From mini Poodles, Schnauzers, and Pinschers, the concept of a miniaturized breed is not new, but how does this apply to Great Danes? Is there even such a thing as a mini Great Dane?
Mini Great Danes are not a formally recognized breed, however, they may result from the breeding of smaller Great Danes, or due to genetic mutations for dwarfism. Because they are an unofficial breed, “mini” is classified as any Great Dane that is smaller than the breed standard.
Aside from this generic designation, there are other considerations to take into account when considering adopting or purchasing a “mini” Great Dane.
What is a mini Great Dane?
In addition to being referred to as mini Great Danes, you may also hear people refer to them as “pocket”, “dwarf”, or “teacup” Great Danes.
These are all referring to the same thing in the context of Great Danes. For simplicity, I’ll refer to them solely as mini Great Danes going forward.
Because mini Great Dane’s are not officially recognized, they only have to be smaller than the breed standard to be considered “mini”.
The minimum standard height for adult females is 28 inches, and 30 inches respectively for males. Therefore, if you’ve got a Great Danes that only stands 25 inches tall, you’ve got a mini Great Dane!
As you can see, the term miniature in the context of a Great Dane is a bit misleading. Great Danes are a giant breed, so even miniature versions of Great Danes will be larger than most dogs!
As previously stated, there are only two ways for a purebred mini Great Dane to occur.
- Smaller Great Danes were bred one or more times to intentionally create an even “smaller” version of the standard Great Dane.
- Genes for dwarfism were passed on from the parents, or can arise from genetic mutations.
I’ll cover #2 first because it’s less controversial in nature.
Mini Great Danes from Genetic Mutations
Without going too deep into the genetic process, everything about a creature is defined by its DNA. DNA acts like a recipe that when grouped form genes. In turn, these genes determine characteristics like height, coat color, etc…
Mistakes or unexpected changes to DNA during replication and other cellular processes can result in changes to the expression of a gene. For example, a small change may result in a dog drooling more than its parents.
In some cases, these mutations occur in a parent and are then passed to an offspring before expression occurs. In other cases, the mutations have an immediate effect on the animal in which they originated.
While this might sound a bit scary, most animals walk around with a few dozen mutations that have no negative impact on their life. However, depending on where in the gene a mutation occurs, it could have a very big impact.
In mini Great Danes, mutations could occur that result in the presence of achondroplasia. This causes their bones to not grow to their normal size, resulting in a dog that is smaller than the breed standard.
While not common to the Great Dane breed, it is absolutely possible for it to occur. Achondroplasia is more commonly found in breeds such as Boston Terriers, Pugs, Beagles, and Dachshunds.
Mini Great Danes from Selective Breeding
While genetic mutations are the result of pure chance, selective breeding is a very intentional process. In this scenario, a breeder purposely selects Great Danes that are smaller in stature for breeding. The intent is that by combing the genes of smaller Danes, resulting litters will contain dogs that are even smaller in size.
While the thought of creating a “mini” Great Dane may sound cute, playing with genetics is not a good idea. As a giant breed, large size is clearly a dominant trait for the breed.
By selectively breeding smaller Great Danes, who contain recessive genes for size (and potentially others) you increase the chances of the resulting litters having health problems.
This applies not just to creating a smaller Great Dane, but also higher potential risks for conditions like hip dysplasia, cancer, cardiomyopathy, etc…
Breeders of high integrity focus on breeding the best and healthiest dogs that they can find instead of trying to draw out traits that deviate from the breed’s standard.
As a similar example, this is exactly why breeders avoid breeding merle Great Danes. When the double merle gene does occur, there’s a high likelihood that the puppies are born blind, deaf, and have many other health issues.
For more details on this topic, take a look at our article on Merle Great Danes.
For this reason, it’s highly unethical for a breeder to try to alter the breed standard to draw out recessive traits. It’s just not worth the increased health risks to the puppies that would be born.
From a practical standpoint, it’s a bit silly to try and shrink down a giant breed dog like a Great Dane. If what you want is a smaller dog, why pick a different breed?
Perhaps something like a Weimeraner, Boxer, or Labrador Retriever might be a better choice if size is your primary concern.
By comparison, if a breeder selectively breeds dogs who exhibit the best traits for the breed, the likelihood of their offspring having health issues is much lower.
Mini Great Danes from Mixed Breeding
While the prior options covered the ways in which a “mini” purebred Great Dane can occur, there is of course another way. Mixing breeds!
Mixed breeds have become more popular in the last decade with the rise in popularity of mixes such as Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Cockapoos, Malipoos, and many others.
While there’s no set standard for mixing, here a few of the breeds that I’ve seen or heard of being mixed with Great Danes.
- Labrador Retriever
This approach certainly negates the health downsides of a purebred mini Great Dane that was created through selective breeding, but once again seems a bit impractical to actively seek them out.
Rescuing a mixed Great Dane from a shelter is certainly fine. But if what you want is a smaller breed, then aiming for a full or partial Great Dane seems unnecessary.
You can once again start with a breed that is already smaller, and has known characteristics or qualities that you find desirable.
Additional Considerations for Mini Great Danes
Elevated Health Risks
Increased health risks are probably the number one consideration for mini Great Danes. If you do end up with one in the house, make sure to remain extremely diligent with health scans, veterinary trips, and other forms of preventative medicine.
Knowing that it’s extremely likely that you will encounter increased health costs are some point, you may also want to consider looking into pet health insurance.
This could save you from needing to pay extremely large fees completely out of pocket, and instead allow the insurance provider to share the burden.
For more details about the ins and outs of pet insurance, take a look at our article on the topic here. We cover not only the types of insurance, but also sample quotes from several popular providers to help give you a better idea of its cost.
In addition to the cost of healthcare, if you’re getting a mini Great Dane from a breeder it’s highly likely that they may want to charge you a premium to purchase them. They may tout that their “rare” nature is the reason for the increased price.
I’m not going to tell you what to do – but if it was me, I would look at this as a major red flag! This indicates that they’re not only breeding less than ideal dogs, but they’re trying to make a profit from it as well.
This is even more so the case if you see a breeder repeatedly marketing that they have multiple mini Great Danes for sale.
Most good breeders would probably opt to not sell these dogs knowing the increased potential for health risks down the road. They need to protect both their reputation as a breeder, but also the well-being of the dog.
If you’re adopting from a shelter, this likely won’t be an issue as their rates are standard.