Great Dane

Do Great Danes need a Lot of Exercise?

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Although it may seem like a foreign concept to some, how much exercise a dog needs is a major consideration for many pet owners. What breeds do you associate with high intensity and therefore increased activity levels?

Usually, you might associate higher exercise requirements with larger dogs. Where do giant-sized breeds fit into the exercise spectrum? Do Great Danes need a lot of exercises?

A Great Dane requires moderate daily exercise but much less than you would expect for its size and class. Whereas other dogs in the working class such as the Rottweiler may need two hours or more of daily exercise, Great Danes can suffice with two 30-minute walks.

The Dane’s ability to achieve mental stability and remain physically fit with relatively little exercise make them excellent for apartments and city living. Puppies, of course, have significant energy levels compared to adults but must be able to rely on you to limit their activity.

Why do you need to exercise your Great Dane?

Exercise is vital for any dog’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Many behavioral challenges stem from a lack of exercise and boredom.

Great Danes are no exception when it comes to the detrimental effects of insufficient exercise.

  • Destructive behaviors – chewing, digging
  • Hyperactivity – lunging at and jumping on people, poor house manners
  • Weight problems – dog becomes overweight or suffers from obesity
  • Boredom can lead to aggression, excessive barking, disobedience, inability to focus or learn, refusal to settle

Epidemic of Canine Obesity

Experts estimate that a quarter to a third of the pet canine population in America is overweight while 40% or more of dogs that reach the age of five years and beyond are overweight.

Luckily, Great Danes are not particularly prone to obesity. However, a Great Dane can carry much more weight than other dogs before you notice there is a problem.

A Great Dane has a unique conformation because of its historical ties to both the Mastiff and sighthounds. Like the Mastiff, the Great Dane has a broad chest and strong back.

They can carry tremendous bulk across their shoulders. However, like sighthounds, they tend to have a lean appearance with often visible ribs and a pronounced abdominal tuck-up.

What if you are trying to objectively determine if your Great Dane is an appropriate weight?

A Healthy Dane can weigh 100 to 200 pounds, but there are physical characteristics that will help you more precisely assess body condition.

  • Ribs should be easily felt under a thin layer of skin – ideally, the ribs should not be visible but can be in this breed, especially young dogs
  • Tuck-up is breed-specific – should be obvious in a Great Dane
  • Hourglass body silhouette – clear waist when you look down on your dog from above; the waist should curve inward just behind the edge of the ribs

Keep in mind that although a Great Dane’s ribs can be barely visible, at no point should your dog look emaciated. If the hip bones and spine are also especially prominent, your Dane is significantly underweight.

The best way to keep your Great Dane at her ideal body score is to balance her caloric intake with her exercise levels.

Paradoxically, insufficient exercise can cause your Dane to lose condition as well as put on too much weight.

If you neglect exercising your Great Dane at least five times a week, the stress and decreased motility can lead to loss of muscle mass and excessive weight loss. Your dog will develop a poor coat and can take on a ribby appearance.

Most dogs will gain weight as extra padding around the ribs and sternum and over the hips. Such dogs can experience increased mobility and heart problems and a shortened life expectancy.

Unexpected Benefits of Exercising Great Danes

  • Training some activities provides a combination of mental stimulation and physical engagement
  • Fitness – ward off weight problems
  • Can help with separation anxiety
  • Can keep senior dogs more mobile

Why do Great Danes not require much exercise?

Great Danes do not need a lot of exercises, but that statement is only true relative to other comparable breeds.

For example, a German Shepherd requires roughly four times as much exercise as a Chihuahua and three times as much as a Toy Poodle.

You might see a correlation between size and exercise requirements and guess a Dane would need close to three hours of exercise. That is fortunately not the case.

However, if you have an unusually active female Great Dane that is happiest with 90 minutes of exercise a day, it may seem like a lot to you.

You may wonder why a Great Dane, which is a working dog, does not require as much exercise as herding and sporting breeds and others in its class. There are a few reasons why the Great Danes need to take it easy.

  • Giant size predisposes them to overheat more easily with exertion
  • Moving their giant mass makes them tire quickly
  • Sighthounds are surprisingly lazy as fast as they are
  • Great Danes with the exception of puppies under two years old have only a moderate desire for activity; pups as for other breeds can be rambunctious

Historically, the Great Danes were shorter, bulkier, and more athletic than they became after the 1880s. They retained their speed but sacrificed stamina with the selection of physical traits like grace, elegance, refinement, and height.

The intensity and drive of the Great Dane also decreased radically as a result of breeder selections for companion and show dogs. Conformation show champions and pets have lower activity levels and exercise needs than working lines.

