My take on the Great Dane
The Great Dane as a breed, like most mainstream breeds, is ruined.
Gentrified is the kindest term possible for this "Estate Guardian," which is proof positive most "estates" don't really need guardian dogs. It's difficult to find a Dane that's not afraid of it's own shadow, and exceedingly improbable to find one that might be called a man-stopper.
There are conflicting stories/fables/theory's regarding the "Origin of the breed." They mostly fall into two groups:
A. They are one of the most ancient and original breeds in the history of dogdom whose exact beginnings are lost in the fogs of time, the stuff of fossil records, and ancient civilizations.
B. They were created by crossing Mastiffs and Greyhounds a long time ago.
Regardless there is hard evidence that they were once considered a "dog of war." And much documentation they excelled as a formidable boar hound and large game catch dog for hundreds of years.
And there is a delicious bit of history about a few that ran amuck at a dog fancy event the first time someone entered them, in the early 19th century, killing numerous show dogs on the spot. For which the whole breed was promptly banned from all future dog fancy events for decades.
While the little old ladies went to work to make them more fit for the show ring. The end result of that is that the only thing the Dane competes for now is the shortest lived breed title. The list of physical maladies associated with Danes is too long and depressing to list. More over they are generally extra stupid, weak nerved, and cowardly.
I have no illusions about this, and I get asked often.
"Why use the Dane at all ? "
So I'll tell you what The Dane brings to the table for me. But firstly let's be very clear that the Dane's historical trajectory is the norm, not the exception. All the mainstream breeds, any breed that has suffered the slings and arrows of popularity for long, has had a number done it.
Which is why virtually all the posturing that goes on around a given "pure breed" should be a red flag for an educated buyer. Purebred dogs, with very few exceptions in strict working dog circles, are a disaster, a tragicomedy! The Great Dane is no exception.
Dane breeders making grandiose noise about their breed, are no less ripe for satire than English bulldog breeders or most any purebred breeder. With very few exceptions breeders, hiding behind some supposed breed excellence flag are either shamelessly dishonest, painfully cut and paste ignorant, or some mixture therein.
What is obvious, today, is that the once proud, once formidable, and apparently once dangerous canine is generally soft, dumb, cowardly, weak nerved, and short lived. Not to mention afflicted with a whole host of ailments; heart failure, bloat, wobblers, eye, thyroid problems, amongst many others. The breed, as such, is ruined; too far gone.
What I appreciate in the Dane:
Lack of dog aggression:
The silver lining to the show dog/little old lady one two punch of the breed is that the dog aggression has been all but eliminated. And dog aggression is just a headache for me, and one often present in the less "gentrified" breeds, such as the Dogo, Kangal, Boerboel, Tosa and virtually every other breed I might be inclined to use. So from that standpoint the Dane waters the dog aggression down considerably, which is always helpful and much appreciated by many a dog owner.
I like a tall athletic dog. I'm after producing dogs of a certain scale. And many of my dogs are in fact on the scale of the Great Dane.
It's a little known fact, but the mean pen-hip scores on Danes was .39 last I looked, which is considerably better than the mean for any "mastiff" breed all of whom are in the .60 neighborhood.
The Dane, as a breed, is relatively disinclined to Bark. That's a big deal for me, surrounded by LGD's and mixes there of for over fifteen years now, and having reached an age that requires good sleep.
The Dane can serve two branches of the Olympicdog holy trinity, The Olympic road dog and Olympicdog silencer.
They were once upon a time a true classic badass breed, now just truly fucked, and as such fit for reconstruction as something we might call an Olympic Dane. If I can recreate something dane-like. With the quiet, gently earnest, devoted loyalty. But healthy and athletic, with balls brains and courage.... I think that would be a worthy goal.
So the Dane can serve multiple fronts in my program. But remains undoubtedly the most difficult breed to find a quality sample. Which is why my finder fee for a Dane has sat un-paid for about a decade now.