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With their incredible size, gentle disposition, and muscular body, Great Danes have been lent more than one comparison to a horse.
In fact, a full-grown Great Dane can tower over a small pony or miniature horse! Thankfully, the large size of a Great Dane is contrasted with a good-natured, loving personality that makes them excellent pets.
But does this great companion also make a great steed? Can you ride a Great Dane?
Despite their size, Great Danes cannot be ridden. Dogs of any size or breed are not meant to carry humans as they lack the dense bone structure and muscles that proper riding animals have. Attempting to ride a Great Dane can injure them and even result in a bite from the otherwise gentle giant.
This article will explain why you shouldn’t ride Great Danes and how trying to ride them could result in injuries.
Why Can’t You Ride Great Danes Like Horses?
It may be easy to say that horses are simply made for riding and dogs are not, but the differences are actually much more profound.
Great Danes Aren’t As Big as Horses
When it comes to riding animals, it is well known that larger animals can carry heavier people. By this logic, why can’t a massive Great Dane comfortably carry a small child?
As several studies have shown, heavy horses with compact bodies and thick bones are better at safely carrying large amounts of weight. The slender, elegant figure of the Great Dane is about as opposite of compact as you can get!
In the horse world, an average Great Dane would be considered 7 “hands” tall at the withers, making it about the same height as a small Shetland pony.
While this height is similar, horses and other riding animals have highly dense bodies. At a maximum of 175 lbs, a full-grown male Great Dane doesn’t weigh even half as much as a 400 lbs Shetland Pony of similar size.
Although Great Danes are bred with large frames and heavy bones in mind, their muscles are simply not equipped to carry the weight of a human.
Great Danes are Prone to Bone and Joint Issues
Big dogs may come with big personalities, but they also can come with big health issues.
Great Danes might take longer to reach full size than other dogs, but their growth rate is still considered incredibly rapid. Along with bloat and heart issues, Great Danes are especially susceptible to bone and joint disease. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, and wobbler syndrome are all common ailments for Great Danes.
Great Dane owners are recommended to carefully select exercise time and types dependent on age and health, and the process of providing enough exercise while avoiding muscle and bone strain is a delicate one.
In other words, a Great Dane has enough potential bone issues to deal with outside of being ridden!
Young Great Danes Do Not Have Fully Formed Bones
Another reason that Great Danes have such fragile bones is that they take a long time to reach full size. The average Great Dane isn’t fully grown until they are 1.5 to 2 years old, meaning their bones haven’t fully fused until this point.
Instead, they have sections of cartilage called growth plates between their bones that later fill in and become bone with age.
Growth plates are much more delicate than fully formed bones and fractures in the growth plate or where it connects are unfortunately common. Aside from being very painful, a growth plate injury can lead to crooked or stunted growth. Complete lameness of a limb is also a potential outcome.
Growth plates are especially susceptible to compression fractures, so even the weight of a small child can be enough to cause permanent injury to a young Great Dane.
What Happens If I Try To Ride a Great Dane?
Your Great Dane May Be Injured
Trying to ride any dog puts significant strain on their back, neck, and limbs which are simply not equipped to hold the weight of even a small child.
As Cornell University Veterinarian Sarah Bassman explained to The Stir in 2010, potential injuries include muscle strain, sprain, spinal issues, disc issues, and vertebral subluxation.
More severe injuries like fractures and dislocations are possible, as are permanent afflictions like paralysis.
If these injuries don’t sound very fun for your dog, that’s because they’re not. Although minor strains and sprains can be treated with pain medication and gold old-fashioned rest, more severe injuries often require surgery if they can be treated at all.
Your Great Dane May Hurt Someone Else
Great Danes are carefully bred to have a gentle and calm disposition and bites are typically rare with this breed. Although they do not commonly bite out of nowhere, even the kindest Great Dane may nip or worse when startled or in pain.
Great Danes have been shown in several studies to have one of the lowest bite risks of any dog breed, but that doesn’t mean they are harmless. In the rare instances, Great Danes do bite, their large, powerful jaws can cause significant damage to the victim.
Not only is the person attempting to ride the dog at risk, but anyone else near the dog at the time could receive a nasty bite.
What Do I Do If Someone Tries to Ride my Great Dane?
Intervene and Prevent
If someone attempts to ride your Great Dane, it is important to be proactive in stopping them.
Not only is your dog’s health at stake, but the safety of everyone around is in jeopardy.
When it comes to the safety of your pooch, swift action beats politeness. Use a firm tone if you need to, and physically remove the dog from the room if necessary.
Children should be informed in advance that Great Danes cannot be ridden and should always be monitored with them.
Check Your Great Dane for Immediate Injuries
Depending on how “successful” the prospective rider was, your Great Dane could have any range of injuries. If you’re lucky, your dog will be more startled than hurt, but sprains, dislocations, or even fractures are possible if enough weight was put on them.
You should immediately examine your Great Dane for any signs of injury. More severe wounds are likely to be very noticeable, with swelling, bruising, or even a visible bone.
A dislocated or fractured limb may appear to be sticking out at an odd angle or hanging limp. Your dog may be unable to move certain muscles if it has a spinal injury.
If your dog appears to be hurt in any way, you should immediately contact a vet. If needed, perform some first aid and get your Great Dane to the vet.
Monitor Your Great Dane
Even if your dog does not appear injured at first that doesn’t mean they made it out perfectly fine. Dogs are known to hide illness and pain for long periods of time and their injury often worsens over time if not treated. Keeping an eye on your Great Dane for the next few days for signs of pain or injury is a good idea if someone tried to ride them.
A dog in pain will often have lower activity and be reluctant to exercise or play. Shaking, whimpering, excessive panting, and aggression are all major signs that your Great Dane is injured.
Some dogs have more subtle signs of pain. They may have a loss of appetite or even appear to be “grumpy.” If your dog limps, moves strangely, or avoids putting weight on a leg, it should be taken to a vet clinic.
Take Your Great Dane to the Vet if Needed
Whether your dog is clearly injured or just hasn’t been acting like itself, there’s a good chance your dog will require a vet visit after someone tries to ride it.
Taking your Great Dane to the vet is never easy, but a few precautions can aid the process.
Your dog will likely be scared and in pain, meaning they can act unpredictably. A temporary gauze muzzle might seem harsh, but it can prevent a lot of trouble down the line.
It is important to call a vet in advance so that they are prepared to help your dog without delay. Communicating your dog’s injuries and when you will be arriving is especially helpful if you will require assistance transporting your dog into the clinic.
Avoid lifting or squeezing your Great Dane as you could accidentally injure them further. A veterinarian should be contacted for advice on how to move your dog if it is unable to safely go to the car itself.
Although Great Danes may be big like a horse (and even have some of the same colors), this article has hopefully explained why they shouldn’t be ridden like one. No matter how small the person is, a dog’s back muscles and bones simply can’t handle the weight of a human.
A responsible Great Dane owner should always monitor children with their dog and let others know that any attempt to ride their dog is dangerous for them and the dog alike.
In other words, make sure everyone knows to keep riding to the horses!