Our Gentle Giants

The story of two Floridians and their foster Great Danes

February 4th, 2015

Life Is Different with a Great Dane

By Tara

I’ve lived with a Cairn Terrier for almost 10 years. From what I’ve seen with my own life and the lives of my friends, life with a dog is the generally the same, regardless of size: they bark, they get underfoot, they require love and attention.

Since we’ve welcomed our first giant roommate, I’ve noticed that it is a lot different living with a 130 pound creature than it is with a 20 pound terrier.

Great Danes are louder

You may think that I’m referring to their barking.

Oh no.

No, no, no.

Yes, their barking is loud, but they are loud in so many other ways.

Their foot steps are louder. I think it might be because of the thicker nails and heavy bodies.

Their panting is louder, thanks to larger lungs, a larger throat, and a bigger mouth.

And the walls are louder.

I knew that Great Danes have tails that are like whips, but I had no idea how loud they would be! Our space isn’t the biggest, so whenever Bubba is walking around, his tail is constantly making contact with something. Bang! It hits the wall. Bang! It hits the side of the piano. Bang! It hits the dresser. Don’t forget our poor thighs (and, let’s be real, crotches). Bubba is a very happy dog, which means he rarely walks without wagging his tail. Happy Tail is a big reason why people need to dock their Great Dane’s tails. According to Sighthound Underground:

“Happy Tail” sounds like a good thing. It really isn’t. Happy tail is the term for the injury that occurs when some dogs wag their tails so hard against the walls (or furniture) that the skin opens up and leaves, well, a blood spatter pattern reminiscent of a particularly gruesome episode of CSI.

Read their article about Happy Tail here.

Sometimes, their tails need to be partially docked or fully amputated. I personally haven’t seen any Danes with amputated tails, but Maria Wright posted a photo of her baby with his docked tail in the Great Dane lovers group I’m in on Facebook. The photo is too sweet to not share with you guys (with her permission, of course).

Legend, the mantle Great Dane, had his tail docked due to Happy Tail, but he's looks happy to me!

Legend, the mantle Great Dane, had his tail docked due to Happy Tail, but he’s looks happy to me!

Great Danes are taller

Okay, yes, I know this is obvious. But I never really thought about how it would affect our lives. If we are slouching or laying on the couch, Bubba takes that as an invitation to hover his head over our bodies so we can pet him. This is fine, but like a lot of Americans, when we are on the couch, we are watching TV. And Bubba’s dang head gets in the way! Thankfully, he’s adorable so I don’t mind it so much.


Also, he tends to interrupt my internet surfing. Sweet, but not when I’m video chatting with my UC After Cruz team!

Here’s something that all gentle giant owners talk about: counter-surfing. Great Dane’s heads are conveniently at counter-height, meaning they have to exercise more self-control than most dogs do in the kitchen. I hear a lot of stories about Danes being left alone in the kitchen for merely 3 seconds before devouring human dinners.

I knew this going into it, but I didn’t expect to freak out every time Bubba goes out of my sight. “IS HE ALONE IN THE KITCHEN?” Thankfully, we haven’t had any incidents except for my mom’s brain fart the other day when she left bread on the counter.

Some Great Dane owners have recommended hiding food in the microwave and the oven, so there’s that.

It takes a strong person to own a gentle giant

Bubba is currently learning his manners on leash and with greeting people. He gets excited which is fine, but he needs to learn how to curb his enthusiasm. Part of teaching him manners includes getting control over him, holding him back. And yes, it’s a pretty obvious thought that a 130 pound creature is going to be able to pull you hard.

But I didn’t realize the intensity of his strength it was until I actually experienced it. When he pulls, my arm feels like he’s about to rip it out of it’s socket! When we went to Pookie’s last weekend, he was pulling a lot and surprisingly/unsurprisingly, my arms and legs genuinely hurt the next day. Not very much, but enough for me to be astonished.

I seriously recommend that if you are a person who is a little weaker than average (due to any illness/disease, age, size, whatever), get a very mellow and well-mannered Dane.

Notice that I didn’t say older Great Dane. Bubba is 8 years old. Great Danes live to be 8-12. That gives you an idea of how old he is for a Great Dane. I thought all older dogs were mellower than younger dogs.

But this dog.

Oh, this dog.

He has the energy of a toddler.

Love it, because his energy gives me energy, but I find it completely unamusing when I’m stumbling around the house in the morning all groggy and he’s bouncing up and down in his kennel waiting to zoom out like a freaking tornado.

Another thing that I hadn’t anticipated is walking around the house with him. I knew that Great Danes are leaners. That’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with them. But I never knew that they could actually throw me off balance. Bubba attaches himself to me when I walk around the house and sometimes he pushes against me hard. There have been a couple (literally only one or two times) where I have nearly lost my balance. It took some getting used to, but now I know how to hold myself when he is walking next to me.

They shed

Once a month, Great Dane Love brings their foster Danes to the Petco in Titusville. In my experience there have been anywhere from 1 to 6 Danes there at a time. You can read about my first experience at a Great Dane Love event here. After every single one, there is a thin layer of hair EVERYWHERE. I don’t know why I never took a picture of it, but it was crazy how much these dogs shed in a few hours.

I figured it wouldn’t be that bad at home with one Dane.

Boy was I wrong.

Bubba’s crate is next to our dining table (that we never use for eating, so you can stop being grossed out now!). We were having people over for Thanksgiving so we disassembled his crate to make more room. As soon as we pulled it away, we saw a ton of hair glued to the baseboard behind his crate. We had only had him for one week! It was crazy. I really didn’t expect it to get as bad as it did so quickly.


Those are my thoughts on life with a Great Dane after living with one for a couple of months. So far, I am enjoying it so, so much. At the time of writing this, Bubba is with another foster. He has a vet appointment in a city an hour or two away so I met up with a foster that lives closer to the vet and gave her Bubba last night. It has been so quiet without him. His presence is absolutely HUGE in so many ways.


  • Our Gentle Giants » And so it begins February 8, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    […] I have SO much more to say about him but I’ll save all that for another post. Edit: here are my first thoughts about living with a Great Dane. […]