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Tank and Shannon resting after swimmingAww, such a sweet dog but they don’t live very long do they?

This is often the first question people ask me when they see me with my 10 year old Great Dane, Shannon.   According to Great Danes are #5 with a life span of only 6-8 years.   But would that really stop me from owning such a “Gentle Giant”?  Trustworthy and loyal, the Great Dane is an awesome companion and friend.  So if you have this amazing animal for 6 years, or 8 years or even 10 years, your life is more enriched because of it.  The important thing is to take great care of your Dane.  Feed them the proper diet, make sure they get exercise, lots of attention, and obtain regular vet check ups.  There are no guarantees in life so hop on (not literally) and enjoy the ride…..

Wow, I bet they eat a LOT, huh?

Because the Great Dane is so massive, many people believe the breed requires massive amounts of food. The truth is that despite their large frame, an adult Great Dane eats no more than the average size dog. However Great Dane puppies do require much more to support their growing bodies.

Related to the amount of their meals, it is important to feed Danes twice daily, or even regular smaller meals instead of 1 big meal. This is because they are predisposed for Bloat.  Bloat is a condition that affects large and deep-chested breeds.   It occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand. The stomach puts pressure on other organs. It can cause dangerous problems, including:

  • No blood flow to the heart and stomach lining
  • A tear in the wall of the stomach
  • A harder time breathing

In some cases it will cause the stomach to twist and turn cutting off the dog’s blood supply and preventing gas and stomach contents from leaving. It comes on very suddenly and is life threatening.  If the dog shows signs of bloat, it should be taken to the vet immediately!   Another way to avoid Bloat is to not exercise large breed dogs for at least an hour before and after their meal.    Make sure the dog is calm while eating.  Serve all meals and water in an elevated bowl stand which avoids the dog craning his neck.  Also to be sure the dog doesn’t gobble his food, put some large (unswallowable) toys in his bowl so he has to eat around his food.  Pet Stores even sell bowls designed with built in obstacles to slow down eating which prevents gulping or vacuuming behaviors.

Who’s walking who?

Surprisingly, Great Danes do not require more exercise than the regular size dog. Activity is important so daily walks or “sniff-arounds” are key to his good health and happiness.  It is important to ensure the large dog is leash trained and will mind their owner or walker.  There are many methods to leash training and harnesses.  PetSafe’s Gentle Leader and Easy Walk Harnesses work well.

And I would be remiss if I excluded the 4th common question usually asked while walking my Giant dog….  “Do you have a saddle for her?”  Ha, Ha haven’t heard that one before……I reply with a smile……………

But really……if I had a nickel for every time I heard that….


Growing up I had small to mid size dogs – Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel & Poodle), Snoodle (Schnauzer and Poodle). I was even attracted to my future husband because he was a dog owner – of a Cocker Spaniel.

So why am I now an owner of Large and even Giant Breed dogs? Who is this woman I have become??!!  Until 6 months ago, we owned 2 Great Danes and a German Sheppard.  We lost Tank, our sweet loving, Fawn colored, 11 year old Great Dane rescue in June 2015.  We are down to a 2 large dog family now with Shannon, our 10 year old Great Dane and Harley, our 11 year old German Sheppard Rescue.  We love our large and senior dogs – but the senior part is for another time….

So how did we arrive at having our first large dog after owning smaller dogs? A combination of a much needed “Lunch Date” with my husband and an adorable “puppy in the window”. After a lovely lunch and a glass of wine with my husband, we found ourselves inside the Mall and outside a puppy store, where an adorable Female Great Dane Puppy was in the window.  My husband fell in love.  Ok, I know the horror stories of pet stores, the selling of puppy mill dogs, etc.  But 10 years ago we weren’t as well informed and quite honestly, at that moment, as “alert” as we should have been.Shannon as a puppy   Before we made any rash decisions we headed to the bookstore to read up on Great Danes.  We knew little about the breed and were very ignorant.  After spending a few hours reading about Danes, we purchased some books and headed back over to the Pet store.  We asked to meet privately with the Great Dane.  Well I don’t know if you have ever had a “private visit” with an animal in a pet store but there’s no going back.  Once they look in your eyes and you see the “Please Rescue Me” look, you are done for……  Yes, as a Professional Pet Sitter today I would be admonishing my client for their impulsive and irresponsible actions.  And then secretly be excited to pet sit for their new family addition!

With so many dogs in need of rescue today, that is the only way we now obtain our new family members – all have since been rescues. Although I like to think we “rescued” Shannon from the pet store. So that’s how we came about having Shannon, our Great Dane, and first Giant Breed dog.

Shannon sitting on the couch

Shannon enjoying couch time!

Before Tank left us, we adopted a German Sheppard, named Harley, from the Human Society.Harley my German Shephard sleeping Harley was a sweet, soulful gentleman looking for a second chance after a long streak of bad luck and heartache.  Now at 11 years old, he still has terrific manners and just wants to make us proud. Harley is constantly by my side, my shadow following me everywhere.  My love for large breeds continues.


Disclaimer: I am not a Vet nor pretend to be an expert on Large Breed dogs….just a proud owner.  Note:  Referenced material from GREAT DANE by S. William Haas.


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