If you have ever seen a Great Dane, their size may have left you wondering: How much does a Great Dane need to exercise? Formerly used to catch wild boar in German forests, these gentle giants were eventually transitioned to roles as guard dogs and today enjoy immense popularity as household family pets.
Now generations removed from ancestors that would tangle with wild boars, Great Danes are a breed that require a moderate amount of exercise as an adult, although it should be noted that, as with most aspects of raising and living with this breed, they have some unique needs when it comes to exercise.
It is helpful to frame their exercise needs by breaking them into three categories: walk/run, free play, and mentally stimulating activities.
As puppies, Great Danes require substantially more exercise than adults. However, because this giant breed spends so much more time growing than medium or small breeds, that means that their puppyhood lasts much longer than you might expect.
You can expect a Great Dane puppy to require two to three play sessions per day of anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
The reason this range is so large is because factors such as sex and personality will greatly influence the amount of exercise that an individual puppy needs. Great Danes are considered puppies until 18 months of age, although they will not be fully filled out until around three years of age.
Although Great Dane puppies require a significant amount of exercise, owners should not equate a large amount to a high intensity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Great Dane puppies typically put on about 100 pounds in their first year at home. This means that their joints and bones are growing at extraordinarily fast rates and are susceptible to health issues if physically pushed too intensely. The ideal exercises for Great Dane puppies take this into account, as well as their other needs, such as socialization and obedience training.
Appropriate forms of exercise for Great Dane puppies
- Going on short walks, preferably on soft surfaces
- Free play in the backyard, including fetch, tug-of-war, and frisbee
- Free play at a dog park, as long as your puppy is fully vaccinated and sterilized
- Gentle strength building exercises such as practicing “sit”
A note on running or jogging with your Great Dane puppy
Great Dane puppies should not be taken on leashed runs of jogs until at least 18 months of age. Even if they look large enough and seem happy to run alongside you, as their owner it is your responsibility to provide adequate time for their skeletal frame to develop. If you are desperate to bring a Great Dane into your life so that you have a running companion, you may want to consider adopting a Great Dane from a reputable rescue. The majority of Great Danes surrendered to rescues are adults that would thrive on the consistent and stimulating schedule that many runners operate on.
Exercising your adult Great Dane
As your Great Dane puppy matures into an adult, you will notice a marked decrease in their puppy energy. A healthy and happy Great Dane is usually content to loll on the couch most of the day and will only require 30-60 minutes of exercise per day. Just like puppies, adults require that their exercise be broken into smaller chunks, so depending on the energy level of an individual dog, that may look like two shorter walks, a frisbee session in the backyard, and obedience practice, or one 30-minute jog, an agility session, and learning a new command.
A note on running with your adult Great Dane
Walking alongside a human constricts the natural gait of a fully grown Great Dane to a slow lumber, whereas trotting alongside a jogging owner allows it to stretch out and exhibit its natural, elegant gait. (You will also likely get many admiring looks from passerby.)
So long as you’re not a high-intensity runner hitting the pavement at brisk speeds, running or jogging can be a wonderful way to meet your Great Dane’s physical exercise needs. Soft surfaces such as flat trails are ideal because they provide cushion for your dog’s joints and the additional stimulation of running in nature. While walking or running your Great Dane, ensure that you have poop bags on hand to clean up should your companion demonstrate the functionality and health of its gastrointestinal tract.
As an adult, exercise provides the Great Dane with a basis for routine and consistency, which they crave. However, routine should not be equated to repetitiveness. Great Danes thrive on novelty and stimulation and exhibit extremely destructive behaviors if they become bored. Thus, while bearing in mind the three components that make up exercise (walk/jog, free play, and mentally stimulating activities), owners can feel free to create dynamic combinations to keep their dog physically and mentally healthy.
Appropriate forms of physical exercise for an adult Great Dane
- Walking or jogging
- Playing games such as fetch, frisbee, or tug-of-war
- Visiting a dog park or pet-friendly human park
- Hiking (but not very strenuous terrain)
- Agility or flyball
Astute readers will notice that many of these activities have natural overlaps with several other important components to raising and living with healthy Great Danes. For example, visiting a dog park provides continuous socialization, which is very important for the Great Dane, which can become skittish or shy if it is not regularly exposed to new situations.
Additionally, hiking and swimming provide novelty, while agility or flyball require the dog and owner to work in partnership with one another, which incorporates obedience into the session as well as strengthening the natural bond that exists between Great Dane and owner.
