The image of a majestic Great Dane prowling the woods as a powerful and imposing presence is undoubtedly captivating. We’re conscious of the romantic notions of a regal hunting companion. Isn’t that what we all think of when adopting one of these giant dogs? When it comes to Great Danes, the reality is far from the fantasy painted above.
So, can Great Danes be hunting dogs?
There’s no arguing that Great Danes were once bred to be hunting dogs, but after years of selective breeding, Great Danes make better guard dogs and companion animals. Their low stamina, huge size, sensitivity to noise, and short coats, explain why Great Danes don’t make good hunting dogs and aren’t used for this purpose anymore.
In this article, we’ll delve into the suitability of Great Danes for hunting. We’ll explore why they aren’t typically considered good hunting dogs, and what qualities make a dog a suitable hunting partner. We will also highlight the unique strengths and roles that Great Danes do excel at in today’s world.
What Makes A Good Hunting Dog?
Before we can assess whether Great Danes can be hunting dogs, it’s crucial to understand the qualities that make a dog a good fit for hunting. These attributes are typically found in breeds that have been selectively bred for centuries to excel in various hunting roles.
Hunting dogs are usually classified into these groups: sight hounds, scent hounds, retrievers, and terriers. German pointers, water spaniels, and labrador retrievers are some of the most popular hunting dogs. These dogs are used today and help hunters track down, retrieve, and even wrangle prey animals.
The two main traits that all hunting breeds share are a high prey drive in a strong work ethic. With these two traits, hunting dogs can work for hours on end with little to no distraction. Their prey drive keeps them involved, and their strong work ethic keeps them going.
Other important traits for hunting dogs are things like scenting abilities, trainability, endurance, and speed. Many hunting dogs tend to work better in packs than as individuals. Even though hunting dogs are working dogs, they can still make good family pets. They’re pretty independent, and can usually relax while just hanging out at home.
Now that we know some of the traits that make a good hunting dog, let’s decide whether a Great Dane can be used to hunt or not.
Can A Great Dane Be Used To Hunt?
Great Danes typically aren’t used as hunting dogs. These gentle giants lack the traits needed to chase and capture prey. There are so many dog breeds that are better suited for hunting that there’s no reason to use a Great Dane as a hunting dog.
When someone is searching for a hunting dog, it’s unlikely that they would choose a Great Dane over something like a beagle. The only exception here is if someone already owns a Great Dane and wants a companion while hunting. In that case, an owner could theoretically train a Great Dane to at least be quiet enough to accompany them in hunting.
If a Great Dane, were to be used as a hunting dog, they would probably do best with large game, like deer. These animals are pretty easy to track and don’t pose a safety risk to the dog.
A Great Dane probably wouldn’t do well with smaller game because they might have trouble tracking them. Plus, if they did stumble across a squirrel, it would be very difficult for a Great Dane to follow it along the ground.
Hunting birds is a specialty that only certain hunting dogs are bred for. Birding dogs have to have two things. They need to be fast enough to flush birds out of their hiding places and have a soft enough mouth not to injure the birds when they retrieve them. Great Danes don’t really specialize in either of these areas and would probably make terrible birding dogs.
If a Great Dane is involved in hunting, they’re far more likely to be used for companionship and protection. They won’t be able to do a good enough job at seeing out and cornering prey. Since Great Danes don’t have a high prey drive, it would also be difficult to train them to hunt.
What Were Great Danes Originally Bred For?
After learning about how bad great Danes are at hunting, it will probably surprise you to learn what they were originally bred for.
Great Danes are descended from English mastiffs and Irish wolfhounds. These dogs were bred together in the 17th century. Eventually, a tall, bulky dog emerged that was dubbed “Grand Danois” or Great Dane. Their ancestry is one of the reasons why Great Danes are so dang big! Danes have always been companion and guardian dogs, but their true purpose was originally to serve as hunting dogs.
Great Danes were intentionally bred to hunt large animals like deer, boar, and bears. These dogs used their massive size and strong bites to seize the animals and keep them in place until the hunter arrived. Other hunting dogs were used to scent and track the prey before the Great Dane pounced.
As guns were introduced into hunting, the need for Great Danes diminished. Instead, these dogs were kept for protection and companionship.
Are Great Danes Still Working Dogs?
Today, Great Danes still have plenty of value and fill other roles as working dogs.
Probably the most popular job Great Danes still do is that of a companion animal. Even though these dogs have a lot of energy, they’re very gentle and affectionate. Danes are eager to please their owners and will do just about anything to stay loyal. Because of this, Great Danes can also make good therapy or assistance dogs.
