13 Ways Great Danes Show Affection and Love

great dane showing affection to owner

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Despite their enormous size, Great Danes often think that they are lap dogs and attempt to situate their 200-pound bodies right on top of you. These gentle giants are very fond of their human family members and will certainly let you know that they love you – but how exactly do Great Danes show affection?

Great Danes show their affection in several ways, including classic happy-dog behaviors like tail wagging and asking for belly rubs, as well as actions like leaning against you, following you around, bringing you toys, licking you, ‘smiling’ at you, or even sighing contentedly. 

Before we dive into all 13 ways that a Great Dane might show his affection, let’s first discuss why the breed is so affectionate to begin with. We’ll also cover how to deal with an overly affectionate Dane, and how to let your Great Dane know that you love him back!

Let’s get started.

Why Are Great Danes So Affectionate?

Great Danes were originally bred to be hunting dogs, although the introduction of guns led to the breed being repurposed as guard dogs. This guarding instinct means that Great Danes are generally very attached and loyal to their human family members, and dedicated to protecting them if a threat arises. 

The American Kennel Club gives Great Danes a 5 out of 5 rating for both showing affection with family and vigilance, which often go hand in hand. Danes are also very easy-going in general, and they love nothing more than snuggling up with their humans after a long day of romping, playing, and protecting the homestead.

Great Danes have a long history of working side by side with humans, whether it’s bringing down big game, pulling carts of goods to the market, or serving as guardians. This means that they generally bond easily with humans and won’t hesitate to show their affection.

Who Are Great Danes Affectionate With?

Great Danes are likely to be affectionate with anyone that they consider to be family members, so basically the people that live with them or that they see regularly. Someone who regularly cares for your Great Dane, like a dog sitter or dog walker who comes by regularly, may also make the ‘family’ cut in a Dane’s mind. 

Great Danes are generally more reserved with strangers which is a characteristic that serves them well as guard dogs, but it means that they may not immediately want to cuddle with a new person as soon as they are introduced. 

However, every Dane is different of course, and some will love up on everyone around them while others may reserve their affection for their primary human companion – usually whoever feeds them and walks them on a regular basis, or whoever trains them and serves as their ‘master.’

How Do Great Danes Show Affection?

Now that we’ve covered why great Danes show affection and to whom, let’s look at the different ways they might actually go about it.

1. Leaning Against You

Great Danes are notorious leaners, often sidling up beside you to lean their full 100-200 pounds of body weight against your leg while you are standing or sitting. They might also try to sneak between your legs when you are standing, or otherwise make their presence obvious by throwing their weight around a bit.

Great Danes often do this because they just want to be close to you, or as a not-so-subtle way to say, “Here I am, want to pet me?” They might get especially lean-y as you pet them or as they relax into some really good butt scritches.

However, too much leaning or forced snuggling might go beyond showing affection, which we’ll cover a bit later on.

2. Jumping Up On You

Like many other breeds, Great Danes may find it hard to resist jumping on you when they are excited to see you. Although they are just trying to demonstrate that they love you, it can feel more like being tackled by a linebacker since Danes are so big and tall. 

However, a controlled hug with an expected jump can be a wonderful mutual expression of affection. For example, this Dane gets upset when he misses out on his daily good-morning hug…

3. Sitting On Your Feet or Your Lap

As an alternative to leaning against you, Great Danes might sit right on your feet if you are standing or sitting, as a way to get close to you – and to ensure you don’t go anywhere without them! And, Danes tend to forget how huge they are or at least pretend that they are still lap dog size even when they are adults, so they might try to crawl right into your lap. 

This can be adorable if you have a big enough couch or chair to facilitate you plus a 200-pound dog, but your legs will probably fall asleep pretty quick. If their bulk is too much for you, consider letting your Great Dane know that he is welcome to snuggle with you but he can’t squash you with his entire body.

4. Tail Wagging

Obviously, tail wagging isn’t something that’s unique to Great Danes, but they definitely do it when they are happy to see you! And in fact, they often end up wagging their whole rear end and it turns into a silly butt wiggle dance.

Just make sure there’s nothing breakable or spillable in range when your Great Dane starts wagging – his tail can be quite destructive!

5. Licking

Licking is another show of affection that spans most dog breeds, but getting licked by a Great Dane can easily turn into a full-body bath. Licking can also have several different meanings, so it’s important to understand why your Dane is licking you – it could be because you taste good (i.e. you are sweaty and salty, have “yummy” lotion on, etc.), perhaps he licks you as a way to soothe himself, or perhaps he’s just giving you a big slobbery kiss. 

If you notice your Great Dane is licking you (or himself) constantly, you may want to do a little exploring to see why that might be. However, a few licks as you are relaxing together is nothing to be concerned about.

