Training A Great Dane

Starting your puppy off on the right foot is crucial to an ever-lasting relationship. Basic training and socialization are KEY for a great dane. They are very smart, so they learn very quickly, but they will also learn to work you if you let them get away with bad / sloppy behaviors. You must be firm, kind and consistent. As part of their daily routine, mental and physical training is needed.

“A trained dog is a happy dog!”

Training Overview

Training a dog can be very simple if you think of it this way : Yes & No. Simple.

Keep your trainings simple, don’t overdo it. Training for multiple things in one day or even week can be detrimental to your puppies overall training experience.

Some rules for training :

  1. Be in a good mood to work with your dog : dogs can have good and bad days, they are not robots. If your dog is having a bad day and struggling with their training exercises, first check to see if they are feeling well or hurt, is there something new that is distracting to them (i.e. a female in heat, etc.). If your energy and demeanor is too much pressure, intimidating or otherwise too over bearing, your dog may not want to train, and you shouldn’t want to either as this can set expectations for all future training sessions. Likewise, if you are too relaxed or have no expectations, your dog won’t either. Just be in a good mood, be understanding, be ready for your puppy to do well at things that have already been worked on and potentially struggle with newer lessons and be prepared to use rewards and gentle corrections to communicate. Keep training sessions short, 15 to 20 minutes twice daily is a perfect balance, as your puppy matures and progresses you can increase the training session times. Keep it FUN and engaging, allow your puppy to enjoy the training sessions as well as you! A happy puppy and happy owner equal happy relationship. (Hitting, kicking, screaming, shoving, dragging, choking, withholding treats, locking them away, etc. are NEVER AN OPTION! DO NOT HURT YOUR DOG, emotionally or physically, EVER! A great dane is a dog that does not do well with OVER CORRECTION and would set you and your puppy back, creating a relationship that is unstable, making them lose their trust in you, potentially creating a dog that is fearful and nervous.)Usually if you are working on a training session and they perform the wrong command or choose not to do the command requested, this is the best time to choose to ignore the behavior. They are still learning and trying, they are unsure, they are doing a command they were taught just not the right one for the verbal command given, don’t use the word NO in this aspect, just simply ignore it (no reward, no praise) They will see that it gets them nothing and will in response try something else to get that reward they seek.If you are playing with your puppy and they begin to bite your hand (in play), this is a good time to use the REDIRECT training tool. Give them a toy, chew, etc. something that is a desired item to be chewed or bitten on. Praise them for biting the correct object.
    • Desirable Behavior : when you start training for a new task (i.e. sit, stay, wait, etc.) show them how to do it and IMMEDIATELY when they do it or even close to it, reward and praise with a treat and a YES! In the beginning before they truly know the command, reward them for small improvements creating a base to grow from. From this point slowly increase your expectations until your puppy is completing the full command (with or without a treat but always a verbal reward) and not only part of it. DO NOT scold them for doing something they don’t know yet. When they finally have their ah hah moment, give the biggest praise you can possibly give (high pitched YES, extra rewards, lots of praise). After they have mastered a command in a familiar environment, try doing them in new places and / or with added distractions (another dog around, people walking close by, etc.) Do your best to NOT overload them, keep it simple, small improvements. Expect to continue to re-learn the same command each training session, repetition is key to a successful training session.
    • Undesirable Behavior : when your puppy does something that you DON’T want them to do, there are ways to un-teach these behaviors. It also depends on the severity of the “offense” and the sensitivity level of your puppy. To correct the undesirable behavior, you can either ignore it (turn your back, no treat, no praise, etc.) redirect it (immediately divert their attention towards a desirable behavior) or correct it (stern NO, etc. again NEVER use physical correction).
  2. If your dog does something that is a major NO-NO, or something they have learned is not an option, this is the ideal time to use the correction of NO! Dogs need boundaries, they need the set rules of the house if they are ever going to succeed as a happy dog in the family. Dogs learn quickly what the word NO means, don’t overuse it or its meaning will become worthless.
  3. Timing is Key : you have a very small window (literally seconds) to show your dog that the command they are performing is RIGHT or WRONG and choose which type of correction is necessary. If you are teaching your dog to sit for example, and they touch their behind to the floor for a moment – they did actually demonstrate the “sit” command. Reward, say good job, if you immediately say YES, reward and praise they will do it again, therefore making the connection between this action and the reward. They will in turn do it again and again until they have fully mastered the full command. Whatever they are doing when they receive the reward is what they think you want them to do, so if you say YES and reward them after having sat then immediately standing up and are waiting, you are then rewarding them for standing and waiting. Have those treats readily available and in hand, so that the moment they do the command you can reward them DURING the desired command. On the other hand, if your dog has an accident in the house and you find it AFTER THE FACT, then call your dog to you, they will hesitantly come toward you and you say “bad, no!” you have just scolded your dog for coming to you which is NOT desired. In turn they will associate “come” as bad. They will not want to come to you again if the “reward” for coming is a “bad dog”. You MUST catch them in the act and correct at the time of the undesirable action. Again, timing is vital!

