Great Dane Training Guide: Recommended Cues, Timelines, and More

Written by Kristin Hitchcock
Published: December 3, 2023
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Great Danes are typically known as “gentle giants.” However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t require any training. In fact, due to their larger size, training is exceptionally important. Otherwise, they can be challenging to handle.

These dogs naturally have a gentle temperament and are easy to train. Still, following this training timeline helps you get started on the right foot.

Great Dane Training Timeline

8 to 16 Weeks

During the very early weeks of your puppy’s life, you should focus on socialization. While cues and commands can also be important, socialization is even more important in these early weeks.

Socialization involves introducing your dog to many different animals, people, and places at an early age. Getting your dog used to a wide variety of situations prevents fearfulness later on, which can also help prevent aggression. Most aggression in dogs is caused due to fear, and socialization is a huge step toward preventing this issue.

As soon as your puppy has had their first set of vaccinations, you should begin visiting as many pet-friendly places with them as possible. Group puppy classes work wonders at this age, as they provide a safe place for your dog to interact with other puppies and people.

You should also begin potty training at this age. Great Danes typically potty train easily, but you should still expect the occasional hiccup. Consistency and patience are important, as it can take many months for your dog to master potty training.

Very basic obedience training should also begin. However, this step can take a backseat to the other training priorities we’ve discussed.

4 to 6 Months

At this stage, your dog should be well on their way to being well-socialized and should be making strides in potty training. Therefore, you can turn some of your attention to basic cues, like sit, stay, and come. If your dog was previously in puppy group classes, they probably already know some commands.

However, now is the time to buckle down and really practice before your dog gets too large to control. Start by introducing commands in training sessions. Then, you can begin practicing them while you’re out and about socializing.

Don’t just practice commands during training sessions and consider them “mastered.” You also have to practice them in the real world to ensure your dog can obey them in areas full of distractions. Consistency is important. Remember, you’re setting the groundwork for an obedient, well-mannered dog now.

Your canine should also practice a leash regularly at this stage if they aren’t already. Put your dog on the leash at least once daily and teach basic leash manners, like not pulling. You should also teach the “heel” command after your dog has mastered other basic commands.

Great Danes can quickly become far too large to walk on a leash. Therefore, it’s important to teach them how to walk with a loose leash at an early age.

6 to 12 Months

By this point, your Great Dane puppy should know basic commands and be relatively socialized. Now is a great time to start introducing more advanced commands (that are extremely important for a dog of this size). Once your dog knows the basics, introduce commands like “down” and “leave it.”

These commands are essential for managing your dog’s size and preventing undesirable behaviors. Continue to use positive reinforcement and gradually reduce your reliance on treats. As commands become more ingrained, your dog should need the draw of treats less and less.

As your dog gets bigger, you should continue refining leash walking. Great Danes can quickly become too much to handle unless they walk on a leash well. Therefore, it is vital that you discourage pulling and reinforce loose leash walking. Be very consistent in your demand for leash manners.

12 to 18 Months

As your Great Dane matures, continue to expose them to a range of different situations and people. Now is the time to introduce them to more challenging situations, like stores with slippery floors and crowded areas. You want them to become confident no matter their situation, and socialization helps ensure that.

After your dog has learned all the basics, training becomes about reinforcing good behaviors consistently. Just because your dog is now “trained” doesn’t mean you can start slacking and letting your Great Dane get away with things. You should continue reinforcing the good habits and commands you’ve already taught your dog.

Common Great Dane Training Mistakes

Great Dane Puppy on green grass

Start training your Great Dane on a leash when they are

very

small to prevent leash-pulling issues when they become too big to control.

©Eric H. Gonzalez/Shutterstock.com

When training your Great Dane, there are many training mistakes that dog owners commonly fall into. Avoiding these mistakes can make training much easier.

Using Harsh Training Methods

At the end of the day, you cannot make your dog do anything. You’re reliant on your dog’s willingness to go along with you, especially when you have a dog as big as a Great Dane. Therefore, it’s important to make training fun and use positive reinforcement to make your canine want to follow cues.

Negative reinforcement can make your dog dislike training altogether, potentially avoiding you when you try to engage them in a training session. Furthermore, negative training can also cause fear and anxiety, which can be particularly destructive with these larger dogs.

Neglecting Socialization

Often, owners mistakenly neglect socialization to prioritize obedience training. However, it should really be the other way around. Yes, cues are important. But socialization is even more important as it prevents fearfulness and aggression.

Expose your dog to many people and environments at a very early age. This process helps ensure that your dog grows into a well-adjusted adult.

Overlooking Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Great Danes are a rather energetic, large breed. Therefore, they require significant amounts of exercise and mental stimulation. Otherwise, they can become bored and potentially destructive. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation is vital if you want your Great Dane to have good manners.

Ignoring Health and Nutritional Needs

A healthy, well-fed dog is more receptive to training. While you do need to carefully pace out your Great Dane’s food to avoid hip dysplasia, it is usually best to train them about mid-way between meals. A Great Dane that is exceedingly hungry may not be able to concentrate quite as well, even if you’re using treats as a reward.

Be sure your Great Dane is eating large-breed puppy food, as well. These large dogs have different nutritional needs than smaller puppies.

Addressing Breed-Specific Challenges

Owner with her Great dane at veterinary.

Sadly, Great Danes are one of the unhealthier breeds due to their massive size.

©hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com

Great Danes are often easier dogs to train. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own challenges. Not every dog will experience every challenge, but it is best to be informed in case these problems arise:

Mitigating Health Problems

It’s no secret that Great Danes aren’t the healthiest dog. Due to their massive size, their joints and bones tend to break down before other breeds. Therefore, it’s important to only use joint-friendly training methods. Limit your Great Dane’s jumping and exuberant exercise as much as possible.

These health issues also mean you don’t want to over-exercise your Great Dane. Often, it’s best to exercise them a bit less than you might another breed and offset their pent-up energy with extra training.

Aggression and Fear

Yes, Great Danes tend to be gentler than other dogs. However, it’s important to reinforce their gentle nature with socialization. Otherwise, your dog runs the risk of becoming scared of new things and potentially becoming aggressive.

Always use positive reinforcement to make being around new people and places fun. You want your dog to have positive experiences with new things so that they are not fearful of them later on.

Great Danes are very large. Therefore, they can be harder to control without the proper training. They can be especially difficult to control if you don’t teach them how to walk on a leash correctly. Invest plenty of time into leash training when they are young to prevent pulling when they become massive.

They grow rather quickly, so you’ll need to upgrade their harness or leash regularly.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © verky01/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Kristin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering dogs, cats, fish, and other pets. She has been an animal writer for seven years, writing for top publications on everything from chinchilla cancer to the rise of designer dogs. She currently lives in Tennessee with her cat, dogs, and two children. When she isn't writing about pets, she enjoys hiking and crocheting.

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