Properly socializing your Great Dane is one of the most important tasks for an owner, but how to approach socialization isn’t always well understood.
Simply put, good socialization starts at home. While most people assume that socializing a Great Dane is simply letting your dog play with another dog, but there is so much more to it than that…
Proper socialization for a Great Dane should include all of the following approaches:
- Touch their face, ears, and paws
- Make walks part of a daily routine
- Introduce them to baths early
- Practice car rides
- Repeated trips to the veterinarian
- Expose them to loud noises
- Meet other animals
- Take them to events
- Visit different types of parks
- Introduce them to a wide variety of people
- Expose them to snow, ice, sand, rocks, gravel, grass, and any other surface you can find
Effective socialization includes introducing your dog to many different people, places, and situations so that they can maintain a calm demeanor and not risk injuring themselves or others.
How to Socialize a Great Dane
Unlike small breeds, picking up your frightened Great Dane simply isn’t an option! The good news is that whether you’ve got a puppy or adult, all of the following approaches will work.
However, the sooner that you can begin the socialization process the better!
Without further ado, lets walk through the 11 important ways below for you to socialize your Great Dane. Try to use as many of these as you can and more when it comes to socializing your dog!
Approach #1 – Poke, Prod, and Touch
As I previously alluded to, proper socialization begins in the home!
While this is certainly no license to be rough or mean to your dog, it’s incredibly important that you Great Dane is comfortable being touched.
What exactly do I mean by that though?
Well, if you don’t start getting your Dane used to having their teeth, ears, and paws handled now, future grooming is going to be really tough!
In particular, many dogs are sensitive about having their paws handled. So make sure to spend plenty of time touching their toes, and holding their paws. As they get more comfortable with this, you can also gently spread their toes apart as well.
Start slow and practice these over and over until your dog is simply bored by the process. Doing so will make nail maintenance SOOO much easier when the time comes.
Use similar approaches to touch and handle their face and ears. Have them get used to you checking their mouth, touching their gums, and lifting and massaging their ears.
These steps will also play massive dividends in your dog’s comfort level at the vet during medical check-ups.
Approach #2 – Make Walks a Habit
Walking is critical in so many ways to a Great Dane’s development. There are the obvious health benefits of getting out and moving in a low-impact way, but it goes so far beyond that.
Not only will lots of walks help to burn off that puppy energy and leash train them, but walks expose them to a lot of unique scenarios!
A rabbit or squirrel darting across a path, hearing/seeing vehicles drive by, and watching others out walking are just a few of the things that could come up. The list is literally endless here…
Without belaboring the point, walks are amazing because each one is so unique. Even the shortest of walks is comprised of dozens, if not hundreds, of random events that are new experiences for your dog.
While these events may seem boring to you – that’s because you’ve seen them before! Watching a bird fly close by or hearing a fire truck pass can seem like wild and crazy events to your dog.
So get out there and walk for health, happiness, sunshine, and socialization 🙂
Approach #3 – Scrubba Dub Dub
This one may seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many Great Dane owners I hear from who have issues giving their dogs a bath! In fact, there are entire YouTube videos dedicated to Great Dane bath fails.
Do NOT be one of those owners! I can assure you that it’s no fun…
Clearly, your Dane will need to bathe throughout the course of their life, so why not start making it a regular routine now?
Plus, a clean pup is more fun to snuggle with than a stinky one 😉
Because of their lean build and short hair, Great Danes do get cold quickly in the water. So make sure to use warm water and keep baths short to keep them from catching a chill.
Naturally, treats and affection will also go a long way in making them feel comfortable with baths. If need be, take baby steps to get them used to the water and being bathed.
For additional tips on giving your Great Dane a bath, make sure to watch the video linked below.
Approach #4 – Car Rides
Much like the bath, car rides can be a scary event for your Great Dane. But they don’t need to be!
As early as possible, you should make it a habit to take your dog on car rides. Start with short rides and slowly extend the length.
This will allow your Great Dane to adapt to the motion of the car and help prevent motion sickness with practice, but also teach them that car rides aren’t something to fear. Making travel, trips to the vet, and many other fun activities much less of a hassle down the road 😉
While many Great Danes will have no issues with car rides, it may be overwhelming for others.
Regardless of how tough it feels in the beginning, it will only get tougher over time if you don’t keep practicing. Especially as your dog gets larger and stronger!
For more tips on tips for road tripping with your Great Dane, make sure to take a look at our dedicated article here.
Approach #5 – The Veterinarian
Lots of people get freaked out at the thought of going to the dentist or doctor, so it’s completely reasonable to see why your dog might be frightened as well.
It’s a new place, with new people, and new smells, and they’re getting pricked and poked. No wonder your Great Dane is a little uneasy about the place!
Much like us humans, whether or not we like the doctor, we know that it’s a good place for our health. Well, the vet is the same for our Danes.
Do them a favor and practice making trips to the veterinarian’s office happy ones. Whether you use treats, positive reinforcement, or other methods, do everything in your power to ensure a positive experience for them.
One Jedi trick is to ask your vet for permission to simply drop into the office occasionally. This isn’t for an actual appointment, but just to get your dog used to going into the office.
All you need to do is drive to their office and walk your Great Dane into the lobby to say hi. Then turn around and head home on a positive note!
Not only does it not cost you a thing, but it’s a great way to get your dog used to going to the vet.
