Danes require less exercise than you might think, less than many smaller dogs. Take your dog out for a good walk a couple of times a day, or let her run around in the backyard. Because Danes mature late, take it easy on any strenuous exercise before your dog turns 2. That's when the bones mature and he can start going on those long hikes or jog along with you for miles. Don't exercise him close to feeding time—that might cause him to bloat.
Besides bloat, Danes are subject to various ailments, many of them hereditary. these include cardiomyopathy, the catchall term for diseases of the heart muscle. Like many large breeds, he may be vulnerable to hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint causing lameness. While it's a problem in any affected dog, the sheer size of the Dane makes it worse, as lugging a lame Dane around is beyond the ability of many owners. The two most common types of cancer afflicting Danes are lymphoma and bone cancer.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.