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An Interview With 
The Great Dane Lady (aka Linda Arndt)

More and more dog owners today are choosing large, or giant, breeds - often as their first canine companion.

These dogs are fascinating and magnificent creatures - and their puppies are hard to resist with those huge paws, big eyes and adorable clumsiness!

However, these enormously cute puppies have a whole set of unique and individual needs. Needs that must be recognized, and met properly, if they are to grow up to be happy, healthy adults.

Although an accomplished artist, and formally trained as an Art Educator, Linda Arndt (otherwise known as 'The Great Dane Lady') has spent the last 35 plus years devoting her time, energy, creativity and passion, to help dog owners learn more about, and overcome, the unique challenges of owning a large and giant breed dog.

Since childhood, Linda has been fascinated by Great Danes and under the name Blackwatch Kennels, she spent years as a professional breeder of champion Great Danes.

Linda has been very heavily involved in researching and tackling the incidence of nutritionally caused bone diseases, and the effects of high calorie diets on the growth of large and giant breeds. The Eagle Natural Pack dog foods were developed as a direct result of Lindas' own analysis, tests and feed trials, and her Blackwatch Puppy Feed Program and Blackwatch Adult Feeding Program are used by many of the top breeders, in large and giant breeds, in both the USA and overseas.

'The Great Dane Lady' is also in high demand as both a writer and speaker. Linda has had articles published in premier magazines such as DaneWorld Magazine, The Great Dane Reporter, Whole Dog Journal, Pet Health News, Pet Product News, Animal Wellness and numerous animal health and many breed specific magazines. She also conducts seminars and lectures for the AKC, All Breed Clubs, National Breed Clubs and Training organizations and has been one of a panel of experts presenting seminars on the K9 College Cruise in 2007 and 2009.

Lindas' website, www.greatdanelady.com is an amazing resource for large breed owners everywhere, with an unbelievable amount of information, articles, and research presented in a straightforward and down-to-earth way.

I'm very grateful to Linda for taking time out of her extremely busy schedule to talk with us, and to give such thoughtful and comprehensive answers to my questions. If you own (or are thinking of owning) a large breed puppy/dog, this interview is a 'must read'!


Okay, let's get this interview started......

The questions I ask Linda are shown in bold type, her answers follow.

  • As a trained and accomplished artist, can you tell us what led you to become so involved in, and to devote so much time and energy to, the study of canine nutrition?

    Well, this will be the longest answer of all of them all....

    The year I was born my parents purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica. It was the thing to do during that era, I suppose to get a jump start on your child’s education. I know for me one volume of the Encyclopedia was read over and over again. Recently, I was cleaning out old files and closets and came across that one book, Volume 7; Damascus - Education was printed on the binding. I don’t know what happened to the other volumes and don’t remember even looking at them as a child but this one was worn from use, it had traveled with me for 60 years tucked away in a box.

    In the middle of this book, on page 495 was the section entitled; DOGS and the pages were worn, taped, glued and yellowed from being looked at over and over as a child. One page in particular was in disastrous condition, hanging by a thread. In the upper left hand corner was a photograph of a fawn Great Dane. I remember as if it were yesterday. I asked my mother if we could get a Great Dane, we had always had a dog or two and I loved them, but I was fascinated with the image of this magnificent creature. Whenever I asked, the response was always the same - when you are grown and you have your own house, you can get your own Great Dane. My nagging request always fell on deaf ears so I learned to live with and loved a toy Manchester named Pepper - she was my friend and confidant and constant companion for 18 years. When she died I decided to save my baby-sitting earnings to someday get a Great Dane. 

    Of course as a teen, a portion of my earnings had to go toward Aqua-Net hairspray for my “ratted flip hairdo”; it was the 60’s after all! In 1969 I left to go to San Francisco to finish my undergraduate degree at the Art Institute. It was there I actually encountered my first Great Dane. There was a man walking on Fisherman’s wharf with this huge, black, male Great Dane and I was mesmerized by this magnificent creature (the dog, not the man) and remember standing there with tears in my eyes thinking some day, some day, I will have my Great Dane. Now that I had experienced being in the same space with this animal, there would be no turning back. It was that afternoon I decided as soon as I graduated from college and had secured a job, the very first thing I would do is get a Great Dane.

