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 depend- able. 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 per- missible, 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.
The head shall be rectangular, long, distinguished, expressive, finely chiseled, especially below the eyes. Seen from the side, the Dane's forehead must be sharply set off from the bridge of the nose, (a strongly pronounced stop). The plane of the skull and the plane of the muzzle must be straight and parallel to one another. The skull plane under and to the inner point of the eye must slope without any bony protuberance in a smooth line to a full square jaw with a deep muzzle (fluttering lips are undesirable). The masculinity of the male is very pronounced in structural appearance of the head. The bitch's head is more delicately formed. Seen from the top, the skull should have parallel sides and the bridge of the nose should be as broad as possible. The cheek muscles should not be prominent. The length from the tip of the nose to the center of the stop should be equal to the length from the center of the stop to the rear of the slightly developed occiput. The head should be angular from all sides and should have flat planes with dimen- sions in proportion to the size of the Dane. Whiskers may be trimmed or left natural.
Eyes- shall be medium size, deep set, and dark, with a lively intelligent expression. The eyelids are almond-shaped and relatively tight, with well developed brows. Haws and mongolian eyes are serious faults. In harlequins, the eyes should be dark; light colored eyes, eyes of different colors and walleyes are permitted but not desirable.
Ears - shall be high set, medium in size and of moderate thickness, folded forward close to the cheek. The top line of the folded ear should be level with the skull. If cropped, the ear length is in proportion to the size of the head and the ears are carried uniformly erect.
Nose - shall be black, except in the blue Dane, where it is a dark blue-black. A black spotted nose is permitted on the harlequin; a pink colored nose is not desirable. A split nose is a disqualification.
Teeth - shall be strong, well developed, clean and with full dentition. The incisors of the lower jaw touch very lightly the bottoms of the inner surface of the upper incisors (scissors bite). An undershot jaw is a very serious fault. Overshot or wry bites are serious faults. Even bites, misaligned or crowded incisors are minor faults.
Neck, Topline, Body
The neck shall be firm, high set, well arched, long and muscular. From the nape, it should gradually broaden and flow smoothly into the withers. The neck underline should be clean. Withers shall slope smoothly into a short level back with a broad loin. The chest shall be broad, deep and well muscled. The forechest should be well developed without a pronounced sternum. The brisket extends to the elbow, with well sprung ribs. The body underline should be tightly muscled with a well-defined tuck-up. The croup should be broad and very slightly sloping. The tail should be set high and smoothly into the croup, but not quite level with the back, a continuation of the spine. The tail should be broad at the base, tapering uniformly down to the hock joint. At rest, the tail should fall straight. When excited or running, it may curve slightly, but never above the level of the back. A ring or hooked tail is a serious fault. A docked tail is a disqualification.
The forequarters, viewed from the side, shall be strong and muscular. The shoulder blade must be strong and sloping, forming, as near as possible, a right angle in its articulation with the upper arm. A line from the upper tip of the shoulder to the back of the elbow joint should be perpendicu- lar. The ligaments and muscles holding the shoulder blade to the rib cage must be well developed, firm and securely attached to prevent loose shoulders. The shoulder blade and the upper arm should be the same length. The elbow should be one-half the distance from the withers to the ground. The strong pasterns should slope slightly. The feet should be round and compact with well-arched toes, neither toeing in, toeing out, nor rolling to the inside or outside. The nails should be short, strong and as dark as possible, except that they may be lighter in harlequins. Dewclaws may or may not be removed.
The hindquarters shall be strong, broad, muscular and well angulated, with well let down hocks. Seen from the rear, the hock joints appear to be perfectly straight, turned neither toward the inside nor toward the outside. The rear feet should be round and compact, with well-arched toes, neither toeing in nor out. The nails should be short, strong and as dark as possible, except they may be lighter in harlequins. Wolf claws are a serious fault.
The coat shall be short, thick and clean with a smooth glossy appearance.
Color, Markings and Patterns
Brindle - The base color shall be yellow gold and always brindled with strong black cross stripes in a chevron pattern. A black mask is preferred. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may appear on the ears and tail tip. The more intensive the base color and the more distinct and even the brindling, the more preferred will be the color. Too much or too little brindling are equally undesirable. White markings at the chest and toes, black-fronted, dirty col- ored brindles are not desirable.
Fawn - The color shall be yellow gold with a black mask. Black should appear on the eye rims and eyebrows, and may appear on the ears and tail tip. The deep yellow gold must always be given the preference. White markings at the chest and toes, black-fronted dirty colored fawns are not desirable.
Blue - The color shall be a pure steel blue. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable.
Black - The color shall be a glossy black. White markings at the chest and toes are not desirable.