Health can impose Great Dane exercise limitations

Great Danes are susceptible to a few health problems that will limit their exercise tolerance even more than usual.

  • Heart problems – dilatative cardiomyopathy is a genetic disorder that causes thin walls and an enlarged heart; affected dogs may have exercise intolerance, coughing, and other signs of heart failure
  • Hip dysplasia – can manifest as gait abnormalities, dysfunction, and pain
  • Bloat (GDV) – stomach will swell with fluid or gas and twist; Great Danes should not undergo strenuous exercise after a meal or if they have just drank a bunch of water
  • Wobbler’s – spinal problem in the neck; such dogs are unsteady and cannot handle many activities

How much exercise do the Great Danes need?

A Great Dane’s specific exercise requirements will vary according to each individual.

Generally, Danes do not need as much exercise as other dogs in the working class. However, they still require an hour or two of exercise daily.

Most Danes will do fine with two 20- to 30-minute outings a day. One session should involve a short period of running and romping.

It is easy to under-exercise Great Danes because they seem perfectly content to lounge around for most of the day.

Moreover, Danes are not tolerant of temperature extremes. It may be challenging to find venues to exercise such as a large dog when it is cold and rainy or hot and humid outside. This is where training your Dane to play in the water or to swim comes in handy.

When it is extremely cold, the key to exercising your Dane is increased activity over much briefer periods.

Some Great Danes may refuse to go out in frigid conditions altogether except to urinate or defecate.

You can help make cold weather more tolerable for your Great Dane by putting a coat on him, although it might be challenging to find clothes that fit.

What are the best exercises for Great Danes?

Despite caricatures that suggest otherwise, the adult Great Dane is both athletic and graceful.

Thought to originally involve an English Mastiff x Greyhound or Irish Wolfhound cross, Great Danes embody the power of the former and much of the speed and elegance of the latter. This translates into a dog with the fluidity and balance of a much smaller dog.

Many Great Danes do not often have the opportunity to run full-out, but they can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. Several activities are suitable for Great Danes, depending on the individual, and help foster a strong bond between you and your dog.

  • Search and rescue
  • Tracking
  • Therapy
  • Hiking
  • Swimming – Great Danes that enjoy water benefit from the fact that swimming spares the joints and is a great way to achieve exercise in the heat
  • Agility – training is more of a challenge than the Dane’s physical abilities
  • RALLY – obedience course set up with directional signs
  • Musical freestyle – choreographed movements with dog and owner; strengthens the owner-animal bond and emphasizes training while sparing the joints
  • Competitive obedience
  • Flyball
  • Weight pulling – the dog must be mature to begin pulling heavyweights

Be aware that strenuous physical exertion is not appropriate for immature Danes, although puppies can engage in beginner agility and flyball.

Many of the activities above rely on advanced training which will put your focus on your dog’s mental stimulation. This approach can keep your dog engaged and fit without being too hard on his massive body.

Know your dog’s limitations and avoid prolonged learning sessions or forceful methods. Great Danes are average learners and take time and many repetitions to pick up commands and skills.

Moreover, they are unexpectedly sensitive which makes training that much more challenging.

Exercising a Great Dane Puppy

A Great Dane grows at an extraordinary rate through a year of age. They may not reach maturity until they are two years old, during which their unclosed growth plates are vulnerable to injury.

Moreover, their joints may retain increased laxity and looseness which sets them up for cartilage abnormalities and dysplasia if they have a genetic predisposition.

An overweight pup can exacerbate the strain on young and growing joints, tendons, and bones.

Some experts give precise instructions for people who need numbers. Such recommendations specify that you exercise your puppy for a set time twice a day. Dedicated exercise includes leash walking. Other sources like the AKC do not spell out an exact approach but encourage tailoring your exercise goals based on breed and class.

For example, they would advise that you can exercise a herding dog more than any of the other categories and a working or sporting hound more than a Bulldog.

Generally, it is best to allow a Great Dane puppy to limit herself with normal play. Your provision of training and social stimulation is enough dedicated exercise for your Dane pup.

Even during play, you will need to monitor your Dane’s sessions because of their long gangly limbs and clumsy endeavors.

A Great Dane puppy will not know its limitations, and you may have to establish time-outs during playdates and halt running and romping that becomes extended or frantic.

Signs that your puppy may have overdone a play session are excessive panting, overheating, lameness, and a sore body.

A prevailing and sensible rule of thumb is to exercise your puppy for five minutes per month of age twice a day. When your puppy reaches the 30-minute mark, keep her there until she is 18 to 24 months old.


Engaging in an unorthodox exercise routine, this Great Dane puppy shows an example of a low-impact interactive activity. The other thing you will notice is the dog’s lean appearance without visible ribs and a pronounced abdominal up-tuck.