    I had saved up $500 just for this purpose - thank God the hair styles changed in the 70’s because we went from using 4 can’s of Aqua-Net hairspray a week to ironing our hair like Cher, that meant all my Aqua-Net money was banked towards the purchase of my own Great Dane. In the summer of 1973 I was offered a position as assistant professor at Ball State University. During the months before I was asked to teach summer school at Edinboro University near Erie, Pennsylvania. My undergraduate professor Donna Nicholas had invited me to Edinboro to teach her summer classes and also told me about her friend in the psychology department that had a litter of 4 month old Great Danes. I could not stand it... the money was burning a hole in my pocket. I was not in town 2 hours before I begged her to take me to see this litter of puppies.

    As we drove down the road this gorgeous black Great Dane female , even by today standards, greeted us at the end of the driveway. That night I came home with my first Great Dane, a 4 month old black female which I named Neige, which in French means snow. I loved that dog more than life itself. I had waited a lifetime for her and when I lost her at 3 years of age to bloat, it destroyed me. I mourned for a year as if this dog was my own child.

    She was a handful, never socialized properly from day one. She and I had to learn together how to make her a good citizen but she went to school with me daily, slept in my office, visited in my classroom and became loved and known all over campus. She made me love this breed - they are a part of my heart and soul and the impetus for my dedication to all canines and what I do today for this breed. Years later I realized the reason Neige came into my life was to challenge me to learn all I could about what made the giant breeds so compelling, so exotic, so magnificent yet so fragile. Her episode with bloat was truly one of the worst I have witnessed yet to this day and I am tormented by the fact that I could not help her in her horrible pain.

    I knew nothing about bloat and the veterinarian I was using at that time knew even less. I read one article in Dog World and kept asking him if this could be what they call Bloat. When I realized he did not know and I heard him on the phone with another colleague asking what this could be, I decided then and there, no matter what the outcome, I would never again rely on another individual to know what was wrong with my dog. I would never again be afraid to be assertive, to ask questions and push for answers when needed. That day my dog died, I became an advocate for my breed and all canines. To this day I tell people when you look for a vet they do not have to know about giant breeds but they do have to be a vet that is approachable, one you can ask questions, take articles to and be able to dialogue with without their ego’s getting in the way.

    You have to have someone that is willing to make phone calls to other resource people if you ask them. You have to have someone that is not put off when you want to seek a second or third opinion about your dog’s condition. In short..you have to be your dog’s advocate. If you have a vet that is like this, and they are out there, you have won half the battle. I can deal with a vet or physician making a mistake or misdiagnosis as long as they are not condescending, as long as together we make decisions with as much information as we can bring to the table.

    The loss of my first Great Dane Neige, really set in motion what I do today with my website GreatDaneLady.com. This loss made me take responsibility for learning as much as I could about this breed and it‘s health, yet be open and humble to the health care professionals I used for my animals. We are blessed to have the veterinarians Kent Wisecup and Rob and Nathan Rich of Country Acre Animal Clinic in New Castle, Indiana. Together, we have learned so much about dogs in general and giant breeds in particular over these past 36 years. I have owned other breeds along the way; Borzoi, Whippets, Shelties, and Pugs, with a rescue Beagle thrown in there for a year, and most recently a wonderful Collie that makes Lassie look dull by comparison!

    I have learned if you can feed and raise a giant breed you can raise anything else. They are by far the most difficult creature to get up to a year of age – they are a freak of nature that is for sure but they are worth every bit of effort. I guess that answers the question…. I have always had 3 parallel lives, that as an educator first and foremost, which is carried over into my website, and professional artist (examples of work are at my website) and a professional dog breeder. Not being trained or thinking like a liner thinker has been an asset to me – here is where the creative side of me has played such an important part in dealing with dog issues.

    One of my greatest gifts in this life is that I am a terrific creative problem solver and have a hunger and curiosity for information and then I want to share it with others – get the word out. That is what www.GreatDaneLady.com is all about. It is 36 years worth of articles, research and information, an educational website with common sense based information for all pet owners, breeders and pet care professionals.

