great dane and mastiff puppy

NOTE: I am not a veterinarian! The puppy care sheet below contains my opinions and observations as a great dane and mastiff owner only. Please consult a qualified vet if you have any concerns about your puppy.


Large breed puppies like great danes and mastiffs require a special diet. Your mastiff / great dane puppy should only be fed a high quality ADULT DOG FOOD or a GIANT BREED PUPPY FOOD. Do NOT feed your puppy a regular puppy food. Doing so can cause serious bone, joint and hip problems which can be very costly and painful for your dog. These foods have properly balanced levels of calcium and phosphorus, and are lower in fat and protein which allows your puppy to grow at a slower rate, lessening the likelihood that he will develop hip, bone and joint problems. (Don’t worry, your dog will still grow to be the same size!) Holistic Select Giant Breed Puppy food has been highly recommended to me by several breeders as the protein and fat levels are optimized for proper giant breed (great dane / mastiff) growth. You can click here to read an article on recognizing the bone diseases that can be caused by feeding your great dane puppy the wrong diet. There are other premium dog food brands that I like as well, including Canidae, Solid Gold, The Honest Kitchen, Innova (or any of the Natura brands) and BLUE.

There are a lot of other great brands of food. Some other things to look for when choosing a food are the origin of ingredients, where the food is manufactured, grade of ingredients (ie: human grade meats, organic meats) and whether or not it contains any supplements such as probiotics, prebiotics/digestive enzymes, glucosamine and omega fatty acids. There are several companies that offer freeze-dried raw and/or frozen raw diets as well. Check out this nutrition information sheet for links.

You should do your research and consult with your breeder when choosing a food for your puppy. Read the ingredient lists, check the guaranteed analysis, and be sure to watch your puppy closely for any signs of potential issues. Some premium foods can be purchased at large pet supply stores, but for others you may need to look at local feed stores or specialty premium pet food stores.

When searching for foods for my dogs, I avoid foods with high amounts of corn, salt and any meat by-products as these ingredients are typically found in low-end foods. I alternate feeding my senior dogs AvoDerm Senior and Holistic Select Giant Breed Adult, and our Mastiff puppy gets Holistic Select Giant Breed Puppy. I also give them plenty of healthy fresh food, such as cooked chicken, beef, yogurt, brown rice, oatmeal, eggs, and raw vegetables and fruits. Talk to your vet about the best diet for your dog to make sure you're taking care of any special dietary requirements. Keep in mind some vets may promote the brand they sell in their office, but it may not necessarily be all that great. Again, read the ingredient list and do your research before choosing a food just because someone recommended it.

Great dane and mastiff puppies should typically eat 3 times a day for the first 4 months. It may be OK to switch to twice a day at around 5-6 months for some breeds, but a lot of people recommend more frequent feeding or free-feeding; leaving a bowl of food out for your puppy all the time. Recent studies are suggesting that free feeding or feeding smaller meals more frequently may help to avoid bloat. Bloat is a condition in which the belly fills up with air/gas causing the stomach to turn upside down, killing the dog if he is not treated immediately. Recent studies may link certain ingredients in dog foods to bloat - Follow this link to read more. Or follow the links below for additional information:

If you choose to free-feed your giant breed puppy, you should still measure out the food each day to make sure you aren't overfeeding. Rapid growth can cause health problems down the line. Some puppies will ration themselves while others will gulp down anything and everything in sight, so what works for you will just depend on your dog.

Many pet food companies test on animals, and some of the tests are not something most pet owners would want to unknowingly support. Follow the links below for more information and pet food companies and animal testing:



Great Danes overheat and chill easily. Do not leave your puppy outside for more than ½ hour at a time during the hot summer months or he may get heatstroke. Do not leave him outside in the winter for more than a few minutes at a time – since they have no undercoat, they freeze easily. Provide your dog with a soft place to lay: blankets, dog beds and crib mattresses work well.

Dogs are pack animals - it is in their nature, hardwired into their DNA, to live in families. As such, dogs should be treated as a part of the family rather than banished to a lonely backyard. When giant breeds such as great danes and mastiffs are left alone, they may develop separation anxiety as these breeds are especially sensitive when it comes to bonding. Separation anxiety can lead to destructive behavior, which can be pretty drastic when you're dealing with a giant breed. If you're not able to commit to providing a social home life for a great dane or mastiff and proper care and attention, please don't purchase one.


Since your great dane / mastiff puppy will grow quickly, some precautions must be taken to ensure proper bone development:

  • Do not allow your puppy to run for long periods of time as this can cause hairline fractures in their developing bones. Wait to run or play long games of fetch until your dog is at least 18 months old.
  • Do not allow your puppy to play on slippery surfaces. This is a possible environmental cause of hip dysplasia. If you have only tile or wood floors, it would be a good idea to pick up a few throw rugs and play with your puppy on the carpet.
  • Some studies have shown that vitamin C helps to ease “growing pains” associated with rapid bone growth. Talk to your vet about supplements.