6. Following You

Great Danes love your attention above all else, and with their guarding instincts, they generally like to keep their people within eyesight so they can make sure you’re alright. This can result in your Great Dane following you as you move around the house, which is generally cute but can sometimes get to be too much, especially when a huge Dane is blocking the hallway every time you turn around. 

While your Dane is likely just trying to keep an eye on you for your own protection and as a way to show that they love and care about you, you can teach your Great Dane not to follow you around all the time. Teach your Dane the stay command, and work your way up from having him stay in one spot as you move around the room within sight, to then having him stay as you venture into another room for a few minutes at a time. 

It can also help to give your Great Dane plenty of exercise so that he’s too tuckered out to follow you around all the time. 

7. Showing You Their Belly

A Great Dane won’t present his vulnerable belly for a rub unless he’s relaxed and comfortable around you, so if he rolls over for a belly rub, you know he really likes you. Plus, he probably knows that you give the best belly rubs in town and it’s a good way for you both to relax and bond!

8. Bringing You a Toy

Great Danes, like many other dogs, may present you with a toy as a way to show affection. Toys are high value items, so when your Dane shares a toy with you, it’s a big honor. Great Danes may even parade around with a toy when you first arrive home before eventually presenting it to you, just to make sure you know how special it is!

Your Dane may also bring you a toy as an invitation to play, which is essentially asking you to spend some quality time with him – the dog equivalent of asking your buddy if they want to hang out.

9. Smiling at You

Okay so Great Danes don’t technically smile, but you know what I mean! There’s a big difference between their alert face when they are watching for threats and their relaxed, open-mouthed “grin” when they are feeling completely at ease.

Adopting this chill facial expression and a loose body position when they’re around you is a sure-fire way that Great Danes demonstrate their affection.

10. Yawning Back at You

As the Scientific American outlines, empathetic yawning (contagious yawning) is not just limited to humans – dogs do it too! So, if your Great Dane yawns back at you after you yawn, he may be displaying empathy to you. Pretty cool, right?

Plus, a Dane who is on high alert (aka around people he doesn’t fully trust) isn’t likely to yawn in front of you at all, let alone yawn back at you on cue.

11. Making Eyes at You

There are a variety of different eye-related facial cues that your Great Dane might use to show that they love you, including slow and soft blinking, making eye contact, raising their eyebrows, or making puppy dog eyes at you. 

Again, an alert Dane would never close his eyes around someone he doesn’t trust, so if your Great Dane is slowly blinking while you’re around, it means he really trusts you and is super relaxed. 

Great Danes have large, expressive eyes and mobile eyebrows, and they certainly use them to communicate well!

12. Contented Grunting or Sighing

Great Danes are moderately vocal, using a variety of different sounds to express themselves. When your Great Dane is feeling happy and relaxed, he might let out a soft grunt, moan, or snuffling noise – this is especially common as you pet your Dane or give him a good belly rub.

It’s similar to how you might say “ahhhh” as you receive a shoulder rub!

13. Putting Their Head or Paw in Your Lap

A Great Dane might also request your attention by putting his head in your lap or placing his paw on you. This is another “hey, here I am” technique that your Dane might use to ask for snuggles or pets, or he may just find it comforting to have physical contact with you.

However, Great Danes have huge paws and big claws, and being pawed repeatedly can be annoying and even painful. You can train your Dane that pawing isn’t the best way to get your attention by correcting him when he does it and rewarding him when he asks for your affection in other ways.

What Isn’t a Sign of Affection in Great Danes?

As much as we might wish it to be true, not everything your Great Dane does is a display of affection. There are some behaviors that might seem like affection, but when they are taken too far they can be signs of something else going on.

Too Much Licking

As I mentioned above, a little bit of licking is a perfectly normal way for Great Danes to express their affection. However, too much licking can mean that your Dane is anxious or stressed. It can also be a bit gross and irritating to be constantly covered in Great Dane slobber. 

Fortunately, there are ways to help an obsessive licker, like ignoring the behavior, reassuring them that they are alright, giving them other constructive ways to ask for your attention, or redirecting their licking to a toy or treat.

Fearful Behavior or Cowering Against You

If your Great Dane insists on following you and absolutely will not leave you alone (even to go to the bathroom), he may be trying to tell you that he’s anxious, nervous, or stressed. Separation anxiety can be a real concern with Great Danes, but training and practice at being alone can help a Dane overcome this in a healthy way.

If you identify a certain trigger that your Great Dane seems to be fearful of, you can work on slowly increasing exposure in a controlled way that helps your Dane grow more confident around the trigger until he is able to tolerate it without becoming fearful.