Because of their size, Great Danes are reliable guard dogs. They’re able to deter potential threats just by being present. Lastly, Great Danes still compete in some canine athletic competitions such as dog shows, obedience trials, and sometimes even agility courses!
Why Aren’t Great Danes The Best Hunting Dogs?
Great Danes are amazing dogs that fill plenty of roles in society today. Plus, they’re lovable family dogs. So, why can’t Great Danes be hunting dogs too? Since that’s the original thing they were bred for, it would only make sense that they continue to do it!
1. They Have A Short Coat
Great Danes have a short single-layer coat that doesn’t do great in extremely cold weather.
Great Danes have been bred to look pretty and have beautifully colored coats. But, their coats were never meant to keep them warm during a long cold hunt. While these dogs might excel in warmer months, they would likely be too cold to keep up during winter hunting.
Some smaller hunting dogs also have short coats, but they tend to be thicker. Plus, it’s much easier to keep a smaller dog bundled up than it is to dress a Great Dane!
2. Their Huge Size
Great Danes are huge, and maybe even bigger than they once were.
Currently, hunting dogs are mostly used for tracking and retrieval purposes. Great Danes aren’t sneaky because they’re just a little too big. These dogs tend to be clumsy and seem too big for their own bodies. Being big isn’t an advantage when you’re stalking and surprising prey.
While big dogs can make good hunting dogs, most breeds that excel at hunting are medium to small-size dogs.
3. They Have Naturally Low Stamina
Hunting often demands long hours of physical exertion and endurance. Great Danes, while robust, have limited stamina compared to other breeds bred for prolonged activity. Danes are more prone to fatigue, which can hinder their effectiveness during extended hunting trips.
4. They’re Sensitive To Noise
Because of their large floppy ears, Great Danes may be sensitive to noise.
Great Danes are sensitive animals in general. Despite how large they are, they can be awfully afraid of the world around them. Even a visit to the vet can leave them trembling. Some Great Danes don’t do well with loud noises. As you can imagine, this would predispose them to be pretty poor hunters. The sound of rifles firing might cause them to bolt.
Noise sensitivity is something that can be trained out of a dog, but that would take time and patience.
Can You Train A Great Dane To Be A Hunting Dog?
It’s probably possible to train most breeds of dogs to be hunting dogs. With enough work, you might be able to turn your Great Dane into an adept tracker or retriever. But, it will help if your Dane already shows a knack for hunting, meaning they have some sort of prey drive.
Like any training, it’s best to start at a young age. When your Great Dane is a puppy, you could try to follow some sort of training program for hunting dogs. Sadly, so many traditional working dog programs are punishment-based. Recently, there’s been a push for positive reinforcement in working dog training and that’s the best technique to use for Great Danes.
When you train a hunting dog, you need to know what you want to hunt. Then, you can focus on that specific scent and start teaching your Great Dane want to track. Since Great Danes aren’t traditional hunting dogs anymore, it will likely take a long time to train them. But, Great Danes are so willing to please their owners and are pretty easy to train for the most part!
Once you introduce your Great Dane to the scent of the animal you’re hunting, you can reinforce that smelling that scent will result in hefty rewards. You can reward your Great Dane with treats, play, or toys.
After they start to associate that scent with positive reinforcement you can start hiding the scented object around the house. From there, just put the object further and further away, and let your Great Dane keep practicing.
Moving to real-life tracking can take a long time. Since you’re working with a dog that isn’t predisposed to tracking, you might want to hire a mentor to help you navigate the process.
Because Great Danes are sensitive to noises, you’ll need to desensitize your dog to the sound of the gun. You’ll also want to train them to remain calm whenever a gun is being handled to prevent any unintended rough play.
The time and energy you’ll have to put into turning your Great Dane into a hunting dog may not be worth it. With their short lifespans, it could take a lifetime to get them ready to hunt. Just like with a dog like a German Shepherd, you’re better off focusing on other things to do together.
Instead, you can always use your Great Dane for companionship or protection while hunting. Additionally, you can teach your Great Dane to track down shed antlers. This is rewarding and fun for both of you and your pup might even be able to chew on its treasure!
Today, Great Danes are not typically used as hunting dogs. At the very least, Great Danes aren’t the ideal choice if you’re looking for a hunting dog. These giants are much better suited for companionship or protection work. They’re too big, clumsy, and fearful to make good hunters. They don’t have especially good noses and have short, cold coats.
Instead of using a Great Dane as a hunting dog, try letting them do something they’ll excel at. You’ll both be happier and more fulfilled in the end!