Vaccinations and Parasite Prevention

Vaccinations are very important! That being said, they are also very controversial. Some studies have linked frequent vaccination to diseases such as cancer. Some vets recommend vaccinating every three years, some every year, some recommend other protocols. The bottom line: do your research, talk to your vet, and make an informed decision regarding what is best for your pet. You can read more about this by clicking here, or visit the AVMA site.

There are many deadly diseases such as Parvo that can spread rapidly. These diseases can be easily prevented by simply vaccinating your dog. Vaccinations typically cost around $10.00 each, while treating your dog once he has a preventable disease will cost hundreds, even thousands, and many dogs will still die. Other diseases such as distemper are almost always deadly, but can be prevented with a vaccine. The following vaccination schedule is a general guide, but you should always talk to your vet about this kind of stuff as new studies are constantly providing fresh info:

  • Puppies between the ages of 6 weeks and 4 months typically receive a "core" vaccination every 3-4 weeks with the final one given at 4 months. The reason for this is that puppies will loose the disease immunity they receive from their mother some time between 6 & 16 weeks of age. Since there's not an easy way to tell when the shots take over the natural immunity, giving them often can help protect your puppy, but there still may be a gap where he is left unprotected between the time his immunity from mom stops working and the next shot is given. You should not take your puppy to public places such as parks, shops, dog parks, or even to your friends houses if they have dogs until he is at least 16 weeks and has had his 4 month booster. After age 4 months, the shot is typically given every three years, although some vets recommend an additional shot at 6 months or 1 year, and others still recommend vaccinating every year. This shot protects against Parvo, Distemper, and parainfluenza, and several other contagious diseases and can be obtained through your vet or at vaccination clinics, and usually runs anywhere from $10-$25. Many people request that the vaccinations be given separately rather than in a combo vaccine due to the risk of vaccine reactions. Consult your vet for more information on this.
  • General vaccination guidelines include a rabies shot at 3-6 months, again after 1 year, and then it's required by law in Arizona every 3 years after that. If your dog has not had this shot and bites someone, he may automatically be killed or quarantined by rabies/animal control. This shot can be obtained at your vet, at vaccination clinics, or at the rabies/animal control pound. It's usually around $10-$20.
  • Kennel cough (bordetella) is an extremely contagious respiratory disease that can cause death if not properly treated or prevented. Most vets will start this vaccination at around 4 months and is usually repeated every 6 months to 1 year for dogs that are exposed at kennels, shows or dog parks.
  • Heartworm/worm prevention can usually begin at 4 months. This can be obtained from your vet. Heartworm prevention is easy (a chewable tablet given once a month), and treatment is extremely expensive and not very reliable. Talk to your vet about the risks and benefits.
  • If you plan to do a lot of hiking or camping with your dog, you should also consider a lyme disease vaccination as this disease is transmitted by ticks. As with any vaccine, there are risks, so always talk this over with your vet.

Obedience Training, Socialization

Your great dane or mastiff dog will be very large and powerful, and will be very strong willed! Large dogs without manners tend to be exiled from the house and family which causes them to be lonely, and since they’re lonely, the make more trouble, which makes you more angry…It’s a vicious cycle! By properly socializing your puppy and enrolling in an obedience class, you can prevent bad habits from forming while your puppy is young. Many obedience schools offer a course on puppy training that can be started at 4 months - 6 months. The classes help with potty training, chew training, sit, stay, come, heel, etc. We've had excellent success with clicker training. We feel harsh training tools like prong and shock collars should never be used, and shouldn't be needed anyways. Dogs respond best to positive reinforcement.

Socialization basically means exposing your puppy to new people, objects and situations on a regular basis so he won't be scared of new things later on. As my vet recommended not taking our puppy anywhere until he had completed his shots at 4 months, this was difficult. We asked friends and family to drop by several times a week so the puppy would get used to visitors and strangers, and even asked the pizza delivery guy to take a second to say hi to the puppy. We brought the puppy out in the driveway so he could get used to people, dogs and cars passing by, kids on bikes and rollerblades, and barking dogs. We asked relatives and neighborhood kids to come by and play with the puppy so he would be OK playing nicely with strange little humans. We also went for a car ride at least once a week, just to get used to being in a moving vehicle. Although it's important to expose your mastiff puppy / great dane puppy to other dogs/puppies as well, use caution until your pup has had all of his shots, and make sure you're only exposing him to other healthy, friendly, well socialized dogs so he doesn't pick up any bad habits or behavior from snappy or frightful dogs. For this reason, I would not recommend taking your puppy to a dog park.

