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How Smart Are Great Danes? Breed History & Intelligence

Written by: Brooke Bundy

Last Updated on April 26, 2024 by Dogster Team

close up of a mantle great dane dog

How Smart Are Great Danes? Breed History & Intelligence

It’s been said that every dog needs a job—regardless of their skill level and IQ. Fortunately, most dogs were bred and domesticated for certain tasks, and the Great Dane is no different. Originally bred in Germany for hunting and guarding, the Great Dane is modernly known as the family watchdog whose loyal nature equips them with the instincts necessary to defend the premise as well as develop close bonds with the people they trust. While they only possess an average amount of intelligence for a canine, their loving reputation enables them to step into their giant role as the family dog and guardian.

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History and Intelligence of the Great Dane

The modern Great Dane was derived from the English Mastiff and the Irish Wolfhound about 400 years ago. German nobles trained the Great Dane to hunt wild boar and to defend their estates from intruders. Inferring what we know from their history, we can see that the Great Dane is able to be trained but is not the brightest in the bunch because of their close relation to the Mastiff. Their enormous ancestor seems imposing but actually possesses a sweet temperament without too many smarts, which makes them a great choice for homes with children but not a top pick in the agility ring.

The Great Dane follows suit, being dubbed the “Gentle Giant.” They’re a family favorite, but you probably won’t see Uncle Sam calling their number anytime soon since they’re not as easily trained as other protective breeds. In fact, rumor has it that the United States Marine Corp tried to train two Great Danes during World War II but they didn’t even pass basic training.

female great dane
Image By: David Pegzlz, Shutterstock

What Are Great Danes Best Suited For?

Giving your dog something to occupy their time keeps them entertained and healthy, as well as prevents destructive behaviors that can arise from sheer boredom. Even dogs that are classified as non-sporting companion dogs such as the Maltese can develop terrible traits such as excessive barking and destroying furniture if they’re left to their own devices. The Great Dane is best fitted to be a family watchdog who isn’t relied upon to attack intruders, but to let their parents know when someone unfamiliar ventures onto the property.

man with his great dane dog by the pond
Image By: Dmussman, Shutterstock

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The Great Dane doesn’t have the smarts to be a herding dog like the Australian Shepherd or the trainability of a German Shepherd. Despite their large size, the Great Dane seems a little clumsy on their feet, which means they aren’t an ideal candidate to be trained as an athletic attack dog. However, one ferocious bark from this enormous pup sends most potential intruders running. The Great Dane is still hailed as a top choice for a family watchdog who can both love their people while guarding the premises.

Featured Image Credit: mkzdillon, Shutterstock

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