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choosing the right great dane or english mastiff puppy

There are so many things to consider when selecting a puppy. A great dane or english mastiff puppy will be a member of your family for the next decade - it's a huge responsibility and there are many things to consider before you buy. A puppy should not be a spontaneous purchase. Make sure you are choosing a healthy puppy and a breed that will fit well with your personality, lifestyle, family, home and budget. Read on for more tips on selecting the right great dane or mastiff puppy for your family.

Always do your research before purchasing a puppy. Read our checklist on Finding a Good Breeder for more questions you should ask when interviewing breeders.

puppy care
nutrition and feeding
giant breed growth
great dane/mastiff health
training large breed dogs
behavior & training
responsible breeding

where to get a great dane or mastiff puppy

The best place to find a healthy puppy is directly from a reputable breeder or reputable rescue organization or humane society. The absolute worst place to get a puppy is from a pet store. Dogs are unique in the sense that significant DNA changes can be bred into or out of dogs in just a few generations. By choosing a puppy from a responsible breeder that not only pays attention to breed confirmation and temperament, but tests potential parents for genetic disorders such as hip dysplasia and cardiac disorders prior to breeding, you are more likely to end up with a genetically healthy puppy. Pet store puppies, which in many cases come from puppy mills and are not typically tested for genetic disease, are more likely to have genetic disorders that can show up years down the road, causing much heartache and pain for you and your dog. Read more about this on our pages on Pet Stores and Finding a Good Breeder. You will also find links to breeders in our Breeders Directory.

check over the puppies

The area the puppies are kept in should be clean, and so should the puppies. They should be alert and playful, and should not be kept on a slippery surface. Check for gunky eyes or ears as this could be a sign of infection. Look inside the puppy's mouth to make check for an under/overbite, and to make sure they have adequate teeth to eat the food the breeder recommends. Watch for any signs of pain when the puppy rises from a sitting or laying position, and watch them walk and run - look for limping or other signs of lameness. Straight front legs are desirable in both breeds. Check out the belly - super bloating is probably a sign of worms or parasites and will need attention. Mastiffs can have umbilical hernias which may require surgery to repair. Look for a lump or hard spot at the belly button, and don't be afraid to ask the breeder about any concerns. Deafness is common in harlequin, merle and white great danes. If you're looking at a white, merle or lightly marked harlequin, take the puppy to an area away from his/her littermates and see if the puppy responds to noises such as clapping or whistling. If you plan to show or breed your puppy, you should be familiar with the breed standard for great danes or mastiffs, and ask the breeder for assistance choosing a puppy with the best show potential.

age and socialization

Great dane and mastiff puppies should not leave their littermates until they are at least 7 weeks old, preferably 8 or 9 weeks. The time between weaning (approx. 4 weeks) and 7-9 weeks, puppies learn important social skills from one another and are not yet ready to be on their own, despite the fact they are able to eat kibble. Leaving the litter too early can cause separation anxiety and "mouthy" behavior. Reputable breeders will not sell puppies younger than 7 weeks, but should allow you to leave a deposit and pick up the puppy when he/she is old enough to leave the nest.

The puppies should be curious and outgoing. Puppies that haven't been properly socialized may hide or run away from you. Puppies that tremble or cower in fear when you approach them may have been abused. Use your judgment and file a report with your local humane society if you suspect animal abuse.

health guarantee

A good breeder will offer a written health guarantee that allows you to take the puppy to a veterinarian for a check up. Report any problems to your breeder immediately. Most breeders also offer a guarantee against hips dysplasia or other genetic conditions until the puppy has reached 2-3 years of age and can be screened for these things.

more information

About Great Danes | About English Mastiffs | Finding a Good Breeder
Costs of Raising a Great Dane or Mastiff Puppy | Puppy Mills | Puppy Care

choosing a genetically healthy puppy

There are several common genetic disorders that affect great danes and english mastiffs. The chances of passing most of them on to future generations can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated, by screening potential parents for these disorders prior to breeding and choosing only to breed healthy adults. Before purchasing a great dane or mastiff puppy, ask to see the parents' health results for OFA results, which screen for hip and elbow dysplasia, and cardiac results. Ratings of  "good," "excellent," or "normal" are desirable. Other disorders such as bloat, umbilical hernia, bone cancer, eye disorders and thyroid problems are common to the breeds and can have genetic components, so you should be aware of any family history of these disorders before selecting a puppy. More information on recommended health screenings for Great Danes and Mastiffs and a results database are available on the CHIC website. >

personality and temperament

Spend some time with the parents of the litter. Although each puppy will develop their own personality, chances are they will be very similar in temperament to their parents. If you're happy with the parents' personalities, visit the puppies when they are well rested and awake, and spend some time playing with the puppies. Some will be more outgoing, some will be shy, some will be more energetic and some will already be couch potatoes. Some are goofy, some are more serious. Choose a personality that fits with your lifestyle. If you plan to take your dog everywhere with you, don't choose a shy puppy. If you hike with your dog every weekend, choose a more energetic pup. A good breeder will be familiar with the personalities of each puppy and should be able to offer some assistance in choosing a puppy that will be the best fit for your family.

By gently rolling a puppy over onto its back and holding them there, you put the puppy in a submissive, or obedient, position. If the puppy does not mind this, he/she has a more submissive personality. Submissive dogs tend to be easier to train as they are eager to please you. If the puppy puts up a fuss and resists being in the submissive position, he/she has a more dominant personality. Don't confuse this with an aggressive personality - being dominant simply means they want to be in charge. Dominant dogs tend to pose more of a challenge as they don't want to be told what to do. If  you are unsure of your abilities, stick with a more submissive personality. Giant breed dogs with dominant personalities require a large degree of patience and consistency in training as they will constantly challenge you for the "alpha" position. You should also consider the personalities of any dogs you already have. If your dog has a dominant personality, you should choose a submissive puppy, and vice versa.

diet, nutrition & vaccinations

Ask what food the puppy's mother was fed during pregnancy, and what food the puppies are being given. Your puppy will get a better start on a super-premium food rather than a junky, cheap food. The food a breeder chooses can be an indication of how much he/she cares about the health of the puppies vs. the money spent on premium food.

Puppies should not receive any vaccines until they are 6 weeks old. Many breeders choose to purchase vaccines through the mail and give the vaccinations themselves, but a better choice would be to choose a puppy that has been vaccinated by a veterinarian and has had a health check. You should also ask the breeder if the puppy has been given any de-worming medication and note the brand and date to pass along to your vet.

is a great dane or mastiff right for you?

Those cute little puppies grow quickly into dogs that are the size of adult humans. Before you rush out and purchase a giant breed puppy, make sure your household can handle a dog of this size. You can read more about great danes and mastiffs and the costs associated with raising them by following the links to the left. In addition, raising a giant breed puppy can be a lot of work. Consider adopting a great dane or mastiff from a rescue or humane society.


about puppy mills information on puppy mills.
stoppuppymills.org information on the connection between pet stores and puppy mills.
how to find a good breeder guide to interviewing breeders
finding a good breeder guide to finding a good breeder

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