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  • Gentle Giants?

    I was just commenting on another thread that I don't really think its fair to expect a Great Dane to be a gentle giant, and in fact I think calling them such does the breed a bit of a disservice.

    Danes aren't Saint Bernards, they aren't Neufoundlands, they're Deutsche Doggen, descended from the molosser dogs bred to fight, hunt and guard.

    I think with proper socialization and training, they can be great, bombproof dogs, but I don't think its fair to expect a guardian breed to have the temperament of a retriever.

    I've also noticed, especially now that we have danes of our own, that they are also a bit of a "status" dog. Which unfortunately leads to people who have no business with a dog of this caliber, owning one, and ending up in way over their heads.
    BTW, I'm not saying this applies to anyone here in particular, just my observation in my small neck of the woods.

    Does anyone else dislike the "gentle giants" label?
    Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened.
    - Anatole France

  • #2
    I dislike it, and it's no secret why!

    I prefer to think of all dogs as individuals. When choosing a breed, we can get a general idea of what to expect in terms of training, socialisation, exercise, etc. requirements but at the end of the day, no two dogs are the same.

    I mentioned this in another thread...all danes are DOGS, first and foremost. They are no less susceptible to any behaviour problems than any other dog out there.
    Katie & Scarlett
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    • #3
      I hate it because if Andross does anything that is not so gental for example jumping on someone they waste no time pulling out the phrase of "I thought he was suppose to be a gental giant" (Andross normally won't jump on anyone unless provoked.)

      Or my saint bernard was labled as one all the time. I hated going to the park because another dog would come up and go after him and if bernie were to defend himself people would say "arn't saint bernards supose to be gental?" Yes! a$$holes but if they are being attacked they are going to defend themselves. UHGG the big dog always gets blamed for everything.

      so no i don't like the phrase gental giant.
      sigpic Little boy!

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      • #4
        I think also by falling back on the "gentle giant" cushion, we set ourselves up for failure as dog owners. We can get too comfortable in thinking "it's okay, danes are gentle giants" that we end up pulling the wool over our own eyes and perhaps slack with training, thus creating very misbehaved dogs.

        It's like the owners who have tiny terrors...many small dogs are VERY aggressive and it's labeled as cute or just ignored because they can't cause any "real" damage. This is just excusing the behaviour and sets the dog up for failure. The same rule applies when we just assume all great danes will be gentle giants - especially since they could really do some damage if provoked.
        Katie & Scarlett
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        • #5
          I can vouch for the inaccuracy of that term! Mr louis is certainly no GENTLE GIANT! he can be as loving as can be, but I have seen the darkside come out more than once.
          That being said, I have never had a more well-trained dog, absolutely necessary with a 140 lb male dog. (any dog, for that matter!) it just never mattered as much before.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by Scarlett's Mum View Post
            I think also by falling back on the "gentle giant" cushion, we set ourselves up for failure as dog owners. We can get too comfortable in thinking "it's okay, danes are gentle giants" that we end up pulling the wool over our own eyes and perhaps slack with training, thus creating very misbehaved dogs.

            It's like the owners who have tiny terrors...many small dogs are VERY aggressive and it's labeled as cute or just ignored because they can't cause any "real" damage. This is just excusing the behaviour and sets the dog up for failure. The same rule applies when we just assume all great danes will be gentle giants - especially since they could really do some damage if provoked.
            Excellent post. I kind of did that with Donko up until he was 8-9 mos old and adolecense kicked in. He was an excellent puppy- extremely calm and sooo laid back. But then the hormones kicked in and he starting pulling me on walks and getting way more distracted by things we saw than he used to. It woke me up like 'this boy could really do some damage and be a lot to handle if I don't get on top of this right now'

            I get the "gentle giant" a lot when I take Donko to rescue events. He is great around people and kids and is very mindful of the little ones, but i constantly have to remind people that its because he's been doing it since he was a young pup and is very well socialized with people. It amazes me how many people will let their kids come up to him and play with his big ears and give him hugs around his neck. I know he won't do anything but thats a lot of trust for a strange dog on their part. I mean if Donko just turns his head to see something he could knock a kid over or atleast give them a good unintentional headbutt!