Of course, make sure to keep up with your regularly scheduled appointments as well 😉
Approach #6 – Loud Noises
Loud noises don’t just wake sleeping babies, but they can scare your pup too! There are many sources of loud noises, so it’s best to not shy away from exposing your dog to them in small doses when you get the chance.
Many sources of loud noises are related to particular events. For example:
- Fireworks around New Year and the 4th of July
- Concerts or parties
- Fire trucks, ambulances, police sirens, and horns
Your television and home speakers are a very common way that your Great Dane will be first exposed to loud sounds. Perhaps you listen to a war movie with the surround sound turned up or jamming out to your favorite band.
Keep an eye on your dog to see if these sounds seem to bother them. A sure sign of discomfort is if you catch them sneaking away to the back rooms of your home.
If this does seem to be the case, try to get them to come back to hang out with you closer to the noises by using treats or attention for some time to get used to the louder sounds.
Don’t push this too long as you don’t want to freak them out, but try slowly ramping up these bouts over time.
While we previously talked about walks for general exposure, hearing loud sounds is another one of their benefits. This will be one of the primary ways in which they may hear fire trucks, police vehicles, and horns going off.
Just be sure to reassure them that everything is perfectly ok and normal if they seem to be a little stressed at these sounds.
Approach #7 – Meeting Other Animals
Proper socialization doesn’t just end with introducing your Great Dane to another dog. Make sure to have them meet and play with small, medium, and large dogs. Try to have them meet a wide variety of other breeds as well.
Aside from other canine friends, you should also try to introduce your Great Dane to other animals as well. Everything from cats, rabbits, squirrels, chickens, cows, pigs, horses, and more!
Some of these animals can be seen while simply being out and about, while others may require a dedicated trip to visit them.
If there are farms nearby, these will be a great place to have your Great Dane meet other types of animals. Just make sure to get permission before entering anyone else’s property.
Approach #8 – Events & Outings
In addition to meeting lots of other animals, exposing your Great Dane to large groups of people will also be important. It’s not uncommon for them to be the center of attention in these settings, so it’s important to get them comfortable with it early on.
You can start by taking your Dane to dog-friendly establishments where they’ll have the chance to walk around with you and other people. While these places may not be jam-packed, it’s more people than your dog is used to.
I can almost guarantee you that someone will want to stop and pet them, so interaction with strangers is equally valuable.
As your Great Dane shows comfort in these types of settings, you can begin taking them to larger events such as a farmers market, community event, or restaurant.
Much like the other approaches, your goal should be to take them frequently so that they have repeated exposure to these types of situations.
Approach #9 – Parks & Rec
There are many kinds of parks available, so make sure to take your Great Dane to all of them. Everything from dog parks, kid playgrounds, and regular community parks.
Each presents its own unique set of circumstances and chances to expose your dog to new settings. So make it a habit to continually rotate through all of these.
Kid playgrounds are particularly useful for passing through so that your Great Dane has the chance to hear and see kids playing.
Now you certainly don’t have to stop and let them off leash, in fact, that’s probably not a good idea. But you should absolutely let them sit and listen and watch the children play to get used to these sounds.
While dog parks are obvious for socialization, they do present their own set of unique challenges. Rather than rehash all of them hear, you can simply take a look at our article on how to make the most out of your trips to the dog park.
Approach #10 – Meet a Variety of People
Now that you’ve introduced your Great Dane to a wide variety of animals, it’s important to not forget about us, humans!
Spend time having them meet people of different ages, sizes, races, and color, and dress.
It may seem strange but if your Dane is only used to being around women you don’t know how they could respond to a man approaching them.
On top of exposure to genders and ethnicities, make sure you introduce your Great Dane to different accessories that can change an appearance. For example, a woman in sunglasses, a man wearing a hat, and a person wearing a backpack.
Children have different energy levels than adults. If possible, introduce your Great Dane to all ages of children. A friend’s baby, a neighbor’s toddler, your sisters’ middle schooler. You get the idea.
The last area of socialization for people is with people in uniform. You will want your dog accustomed to seeing delivery men, mailwomen, police officers, and firemen.
Anyone wearing a uniform should be a non-event for your Dane!
The best way to introduce this to your dog is to walk around town and community events.
Approach #11 – Different Surfaces
This last one may sound odd but it’s one that is often overlooked by many Great Dane owners. Your Great Dane is probably very used to walking on the carpet inside your home and grass outdoors, but what else have they walked on?
Maybe some paved surfaces like concrete or asphalt, but this is why it stops many Danes.
Take the time to purposefully take them to the beach so that they can experience sand, on hikes to feel gravel and rocks, and around some body of water that they can at least dip their toes in.
Seek out snow and ice, astroturf, and anything else that you can think of!
While it also may seem strange, many Great Danes have an innate fear of bridges and other less rigid surfaces, so take the chance to have them walk across these as they arise.
Conclusion on Great Dane Socialization
As you can see, there are a LOT of opportunities when it comes to socializing your Great Dane. Take advantage of as many of these as possible and as frequently as possible.
This is clearly not an exhaustive list, so make sure to seek out the unique circumstances around you as well.
Socialization is also not a one-and-done endeavor. While you should be extremely proactive about it in their early years, it’s something that should truly continue throughout their lives.
Doing so will ensure that you have a well-adjusted Great Dane who’s able to enjoy more of life’s adventures with you 🙂