🔄 Updated on November 25th, 2022
Great Danes are true to their name; they are Great dogs! But when my Great Dane, Artie, became aggressive towards other dogs, I wasn’t sure what to do. They are usually such sweet-natured animals I thought I had done something wrong.
So, I decided to find out if Great Danes are aggressive and how to fix it. I wanted the best life for Artie! And the people around him as well.
I did my research and found out a lot of great information covered in this article. Read on to find out what to do if your Great Dane is starting to show aggression.
What Were Great Danes Bred For?
I started at the very beginning by finding out where Great Danes originated and how they were bred. Contrary to what we might think, Great Danes are not from Denmark. The modern Great Dane breed is from Germany.
Great Danes have had many variations throughout history, being bred all over Europe and the Middle East; there is evidence of similar-looking dogs back to ancient Egypt.
As these dogs were bred and traded across empires, they prized them for their ferocity and hunting skills. Great Danes primarily hunted wild boar. Great Danes were aggressive and ferocious dogs that could track and compete with their prey.
Everything changed in the 17th Century when German nobles had taken to pampering their Great Danes and letting them live inside the home. They started to breed them for temperament instead of hunting ability, and we can see from the breed today that those efforts have paid off.
Because Great Danes tower over many other breeds, people are often afraid of them. But Great Danes are no longer the aggressive hunting dogs they once were. They are now great house pets, affectionate, loving, and loyal to their families. However, as with all dog breeds, there is the potential for a Great Dane to have aggression or behavioral issues.
Great Dane Personality Traits
Great Danes are commonly known as gentle giants, often called the “Apollo of Dogs.” They are great for families because Great Danes’ temperament is calm and can usually withstand the heavy-handed way children might pet them.
While Great Danes may take up a lot of space, they don’t need to run as much as many other breeds and can be happy in smaller locations if there is sufficient room for them to move around. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise.
They are intelligent breeds that still require mental stimulation, which can also help decrease bad behavior and aggression.
Be sure to exercise your Great Dane regularly and get them into training early. Because they are so large, they can be harder to control, and both you and your pup need to work on this together early on.
Great Danes have loveable, warm personalities, but, like other large breeds, they do have a shorter life span. They live to be usually about 7 to 10 years old.
Great Danes also grow slower than many breeds because they will be so large, so try to prevent them from running and jumping excessively as puppies. Preventing too much stress on the joints when they are young will help them grow strong joints to support them as they age.
Great Dane Characteristics
- High-energy, but don’t need excessive exercise
- Smart and need mental stimulation, especially when young
- Moderate Prey Drive
- Eager to please
- Easy to house train
- Shorter life span
- Good with Kids
- Special dietary requirements
- High feeding costs
All dog breeds have different characteristics that make them more prone to barking, better with families, or better in tiny homes. It’s essential to review the breed’s traits before getting your dog to know if it is the breed for you.
Great Danes are not naturally mean dogs, but they have specific characteristics that make them better for some homes than others. Dogs are a lifelong commitment, so it’s important to be sure you are ready for it.
Are Great Danes Protective?
Although Great Danes are gentle, they take after their hunting ancestors by being very loyal to their humans. Great Danes can become protective of their humans, but this usually doesn’t mean they will be aggressive. Great Danes can be good guard dogs for a few reasons: their size and physical appearance, loyalty and temperament, and vocalization.
Great Danes can be generally quiet while at home, but they have a deep, loud bark that can scare intruders. They are prone to reactionary barking, making them potentially a good watchdog.
However, they are usually friendly toward strangers once they’ve said hello, so if you’re wondering, will a Great Dane attack an intruder? Not necessarily, unless trained to do so.
While Great Dane behavior can be loyal and protective of their humans, they can sometimes be protective of their food or toys. Food aggression is not naturally a Great Dane trait but likely more a product of the circumstance.
Many breeds can show food aggression or be protective of their food or dog toys. If you see your Great Dane showing signs of food aggression, it can be a good indication that you need to do more training or ensure you only feed your pet away from other dogs.
Signs of Aggression in Your Great Dane
So how do we know if our Great Dane will be aggressive? Understanding the signs and training your dog from a puppy with all large dog breeds is crucial. Because they are so large, they might not know their size and hurt a smaller dog or even a person. We want to be on the lookout for any aggressive tendencies early on.
Growling, Barking, and Baring Their Teeth
These can all be indications that your Great Dane is not comfortable with the other animal or the situation. Some barking or even growling can be playful and everyday noises your dog would make while playing.