Aggressive Behavior Towards Other People or Dogs

If your Great Dane acts aggressive towards unknown people and dogs, it can be easy to convince yourself that he’s just showing how much he loves you by protecting you from potential threats. However, this isn’t necessarily a healthy behavior, and a well-socialized Great Dane shouldn’t feel the urge to protect you against non-threatening strangers.

Of course, if you have trained your Great Dane to be a guard dog, this behavior might make sense until you let your Dane know that the new person or dog is a friend.

Otherwise, aggressive behavior may indicate that your Great Dane is jealous of other people or dogs who may occupy your attention, or he is so possessive of you that he doesn’t want anyone else to approach you. These are not healthy mindsets and can make outings difficult, so it’s best to socialize your Great Dane early and often to make sure that he can accept strangers without feeling threatened or jealous.

What To Do When Your Great Dane is Too Affectionate

Although your Great Dane often has only the best intentions when he showers you with love, it can be difficult to accomplish everything you need to do in a day when you have a 200-pound dog following you, sitting on you, or constantly asking you to play. As such, it’s important to help your Dane develop self-control so he can limit his shows of affection to a manageable amount.

This can be achieved in a few different ways, depending on the exact situation. For example, if your Great Dane is too licky, you may want to have a toy or treat on hand to redirect his efforts. Or, if he keeps jumping on you, turn away and ignore the behavior, rewarding him with your attention only when he approaches you calmly with all four on the floor.

Do Great Dane Puppies and Adults Show Affection the Same Way?

In general, Great Dane puppies and adults show their love in similar ways, although it can vary in intensity. Often, Great Dane puppies are very exuberant and high-energy, so they will want to lick, snuggle, and play with you all day long. As your Dane matures, he may slow down a bit just as humans do, only showing his affection a few times a day as opposed to constantly.

Puppies do have a few ways of showing their affection that are generally unique to young dogs, like chewing on your stuff or play biting you. A puppy might chew your stuff because he wants to surround himself with your smell, and what smells like you more than your shoe?! Play biting is how puppies express their love for their siblings, so it’s only natural that they would try to do the same thing with you.

The simple reason for the difference in puppy and adult behaviors is that you haven’t yet had a chance to train a puppy not to do these things. Even though the intention is good, the results can be unfortunate and annoying. But, luckily, most Great Danes can quickly learn bite inhibition and not to chew on your stuff.

Are Male or Female Great Danes More Affectionate?

The amount of affection your Great Dane shows you is often more related to the individual dog rather than gender, although there can be some subtle differences between how and when females and males do so.

For example, male Great Danes are often more assertive, and may not hesitate to ask for your attention whenever they feel like it. On the other hand, females can sometimes be more reserved, and may prefer to be left alone more frequently than males. But, again, it all depends on the individual Dane, how you’ve trained him or her, and how strong your bond is.

Do Great Danes Show Affection To Other Animals?

Some Great Danes may not want to share your attention with other animals in the household and therefore will refrain from showing them any affection, but that’s certainly not always the case. Many Great Danes will get along just fine with other dogs, cats, other household pets, or even farm animals. 

If you are thinking about getting a companion dog for your Great Dane, remember that a dog that’s big and hardy enough to keep up physically with a Great Dane will likely be the best match, making it easier for the two dogs to bond and increasing the likelihood that they will be affectionate with each other.

How To Show Your Affection in Return to Your Great Dane

Now that we’ve covered all the different ways that your Great Dane might show you affection, let’s look at a few ways you can return the love:

Pets and Snuggles

This may be an obvious one, but pets, butt scritches, belly rubs, and even gentle massages can all be great ways to show your affection to your Great Dane. Set aside a few minutes a couple times a day to give your Great Dane some love – especially after you’ve been gone for a while!

Playing Games

As we’ve mentioned, playing is a great way to bond with your Great Dane and they’ll often ask you to play by presenting you with a toy. While it may not be practical to play with your Great Dane every time he asks, give him at least a couple of good play sessions each day.

Training

Training may not seem like a way to show affection, but it actually gives your Great Dane a way to excel and please you, and then he can bask in your praise! Plus, it strengthens the bond between you, results in a well-trained doggo, and provides excellent mental stimulation for your Dane – a win all around!

Going on Outings

Great Danes often get that mopey look when you get ready to leave the house and they know they aren’t coming with you, so reward them occasionally with excursions that do include them! Exploring new places together is a great way to bond, and often entails physical and mental exercise which are crucial for a happy, healthy Great Dane.

Body Language

Finally, you can show your Great Dane you care about him by mirroring his body language – adopt a relaxed posture around him, slow blink, yawn, and otherwise show that you trust him completely. You probably won’t want to go as far as licking him back, but you do you!

Final Thoughts

Great Danes are some of the best family dogs since they are usually giant, lovable goofballs who regularly express their affection for you. Now you can recognize all of their behaviors that mean “I love you” and show your Dane some love in return!