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Potty Training

Puppies need to potty frequently - a good rule of thumb is the age in months of your puppy is the number of hours he had wait to potty. A 2 month old puppy can hold it for 2 hours, puppies need to potty every 4 hours at 4 months old, and at 6 months, they can usually hold it for about 6 hours. They should be able to hold it for about 8 hours by the time they’re 8-9 months old. Puppies will need to potty approx. 5-30 minutes after eating or drinking, and always after a nap. If you want to potty train your puppy quickly, you will need to watch him CONSTANTLY while he's awake. Murphy's law, the second you walk away to answer the phone, your puppy will piddle on the floor. Take him everywhere with you - the only way to make them understand not to go in the house is to catch them doing it, say no (never hit your puppy), and carry them immediately out to the area where they are supposed to go.

Keeping this in mind, the best way I've found to train puppies is by combining kennel training with doggie door training. Dogs have a natural denning instinct, so they will naturally make a kennel their bed, or den. Dogs will not potty in their bed, (unless there are extreme circumstances, such as being locked in there for too long) so by keeping your dog in a kennel when you are not home and then taking them directly outside when you let them out, they will learn where to go. If you are able to install a doggie door, the kennel can be bumped up against the doggie door when you are not home so your pup only has access to the outside and his bed. This is by far the fastest way to potty train. When you are home, your dog will always have access to the yard when he has to go, so there will be no accidents. If you can't install a doggie door, make sure you let your puppy out frequently, initially every 20-30 minutes, until he starts grasping the idea.

If you do catch your great dane or mastiff puppy in the act of piddling in the house, say NO and take your puppy outside. When he piddles outside, praise him excessively and give him treats. He will then associate piddling outside with getting yummy food and love and will do it more often. DO NOT HIT YOUR PUPPY. This will only make him fear and dislike you, and will make him more prone to biting in the future. Positive reinforcement works the best with dogs. If your puppy leaves you a puddle or a pile and you find it after the fact, don’t bother punishing the dog. He won’t remember why he’s bad, only that you’re mad and he has no idea why. The most effective training is watching your pup constantly when he is in the house so you can catch him before he goes and take him outside.

By using the methods above and a doggie door, our mastiff puppy (came home with us at 7 weeks) was about 90% potty trained by 10 weeks, and 100% potty trained by 13 weeks.


Got Toys? You'll need plenty of them. Check out That Pet Place for discount dog supplies.

Puppies explore and learn by chewing on things and digging in things. Give your pup chew toys in his kennel. By providing your pup with plenty of toys to chew on and by taking him to the park to dig in the sand, he will be less likely to dig in your yard and chew up your stuff. Keep all shoes, candles, and other tempting objects out of the reach of your pup or he WILL eat them. If you catch your pup chewing on something he shouldn’t, take it away, say NO, and replace the item with a proper chew toy. When he starts chewing on his toys, make sure to tell him he's good, and maybe even throw in a treat. Again, positive reinforcement works best with dogs. In time, your dog will learn what’s OK to chew. Do not give your dog stuffed animals or stuffed quilts as the stuffing can choke your dog. Also, your pup can’t tell the difference between a stuffed toy and a stuffed couch cushion… that’s just asking for trouble! Puppies usually start teething around 4-5 months, so be prepared for an excessive amount of chewing at this age. Rotating through a supply of teething toys will give your pup something to chew on to soothe his teething pains, and a "new" toy will keep his interest longer.  

Speaking from experience, though it can be so cute to watch a great dane puppy destroy a newspaper or a stuffed toy, you will regret allowing him to do this later. Bad habits are hard to break, and when that 175 pound dog decides to destroy all your household paper products or your couch cushions while you are asleep, it is not so amusing that next morning.  Be firm. Allow him to play with TOYS ONLY!

Great Dane and Mastiff Grooming

Great danes and mastiffs require relatively little grooming compared to a lot of breeds. They should be bathed regularly (every week or two). I like to use a rubber grooming glove in a circular motion to remove loose hair and dirt that can make them itchy - my dogs LOVE it and actually look forward to their bath.

Nails should be trimmed weekly - try Millers Forge Large Dog Nail Clipper. Dogs have blood vessels and nerves in the nail, called the quick. If you are going to trim your dog's nails yourself, be careful to trim below the quick so your dog's nails don't bleed. In lightly colored nails, you can easily see the quick and avoid trimming into it. It's a little harder with dark nails. Click here for more info. If you're unsure, ask your vet to trim your puppy's nails and show you how to do it yourself the next time.