These activities are also an example of ways to keep the joints and bones of adult Great Danes healthy and high functioning. Proper nutrition goes hand-in-hand here with exercise, so it’s important to read up on the particular nutritional needs of Great Dane puppies and adults.
Great Dane Strength conditioning
The size of Great Danes means that they can really benefit from proactive exercises that facilitate strength. These activities can include climbing stairs and practicing commands such as “sit” and “stand” (cutely named “doggy squats”). Swimming also has a place here as an excellent, zero-impact strength-training exercise.
Great Danes are a breed that is high-risk for developing hip dysplasia and bloat, two health conditions that can quickly cause their overall health to rapidly deteriorate. Although both are genetic to an extent, the risks for each condition can be mitigated by providing the proper exercise at the proper times. Bloat, formally known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), is a painful condition in which too much gas or air becomes trapped in a dog’s stomach, risking the stomach flipping and the ensuing cutoff of blood flow to major organs. Increased risk of bloat has also been linked to instances of dogs eating too quickly or too soon after exercise, which reinforces the importance of breaking exercise into smaller sessions spaced out throughout the day.
How to tell if your Great Dane is getting enough exercise
Healthy adult Great Danes are naturally mellow and docile animals that love to veg out. They are often referred to as couch potatoes and love to nap. A Great Dane that is sufficiently exercised will not exhibit destructive behaviors such as chewing on furniture, nor annoying behaviors such as barking or pacing. In fact, barking is considered a rarity for this breed, so in the case of a Great Dane, barking may signal something else too, such as stress.
Signs that your Great Dane may not be getting enough exercise
Great Danes that are not getting enough exercise are liable to become destructive. While this is a common symptom of boredom in most dogs, in the case of a Great Dane it’s especially bad because their immense jaws and paws enable them to truly destroy things like furniture, mattresses, and rugs.
Like people, Great Danes may also simply become annoying if they feel bored. Restless behaviors such as pacing or making noise by barking are two common ways for Danes to communicate that they’re bored. Of course, pacing can also be a symptom of the common medical condition bloat, and barking may be a sign of stress, so it’s important to situate your Great Dane’s behavior within the context of the situation in which it occurs.
Another sign that your Great Dane needs more exercise is weight gain. Great Danes are naturally a svelte breed and weight gain should be taken seriously because of the numerous negative health implications it can have if not addressed promptly.
Signs that your Great Dane is getting too much exercise, or the wrong type
Sometimes owners can be too well-intentioned and over-exercise their Great Dane. Again, it’s important to remember that the Great Dane does not require an amount or vigor of exercise proportionate to its size. This is an animal that requires moderate exercise as an adult broken into smaller chunks throughout the day.
If you are over-exercising your Great Dane, they will likely exhibit certain signs such as the following.
- Limping or ginger movements
- Decreased interest or complete disinterest in physical activity
- Panting soon after beginning exercise
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Great Danes that are being provided with a healthy and correct level of exercise will show you by being healthy and calm pets. Great Danes are naturally calm and loving pets that are extremely attuned to their owner and family. They love to please and are effusive in their expressions of contentedness.
If you are providing your Great Dane with the right amount of exercise your Great Dane will likely:
- Be calm and relaxed in the house
- Nap regularly
- Have a slim figure with no joint or cardiovascular issues
- Not chew on forbidden objects in boredom or bark for seemingly no reason
- Be respectful of rules and responsive to commands
In addition to puppyhood, there are other stages of life in which a Great Dane will need to have their exercise regimen adjusted accordingly.
- Pregnancy – females carrying a litter of puppies will require less exercise
- After a medical procedure – for example, spaying or neutering
- Seniors – Great Danes are considered seniors at age seven, at which point their exercise regimen should be reevaluated
Putting it all together
The question of how much a Great Dane needs to exercise is just one piece to the puzzle that is owning a Great Dane – owners should also be aware that there are important nutrition, socialization, and medical needs to take into account when it comes to the Great Dane. This massive breed is indisputably wonderful, but also extremely needy and expensive, which is reflected in their exercise needs. Owners who work traditional working hours will need to commit to rising early before work to walk their Great Dane and then taking it out another two or three times when they return home. Owners who bring a Great Dane puppy into their life are also committing to restructuring their entire schedules for about 18 months.