Walking your Great Dane

  • Best training advice I can give about walking your dog is to make sure it is done in leisure, let them sniff, look around, etc. Make it fun. This does NOT however excuse them from basic manners (no pulling, barking, jumping, etc.) but in the beginning the point is – work time is work time, play time is play time and training time is training time. To a young dog, a walk is like entering a whole new world, full of new sounds, smells and sights to check out. There are so many distractions that is it NOT a good environment to start new things and actually expect a lot out of them during that time. In the beginning, keep walks as just that a walk, for fun and exploration. As your puppy matures and begin to have the ability to FOCUS in different settings with distractions – they will progress to the level where they can do trainings while on walks. The idea is to define when it is time for training (when to be serious and listen) and when it is time for relaxation. It will take a lot of mental energy and work for your dog to focus on you, over time they can and will do this on walks, in public, etc. and I encourage training sessions in these environments, but in the beginning, a walk is just a walk meant for exploration.

Proper Socialization

  • Socialization is very important to the development of a reliable dog. When you think puppy socialization, you think exposure. Puppies have a window of time that will have a significant impact on who they will become as an adult dog. Usually this time frame is between 3 to 16 weeks of age. Socialization is acclimating your dog to society, exposing he / she to different people, sights, sounds, environments, smells, animals, and other dogs. If your great dane lives a sheltered life as a young dog, with little to no socialization, normal experiences will be strange and cause him / her to upset. Puppy socialization stimulates the five senses of your dog. The socialization period conditions your puppy to the many different situations, environments and household he / she may encounter in his / her life and be comfortable. This will also prepare him / her for NEW experiences and challenges which are inevitable to avoid throughout life. Going to the vet, on a trip, on an errand, having people come over, anything like this could be a disaster to a dog who has been under-socialized. So, continue your breeder’s good efforts to have a positive socialization experiences throughout their lives. Puppies who are not properly socialized become fearful, aggressive, unstable adults. Puppy socialization, done correctly, builds confidence and a confident puppy becomes a stable adult.
  • How do I socialize my puppy? : all events your puppy experiences in the beginning should be pleasant, non-threatening experiences. Just as you are imprinting on him / her with all the positive experiences that will benefit him / her for the rest of his / her life, if not careful you can cause irreparable damage by imprinting the bad or negative experiences therefore creating a fear of situations, people, environments, etc. Let your puppy go at his / her own pace, don’t force them to greet someone or something they may be frightening of. This can have a negative effect on them in the long run, causing them to be fearful of these types of situations forever.
    1. Invite friends over : have friend of all ages, genders, sizes, etc. with different ethnic backgrounds. With and without facial hair, hats, jackets, etc.
    2. Invite FRIENDLY, fully vaccinated dogs and cats to your home to meet and play with your puppy. Take your puppy to the homes of other friendly, fully vaccinated pets.
    3. Take your puppy to DOG FRIENDLY stores (Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Lowes, Scheels, etc.) if you are not sure that a store is dog friendly, call ahead, talk to a manager, explain you are trying to socialize your puppy to different environments. Ensure you have the ability to carry your puppy or place in a cart with a CLEAN blanket.Take them to the local parks and playgrounds, there will be PLENTY of sounds and activity for them to observe.
  • Do not ever take your new puppy to a grocery store or any other NON-PET FRIENDLY store. Never say they are a “Service Dog in Training” or “Emotional Support Animal” or “Therapy Pet” unless 1) they actually are and 2) you have started all the proper training techniques WITH a certified trainer who specializes in training service, therapy dogs. This makes it difficult for actual Service Dogs and Therapy Pets who are actually trained or training. Doing so puts actual service dogs at risk to sustain injuries from untrained dogs masquerading service dogs and also causing harm to the service dog community.
    1. Take your puppy for short but frequent rides in the car, even if it is just down to the bus stop, the key is to get them used to being in the car. Stop the car, let them watch the world go by through the window. Let them get familiar with the many sights and sounds of the road.
    2. Continue to introduce your puppy to wheelchairs, vacuum cleaner, umbrellas, bags, boxes, etc. Your breeder will have already started this with their puppy socialization, but the key is to continue it as there are multiple fear stages in a puppy’s life that will need to be worked through.
    3. Encourage your puppy to explore and investigate their environment.
    4. Introduce new sounds, loud, obnoxious, household, etc. These sounds should be introduced from afar then gradually brought closer. Allow them to inspect the things making these sounds (I use a disc I bought from Amazon that has multiple different sounds).
    5. Accustom your puppy to being brushed, bathed, inspected (meaning investigate his / her ears, mouth, etc.), feet handled, nail dremeling, teeth cleaned, cleaning the ears, eye boogers, all the routine grooming and physical examination.
    6. Continue to expose your puppy to different surfaces, textures, etc. Walk and play on sand, rock, dirt, grass, gravel, etc. Also introduce textural toys for chewing and playing.
    7. At the appropriate age, introduce your puppy to stairs, also when / if possible, elevators and escalators.
    8. Introduce your puppy to anything and everything that YOU want them to be comfortable with. Make sure that everything in the household and daily life will not be scary to them (it will be at first, but POSITIVE reinforcement will help them to overcome them).
  • A word of warning : although socialization is very important as if your puppy’s health and safety. If he / she has not yet completed core vaccinations (3 distemper parvo vaccinations), do not put your puppy on the ground where animals of unknown vaccination history / health have access to. These are the places that your puppy could pick up communicable diseases putting them at risk of death or permanent damage. Wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated. Do not allow your puppy to socialize with dogs who appear sick or ones you do not know or have unknown vaccination history.
  • DO not rewards fearful behavior, in a well-meaning attempt to sooth, encourage or calm a puppy then they appear frightened, we often unintentionally “reward” the behavior. If your puppy appears frightened, simply remove them from the situation and readdress at a later date.