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            • #7
              I don't like the label either for two reasons:

              1) They are not gentle IMO either. They just don't always mean to be rough or cause injuries. We have had topics here before about DRI's(Dane-related injuries). If that were PRI's(Poodle-related injuries), what would the responses be like?

              2) The name makes me think of a certain place.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by ouesi View Post
                BTW, I'm not saying this applies to anyone here in particular, just my observation in my small neck of the woods.

                Does anyone else dislike the "gentle giants" label?
                Gentle Giants - Hmmm, does not fit my dogs! Mona is pretty laid back, but she is two, with a ton of scocialization and lots of traning. My pup is like a bull in a china shop... At 6pm every night some sort of switch goes on and he goes BAZERK for a good 30 minutes - You better not be in his path, or WHAM! My husband always tells me - Kim, you need to control this dog, he is too big to be doing this.... (zoomies) -

                We are working on Basic obedience and also working on not chewing on the cat or bugging Alex (the Crested), or drinking from my wine glass, or stealing the dishrag from the counter while glasses are on it... and and and..!!! NOT a Gentle Giant, and I always correct people when they say that!
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                • #9
                  Gentle Giant to a point yes however with that being said it takes a lot of work to get them to that point. They aren't born or predisposed to being a gentle giant. I hate hate hate that term (yes, it required three hates :P)

                  Festus is an amazing dog, I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. With me he is as sweet as can be, a mushy lover of a dog. Yes he is stubborn at times but I have also had countless injuries from him, not on purpose but due to the sheer size he is clumsy sometimes and doesn't realize just how big he really is. There is a reason for the shortened term DRI (Dane Related Injuries).

                  Danes are protectors of their families I fear for anyone that would ever try to hurt me, now that he is grown and some sort of maturity has hit he is definitely not the happy go lucky puppy that I brought home, but then again he is not aggressive. He is alert of his surroundings more so than before, just the other day this teenage girl (around 16/17 or so) was out walking and saw him, came bolting across the street towards us making all sorts of high pitched girlie squeeling noises of course Festus didn't appreciate this so hackles went up, low growl I told her to stop and if she wants to say hello to approach him calmly, she didn't listen got closer so he barked. His bark stopped her dead in her tracks. I had control over him the whole time not once did the leash get taught or did I feel that he was going to eat her but that is due to working with him to have a mutual respect for one another. I don't think that 'Gentle Giant' is the correct term for a dane.

                  Have a look through the training section, they are by no means gentle giants.
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                  • #10
                    Gentle Giants... sometime I wonder if this was bred-out or lost over the years.. but I hope there are some that still can be called Gentle giants

                    I had my first dane almost 20 years ago. she was VERY gentle. To the point I can leave her with baby without any worries. The baby will crawl over the dog, or sit on dog's back while dog is laying down, and dog would just lay there and wait until the baby gets off so she can get up. If she has to get up, she would SLOWLY start getting up on her front legs first, so the baby will just slide down. This is not something we teach her, she was like that naturally. With small dogs, she would carefully move her feet so she doesn't step on it.
                    And it wasn't only her - most danes I knew at that time were gentle. Protective when needed, but at the same time very careful and gentle around kids and smaller dogs.

                    Now, Shamu is another story. "bull in a china shop" - that's about her!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Paradis View Post
                      They aren't born or predisposed to being a gentle giant.

                      I totally disagree with this statement. I think that the majority of Danes ARE born gentle. I believe that most people who get Danes are just not prepared for such a large dog and the training/socialization required to build on and encourage their innate gentleness.

                      I think that it's the mismangement and ignorance of raising these dogs that leads to that gentleness being compromised.
                      Karen, Chance, Lucy and Savanah RB

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                      • #12
                        Festus was gentle when he was a puppy, rough and tumble, go with the flow type and so was the rest of his litter. He has never been ill tempered never attacked because I have worked with him on this and nurtured the good in him so to speak. He does have a natural tendency to be protective. It does take a lot of work to keep them social and calm but once the ground work is in place it isn't that bad. I am a firm believer in routine from day one, behaviours that you don't want to end up with that may be cute when they are puppies are nipped right in the bud from the very beginning. Gentle Giants can be achieved through work and patience but doesn't happen right from the get go. Once adolescence hits you just have to be a little more diligent with their training and have to reinforce things on a daily basis if not every hour at times.

