How To Live with a Great Dane

As any Great Dane owner will tell you, living with one of the Gentle Giants is a joy and a challenge.

When we brought home our first Great Dane puppy, we knew what to expect. We had researched the breed online, talked at length with the breeder, and observed the pup's parents frolicking in their backyard. In short, we thought we had it covered.

While life with our puppy has often been a humorous experience, it's also important to note the serious side of this issue. There are many, many people with good intentions adopting Great Danes (and other large breeds), only to be overwhelmed later and give their big boy/girl up for adoption.

So if you think you are ready for a Dane, here are a few things you should know:

1) If they sleep in your bed once, they'll do it again. Sure, you think it's just a one-night deal. You just don't want to make the clumsy little puppy sleep by himself on his first night home. What you don't realize is that with Danes, one night tends to turn into two nights, and so on. Before you know it, you're sleeping on the floor on an air mattress with your boyfriend, and your 85 pound "puppy" is stretched across your queen-sized bed. (Yes, true story.) And once they fall asleep, good luck moving them. As much as they weigh, it seems to double when they're unconscious.

2) Forget the trash - they prefer eating off the table. To be fair, I think all dogs would do this given the chance. The only difference is that Great Danes actually have the physical ability, standing at least 31" at the shoulder. You'll have to be stern when around the dinner table or kitchen counters, or else get used to eating while standing up.

3) You'll never be able to take a relaxing walk again. This part isn't even the dog's fault. Great Danes are so friendly and gentle (when they need to be), you won't have to worry about them snapping at a kid who tries to pet them. The problem will be that everyone will want to pet that mini-cow that you have on a leash. There's just something about a big, drooling dog that children and adults alike cannot resist.

4) They are very picky "sitters". Once your Dane grows a bit, don't expect them to just drop anywhere at the "sit" command. More than likely, they'll wait until the find a comfy human lap, or a free couch, or at least another dog to plop down on. This trick is especially useful when performed around unsuspecting guests!

5) They lean. I don't mean they sway one way or the other while walking. I mean, if you are standing still long enough, your Dane is going to let you support half of his body weight. They lean against couches, they lean against people, they lean against the backseats of cars. If it looks solid, they'll test it.

But the most important thing you need to keep in mind when bringing a Dane into your home... they are the best companion you can ask for. Take the best dog you've ever had, and multiply it by ten. Perhaps it's the sheer size that makes them seem pseudo-human at times, or maybe their absolutely devoted personalities, but whatever it is... give them time, and you will be amazed.

They are quiet except when they hear someone outside the door, when they'll often give a single bark to alert you. Danes will go from rough-housing with their owners to gentling licking the fingers of a child in an instant. Their worst punishment is not a slap on the nose or time in the crate, but simply time away from their humans.

After reading all this, hopefully you will understand a little clearer what life is like with a Great Dane in your home. They require endless amounts of energy and attention, but they reciprocate this every day.

They're wonderful dogs, and in my opinion, the best in the world. But, if you can't handle the lifestyle described above, feel free to get another kind of dog. A poodle, a beagle, whatever floats your boat. But when you finally decide on a breed (or mutt), make sure you can honestly give them the life they deserve!