Training Great Danes is not difficult with the right approach
Training Great Danes can be very frustrating. The Dane is a stubborn breed and likes to get its way! There aren’t many Dane specific dog training videos or dog training books, although that isn’t necessarily negative – Great Dane dog training isn’t much different than training most other breeds. In fact, the best dog training resource we've found and the one that we use and have had great success with is written for all breeds: Daniel Steven's Secrets To Dog Training
In our experience, there are a few fundamentals that Dane owners need to understand and if these are respected, Great Dane training will go well.
The first principal to understand is positive reinforcement. We have to admit that we’ve never used choke collars or any other similar dog training aids that are essentially negative reinforcement when correcting something, so I guess we don’t have the experience to objectively assess that kind of dog training. But we have noticed that scolding doesn’t do much good and we’ve had more rapid and lasting results sticking with a positive reinforcement approach. Some trainers may disagree, but that is certainly our experience with Great Danes. Yes, they’re stubborn, but they’re also extremely sensitive and crave praise. When our beast does something properly (or refrains from doing something he wants to do but knows he’s not allowed) he gets it by the ton!
As an example, in training our Great Dane, we had a tough time with the recall command. When he sees something, he likes to go for it and certainly didn’t feel he was obligated to come back or stay, no matter how hard we yelled. And when he had finished investigating whatever it was he bolted for (never hesitating to charge across a road regardless of traffic) he knew he was in trouble. But yelling, or telling him he was a bad dog didn’t stop him (for a while, he must have thought his name was bad dog!). Anyway, with coaching from a professional trainer, we became very careful not to act in a negative way and trained him so that when we called, he was always in for something good. Correcting a Dane will sometimes be necessary, but not by yelling. Danes really are more suited to positive reinforcement.
Secondly, dog behaviour training must be consistent. This is probably one of the biggest reasons Great Dane obedience training can be so frustrating. While it is true that training your Great Dane is front end loaded to some extent (basic training should take place early in the Dane’s life and therefore set the foundation for a well behaved dog later), it really never ends. Many Danes will develop bad habits if they’re allowed to. By making a daily training exercise part of life, good habits are constantly reinforced. And your Dane will love the interaction.
The other aspect of consistency, is doing the dog training exercises properly and never letting an incorrect response go by. Your Great Dane needs to learn that when he hears a command, there is only one response that is acceptable. If you don’t insist on that response each and every time (for example, to sit when the command “sit” is given) it is likely your Dane will learn that he doesn’t really have to listen all the time. At first this takes some patience –before the Dane understands what is wanted from her she’s not likely to get it right. You need to get her to give you the response you want and not let it go.
Owners also need training
The third fundamental to successfully training your Great Dane is you! Perhaps experienced dog trainers don’t need help, but most of us do. Training exercises are easy to get wrong. The timing has to be just right or the Dane will most likely not understand what it is you want her to do. Basic dog obedience training is just as much about getting the human to do the exercises properly as it is the Dane! If you’ve never been to a dog training class before, you may think the above statement is a bit silly. But probably not as silly as we felt when we started obedience training and realized that simple exercises are not so simple. The dog trainer had to spend some time correcting our technique! And once we started doing things properly, Bismark started making real progress. Or perhaps, we started making real progress…(nothing like being told your timing is all wrong for a simple exercise, but if you can’t take a joke, you may as well be one!)
There are many benefits to going to basic dog obedience training. The socialization for your Dane is invaluable. And it’s a great way to meet other dog people -most of whom will be as excited about their new family member as you are for yours. But the biggest advantage is that unless you’re an experienced trainer yourself, the chances are that you will need help to get your techniques down properly. It really is easy to screw these exercises up. You need someone watching you and helping you get it right until you’re comfortable. If you don’t do them right, your Dane isn’t going to know what you want!
Those are the three fundamentals we think best support training your Great Dane. We've added some articles that cover specific techniques we've found to work. Check out
how to stop a Dane barking
or perhaps you're looking for a way to
stop a Dane digging.
We’ll add future articles on some specific training techniques we have found to be very helpful, but all of them are based on this core approach.
There are some books and videos available in pet stores and online that provide a good overview of basic dog training programs. We've already mentioned the best book we've found: Secrets To Dog Training.There's another resource we're very impressed with as well. That's a series of online videos a Hollywood dog trainer by the name of Dove Cresswell has put out. She manages to convey some fundamental characteristics in dog training that you can't read about. She also provides access to one of her lessons before you buy so you can see the quality she offers.
Educate yourself and start training. When your Dane is 170 pounds, you'll be glad you did!