Judging Great Danes

To develop a clear mental picture of correct Great Dane Type, you need an in-depth study of the Standard.

Attendance at breed specific seminars, and observation of judging, such as the, (Dane of the Year) provide a sound beginning. Interaction with qualified, mentors will bring you closer to establishing a clear mental image of ideal type. Type is what makes a particular animal look like a Great Dane. Correct Dane type should be apparent as the dogs enter the ring. Your first impression will be in silhouette from across the ring as the dogs are "showing" for their handlers.

Which ones immediately grab your attention as having correct Great Dane proportions?

Static Balance is the first feature of the dog that will come to your eye. 

From this first glimpse you can also find the ones who appear elegant, lithe, responsive, and active. Paramount in this initial evaluation should be two elements that the Great Dane Standard breathes in each paragraph - balance and harmony. Is the first impression one of a very muscular, strongly though elegantly built Great Dane.

  • Does the head profile show great length and strength of jaw, with parallel planes, and the length of head is in proportion to the height of the dog?
  • Are The Teeth level,and the Jaws strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite?
  • Are the ears, triangular medium size, set high on the skull, tipping forward when the dog is alert?
  • Is the eye, almond shaped, and of medium size,preferably dark.Wall, or odd eyes permissible in harlequins.
  • Are the shoulders muscular,and showing correct angulation? Is the elbows set well under the body?
  • Does the chest extend to the elbow? Is the forechest forward to the front legs?
  • Do the hindquarters place the rear feet just behind an imaginary line dropped from the point of buttock to the ground, three inches is about the maximum, any more, the Great Dane becomes over angulated.

A walk down the line is now in order as you assess the qualities of expression. Expression is the most distinctive feature of the Great Dane and perhaps the most difficult to describe. Key words are bright, alert, intelligent, and quizzical. Once you have seen correct and beautiful expression, you will never forget it, and those Great Danes who come closest to the best optical illustration will certainly stand out from the others.

  • Does the top line of the body appear level with a slight rise over the loin?
  • Is the croup well-rounded and does it continue the graceful curves of the outline? Is the tail reaching down to the hocks?
  • Are the Feet Cat-like, turning neither in nor out. Toes well arched and close, nails strong and curved?
  • Does the combination of these characteristics along with a well chiselled muzzle, a clean, flat skull, and correct ears create a clear, bright appearance and an expression of "intelligent inquisitiveness"?

If all of this is pleasing, the Great Dane on first impression is "typical" and can be considered to be within the guidelines set by the Standard.

Kinetic Balance deals with forces in motion. ( When a dog commences to move, he will move from the position of his static balance and as his speed increases, in order to procure maximum efficiency in movement, the legs, when seen from the front or the rear, must incline in-wards to-wards a longitudinal central line in order to maintain kinetic balance.)

Kinetic balance is denied in a Great Dane, as the Standard states that A Great Dane moves in two parallel planes.

It is called the parallel movement of the legs on the same side of the body. This means that the legs, front and rear, should move in parallel planes. If they are moving in the same plane, the front legs should obscure the rear legs and the hind feet should strike in almost the same place on the same side of the body.

Take the four legs of a Great Dane, and assume they are the four tires on a car as they move forward in the snow. Only two tracks are seen because the front tires obscure the rear tires. When this occurs in the ring, the Great Dane is said to be traveling in the same plane. (Harmonious, lithe, ground covering, slightly springy. Legs must be parallel in movement coming and going.) The Great Dane is one of 13 dogs who have Kinetic Balance denied in the Standard: two if which is the Maltese and the Bulldog. The Gait is the true test of the balance and fit of its individual parts.    

  • Does the Great Dane move as a unit, not dissolving in a mass of unrelated pieces?
  • As it covers ground, does the Great Dane do so in an effortless manner, showing speed and endurance?
  • Does the top-line remain steady? But keep in mind that there will be a degree of rise and fall in the topline as the dog is gaiting.
  • Do the four legs move in correct tempo, carrying the Great Dane over the ground with grace and efficiency?
  • Do the front legs extend freely with no extra lift or labouring action?
  • Do the rear legs exhibit a propelling stride that provides powerful drive?

Hopefully, the dog has been taught to move on a loose lead at a moderate speed. Key words here are smooth, efficient, effortless, and ground-covering. It is possible to have soundness without type, but you cannot have type without soundness. An untypical Great Dane that is sound is useless while a typical Great Dane that is sound is priceless.

By now you will have begun to assess temperament as well as physical qualities. Which dogs show the proud picture of true balance, displaying no signs of timidity, frailness, lack of animation, or a cumbersome appearance? The dog who projects naturally elegant carriage is highly desirable in a Great Dane.

After completing a thorough examination of the body you next consider the coming and going soundness. Send the dogs down and back, remind yourself of his side movement. By this point you will have made mental note of the dogs who possess the best type and soundness.

Now it is a matter of sorting through this final cut to find the best of the best, always keeping in mind the Great Dane Standard.

In summary, what we really value is an overall picture of a balanced, elegant, confident dog who is put together correctly, who can move effortlessly, and who possesses the essential beauty of breed type.

What distinguishes the Great Dane from any other breed are his head properties, especially typical expression. Without these qualities you have just an ordinary dog and with them you have one of the most majestic breeds imaginable.