                        I do agree that there are a lot of mismanagement issues along with ignorance when raising these giants and that yes, most people do not know what they are getting into with such a large dog and it does exasperate the problem if they do not have structure and guidance when growing up.

                        I have been fortunate to have been raised with large dogs my whole life. I have fostered little dogs (which just totally aren't for me) the smallest dog that I have ever owned is my boxer. Surprisingly she is a lot more work than my dane. She is the one that requires constant guidance and monitoring, spiteful little one some of the board knows just how spiteful she really is but again, this is a dane board.
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                        • #13
                          The last term I would use to describe Carlie is gentle giant. Well, giant yes, but not gentle. Although, she was made "tough" by her time on the streets as an informative young pup. I can only imagine what she went through. She was obviously out there for quite a while when she was rescued at 5 months old. I think being properly socialized, she would have been a different dog. Her rapid progress with us is case in point. She is such a good girl now, but still not gentle.

                          Now, my irish wolfhound is truly a gentle giant and the term fits him to a tee. He is gentle, sweet natured, and as calm as they come. He lays down and lets small dogs crawl all over him. There has never been a single moment when I have not trusted him. Irish wolfhounds would make the worst guard dogs ever. People are not the slightest bit intimidated by him, but they are of Carlie.
                          Last edited by crdane; 07-01-2010, 01:10 PM.
                          Chris, Wife to Dave, and Mom three human teenagers.
                          Also mom to Tori (11 yo Lab), , Ayla (2 yo brindle dane), Milo (2 yo boxer), Killian (4 week old iw pup who is still with his breeder and mommy) 3 kittens, 2 horses, multiple reptiles, 7 fainting goats, 25 chickens, and 2 pot bellied pigs, all of whom make life great!
                          RIP CARLIE 2/09-2/11 & REILLY 10/4/08-11/20/12, best friends together forever now.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by kwhit View Post
                            I totally disagree with this statement. I think that the majority of Danes ARE born gentle. I believe that most people who get Danes are just not prepared for such a large dog and the training/socialization required to build on and encourage their innate gentleness.

                            I think that it's the mismangement and ignorance of raising these dogs that leads to that gentleness being compromised.
                            i was thinking much along these same lines. while i have only had danes for 2 years now, all 3 of them have proven to be very gentle. considering pea's background (terrible neglect, NO socialization), she continues to amaze me at how she will now approach people on her own, all the while doing a whole body wag.

                            however, when we are out in public, i am mindful of their every move. most times, people ask me if they can come closer and i'm more than willing to let them as long as they are calm. under NO circumstances are kids (or adults, for that matter) allowed to hug my dogs. i hug them. heck, i think they EXPECT me to hug them but they KNOW me. it isn't worth taking a chance.
                            [SIGPIC]

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                            • #15
                              I have to agree that the term gentle giant is not really an apt way to describe the majority of Danes. Faust is not a gentle giant but that does not mean he is ill trained. I think there are different facets of gentleness that we are grouping together. There is a soft and gentle mouth that is often bred into retrievers, there is a general awareness of self and space that stops dogs from steping on you that is often trained in either purposely or accidently, and there is energy level that is individual to each dog.

                              Danes were not created to be gentle, but like said before, they were a molosser breed made to work. We have, through selected breeding, removed some of the stronger work drive in a lot of Danes, but I still would not lump them in a category with dogs that were simply bred as companions or with less confrontational jobs like retrievers. At the end of the day, like Katie said, every dog is an individual and it is only through training we achieve a well balanced and behaved dog. Training does not have to mean 5 levels of classes, or specialized trianing sessions, but can even be as simple as clear cut expectations with rewards and consequences that we see in our day to day life.
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