The Great Shepherd, also known as the Dane Shepherd, is a designer breed of dog created by mixing the Great Dane and German Shepherd Dog.
While both of these breeds are generally well known and easily recognized (The German Shepherd is ranked #2 most popular and the Great Dane is #16), the Great Shepherd is a lesser-known mix of the two and one of the largest designer dogs out there.
The result of combining these two popular breeds is a dog with a personality and potential to match its size!
Quick Breed Summary Table
|Popularity||Both German Shepherds and Great Danes are very popular|
|Life Span||7 to 10 years|
|Temperament||Confident, courageous, smart, friendly, patient, dependable.|
|Average Height||22 inches to 32 inches|
|Average Weight||50 pounds to 175 pounds|
|Coat Type||Varies, short-medium|
|Grooming Needs||Varies, little bathing, moderate brushing, nails|
|Shedding||Minimal-medium, periods of heavy shedding|
|Touchiness||Potentially, needs adequate socialization|
|Tolerant to Solitude?||Moderate – enjoys the company of its family|
|Tolerance to Heat||Dependent on type of coat|
|Tolerance to Cold||Dependent on type of coat|
|Barking||Occasional – can be trained to be quiet|
|Good Family Pet?||Excellent family pet!|
|Good with Children?||Good to great with proper socialization, needs supervision due to size.|
|Good with Other Dogs?||Moderate to excellent with proper socialization and supervision, must consider size of other dogs|
|Good with Other Pets?||Good with supervision|
|Good Apartment Dweller?||Not very – they need space for indoor activities|
|Good Pet for New Owner?||Fairly easy to get the hang of caring for and training, large size and cost|
|Trainability||Agreeable to very easy to train.|
|Exercise Needs||High – Daily physical activity|
|Tendency to Gain Weight||Moderate|
|Common Health Concerns||Bloat, Joint Dysplasia, Allergies, Ear Infections, Heart Complications, Obesity|
|Average New Puppy Price||$195 to $850|
|Average Annual Medical Expense||$500 to $600|
|Average Annual Non-Medical Expense||$500 to $600|
|Yearly Cost to Own This Breed||$1,000+|
History and Original Purposes
Although the exact history of this designer dog is unknown, we can get a better idea of the Great Shepherd’s capabilities and uses by looking at the history and original purposes of its parent breeds: The German Shepherd Dog and the Great Dane
Origin of the German Shepherd
The German Shepherd has consistently ranked among the most popular breeds in the nation. In fact, the German Shepherd Dog ranked as the second most popular breed in 2019, coming in right behind the Labrador Retriever.
And for good reason, this versatile dog can fill many roles and thrive in a variety of environments.
As evidenced by its name, the German Shepherd was originally a herding dog. In fact, the German Shepherd Dog we know and love today is a relatively new breed, coming into prominence in the late 19th century.
Captain Max von Stephanitz, a German cavalry officer in late 1800s so loved the herding dogs of his native Germany that he set out to refine and preserve these dogs.
He saw the quickening decline in the pastoral way of life and knew that efforts must be made to preserve and enhance the herding dogs he was so passionate for.
Von Stephanitz collaborated with breeders of herding and guardian dogs throughout Germany to create the ideal canine worker, what we now recognize as the German Shepherd Dog.
Although originally bred to herd sheep, this intelligent and versatile breed soon found its way out of the pastures and into a multitude of new jobs, most notably military and police roles. The German Shepherd is still the most widely used breed by military and police to this day.
Origin of the Great Dane
Contrary to its name, the Great Dane, is not Danish at all. Like the German Shepherd, the Great Dane is actually a native of Germany.
No one is quite sure why this breed came to be known as a “Dane”, however we do know that the breed has a long history in Germany.
In fact, evidence supports the Great Dane as a distinct breed for at least 400 years. Known under a number of names across Europe, this prolific dog originated in Germany as a boar hunting dog and guardian.
They most likely originated from a mastiff-type dog used by the Romans for hunting and protection. Due to their stature and striking appearance, Great Danes were cherished by nobility and were often prized hunting dogs, generally only owned by the wealthy and royal.
Origins of the Great Shepherd
No one is quite sure when and where the first Great Shepherd came into being.
Both parent breeds of the Great Shepherd are native to Germany so their history may be longer than we are aware of.
Fun Facts About the Great Shepherd
- The German Shepherd is the 2nd most popular dog in the USA and the Great Dane is th 16th most popular.
- The German Shepherd and Great Dane are represented by some of the most famous dogs in pop culture: Rin Tin Tin, Scooby Doo, and Marmaduke.
