One of the first questions many people ask about me Great Danes is if they are good with kids. You can also replace kids with toddlers or babies in that question. For people that aren’t familiar with Great Danes, I can see why they would be concerned about their children being around such as large dog!
So, are Great Danes good with kids, toddlers, or babies? While they may be giant dogs, Great Danes are a very gentle and affectionate breed. Great Danes are fantastic family companion pets and are very good with small children. They are patient, loving, and can be protective of their family members when necessary.
Great Danes are a fantastic breed for families, however, there are still plenty of things you can do to ensure that your Great Dane and children play nicely!
Considerations for families with kids and Great Danes
Great Danes are referred to as “gentle giants” for a reason! They love to spend time with their family members and are generally very gentle and sweet. The one downside to their sweet nature is that they often forget just how big they are!
Great Danes are notorious for trying to sit in people’s laps and leaning into someone so hard that they knock them over. Of course, this isn’t malicious behavior in the slightest. They simply want to be close to their loved ones, but forget just how large they are at times.
For young children, this sometimes means that the Great Dane lean knocks them over. While most kids find this hilarious and quickly get used to it, it is something to keep an eye out for. Falling onto a hard floor or another surface could lead to an accidental injury. If you’re interested in learning more about why Great Danes lean, or how to train them with leaning, take a look at my dedicated article here on the topic.
In addition to their general goofiness, they also have strong tails. Unfortunately for kids, these tall dog’s tails wag at just the right height to wack them in the face! Once again, this is completely unintentional on your Great Dane’s part.
All dogs wag their tails when they’re happy, and Great Danes are no different. While you certainly don’t to see them stop wagging their tails altogether, it’s something you’ll have to teach your children to be wary of.
Last but not least, there are the Great Dane zoomies 🙂 While they are generally a low to moderate energy breed, most Great Danes release spurts of energy with an occasional wild sprint. Whether they be inside or outside, this will usually result in a few wild and speedy laps in a circle or figure eight.
This is just their way of releasing pent up energy, and not any form of aggression. So, nothing for you to worry about as a parent but you should be aware of it. Let them go ahead and get the energy out instead of trying to stop it. Just make sure to keep your kiddos out of the way while they’re romping around.
One key thing to point out is that these guidelines are for mature, trained Great Danes. For puppies, you will need to keep a more watchful eye on them around your children. Just like your kids, they are too young to understand proper behavior. They may see your kids as a littermate and engage in nipping or other unwanted behavior.
Likewise, untrained adult Great Danes should not be left alone with children. While their breeds nature is still to be calm and gentle, they may react negatively to certain interactions with children.
5 Tips for Great Danes and families
When it comes to your fur babies and human babies, every parent wants to see them get along! You love them both and simply want it to be one big happy household. To help you reach this ideal state, there are a few things that you can do.
#1 Train your Great Dane
It should come as no surprise that training your Great Dane is one of the most important things you can do. A well-trained Great Dane understands their place in the household and listens to commands when given.
While that may sound overly stern, it’s actually a huge stress relief for your Great Dane. Putting in the time to teach them how you want them to behave and what to do removes any uncertainty. Otherwise, they will always be trying to guess what’s right which will lead to frustration on your part and make them upset.
In fact, not training your Great Dane is one of the most common sources of anxiety. By comparison, a trained Great Dane is confident and secure in their actions. Leading to fewer outbursts, destructive behavior, and a slew of other negative consequences.
The most obvious starting points for training a Great Dane will be come (recall), sit, and down. Rather than rehash all of those commands here, you can click here for a dedicated article on the basic training commands.
In particular, down and sit are really useful for getting your Great Dane used to being around children. The act of physically sitting or lying down anchors them physically and emotionally. In many cases, they are excited to meet new people. So by sitting or lying down, they don’t have as many opportunities to wiggle around and potentially bump a kid over.
In many cases, this lowered position also provides a calming effect so that they’re more relaxed when meeting new children.
#2 Train your kids!
While many are quick to blame the dog when issues do occur, they’re not always to blame. Children also need to learn how to respectfully play and engage with dogs as well.
For example, I doubt that you’d let your child get away with walking up to another kid and hitting them. It’s clear who is at fault, so the same should apply when the non-offender is a dog. It’s hard to blame a dog for reacting to the wrong that was done to them.