  •  You founded Blackwatch Great Danes in 1973, and produced many conformation and obedience Champions over the years. In my experience, good breeders strive to improve their chosen breed, aiming for their own idea of the ‘perfect dog. What did you see in your minds’ eye as the perfect Blackwatch Great Dane?

    We are very fortunate in Great Danes to have one of the most detailed, verbally and illustrated, AKC standards as our guide to work with in developing our breeding programs.

    Some breed standards are so vague it is next impossible for a breeder to know what is “correct type” as called for. Therefore you have different breed types in the show ring and judges end up putting up what they like as opposed to what is the best example of the breed. So to say I breed for a specific type of dog, well besides working for function as well as beauty, we really try to work with the breed standard in mind when selecting for our breedings. It is important to me that the breed “looks” like the breed standard, that there is NO mistake it is a Great Dane and it has a presence about it that is grand and noble.

    I have noticed with breeders that do not have an “eye for a dog”, they tend to prefer dogs that look like the original dog they started with – using that as the “model”. For most of us our first dog was strictly a pet and lacked breed type so hopefully, people will not use that as their “standard” and continue to grow working toward their breed’s standard guidelines.You know, years ago I developed a college course called “Visual Vocabulary” –the premise is, everyone sighted has a group of preferential images, colors, shapes, forms, textures that they are drawn to and this dictates many of their choices in life.

    They frequently do not even know they have a Visual Vocabulary so in this class we set out to determine what each individual’s Visual Vocabulary is, and how that translated to their art work and to every day life including their choices in cars, clothes and mates. So, knowing everyone has a set of images they are automatically drawn to in life can be a negative thing when it comes to breeding dogs if you are not aware of it.

    People will put their own “spin” on breed type based on what they like as opposed to working toward the Standard that has been set up by the Parent club to preserve and improve a breed. That’s my take on it.

  • Beauty is often in the eye of the beholder, however temperament is less subjective. Do you feel that an emphasis on conformation (for showing) is at odds with the overall betterment of a breed?

    You know we were just discussing this at dinner the other night with friends. This really depends on the breed itself because some breeds really encourage performance work as well as conformation. In our breed I am proud to say we have a large number of individuals involved in performance work, from obedience, agility, service dogs etc and this number is growing. This is true in Herding and Hounds as well. I think now there is even more encouragement to have multi-functional animals, not just beauties but those that can do what they were bred to do.

    You will always get a few breeds that get extreme in the breed type and breed only for looks, say what they might look like from the side view versus being able to actually gait properly or function as a working or herding dog. Now there is little use for a Great Dane to take down a bear or wild boar thank goodness, but they have adapted well to sitting in the back seat of my mini-van and guarding the groceries while I run into Target!

    Temperament is the most important thing to me as a breeder – I want our dogs to be good citizen of the breed at all times and that means not only good breeding choices but lots of hard work on our part in the developmental stages (under 10 weeks) to make sure they are handled, exposed to things, people, sounds etc. Before our dogs leave us, the work is done and the owners just need to reinforce it with consistent verbal commands.

    For 25+ years I took a Great Dane to the University with me every day. I had a bed in the office and classroom and the kids loved it. As universities changed their structure from being a seat of learning to a large corporate mentality, there was no tolerance for animals on campus other than a service dog. I stopped bringing a Dane to work and to this day when I run into former students they talk about the dogs I brought to school.

  • Many new owners get very excited at the thought of bringing a new puppy into their home, and don’t do enough research before rushing out to buy one. For people interested in owning a Great Dane, what would you say are the most important things to look for in a breeder, and in a puppy?

    Oh boy, even I have been guilty of that one !! Again here is where the Visual Vocabulary comes into play again in making decisions, ….sometimes wrong ones (be it picking a dog or a mate).

  • The reason people gravitate to a specific breed is they usually like the looks of a dog, it is something visually about that breed that they are attracted to. Kind of how men and women pick each other while dating in college – even though the function of the breed may not be inline with the physical characteristics or what they should own – it’s the looks they gravitate to first. Give you my own personal example. 

    The other breed I wanted as a child was a Collie and I was devastated when I did not win the “Name Lassie’s Puppies” contest and win a free Lassie puppy. One of the few times in my life I have ever gone over the edge in hysteria and I JUST KNEW I was going to win one of those puppies!

