Great Dane Temperament

Great Dane greeting child in wheel chair
The Gentle Giant

Although briefly touched upon in the Breed Standard, I felt it wise to discuss the temperament of the Great Dane more in detail. One nickname you will generally come across when dealing with Great Danes is "Gentle Giant". Indeed, to most who are not familiar with the breed, seeing a 160 lbs dog that in some cases may be eye to eye with you can be an intimidating event. However, In just about every instance where this happens, the Great Dane coming towards you would rather jump on you and shower you with licks rather than try to swallow you whole. The fact is, in cases where Great Danes are bred properly a Great Danes temperament should be one of a friendly nature.

From the AKC Breed Standard: A Great Dane must be spirited, courageous, never timid; always friendly and dependable.

Let's take a closer look at this statement and break it down.
Spirited: Great Danes, especially puppies and young adults, tend to be rambunctious at times. This should not be mistaken for aggression but sometimes can be. For instance, my Great Dane "Hank" is a talker. He will get down in his 4 point stance and let loose a low rumble. To someone who is not familiar with him, this could be mistaken for aggression. It is however nothing of the sort, it is simply his way of saying "lets play". To a bystander, this combined with his size can be frightening. I always do my best to explain that he is just saying "hi" but if I feel the person has become uncomfortable I simply remove Hank and myself from the situation.

Courageous and never timid: Anyone who has watched Scooby Doo wouldn't think a Great Dane is all that courageous. Courage and Sensitivity however, should not be confused. Great Danes are incredibly sensitive to those in their family. If my Dane gets yelled at for doing something bad, he will often skulk up the stairs and mope around for quite awhile before coming back down and slowly approaching me with his "sorry" face. To me, this is what makes the Great Dane so wonderful. To see such a large impressive animal have such a sensitive side is quite endearing. But lets get back to courage. Great Danes will not run from a stranger. In fact, true to the breed standard in most cases, abused Danes aside, they should and will investigate any stranger or object that comes into their territory. They will bark when the door bell rings, and trust me its a bark that tells the person on the other side, you better be a friend "or else". While friendly in nature, and for the most part pretty terrible guard dogs, a Great Dane will not hesitate to defend his family members. We all hope something of that nature does not come to pass but if motivated a 160lbs Great Dane can be a force to be reckoned with to even the largest burglar or intruder.

Always Friendly: Great Danes should always have a "hi, nice to meet you" attitude towards other people and animals. While they may play quite rough at times, they should never become aggressive towards someone or something unless provoked to do so.

Dependable: This one is debatable. If by dependable they mean to say that they will stop surfing the counter top for crumbs when you tell them to leave it.. not so much. I'm joking of course, but really a Great Dane should be consistent in its actions. He/She will most likely greet you at the door every time you come home and most likely act like you have been gone for days even if it was a quick 15 minute run to the store. This is the kind of dependability that they are known for.