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The Great Dane is often described as a gentle giant, but he is naturally protective when the situation calls for it. He is affectionate and loves people, and those qualities should never be perverted by encouraging aggressive behavior.

Great Danes love children, but they must learn how to be gentle around them. And one swipe of that wagging tail will knock a toddler over, so it’s important to supervise their interactions. These big dogs can also learn to get along with other pets, primarily when raised with them.

A fenced yard is necessary to keep the Great Dane from going out for a stroll on his own. He’s not typically a jumper, so a six-foot fence should be enough to keep him contained. Be aware that while adult Great Danes are pretty laid back, puppies are highly active and enjoy digging and other “landscaping.”

You might think the Great Dane is best suited to life outdoors because of its enormous size, but just the opposite is true. He should be an indoor dog who is part of the family. When that is the case, the Great Dane is loving, learns well, and housetrains easily. Left to his own devices, the amount of destruction he can do to your home and yard is beyond imagination. Don’t let him enlighten you.

No matter how nice, any dog can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, counter surfing, and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained, or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Great Dane, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about two years old.

Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Please don’t wait until he is six months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class when he is 10 to 12 weeks old, socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper, and parvovirus) have been completed. Instead of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing with him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Great Dane doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for one whose parents have friendly personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.