Ears should be cleaned after each bath or weekly if they are dirty. After bathing your dog, inspect for ticks, fleas, cuts, and ear mites. Your dog’s teeth should be brushed at least twice a week with an enzyme toothpaste for dogs. Danes tend to collect food particles in the back of their cheeks, and if it isn’t cleaned out regularly, you will have expensive tooth decay problems within a few years. You can also consider giving treats designed to assist with cleaning teeth between brushings or ask your vet for an enzyme tooth spray.


Pet overpopulation is a major problem. As many as 10 MILLION unwanted pets are killed in the US each year. By spaying/neutering your dog, you can help put an end to this tragedy. Click here to read more about animal euthanasia.

Some vets offer discount programs for people who have their pet fixed and get vaccinations done there. If you're starting to feel like your great dane or mastiff is a money pit, (they are...) check with your local humane society to find out if they offer a low cost spay/neuter clinic.

Additional Benefits of Spaying and Neutering

Neutering males can help to prevent marking.

Females will go into heat at around 6 months. This is a messy thing, and if she gets pregnant, plan on spending AT LEAST $1000.00 and hours upon hours a week to raise a healthy litter puppies. If you do not intend to breed and show your dog, the least expensive way to go is to HAVE YOUR DOG SPAYED! Some studies show that spaying before a female's first heat cycle reduces her chances of getting breast cancer by up to 80% and nearly eliminates the risk of pyometra. There are risks associated with spaying before maturity, so you should weigh this decision carefully.

Risks Associated with Spaying and Neutering

There are some risks associated with spaying and neutering that you should be aware of. Surgery of any kind can pose a risk, especially when dealing with giant breeds. Make sure the vet or clinic you choose has experience dealing with anesthetizing giant breeds. Special care should be taken when lifting and carrying a giant breed to prevent spinal cord injury which can result in wobblers. Giant breeds must also be kept warm after surgery, and should not be placed on a kennel floor without warm bedding.

Some studies have linked spaying and neutering puppies younger than 1 year to a significant increase in the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer). Since mastiffs and great danes are already at high risk for bone cancer, you may want to consider this along with your dog's family history when choosing when to spay or neuter your giant breed dog.

Studies have also linked early spay/neuter (prior to maturity and closing of all growth plates) with up to a 70% increase in the risk of developing hip dysplasia. Many great dane, mastiff and other giant breed dog breeders have altered their contracts to require puppy buyers to wait until the dog is fully mature and growth plates have closed prior to spaying or neutering because of these problems. You should talk to your breeder and research this carefully prior to making a decision.

Spaying increases the risk of urinary incontinence in up to 20% of females. Some steps can be taken to reduce the occurrence of spay incontinence, so you should discuss this with your vet.

Visit the NAIA for more information on long term health risks and benefits of spaying and neutering.


Exercise is a very important part of your dog's life. Though you do need to be careful no to over-do it with growing puppies, talking your dog on long walks will give him and outlet for any pent-up energy and will make him an overall happier dog. Walking in a "pack" with you and your family is also an important bonding experience for your dog. Being stuck in the house day in, day out can cause major boredom and cabin fever in anyone, including a dog. If you find you're having problems with your dog chewing, barking, jumping or other unwanted behavior, try walking your dog for 30 minutes each morning. The added bonus: it's good for us, too!

Common Illnesses

The following are signs of common illnesses you should be aware of:

  • When the skin on the back of the neck is pulled up, it should snap back into place quickly. If it doesn’t, your dog may be dehydrated. Dehydration can be a sign of serious illness, so if your dog doesn’t become hydrated quickly, take him to your vet.  
  • Great Danes and all deep-chested dogs are susceptible to bloat. Bloat is a condition in which the belly fills up with gas causing the stomach to turn upside down, killing the dog if he is not treated immediately. The main signs of bloat are a bloated looking belly, restlessness, and possible vomiting. If your dog is rushed to the vet, he may be treated and saved. The main causes of bloat appear to be exercising heavily right before or after eating, gulping water after eating, eating food rapidly, stress, and genetics. Follow this link for more in depth articles on bloat.
  • Ear infections and ear mites are fairly common. Check your dog’s ears often, and if any brown waxy gunk is present in the ear, he has one of the two. See your vet for medication.  
  • Kennel Cough is very easily transmitted between dogs. If your dog starts coughing and sneezing, see your vet for medication before it becomes extremely bad and costly.  
  • Live in the Southwest US or Mexico? Valley Fever is a nasty fungus that lives in the dirt and is inhaled by practically every living being. It can be deadly in dogs if not treated. Signs are typically weight loss, loss of appetite, cough, sneezing, growths on skin, seizure, stiffness in joints, or no symptoms at all. Click Here for more info on Canine Valley Fever.

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All information contained on this page is the opinion of the webmaster of this site. Please consult a qualified veterinarian regarding your puppy.

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