- Both parent breeds of the Great Shepherd originated in German. Wunderbar!
Great Shepherd Appearance
Like all designer breeds, the Great Shepherd does not have a breed standard that indicates how the dog should look.
Therefore, any two Great Shepherds may look completely different! German Shepherds and Great Danes have very different features, so a dog combining these genetics may have very different results. Below are a few examples of Great Shepherds.
Note that each dog has a unique combination of Shepherd and Dane features, resulting in a unique dog. If you are looking for a large dog that looks like no other, than maybe a Great Shepherd is for you.
Great Shepherd Coat and Grooming
Just as the appearance of the Great Shepherd will vary from dog to dog, so too will the coat. A Great Shepherd may possess a very Shepherd-like coat, a Dane-like coat, or something in-between.
As for coat color, the sky is the limit and Great Shepherds can come in a variety of potential colors. To get a better idea of what a Great Shepherd coat may be like, it is best to look at the component breeds.
Though an individual Great Shepherds’ grooming needs may vary, all Great Shepherds need their nails regularly cared for.
Because the Great Shepherd is a large and active dog, regular trimming or grinding of the nails to maintain a short length is necessary for optimal dog health.
Overgrown nails can hinder a dog’s ability to move freely and in extreme cases can actually augment the dog’s bone structure in the foot.
For this reason, owners of Great Shepherds will want to regularly trim or grind their dog’s nails in an effort to keep the nail short and not in contact with the ground.
This can be done at home with the use of a dog nail trimmer or a Dremel though many owners opt to have their dog’s nails maintained by a groomer or veterinarian for a small fee.
Great Shepherd Size and Weight
Because the Great Shepherd is not a recognized breed, there is no standard against which these dogs can be judged or held to.
This means that Great Shepherd dogs can vary greatly in appearance based on their parentage.
Generally speaking, these dogs will be large. The German Shepherd standard dictates that dogs can measure between 22-26″ at the shoulders and Danes anywhere between 28-32″.
As for weight Shepherds should weigh in between 50-90 pounds where as Great Danes can weigh anywhere between 110-175 pounds. For both German Shepherds and Great Danes, females tend to have lower weights and heights and males higher.
Great Shepherd Temperament
The Great Shepherd combines the attributes of both breeds, not just physically but mentally. German Shepherds are intelligent, driven, dedicated to their handlers and family, but aloof with strangers.
Great Danes are generally friendly and dependable but courageous and spirited when needed. You can expect your Great Shepherd to share some attributes of both breeds.
Great Shepherd Socialization
Proper and adequate socialization is a must for all dogs and especially for the Great Shepherd. Due to the dog’s size and strength proper socialization will ensure a happy and enjoyable life for both dog and owner.
Though both the German Shepherd and Great Dane breed standards call for sound temperaments, both breeds can occasionally have issues with reactivity and fear.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance that owners carefully, slowly, and deliberately expose and socialize their Great Shepherds to as great a variety of experiences as possible.
Great Shepherd Training and Exercise Requirements
The Great Shepherd has great potential as an easily trained dog. Both parent breeds possess the intelligence and willingness to please that will result in a dog that not only likes to learn, but thrives on it.
Because the Great Shepherd also has the potential for great size and strength, basic obedience and manners must be stressed from the beginning.
Enrolling your Great Shepherd puppy in a puppy class or basic obedience class is a great way to get a head start on training as well as socialization.
Basic leash manners are also a must. The sooner you are able to teach your Great Shepherd to walk calmly and without pulling the better.
Because this dog can weigh in excess of 100 pounds, it is important that the dog learns how to walk in a manner that is pleasing for dog and owner.
And, although it may be cute when your Great Shepherd puppy jumps to great you now, that behavior will not be so cute when he is full grown.
Teaching your Great Shepherd not to jump and to instead greet people politely as a puppy is much easier than trying to teach the same behaviors when full grown.
The Great Shepherd is a dog that needs both physical and mental exercise. Both German Shepherds and Great Danes are large and powerful dogs that do best when given ample exercise.
Depending on age and body condition, two to three walks per day will provide adequate physical exercise for the Great Shepherd.
If you are looking to do more with your dog, the Great Shepherd would likely excel in a variety of sports and activities such as obedience, agility, tracking, and lure coursing. These activities will also provide the Great Shepherd the mental stimulation these intelligent dogs need.
Playing with your dog, whether with a toy or just a round of hide-and-seek in the house is a great way to get physical and mental stimulation for your dog in addition to increasing the bond between dog and owner.
Great Shepherd Health and Care
Although mix-breeds like the Great Shepherd often do not seem to suffer diseases like their purebred alternatives, many conditions depend on the genetics of the parents not the breed as a whole.
