Tips for puppy buyers

As the great dane is one of the breeds with the shortest life span of only about 6,5 years in average and can suffer from several health issues (more info: here) and since the temperament of such a large dog has to be sound, one should very carefully choose the right breeder. It is not so easy for an unexperienced puppy buyer to find the right dog amongst all the online adverts and club websites.

Unfortunately a pedigree by a breed club is not enough to guarantee the health and quality of a puppy, as the regulations for breeders vary enormously amongst the international clubs. Some have strict rules and mandatory health tests, and others only recommend voluntary testing and don’t check the puppies and breeding dogs. So you have to make your own research to find a good breeder.

If the most important question for you is the price of the puppy than you shouldn’t get a great dane at all, because if you lack money than you won’t be able to afford the expenses for a dog this size, which are minimum 150 Euros/month.

Generelly it is recommended to never buy a puppy spontaneously. One should take enough time to consider all aspects of having a dog and to get information about the breed. On this webite you can find plenty of background information about the health and breeding of the great dane. It is the best to visit several breeders to get an impression and your own idea. Respectable breeders will welcome puppy buyers even if they don’t have a litter at the moment, and they will deliberately answer any question. And respectable puppy buyers will inform themselves thoroughly and ask critical questions and are willing to wait one or two years for “the right puppy” and drive a longer distance to get it.

These questions should be considered before buying a great dane puppy:

Are the parents health tested? The most important health test is the heart ultrasound, as 30% of great danes will develop the heart diseases DCM during their life (more info: here) The heart ultra should be performed by a specialist (cardiologist) and should not be older than one year. So it has to be repeated yearly and the older the dog is, the more significance does the test have. Other tests are hip and elbow x-ray, spine x-ray, eye tests and thyroid. Some breeders also make more health tests and also gene tests. Ask the breeder to show you the health tests of BOTH parents!
How closely are the parents related? Inbreeding is responsible for many health issues, so the inbreeding level (COI = Coefficient of Inbreeding) should be lower than 3,13% (for 4-6 generations). If the parents don’t have a pedigree you cannot calculate the COI! If the breeder is not able to tell you the COI, you can try to find it out via one of the online pedigree databases for great danes (you can find them here).
What information is available about the grandparents and greatgrandparents of the litter? If the parents don’t have a pedigree it is hard to get any info about the ancestors. Are they still alive, if not, when and why did they die? The more seniors (dogs older than 8 or better 10 years) are in the pedigree the better. Since many breeders are not honest with those informations you can try to make your own research, for example by using the online databases.
How old is the mother, how many litters did she have, and when was the last litter? Great danes should not be bred before their 2nd birthday and not after the 7th birthday. They should also not have more than 3 litters in their lifetime, and they should have at least one heat (10 months) pause between two litters. And 2 heats (15 months) after a big litter with more than 8 puppies, otherwise the female cannot recover sufficiently.
How are the housing conditions for the adult dogs and the puppies? Are they kept in kennels all the time or do they live as family members in the house? Is it clean? Do the puppies have a playground and are socialised well?
How do the puppies and adult dogs behave? It is normal that great danes bark if a visitor comes, but after getting to know the stranger they should calm down and let themselves be touched. A dane should neither be fearful nor aggressive. The puppies should be curious and open and greet the visitor.
How many litters does the breeder have per year? A breeder who has more than 3 litters per year (also other breeds) usually doesn’t have the time to take enough care for each single dog. A good socialization is extremely important for such a large breed like the great dane. Don’t support mass producers!
Does the breeder deliberately answer all your questions? A good breeder will give you all the information about health tests, the ancestors of the litter, inbreeding etc and takes a lot of time for a puppy buyer, also after the puppy has been sold.
Are the parents extremely large and heavy and have extreme physical features? In parts of Europe there is the so-called hypertype trend, meaning that dogs are being bred with a lot of loose skin, open eye lids and drooling lips. This trend is also exported amongst the world as so-called “Euro Danes”. They do not accord to the FCI standard and have serious health issues like eye problems, problems with their anatomy etc. Read more about this here.
Are both parents merle or harlequin? So-called double merle breedings are forbidden in several countries in Europe, as they produce extremely white “double merle” puppies which will have sensory deficiencies like deafness, blindness and very likely other health issues. Don’t support breeders who practice this kind of “cruelty breeding”!
How is the puppy being handed over? The puppy should be older than 8 weeks before he moves out, and should be dewormed, vaccinated, micro-chipped and checked by a veterinarian. A respectable breeder will not reserve a puppy before he got to know the person interested personally! You should also not buy a puppy before you have seen it and its surrounding with your own eyes! After the first visit you can make a reservation contract and then pick up the puppy when it is old enough.
Don’t support cropping! In many countries cropping and docking are forbidden by the animal welfare act, because it is considerd animal cruelty. Actually it is torture to cut off body parts of a dog just for aesthetic reasons, and no, it is not good for the health and no, it is not necessary because of historical reasons. Great danes with natural ears are perfectly healthy and don’t have more problems with infections or hearing or whatever than cropped danes. The historical cropping was very short, almost the whole ear was cut off, and it was meant to protect the dogs when they attacked large game. This is NOT necessary anymore today!