Dog Classes

  • Please be sure to enroll your puppy in a CREDIBLE dog class in your area! The invaluable experience of a reputable trainer along with the experience of socialization, working under distraction, structured learning, objective evaluation and someone to ask questions and learn from. Even the most experienced owners, handlers and breeders will attend dog classes. Practice makes perfect!
  • The typical STAR Puppy / Kindergarten training class consists of : (STAR Puppy classes are intended for dogs under 12 months of age)
    1. 7 weeks of training meeting once a week.
    2. The classes are fun socialization opportunities and geared around basic training and support for new dog owners.
    3. They will require proof of current vaccinations (many will only require at least 2 DHPP vaccines), aggressive dogs are usually not permitted (private classes necessary), a proper leash and collar (the trainer will usually go over which type of collar they want you to use in the first class).
  • My top recommendation is to find an AKC affiliated training club near you. Find them here :
  • If there are no AKC clubs near you available, your city / town will most likely have a class offered through the Parks & Recreation Department, also look into private trainers / training facilities in the area that are not AKC affiliated. Also, if nothing else, your local pet retail stores like Petco and PetSmart will offer puppy classes.

Basic Obedience

The basics are simple commands and simple manners, they should be taught from the beginning. This is the foundation for you and your dog :

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Down
  • Come – recall is necessary, especially if you plan to do any off-leash adventuring, you want to ensure that you can get your dog to come back to you.
  • Watch – a basic command that you will find invaluable for training. Teaching eye contact focus and attention from your dog. Having your dog know the “watch” or “look” command, at any time and any place will ensure that you can regain your dogs focus.
  • Heel
  • Leave It
  • Drop It
  • All basic manners like : no jump, no bark, no biting or mouthing, staying off furniture, no chewing, etc.

Canine Good Citizen – CGC

The CGC test should be a minimum goal for any dog owner, not only for training their dog, but also ensuring your dog is socially acceptable (many rental agencies require dogs to complete this title in order to gain entrance to a home, as well as many home owners insurance companies take this into mind when providing insurance and sometimes this will decrease your premiums)

The test covers :

  • Accepting a friendly stranger
  • Sitting politely for petting
  • Appearance and grooming
  • Walking loose on lead
  • Walking through a crowd
  • Sit & down on command and staying in place
  • Coming when call
  • Reaction to another dog
  • Reaction to distraction
  • Supervised separation

It is my hope and desire that each of my puppies receive this minimal level of training. I don’t require all of them to attain the actual certificate or title (although it is a desire), but to be trained to this level so that they are a respectable member of not only their household, but their community and are the best possible representation of my breeding program and breed.

