The Funny Things You Do…by Lisa Harmon


Kenai’s sniffy down stay, 22 wks. At least he’s down!

Each dog has a personality that is their own. A dog will have the habits common to all dogs, like sniffing hiney for a greeting, or the posturing that is their language. A dog will also have the traits of its breed, like beagles vocalizing, or bloodhounds following a scent trail. We’ve bred dogs to have certain traits that furthered their hunting, retrieving, or guarding skills. Despite the fact that most dogs are now bred and bought today for appearance more than function, those traits are still there.

Anyone who bought a sweet collie for a family pet will know the traits are there, as soon as the dog started “herding” their kids, nipping at heels and barking. Or bought a terrier because they were small, only to find they hunt squirrels and the family cat! Some breeds have had the “talents” bred out as much as possible. Mastiffs for example were once ferocious war dogs, bred to guard and kill humans. Now they are big gentle buddies.

Great Danes were created to hunt bear and wild boar. I don’t know of anyone who uses them to hunt anymore. Pains have been taken to make them a true “gentle giant”. But the traits are still there! All of my Danes were great “nature” program watchers. I’ve had to change the channel when an angry bear showed up on the TV! Just last night, Kenai kept an intent eye on the lion pride we were watching a show about, and at all of 5 months old, he growled when the leopard jumped towards the camera. The instincts are still there!

Danes are terrific dogs if you accept their peculiar habits and needs. They are huge, and that requires some consideration of logistics: they’ll scrunch into a passenger seat, but there aren’t car restraints big enough for an adult. So they need to learn to lay still in the back seat, or the load shift could overturn a subcompact!

They need big stuff. Big, expensive beds take up lots of room in a small apartment. A 10 pound bag of food won’t last a week, so you’ll be buying high priced kibble in bulk. (Cheap food causes growth problems—don’t pinch pennies there!). Bones don’t last long under the punishment of those big strong teeth, either.

Obedience class is a big necessity, since you don’t want a giant 170 pounder swinging around like an overexcited Jack Russell. Dane brains are big: you have to keep them entertained or they do it themselves, and you may not like it. An untrained Dane is a giant problem child!

As a breed, they do the “Dane Couch Sit” on any piece of upholstery. The butt goes on the seat, and the front feet are on the floor. They do slobber, so wiping towels just come with the territory. Getting them out to potty in the rain is a “push me, pull you” affair more often then not. Curiosity about the contents of your fridge is genetic. The ability to check out the steaks marinating on the counter must not be overlooked. Drinking out of the sink is a possibility, too!

If you want to know what a Dane is capable of, so you can decide what NOT to let them do, read the funnies: Marmaduke is a typical Dane. A little exaggerated but the potential is there…

On top of the breed habits, each Dane will have their own idiosyncrasies. Kenai now loves his massage: ears, feet, and shoulders are the best. His eyes are gentle and observant, and the signals he gives when stressed or curious are subtle. You have to pay attention, if you want to “talk” with Kenai. He loves the little toys made for tiny dogs, preferably the ones that crackle instead of squeak. And he can gnaw down a big assed bone overnight.

Kenai likes a firm bed, rather than soft ones, and if the couch isn’t available, he’ll bypass a bed for the carpet. He has his “2 step stretch”, where he stops and stretches on the second step of the stairs. Twice a day runs in the field suffice for his exercise. If he doesn’t get quite enough run time, he is restless, but not unruly. He’s a tolerant dog, with a calm nature, and a sensitive spirit. Even mild corrections can hurt his feelings.  

Now BB is a different pup entirely. He only wants ear rubs, and his feet left alone. He doesn’t do stairs. His eyes are tremendously expressive, and one glance lets you know what he’s thinking. Twice a day romps are NOT enough, and if he’s bored he gets downright undomesticated! He’s not naturally a gentle playing puppy, and can easily get carried away with his fun. He prefers BIIIIIIG toys, big enough to swing about, and he will nibble the same bone for weeks. He’s a lot more reactive than his brother, barking when startled, and doesn’t like the noise and suddenness of children. (That’s going to be worked on!)

BB is frighteningly intelligent, and will do anything for treats and affection. He is a higher energy, higher excitement puppy than his brother is. Make it an exciting game, and BB’s up for it. Kenai’s brains are kept to himself a lot: he learns very fast, but doesn’t make a big show of it. He’ll take stuff in stride, and just do what he’s learned without a big fuss. He has a tendency to want to decide if he feels like doing something…

When BB’s hungry, he whines and scratches and makes a commotion about it. Kenai will be restless awhile, destroying a bully stick in 20 minutes, then go and sit on the kitchen bed for an hour, getting up to come and stare at you occasionally. I’ve had dogs similar to BB before, but Kenai’s subtlety is a brand new experience. Working with him has had a learning curve for me!

Kenai doesn’t give alot of room for weakness, in terms of my attitude. If I’m whiney or pleading, he doesn’t respond to a command. He’s a very gentle and easy pup to live with, but he has a fine line between being firm and being harsh with a correction. Too harsh or too often and he gets depressed for a long time! Too weak or irritable in my approach, and he does whatever he wants…

Kenai’s kinda like a baseball player with a small strike zone: accuracy is a must!

Leave a comment


  1. I had to smile while reading the list of dane idiosyncracies and particularly thos of Kenai and BB. Willow is more like Kenai with a bit of BB thrown in!!!!

    Kai has always loved the firmer beds and always preferred the hardwood floors or tile floors over his big overstuffed beds!! That is until I discovered the kuranda beds. He LOVES his (and so does Willow)!!

  2. behr rake

     /  August 14, 2008

    Outstanding post! You do a great job of describing each of your pups’ personalities, as well as the general dane idiosyncrasies.

    Our little Behr Behr is kind of an “in your face” type of pup. (not in a bad way) I’ve never had a dane like her before!! She does EVERYTHING in a big way…big toys she can shake and play wildly with, loud vocalizations, big appetite, and will do anything if it’s turned into a game to play. In fact, she lives for games where she has to solve things and think. Silly girl.

    I love reading about brother BB as well. Keep the updates coming! I really applaud you for taking on a dog with such challenges, and for finding good medical care for him.

    Don’t you just love the dane personality, quirks and all? I sure do. That’s why danes are the only dog for me!

  3. I appreciate the time you put in this work or in this article. Although u have bright ideas, I really cannot agree with them. I’m sure there are better ways to walk through this difficult situation. Not trying to flame or be stupid or anything .

  1. The Funny Things You Do…by Lisa Harmon

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