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How to Breed Great Danes: Breeding Practices, Litter Size & Tips

Hallie Roddy

Breeding dogs isn’t as simple as putting a male and female together and letting nature run its course. Although it is possible to breed them this way, it isn’t something we can condone. The proper way to breed Great Danes and other breeds is to screen your dogs for inherited genetic conditions to ensure that you aren’t passing along poor genes to their offspring. On top of health guarantees, you must provide quality dog food and be attentive to some of the issues that Great Danes face. Although the process itself is straightforward, there is a lot of information that people don’t know about breeding Great Danes.

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Great Dane Background

Great dane on top of a hill
Image Credit: jstoner22, Pixabay

Great Danes are gentle giants, and their enormous size is what draws so many people to them. These dogs originated from Germany and were created by cross-breeding the Irish Wolfhound with the English Mastiff. Some researchers believe that some greyhound ancestry was involved in the breeding process as well.

You wouldn’t think their large size would make them stealthy hunters, but Great Danes were bred to hunt large game like boar and bear. They would use many different dogs for these hunts. The Great Dane’s job was to hold the game for the hunters and prevent them from escaping. Over time, their aggressive nature has been bred out of them since there was no longer a need for it.

Their Royal History

Great Danes weren’t only boar hunters in the past. They were also favored by the royal courts and served as guard dogs for the royal family. Great Danes would sleep in the bedroom chambers with the princes or princesses to protect them from assassinations. Many other historical figures also enjoyed having these dogs by their side, including President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Great Dane Popularity

The American Kennel Club started recognizing Great Danes in 1887. It has remained in the top 20 most popular dog breeds in America. Today, it is represented in popular movies and television shows as well.

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Great Dane Health Concerns

Great-Dane_Martin Tajmr, Pixabay
Image Credit: Martin Tajmr, Pixabay

Great Danes are big dogs, and the downside to this is that they don’t live long. The average lifespan is between six and ten years. They have several health problems that contribute to this timeline. They are athletic animals and require a lot of vigorous exercise to keep them in shape.

Cancer

One of the top causes of death in Great Danes is cancers like lymphoma and bone cancer.

Slow Metabolism

Their slow metabolism allows them to continue to grow after their first year, but their slow metabolism gives them other problems. Dysplasia is prevalent in this dog breed and can be painful for them. These dogs also suffer from slipped disks.

Thyroid Issues

Great Danes have a predisposition to thyroiditis, which is caused by a lack of thyroid hormones. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain, dull coat, and sluggishness.

great dane_mtajmr, Pixabay
Image Credit: mtajmr, Pixabay

Bloat

Although serious, this isn’t as big of a concern as bloat. Great Danes have wide chests and square bodies that increase their stomachs’ chances of twisting and cutting off the blood flow to their intestines. Bloat is a serious condition. Without treatment, the dog will go into shock and die.

Heart Conditions

Great Danes are in the top 6 of dog breeds with advanced cardiac issues. Dilated cardiomyopathy is a common problem in this breed and attributes to many different issues with heart failure. It usually occurs with middle-aged dogs and progresses rapidly. This is why most clubs recommend that you get your Great Dane checked for heart conditions every other year.

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How to Breed Great Danes

Great dane Pitbull Mix great danebull_RyanTaylor_Shutterstock
Image Credit: RyanTaylor, Shutterstock

Don’t assume that breeding your Great Dane is going to be a cheap and easy process. This process requires a lot of health screening that clears them for genetic testing. This testing alone could cause some pretty high vet bills. Because the dogs are so large, many Great Danes also must deliver through C-section instead of natural birth.

What Age to Breed Great Danes

Only breed two Great Danes after their first 6 to 12 months of life or when their heat cycles have begun. The ideal time to breed them is between the ages of 2 and 7. From there, the breeding process is fairly straightforward.

How Long are Great Danes Pregnant?

A female Great Dane has a normal gestation period of about 63 days. However, this time could vary by a few days.

How Many Puppies Do Great Danes Have in Their First Litter?

Great Danes have an average litter size of 8 puppies, with some having as many as 10. Litters with 8 puppies usually require surgical delivery as opposed to smaller litters. Cesarean is preferred because Great Danes are more prone to birthing difficulties and dystocia.

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Acceptable Great Dane Colors

blue-great-dane_
Image credit: verky01, Shutterstock

According to the American Kennel Club, there are 9 acceptable colors for Great Danes:

  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Black & white
  • Brindle
  • White
  • Mantle
  • Blue
  • Merle
  • Harlequin

Keep in mind that there are also genetic issues associated with specific colors. The merle color is often associated with deafness and eye problems. If breeding two merles together, the puppies only have a 25% chance of inheriting two merle genes. Their chances of deafness and blindness also increase, which is why it is considered unethical to breed two merle Great Danes with each other.

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Tail Docking and Ear Cropping

Great Dane on a stone path
Image Credit: axi-schnaxi, Pixabay

It’s common practice to see Great Danes with their ears cropped. This practice began when they were used for hunting boar because their floppy ears could be snagged and ripped off. Both ear cropping and tail docking serve no functional purpose today and are only done for cosmetic reasons. We recommend avoiding these practices at all costs. Not only does the procedure cost a lot, but it is also a painful process and could give you more problems during the healing process. These are even illegal in some countries today. Do both yourself and the dogs a favor by refraining from these unnecessary practices.

How Much Does a Great Dane Puppy Cost?

Great Dane puppies cost between a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. This price changes depending on the pedigree, breeding quality, and location. This breed is an expensive one to own as well. Mature dogs weigh over 100 pounds and have a huge appetite to go along with it. Their long list of health issues also makes them some of the top dogs with high veterinary bills. Their large size must also be accommodated for, meaning that you likely spend more money for more house to allow them to have the space necessary for a comfortable life.

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Final Thoughts

Although the process of breeding Great Danes is straightforward, there is still a lot that you have to know in order to do it ethically and safely. The last thing you should want is to pass along unfavorable genes for generations. If you’re serious about it, make sure you take all the proper steps to achieve it in a safe and humane way.


Featured Image Credit: Earl Wilkerson, Shutterstock

Hallie Roddy

Hallie has been a proud nature and animal enthusiast for as long as she can remember. She attributes her passion for the environment and all its creatures to her childhood when she was showing horses on weekends and spending her weeknights devoting her attention to her pets. She enjoys spending most of her time in Michigan playing with her two rescue cats, Chewbacca and Lena, and her dog, Clayton. When Hallie isn’t using her degree in English with a writing specialization to spread informative knowledge on pet care, you can find her snuggled up on the couch reading books or watching nature documentaries.