Harlequin - Base color shall be pure white with black torn patches irregularly and well distributed over the entire body; a pure white neck is preferred. The black patches should never be large enough to give the appearance of a blanket, nor so small as to give a stippled or dappled effect. Eligible, but less desirable, are a few small gray patches, or a white base with single black hairs showing through, which tend to give a salt and pepper or dirty effect. Any variance in color or markings described above shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation. Any Great Dane which does not fall within the above color classifications must be disqualified.
Mantle - The color shall be black and white with a solid black blanket extending over the body; black skull with white muzzle; white blaze is optional; whole white collar preferred; a white chest; white on part or whole of forelegs and hind legs; white tipped black tail. A small white marking in the black blanket is acceptable, as is a break in the white collar.
Any variance in color or markings as described above shall be faulted to the extent of the deviation. Any Great Dane which does not fall within the above color classifications must be disqualified. (Note: This paragraph refers to all the color/pattern descriptions, not just mantle).
The gait denotes strength and power with long, easy strides resulting in no tossing, rolling or bouncing of the topline or body. The backline shall appear level and parallel to the ground. The long reach should strike the ground below the nose while the head is carried forward. The powerful rear drive should be balanced to the reach. As speed increases, there is a natural tendency for the legs to converge toward the centerline of balance beneath the body. There should be no twisting in or out at the elbow or hock joints.
The Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, always friendly and dependable, and never timid or aggressive.
Inherited and other health concerns in the Great Dane
The following health conditions have been identified in the Great Dane. Items so marked () can be identified through testing. Screening tests are not currently available for the other conditions listed. Conditions thought to involve significant & direct inheritance are noted.
For those purchasing a pet or intending to breed: it is important to know the health status before breeding any dog or bitch. Clinically affected dogs, i.e., those dogs exhibiting symptoms for conditions considered serious and heritable should generally NOT be bred and health screenings (where available) are certainly recommend. Please note that the text below is intended as an aid to those seeking health information on the breed, and should not be used to form a diagnosis replacing regular veterinary care by a qualified veterinarian.
DCM: CARDIOMYOPATHY - is suspected to be an inherited disease in the Great Dane and current (preliminary) research indicates that this disease may be sex-linked in our breed. Research is ongoing. An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but will not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. Regular exams on breeding stock are recommended. There are some congenital heart defects also occasionally found in the breed. For an in-depth article on the subject, see "Heart Disease in the Great Dane."
K9HD: HIP DYSPLASIA - is an inherited disease with multi-factorial
expression. Clinically the disease may be seen as simply poor rear end conformation or lessened athleticism to such malformation of the hip joint that the dog becomes crippled. It is recommend that breeding stock be Xrayed as normal. OFA and PennHIP both offer certification programs.
See OFA and PennHIP.
HYPOTHYROIDISM - in dogs is generally the result of a heritable disorder of the immune system. This condition results when the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog's metabolism. Happily, it is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills. Thyroid testing (T4, TSH and autoantibodies) on breeding stock should be performed on a routine basis. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin is normally an indication that the dog has autoimmune thyroiditis. Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis. Dogs with confirmed thyroid abnormalities should not be bred. See the Hypothyroidism update article.
CATARACTS - although not common, cataracts have been described in the Great Dane and can be blinding. Eyelid abnormalies (e.g. entropion) are also not unheard of in the breed. For breeding stock a CERF exam can insure that the eyes are normal in all aspects. See CERF data for the breed.
GVD: Bloat - is the number one killer of Great Danes & Great Danes are the #1 breed at risk for bloat. For reasons not fully understood, in certaindeep-chested breeds in particular, the stomach distends, then has a tendency to rotate, which cuts off the blood supply to various parts of the body, as well as effectively shutting down digestion. This condition is extremely painful as well as a true emergency that is rapidly life-threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (technically called "Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus") will die in great pain in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken: surgery is normally necessary. The reasons for GVD are currently not understood, however most would agree that multiple small meals per day and preventing vigorous exercise around mealtimes can help reduce the chances of bloat. Many breeders and owners of Great Danes consider a surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy ("preventative tack") which can help prevent some of the more serious aspects of GVD. Discuss this with your veterinarian and your Dane's breeder.
CVI: Wobblers - is a result of pressure on the spinal cord in the neck region and results in a "drunken" gait & increasing instability. It it thought to result from a combination of nutritional effects and inherited traits and is considered a form of DOD (Developmental Osteodystrophy) along with such as OCD. Great Danes are considered at risk for Wobblers. CVI stands for Cervical Vertebral Instability.
HOD and Pano - these are painful conditions of the bones that occur during the rapid growth phase of puppyhood causing lameness and general malaise. By far HOD is the more serious one and can be deadly. Pano is usually self-limiting and may not need treatment. HOD stands for Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy. Pano is short for Panosteitis.