Are Great Danes Easy To Train?

great dane waiting for next command during training session

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Since Great Danes are so enormous, it’s imperative that they are well-trained to prevent injuries or accidents and to ensure your sanity as a Dane owner. But, training a massive dog can be an intimidating concept. 

So, are Great Danes easy to train?

Great Danes are fairly easy to train since they are generally quite lovey-dovey and eager to please their owners. They aren’t the most intelligent dogs and they can be stubborn, but with some patience and consistency, Great Danes can be trained into well-behaved gentle giants.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the factors that impact how trainable Great Danes are, cover some tips for how to train your Great Dane successfully, and answer a few frequently asked questions. 

Let’s get started!

Factors That Affect the Trainability of a Great Dane

There are several things that affect how easy it will be to train a Great Dane and how successful your efforts will be, such as:

Intelligence

Generally speaking, Great Danes aren’t the brightest crayons in the box – they rank 48th in dog intelligence out of 130 assessed breeds according to dog intelligence expert Stanley Coren, though multiple tied rankings mean that Danes are actually outsmarted by 87 other breeds. 

Mr. Coren also breaks up the 130 breeds into six categories of working/obedience intelligence. Great Danes fall into the 4th highest category (average intelligence), which suggests that they will likely need between 25 and 40 repetitions of a new command to master it, and they will obey the first command at least half of the time.

Additionally, the AKC gives Great Danes a 3 out of 5 for trainability. However, they also give Danes a 5 out of 5 in the ‘affectionate with family’ category, and sometimes that affection can translate into a desire to please, earn pets and praise, and so forth.

Of course, these analyses are generalizations for the breed, so you may find that your Great Dane is especially smart and can master new commands with only a few repetitions, or that your Dane takes longer than average to learn new things.

Age

Your Great Dane’s age also matters significantly for how easy it will be to train him. It’s generally much easier to train a Dane starting very early in his life than it is to begin training once your Dane has reached adulthood. However, that’s not to say that you can’t train an adult Great Dane, it will likely just be more difficult.

Training your Great Dane from the time he is very young will allow him to get more practice time, and it will help prevent him from developing any annoying or unsafe habits – it’s much easier to train the right behavior from the get-go than to try to train out ingrained habits later.

Great Dane puppies are also more energetic and playful than adults, which means that you can turn training sessions into a fun daily game. All the while, you’ll be training your Dane to have excellent manners and bond with him in the process.

And, younger Danes are of course also smaller than adults, which leads us to…

Size

It’s easier to physically guide, maneuver, and restrain a 30-pound Great Dane puppy than a 150-pound adult, which can make training significantly easier. And the fast growing Great Dane can quickly become difficult to handle.

So, for example, it’s a good idea to start training your Great Dane to walk on a loose leash without pulling from a young age, so if he does pull you’ll actually stand a chance of being able to hold him back. If an adult Dane pulls hard against the leash, you could potentially be dragged right off your feet. 

It’s also easier to teach smaller Danes about the basics of living in the human world like using stairs or getting into the car- both which can much more difficult to teach if you pup is already 100+ pounds!

Personality

Just like intelligence varies from Dane to Dane, so does personality and temperament. Some Great Danes have a stubborn streak, which can make training especially difficult. Others are highly motivated to please you, which you can leverage as a training tactic.

If you do find that your Dane is particularly stubborn and resistant to following commands, you might need to get creative with your motivation – you could try his favorite food, toy, treat, or simply giving him lots of love and affection. Test out different things to see what gets him stoked about training.

The Trainer 

Finally, your attitude and approach as the trainer can make a big difference in how smoothly (or not so smoothly) the training process goes for your Great Dane. Fortunately, there are tons of resources available that essentially train you on how to train your dog, and it is absolutely a learnable skill.

The key things to remember when training your Great Dane are simplicity and consistency. And, since Great Danes aren’t necessarily brilliant studies, a good deal of patience. Training should be fun for both you and your Dane, and if you find yourself becoming frustrated or dreading training sessions, you may need to adjust your technique or consider bringing in professional help.

Tips for How to Train a Great Dane

Let’s look at some tips for how to train your Dane easily and successfully:

Start Young

As we covered above, it’s definitely easiest to start training your Great Dane as young as possible. While you might think that you need to wait until your Dane reaches a certain age in order to be mature enough to handle training, that’s actually not the case. Even very young Great Dane puppies can learn basic commands, and more importantly, training encourages trust and bonding. Your Dane puppy can also effectively learn how to learn from you, which sets up a successful basis for all later training.