    After all, I had come up with the best names “ Queenie, Blackie, and Princess, right?! Of course I should have won – it was a no brainer! WRONG, that puppy went to some kid in Ohio and I was not only mad, I was just hysterically disappointed.

    After a few shakes from my mother, “Straighten up”, I snapped out of it and decided some day I will get a Great Dane AND a Collie, I’ll show’em!! Years later I purchased what I thought was the next best thing to a Collie, it was a Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound), after all it was just a taller, flatter version of a Collie.

    WRONG --- boy was I wrong, there was no way my Borzoi would save me if I fell down a well, lead me home if I got lost in the woods or drag us out of the house if it were a’blaze, like Lassie did.

    That is when I learned to read, read, read about the history, the function and the temperament of a breed before you get one, and of course meet one in person.

    So many dogs end up in the shelter or rescue because the people that got them had no idea what they were bred to do or what special needs they have that need to be met. So I always tell people, investigate first and forget about the looks, make that secondary on your list.

    (As a side note, I now have a 15 month old Collie and he would save me if I fell down a well!). 

  • You were heavily involved in creating the Eagle Pack Natural dog food that you feature in your Blackwatch Feeding Program. Can you tell us a little about that, and why this particular food is the only one that you wholeheartedly recommend?

    Yes, in the early days of owning dogs and trying to learn about showing and caring for them, I had friends that expressed the same fears about bloat and short life expectancies in this breed. When I lost my first Dane to bloat I dedicated my energies to understanding why and how it happens and how to feed them so they could live longer. This meant much research analyzing diets, doing lab tests, running feed trials. The whole thing just gained momentum and a life of it’s own by the late 80’s.

    I ran a 6 year national survey in my breed and out of that came some information that showed us how to slow down growth in these large/giant breeds so they develop slow and even with no developmental diseases. I sent the 6 year research info to several companies but only Eagle and Mr. Joe Cocoquyt took a genuine interest. He asked me to meet him at Denny’s in Kokomo, Indiana the next day and out of that meeting the Natural Pack was born. We ran the only long term feed trials on giant breed puppies. It involved several litters across the country for up to one year of age. The success was remarkable!

    That was over 20 yrs ago. Now we have so much less growth problems knowing what we need for large breed growth. Dogs can develop orthopedic disease on any food if feed too much, it is a matter of intake vs. output, but better quality foods have quality food sources, usable minerals and micro-minerals which are needed for slow even growth. Joe Cocoquyt (Eagle) had died in 2008, the company was sold and history shows us what happens.

    When Paul owned Iams it was a wonderful food for the time it was made. Now, well - let's just say Paul Iams would turn over in his grave. I am a staunch supporter of the family owned smaller companies, where the employees work together with a common purpose and there is a sense of humanity. As a business owner, I have always found if you do the right thing, do the best you can for the benefit of the whole, the profits will come, but not at the expense of our pet's health. In this industry (dog foods and supplements) I will only endorse companies with " a purpose and a heart".

    I have an award that will be given out starting May 1st, it's called the "Company With A Conscience Award" - and these companies and/or products will be endorsed by GreatDaneLady.com - watch for this award on websites that you visit, it is a guide to those companies who focus on quality principles and practices and who give back to the community.

    In April 2009 I made the decision to dedicate my efforts to a quality company that makes holistic products. I am now consulting for the Precise & Precise Plus on the domestic side, and for Precept Plus/ANF on the International side. It is a terrific lineup of foods that I can believe in andstand behind, they have feed out very well in my feed trials and I am excited about consulting for the Precise/Precept family of foods.

  • I get many questions from new puppy owners on a daily basis. A topic that arises pretty consistently is the incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in young puppies. You have come up with a regime that helps to prevent this. Can you tell us a little about this?

    Many years ago I went with a friend while she took her granddaughter to get a vaccination. As we waited in the office the nurse gave the little girl a glass of orange juice. I thought she was being polite but she said “it helps prevent a reaction, we have found they are not as tired or lethargic after if they have Vitamin C supplements or drink juice 20 minutes before the shot”. This really got me to thinking about the detoxification process and how important antioxidants are in preventing vaccine reactions, not only in humans but pets as well, so we started using Vitamin C in our dog’s diets in the late 1970’s.