Crate Training

Crate & kennel training is a must even if you plan to have your dog free inside your home. They need to be acclimated to a crate or kennel for many reasons, I have outlined the most prevalent :

  • Potty training : most of the time, when a puppy is taken outside at the proper increments, they will not want to potty in their sleeping area.
  • Safe & Secure : providing a safe space for your dog while you can not directly supervise them, thus preventing them from getting into things that are undesired. Remember they are puppies and get into everything!
  • Private Space : a place to call their own, an escape from guests and overwhelming situations / people, or simply a place to relax at their own leisure.
  • Separation Anxiety : aides in the prevention of, they learn that it is okay to be alone at times, without the flip out of “where’s my mom / dad?!?!?!”
  • Boarding : if at any time you need to go out of town and they must be kenneled at a boarding facility, they will need to be acclimated to 1) being in a kennel and 2) being away from their owner(s).
  • Travel : it is safer for a dog to be in a kennel or behind a barrier while in the care.
  • Illness / Injury : if they need to be at a vets office or on restricted activity they will need to be “okay” with being kenneled until they are better / healed.
  • Separation : if they need to be temporarily separated from other dogs or animals in the house (i.e. in season, etc.)

If a puppy isn’t familiarized and properly trained with a crate from the very beginning, they will most likely panic and potentially injure themselves if a crate is used later on.


  • Ensure to always use the appropriate size crate that fits your dog comfortably
  • Acclimate and reward your dog for good crate behavior. Award for proper in and out behavior and staying quiet while in the crate.
  • Be sure to offer chews, water and comfortable bedding (safe items only that are NOT a choking hazard)


  • Use the crate as punishment, you don’t want them to associate the crate as “bad”. It should be a safe place.
  • Leave your dog in its crate if it has had an accident, often times we think that we can teach them a “lesson” not to potty in the create / house by leaving them in their own mess, that is animal cruelty.
  • Do not acknowledge your puppy’s cries when you are first training them to be crate trained. They will learn that if they are obnoxious enough with their whining / barking / crying they will be “rewarded” by being let out. SOMETIMES they will cry in an effort to inform you that they need to go potty, best thing to do is to use your best judgment. If they just went out, then it is simply because they don’t want to be in the crate.

Crate Training (via AKC)

Potty Training

  • Consistent schedule, take them to go potty first thing in the morning (before breakfast), after each meal, SEVERAL times throughout the day and the very last thing before they go to bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night if they are too young to physically hold it (puppies can not learn to hold it until after 12 weeks of age). You may need to pick them up and carry them outside in the beginning, so they don’t accidentally potty in the house on the way out.
  • Choose an area in your yard that you wish for him / her to potty in, this way they know that there is an expectation of using this as the potty area.
  • Ensure that your puppy is healthy, it is unfair to expect a puppy that is unwell to control themselves. If you suspect an issue, contact your vet right away.
  • Supervision is necessary! Watch them like a hawk! If you see them squatting, circling, sniffing in a circle, lifting leg, etc. immediately redirect them outside BEFORE it happens. They will have accidents in the house, this is inevitable, but how you handle it will play a key role in their overall potty training.
  • When they willingly go outside (via doggy door or open door) or “tell” you that they need to go potty, then actually do so, give them so much praise that they think they won the doggy lottery! We want them to understand that potty is for outside only. If you CATCH THEM IN THE ACT of going potty inside the house or in an undesirable place, quickly and immediately say NO and redirect them to the proper area.
  • If they have an accident and you find it LATER, even minutes, you CANNOT scold them for it. They will not make the connection that they did something bad, they will only feel in trouble for something that they don’t understand.
  • Provide a bell at the SAME DOOR or a doggy door, listen for whining – anything that they do that may indicate that they need to go outside.
  • Keep fresh water available at all times and ensure that they know where it is located. You may need to restrict water access in the evening time specifically for young puppies.
  • REMINDER – if you take your puppy to a friend’s house, or a new location they may not know the “potty spot” and may have an accident. Simply watch for indicators that he / she may need to go outside and excuse yourself and take care of him / her.
  • Excited or nervous peeing “Piddling” is not related to potty training. It will need to be addressed differently and getting angry with them will not help.
  • This is going to sound strange but watch the quality of your dog’s poop. What it looks like can tell you a lot of things, like if your dog is sick, or if they ate something they shouldn’t have eaten, runny stools may indicate that they are sick or have a sensitivity to their food. Also watch for worms / seeds / larvae / eggs in their stools as this will indicate an intestinal parasite infection that needs to be treated.
  • Watch your dog for proper urination. If he / she is squatting to go but nothing comes out or is needing to go more frequently then normal this may be indicative of a bladder / urinary tract infection that will need to be treated right away.

AKC STAR Puppy Program

CGC - Canine Good Citizen

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