However, it’s not always possible to begin training your Great Dane from a young age, like if you adopted him as an adult. Fortunately, late is better than never when it comes to training, and your adult Dane can certainly still learn good behavior. Just remember that your Great Dane is probably used to doing things a certain way, so it may take extra time and patience to achieve your training goals.

Use Positive Reinforcement

It’s never okay to physically or emotionally punish your Great Dane for bad behavior. Instead, focus on using positive reinforcement training techniques, in which you will essentially ignore bad behavior by withholding your attention and reward good behavior with praise, treats, and so forth.

But, remember to limit the amount of extra calories that your Dane is getting during training sessions, as too many treats can cause him to pack on the pounds. Also, stick with actual dog food and treats for the majority of your rewards instead of human food like lunch meat or peanut butter so he doesn’t get an upset stomach.

Be Consistent

Consistency is crucial when it comes to training your Great Dane. As we mentioned above, your Great Dane might need 25 to 40 repetitions to master a new command, so be patient, practice regularly, and give your Dane lots of opportunities to win your praise and approval.

Keep your training sessions short – usually 15 minutes of training at a time is a good place to start. If your Dane doesn’t seem into it during a session or you find yourself getting frustrated, cut the training short and come back to it later. 

Use The Right Training Tools

Proper tools can make training your Great Dane much easier, such as a quality collar, leash, treats, and so forth. Or, if your Dane is motivated more by toys than food, some enticing toys. When shopping for a leash, look for a heavy duty model that’s about 6 feet long. Steer clear of retractable leashes, as the constant tension can actually encourage your Dane to pull on the leash, and they usually aren’t strong enough to handle a Great Dane’s full weight without snapping.

Hire Professional Help

Finally, if you feel that your training sessions are futile and even after dozens of repetitions your Great Dane still isn’t getting basic commands, you may wish to call in the professionals. There are a couple options when it comes to professional training: you can either enroll your Dane in a group obedience class, or you can hire a “personal trainer” that will work solely with you and your Dane.

Naturally, a group class is typically the cheaper option and though it provides excellent socialization opportunities, your Great Dane will have to focus extra hard to block out the distraction of so many friends while learning the commands. These classes usually meet a couple times a week for several weeks, and there may be a few different  levels of obedience classes offered in a progression.

Private training sessions are more expensive, but the focused attention can result in faster progress. Plus, you can choose exactly which commands you want your Dane to learn, which can be beneficial if you want your Dane to serve as a guard dog or learn any uncommon skills.

FAQs

Before we wrap up this article, let’s answer a few frequently asked questions about Great Dane training:

Are Great Danes easy to potty train?

Great Danes fall somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to ease of potty training, similar to how easy it is to train them in general. But, Great Danes do have the advantage of being big dogs, which means that their bladders are larger in proportion to their total body mass than those of small dogs, so they can generally hold their pee for longer. This makes potty training a bit easier, but you will of course still need to let a Great Dane puppy outside quite frequently and reinforce potty training rules several times until your Dane has mastered the concept.

For a complete breakdown of how to potty train your Great Dane, check out this video:

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How should you discipline a Great Dane?

As we covered above, positive reinforcement is the gentlest and most effective training method. With this technique, you will discipline your Great Dane’s bad behavior by telling him ‘no’ and then withholding your attention entirely until he stops the bad behavior. Then, when he does the right thing, you’ll reward him with pets, treats, or a toy. Since Danes are so lovey-dovey with their family members, they generally crave your love and attention and will be effectively “punished” by your simple refusal to engage.

Can you crate train a Great Dane?

Yes, you can certainly crate train a Great Dane – you’ll just need a massive crate!

The AKC outlines 9 easy steps for crate training your Dane, which can help them feel safe and secure at night or when you aren’t home for brief periods, and allow you to easily contain your Dane when need be.

Closing Thoughts

Great Danes aren’t the easiest dogs in the world to train, but they certainly aren’t the hardest either. And, of course, every Dane has a unique personality, temperament, and motivation to learn. With a little patience and consistency, you can certainly train your Great Dane into a well-behaved, upstanding member of canine society!