    As the years went on and the more I learned, the more important I realized it was to have a nice cross section of antioxidants (not too much of one kind to cause a pro-oxidant effect), but a good array of antioxidants to keep the body cleansed. When I started using the Nzymes (dietary enzyme) product 25 years ago I was astonished at it’s ability to detoxify the body from toxins, so the Vitamin C and Nzymes treats or granular became a staple in the Blackwatch Feed Programs. It is a natural way to help prevent any vaccine reactions in our dogs. Now we know it is the bovine carrier in vaccines that is the problem for dogs and spacing them apart is important plus backing up the system with Vit C and Nzymes.

    Thankfully with this protocol we have never had a vaccine reaction, be it seizure or auto-immune disease. We also adhere to the vaccination schedule of Dr. Jean Dodds.

  • Many large and giant breeds have a tendency towards developing bone and joint problems. There is a genetic component, and prospective puppy owners should only buy from breeders who have their breeding dogs undergo the appropriate health screenings. However, environmental and dietary factors can also cause these kinds of issues, what do you think are the most important things the new owner of a large breed puppy can do to help protect their pet?

    First do your homework on the breeder that you are buying from and make sure they not only do the heath checks, but that they are willing to give you copies of the results. Don’t buy from a breeder that sends the puppy home before 8 weeks of age – it’s too young! Don’t take a checkbook when you go get a puppy and don’t buy to try and save a puppy from a bad breeder, this never works out well especially with the giant breeds.

    Now, nothing in life is a guarantee- even with health checks – but you can minimize your chances of problems and optimize your dog’s chances of survival and living a longer comfortable life if you provide them with nutrition that supports the whole system, not just parts of it. Based on my feed trials over the years and personal experience, I do NOT feel HOD, OCD or Pano is genetic. When I can create these “conditions” with a shift in nutrition then reverse them, they are not genetic in my opinion.

    I do believe some forms of Hip Dysplasia are genetic in that the parents did not compensate each other for a breeder, so it could simply be an “engineering problem”, the parts don’t fit. We see this sometimes in bites when breeders put two very different types of dogs together, say a slight headed bitch bred to a very heavy headed stud (more mastiff type), there will be a significant problem with bites as the head pieces are too dissimilar and create structure problems. This puzzle part and that puzzle part do not fit together….that’s all.

    So in that respect it would be genetic, but not necessarily GENETIC, if you get my drift. I know of one breeder who is in her 80’s and still active in showing and breeding in England. Since the importing of Eagle Natural, her dog’s % of hip dysplasia went from 42% in the 1980’s to 6% currently in 2009. Yes, nutrition can play an enormous roll in what is often seen as genetic. The study of how nutrition affects genetics is called Nutrigenomics. 

    That is why I am adamant about using what I call the CORE 4 supplements in the Blackwatch Feed Programs, regardless if feeding raw, semi raw, homemade, or top of the line dry food.The Core 4 includes a good probiotic/digestive enzyme product (4 in 1 Probiotics or BakPakPlus), dietary enzymes (Nzymes granular or chewable treats) to put the living component back in a processed diet and to take the load off the pancreas, and Ox-E-Drops to help keep the gut’s pH where it should be to prevent leaky gut or systemic yeast over growth and other depilating diseases’. The pH of a system is where the health and disease starts!!

  • Another topic that shows up on my question page pretty regularly, concerns allergies in dogs. It seems that more and more dogs are showing allergic responses to food and other substances. What do you recommend puppy owners do to prevent their pup from suffering the misery of allergy symptoms?

    I keep thinking I have to keep this short for Sue or they will lose interest, now we have a topic I can give a 3 hour seminar on.

    Before we discuss it we need some background... In the statement above I said we need “dietary enzymes to put the living component back into a processed diet. It is the living component – enzymes – that cleanses the body of toxins and takes the load off the pancreas for the digestion of nutrients”. (humans and animals). Side note: this is one of the main causes of diabetes today in human and pets. I digress.....When a system lacks critical “living enzymes” there is a breakdown in the immune function and the dog’s body can’t detoxify or cleanse itself.

