Great Danes are an agreeable breed that generally takes well to training. However, as with learning any new skill there are bound to still be a few bumps in the road! To help avoid frustration for your and your Dane, here are our top 7 tips and tricks to make the most of training sessions.
1. Learn what motivates your Great Dane
Each Great Dane has their own personality and preferences. With that in mind, you should seek to find what uniquely motivates them during training. For many Great Danes, this will be either attention or food. However, don’t assume that one of those options will be best for yours.
A friend of mine had spectacular results training her Great Dane just by using an empty water bottle! In that particular case, the Dane absolutely loved the crinkling sounds made by the empty bottle and would work very hard in training sessions to receive its reward.
While a water bottle isn’t the type of reward I’d recommend starting with, it does a great job of showing that you just need to find what works. As previously mentioned, attention and food are more common options but you still need to make sure that they’re leveraged appropriately.
Chances are a simple pat on the head won’t count as special enough to get your Great Dane excited about training. You need to break out the lavish loving varieties of attention that gets them pumped to do anything! Likewise – not all treats are created equal. You need to find and use the type that literally has your Great Dane drooling at the sight of it.
Without understanding what motivates your dog, training will be that much harder with the lack of incentive for your Great Dane. If you don’t think this will be the case – try putting yourself in their paws 😉
2. Keep training sessions short
Lets face it – learning something new is tough work! Especially as a puppy, your Great Dane also have a very limited attention span that makes training that much harder. Trying to work them past the point where they can no longer focus is not going to improve results. Doing so may even make it less productive overall!
Most young dogs are able to focus for around 15 minutes, so leverage this as a goal for total time spent training in a session. Your focus should be on training quality, not training quantity here! Don’t be afraid to cut a session short if your Great Dane has lost focus or grows tired. We all have our bad days, and trying to force them through one of their own won’t lead to better results.
If you find 15 minutes to be too long, don’t be afraid to spread the time over multiple sessions. This could look like 5 minutes in the morning, 5 at midday, and 5 at night. With quality as the key goal in mind, it really doesn’t matter how long you practice for as long as they’re getting quality reps in.
Look to increase the length of individual sessions as they demonstrate the ability to focus for their entirety.
3. Consistency is key
While training your Great Dane you need to be incredibly consistent to avoid confusion and create habits. Before starting you should have predetermined the exact command you (and any other family members) will use to elicit each action.
For example, I often see confusion between family members over the use of “off” and “down”. While you might view these terms as interchangeable, they might as well be French versus Chinese to your dog.
Pick not only the command itself but also the manner in which it’s delivered. Repeating or adding in additional terms can once again cause confusion for your Great Dane. Below are a few iterations that could be used for the common recall (come) command and lead to confusion.
- “Come come come!”
- “Come on”
- “Come Fido (or other name)”
You should also seek to create a set schedule for training with your Great Dane. Creating a schedule will not only help your dog develop habits and expectations around training, but it will also help you to avoid missing training sessions due to other things that come up. Which in today’s age, is definitely a risk!
If something’s important you should aim to do it every day. I like my teeth, so I brush them twice a day each and every day! Making the time to train with your Great Dane should be no different. Not only will you end up with a well-trained dog at the end, but they’ll also be happier and healthier from all of the consistent exercise.
4. Stay focused
Quite frankly, this tip could be applied in far more ways than one! However, our intent here is in regards to focusing on one trick at a time. Don’t try to mix sit, down, and come all in a single session.
Doing so would be equivalent of a new guitarist trying to learn multiple chords at the same time. It doesn’t work that way. Instead, you’re shown one which you then practice until you’ve got it down. Then you’re shown a second, and you practice again until it’s figured out. Trying to learn all 3 simultaneously wouldn’t end well.
Instead, always aim for mastery of a trick (or chord) before introducing a new one.
Once they do master individual tricks, you can increase the difficulty by combining them. For example, have them sit, walk a distance away, then recall them back to you.
I’ll keep repeating this, but the goal is always quality. Not only will your Great Danes confidence will grow with each good repetition, but so will their enjoyment with training.
5. Always end on a high note
Regardless of how productive a training session is, you always NEED to end it on a positive note. Take time to play, throw a ball, and generally decompress from training. This doesn’t need to be a long drawn out play session, just enough to release any stress. Five minutes is usually enough for most dogs, but feel free to take as long as you want or need here.
If your Great Dane is struggling to learn a new trick, this approach also ensures that they don’t associate training as a negative experience. There will be times when training will test your patience as well, so by ending with play you’re keeping it fun for both of you.
6. Practice, practice, practice!
A common saying states that mastering a skill takes 10,000 hours! While we certainly hope it doesn’t take that long to teach your dog to sit on command, it does illustrate an important point. Learning things takes practice, and more practice, and more practice!
If you wanted to learn a new instrument, you’d be much better off practicing a little bit every day instead of only once a week. The repeated practice not only helps with retention between sessions but also ensures that you’re able to deliver complete focus knowing that the sessions will be shorter.
Last but not least, you shouldn’t discount the fact that a tired puppy equals a happy puppy. Training will most surely wear them out and in turn, keep them out of trouble around the house. Destructive actions are much less likely to occur when they’re consistently worn out from training.
7. Patience, patience, patience!
Last but not least, patience will be key. Remember that as the teacher you can’t afford to lose your patience when training your Great Dane. Yes, they will absolutely make mistakes, but that’s why it’s called learning!
Dogs are incredibly in tune to your emotions, so if they sense you getting frustrated or angry it’s basically game over for that training session. Worse yet, they may even become fearful and associate training as a negative experience if it happens often.
Keep things short and fun for each of you is critical to long term success with training.
That wraps up our top seven tips for Great Dane training. We hope that you found this information helpful. If you’d like more information on training, make sure to take a look at our article on the most important Great Dane training commands. For details on the specifics of leash training, take a look at this one.
If you’re ready to jump straight into more in-depth resources, I’d recommend taking a look at a respectable online training course like Brain Training for Dogs. The creator, Adrienne Farricelli, is a professional CPDT-KA certified dog trainer who is published in websites and magazines including USA Today.
Her online course is not only incredibly cost effective but also offers a 60 day money back guarantee. The beauty of an online course is that they allow you to work with your dog on your schedule and pace, rather than being forced into expensive or inconvenient in-person training sessions. Click here to take a look at this fantastic online resource.