Although good breeders health test for conditions such as hip and elbow problems many dogs of both breeds possess conditions that may be passed down to their offspring.
German Shepherds are susceptible to degenerative myelopathy and elbow and hip dysplasia and Great Danes commonly have issues with cardiac diseases, hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis, and hip dysplasia.
Both German Shepherds and Great Danes are unfortunately susceptible to the killer condition known as “bloat” or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Owners or a Great Shepherd must familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of bloat.
Although bloat can occur without warning ensuring dogs do not overeat, exercise shortly after eating or eat from an unelevated food dish can help reduce the risk of bloat. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about bloat and how to detect and prevent it.
Large breed dogs such as the Great Shepherd also benefit in the long run from being provided with soft bedding from a young age.
Because these animals are so large, their bodies work extra hard and begin to show wear and tear at a younger age than their smaller canine counterparts.
A soft bed not only provides your pet comfortable at the moment but can help provide comfort long term by helping aid in the preservation of their bones and joints.
Owners of Great Shepherds should take their dogs to regular vet appointments to maintain their animal’s health.
Potential as a Family Pet
The Great Shepherd has the potential to be a wonderful family pet. Both German Shepherds and Great Danes are known for their protective and courageous nature as well as their patience and dependability.
However, due to the potential size of a Great Shepherd, interactions with young children and small animals should be supervised.
Great Shepherds will do best in a home with an active lifestyle. These large dogs would do best with ample space to run and stretch their long legs and as such may not be the best choice for apartment dwellers.
Rescuing a Great Shepherd
When rescuing a dog, it is rare that one gets the exact genetic history of the animal in question.
However, if you are interested in a German Shepherd/Great Dane mix the best place to begin your search would be a Shepherd or Dane based rescue group.
Additionally, you can reach out to your local shelter or rescue organization and let them know of your interest.
Finding a Great Shepherd Puppy
Unlike other designer dogs such as the Labradoodle or Cockapoo, the Great Shepherd has not reached widespread popularity.
Although you may find a Great Shepherd puppy listing in the paper or online do your research into the breeder before purchase.
A good breeder should be able to show you the parents. Note the health and condition of the sire and dam. Do they look well cared for?
Do they present any physical deformities? Do they have pleasant personalities? The health and temperament of the parents is usually indicative of the future health and temperament of the puppies.
Good breeders also conduct thorough health screenings to ensure their stock does not possess any issues that may be passed on to their offspring.
Do not hesitate to ask a breeder for their veterinary records; a good breeder will gladly show you the thought and care that has gone into their puppies by providing you evidence of medical care and screenings.
Raising a Great Shepherd Puppy
There are many wonderful resources available on puppy rearing such as our article about obedience training for a German Shepherd.
Because all breeds came about for a purpose we must look at that purpose and the accompanying characteristics when we look to train a dog.
As a German Shepherd mix, the training principles laid out in this article are a great starting place in training your Great Shepherd.
Because the Great Shepherd will be a large and powerful dog, for you and your dog’s safety, early and consistent training is essential.
Loose leash walking, polite greetings, basic obedience, and a solid recall command are all necessities for any dog, especially one with the strength and size of a Great Shepherd.
Socializing your dog to being handled from a young age is also crucial.
Getting your dog used to having his paws handled or being asked to stand on an examining table will enable your dog to be groomed and examined with ease.
Though you may be tempted to take your Great Shepherd puppy for a run don’t overdo exercise for this large pup. Because your Great Shepherd has so much growing to do, it is important not to stress his body during this critical time in his life.
Keep exercise and play to shorter durations and at the puppy’s own pace. Dogs such as the Great Dane are not done growing until they are two years old and potentially damaging exercises such as jogging should be kept at a minimum until growth has stopped.
Your new puppy should visit the vet as soon as possible and your veterinarian will provide you with needed information on vaccinations, worming, and preventative care.
Frequent visits to the vet also help to socialize your Great Shepherd to new environments.
As for food, your Great Shepherd puppy needs to be fed a high quality, age-appropriate food. Puppies require different nutrition than adult dogs and large breed dogs need different food than small breed dogs.
Make sure your Great Shepherd is eating appropriate food and treats to ensure proper growth and good health. Feeding your puppy from an elevated bowl (not on the ground) will help with digestion and can decrease the risk of bloat in your dog.
Finally, make sure you have the right supplies and equipment for your Great Shepherd puppy. That means a good quality four-six foot leash, a strong collar or harness, an elevated bowl, and safe, stimulating toys.