While most Great Danes don’t display food aggression, it’s still a generally good practice to teach your children to not play or mess with the dog while they’re eating. This is the dog’s time to eat and they should not be disturbed. Also, with the increased prevalence of bloat in Great Danes, causing them any stress around food and water consumption just seems like a bad idea.
If you’re not familiar with it, bloat is the nickname for a more serious condition known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). You can learn more information about it by taking a look at my GDV article here.
Aside from general mistreatment like tail pulling, there a few Great Dane-specific scenarios. Thanks to their large size, many children may be tempted to try and ride, hang on, or jump on a Great Dane. This should be heavily discouraged as it could result in it an injury to both the dog and child.
When taking your Dane out in public I can guarantee you that on almost every occurrence someone will make a comment along the lines of “put a saddle on that horse”. Don’t take them up on it by letting your kids try to ride them 😉
#3 Don’t forget about exercise
While Great Danes generally have very low exercise requirements, it’s still good for them to get out of the house. Both the exercise and peace and quiet will do wonders for relieving any stress that they may be feeling.
The good news is that a simple walk is sufficient exercise for most Great Danes. Sure you can take them to the dog park or for a run, but it’s generally not necessary. Compared to high energy breeds like Husky’s, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds that can literally run for hours, a quick 15 minutes of walking or playing fetch each day is sufficient for most Great Danes.
While that may sound like very little activity, I can assure you that they’ll get in plenty of extra steps following your or your children around the house! Great Danes rarely like to be alone and tend to follow the family around the home to keep a watchful eye on everyone.
Using the Fi Smart Collar, we’ve measured Gus’ step counts each day. Even on days that she doesn’t get a true walk in, she still averages at least 6,000 steps throughout the day. Probably the best feature of this particular smart collar is its battery life. While others last only a couple of days, the Fi collar lasts 2-3 months with normal use! Having tested this collar ourselves, we can confirm that this is an accurate timeframe.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can click here to look at the Fi Smart Dog Collar on their website.
Of course, when you’re that large it also doesn’t take much energy to wear yourself out!
In addition to the mental break from the house or craziness that can come with kids, exercise is also fantastic for preventing destructive behavior. Great Danes aren’t typically heavy chewers, but their strong jaws are more than capable of plowing through shoes, furniture, and basically anything else inside the house if they so desire. Lucky for us, the mood doesn’t strike often!
#4 Create a dedicated space for you Great Dane
While it’s not often that your Great Dane will want to be alone, it’s still important to have a space that belongs to the dog alone. Just like children sometimes need a little bit time to decompress away from everyone in their room, the same is true for your Dane.
If need be, they can sneak away to snuggle up in their crate and relax or nap. Most Great Danes sleep 16-18 hours per day, so they’re going to want to sneak away for naps at some point!
Aside from having a place to call their own, crates can be extremely helpful for keeping a puppy out of trouble. While a Great Dane should never be left home alone all day, it’s expected that you’ll have to leave them home for short periods to run errands. Having a crate to help keep them out of trouble is key.
For a more detailed explanation of the benefits of crates, feel free to take a look at our crate article here. We also cover recommended crates that are built to hold even a full-grown Great Dane.
#5 Get your Great Dane used to being handled
Teaching your children to be respectful of your dog (Great Dane or otherwise) is really important. However, sometimes our little ones are simply too little to understand boundaries. For this reason, it’s important to get your Great Dane used to being handled.
Not in the sense of just being comfortable with receiving pets on the head, but being touched all over. Holding their paws, rubbing their belly, touching their face, and even massaging their ears. These are just some of the areas that some dogs are sensitive to being touched unless you get them used to it.
This shouldn’t be practiced in a rough or aggressive manner, just enough to get them used to being handled. That way when (not if) your little one does something weird like hold onto their nose they’re not offended!
Of course, as your children grow older and are able to comprehend your explanations you should reinforce how to appropriately “play” with your Great Dane.
I hope that you found this article helpful! Because it touches on so many articles related to the care and training of Great Danes I have tried to link to those related resources where appropriate.
One last resource that I’ll leave you with is in regards to introducing your Great Dane to a newborn or another young child for the first time. You can find that article here.
I’ll admit that I am biased, but I think Great Danes are a fantastic dog for families. Their love and affection are unparalleled. Plus, their intimidating bark and enormous size will scare away any would-be intruders 😉