Still, if the growling happens while they are not playing or you are walking past another dog, and the growling seems to be coming from nowhere, it is a good idea to remove your dog from the situation.
Rigid Body or Ears
Your Great Dane will likely have a relaxed posture and a rigid posture or ears. If you see your Great Dane lock eyes and stare at something, it indicates a response to their prey drive.
While this might not lead to aggression right away, you want to be mindful of your dog’s body language, and when you see it take a defensive stance, it can mean that they are feeling pressured or reactionary.
Nipping or Biting
Biting is usually a sign of aggression in Great Danes. They are not typically mouthy like other puppies when they play. You will be able to tell right away if your Great Dane is biting or snapping at someone or another dog versus if they are playing.
They are usually quite relaxed and goofy when they play. If they are growling and snappy, it is likely not just playing. For all dog breeds, especially bigger ones, making sure they get training as puppies will be important to combat any mouthiness.
Ways to Avoid Aggression in Great Danes
Great Danes are not necessarily aggressive as a breed, but they do need training. Training as a puppy will be very valuable as well as socialization. Both training and socialization will help your Great Dane avoid developing behaviors that lead to aggression.
For those of us that are already seeing signs of aggression, the best way to avoid it is to start noticing when it occurs and remove our dogs from that situation. Once we do that, we can take the time to retrain our dogs and slowly bring them back to a situation in which they feel comfortable.
The primary sources of aggression come from fear, anxiety, and possessiveness. While Great Danes are not naturally predisposed to any of these traits, your pup can end up in a scary situation for them and lash out.
This can occur in places like dog parks, the vet, or even at home if you have new people over. We need to be mindful of how our dogs will react and help them learn how to handle these situations. For instance, if your dog is showing aggression towards other dogs at the dog park, stop taking them there.
This might be a tough thing to do! I bet they love the park; I know mine does! But we had to stop visiting other dogs for a while to rebuild our training to a place where he was not so reactionary.
To do this, you can start by taking your dog on more structured walks and putting in proper boundaries for them.
How To Socialize Your Great Dane
Boundaries are surprisingly crucial in training and socializing your Great Dane. Because they are big and gentle, they can usually be left to do their own thing. But this can create much bigger problems down the line. Socializing your puppy is a great way to help them understand their boundaries and size as they grow.
Don’t let them play too rough with smaller dogs, interrupt their play from time to time to ensure they learn to listen to you, and don’t just go where they feel. Being present while they play and intercepting will help them create boundaries and avoid possessive aggression that can come from not enough socialization.
Dogs are pack animals no matter what breed they are, so they need to be allowed to play and mingle with other dogs while under your watchful eye.
Great Danes and Sudden Aggression
If your dog has been mellow and goofy most of its life and all of a sudden snaps at another dog, it might mean there is something deeper going on. There could have been a circumstance that scared them, or they were in pain.
As dogs get older, even Great Danes, they can become more aggressive toward active younger dogs, dogs that have not been fixed, or dogs that won’t leave them alone.
Sudden aggression can come up for many reasons, and it is vital to monitor it. If your dog is feeling unwell or undergoing a medical procedure, it might be more likely to lash out because it feels vulnerable.
Take the time to reintroduce your dog to certain activities as they recover and give them time and space if they are starting to show aggression. If they continue to be aggressive, it might be time to see a vet or a trainer.
Great Dane Training
Like I found out with my Great Dane, training is imperative!
I suggest finding a trainer that you like and trust and starting training as early as possible. If cost is a factor in training your pup, there are many great resources online. I recommend checking out the American Kennel Club as a place to start. Some important training methods for all dogs are leash training, recall, and house training.
There are a lot of great trainers out there that can help with aggressive behavior in particular and help you learn to control your dog if you are not able to solve the aggression issues.
Whether you choose positive reinforcement or a combination of negative and positive, there are many techniques to help you and your dog learn how to work as a team.
Are Great Danes Friendly?
After all this research, Artie and I spent months of training to deal with his aggression, but it worked! Great Danes are not naturally aggressive dogs, but aggression can happen in any dog under the right circumstances.
As owners, it is our job to ensure they are cared for and given the tools they need to get there. If your dog is showing signs of aggression, see a trainer, dogs should only be given up for adoption as a last resort.
When you choose a dog, you choose one that will be with you their whole lives, so take the time to make sure Great Dane’s are right for you.