    The toxins leave the body through excrement, urine and the skin, which is the body’s biggest filter organ. Toxins end up on the skin and it changes the pH of the surface of the skin causing itching and scratching. When it starts to spiral out of control the veterinarian sees the skin being inflamed and gives a diagnosis of a “food allergy”. They put the dog on a prescription diet (grain based) along with steroids and antibiotics for a secondary infection and the cycle starts all over again because the meds kill off the beneficial bacteria of the gut, making more room for yeast to grow!

    Now we have the next stage which is 'Leaky Gut Syndrome', where the overgrowth of pathogens has allowed the mucus lining to be destroyed and the toxins now leach out of the intestinal walls into the bloodstream, making these toxins go systemic (all system). The main by-products of Leaky Gut Syndrome is Yeast Overgrowth. The over growth of a fungus, called Candida albicans, is normally within the digestive tract but when it over grows it affects the whole system of the dog (human) making it go septic with yeast die-off .

    Actually allergies are very rare but systemic yeast infections are the biggest health problem today, not only for pets but for humans as well. It is now being recognized but only if you have an alternative therapy physician or holistic veterinarian, they do not understand or recognize this problem. Sometimes what appears to be a food allergy is actually a contact allergy. Some of the things that cause allergies are carpet products (sprinkle kind), like Carpet Fresh. I know of a breeder who spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out what was wrong with their show dog and it was a reaction to Carpet Fresh.

    Tide detergent, as well as other detergents can be a very big problem if used on dog bedding. Just wash bedding in bleach, no soap and NO softeners which can trigger respiratory reactions in young animals and children in particular. Any aerosol sprays, like air freshener and especially Lysol and other kinds of disinfectants, do not use them. Yard, flower, bug sprays and sprayed fields in agricultural areas…all of these things can cause serious contact allergy reactions. And lastly, swimming pools with chemicals/chlorine can also be a serious problem for skin and coats.

    If you have a dog that you suspect is allergic to something 1) have the thyroid tested first and if low normal treat the dog with meds. 2) switch foods to a single source protein food – a holistic diet is best. 3) check the environment for cleaning products etc. If that does not do it then use the Yeast Removal Kit - 9 chances out of 10 your dog has yeast overgrowth.

    Read more about this in my article: A Mini-Course in Systemic Yeast. You can get the yeast kit at www.firstchoicenaturals.com or www.nzymes.com

  • Large or giant breeds are also vulnerable to another very serious condition called Bloat or Torsion. Many owners are unaware of, or unfamiliar with, this problem and this can have fatal consequences. I understand that you’ve had personal and heartbreaking experience with this. Can you explain to us the symptoms of bloat, what to do if you are concerned that your dog is experiencing these, and what can be done to prevent, or at least reduce the risk, of it occurring?

    First, all breeds can bloat and torse (stomach and/or spleen turns). It is more of a problem in large breeds because many large breeds (giants) do not handle stress well, they are not fed as well (eat more food than tiny dogs) and this can all add up to a breakdown in the dogs system, causing a change in the pH of the gut. This then allows pathogenic bacteria and yeast to overgrow in the gut causing bloat/torsion.

    Last week I talked to a woman who’s dog has bloated 3 times, she said when the dog was stuck with a trocar (to let the gas out in an emergency situation before operating), she said “Linda, it smelled just like yeast and so did the dog’s breath!” Yes, there is a disruption of the normal flora of the gut and overgrowth causes bloat. This is why Probiotics are critical to keeping the incident of bloat down in these dogs. Stress is always the trigger, sometimes it is unseen stress – it can be hormonal as well, this is why unspayed or unneutered animals are more susceptible to this problem.

    Hormones fluctuate during seasons and can change the body’s pH balance in the gut and there you go..... overgrowth of pathogens and bloat. This is why grain based diets of the yester year were such a problem and why so many kennels lost dogs to bloat. I do not believe grains, whole grains of high quality and in moderate amounts are a bad thing for dogs. I do not like grain based diets, especially grains that are not human grade but feed grade which makes them lack nutrients and are high in glutens which are an issue with systemic yeast – see how this is all interconnected. A healthy gut is the basis of all wellness for them and for us.

    At the risk of making this interview longer than a best seller, here is a link with the symptoms of bloat. Any dog owner should know this, not just big dog owners. It is important to have a vet that is knowledgeable about it, can do the surgery and has an emergency clinic because when this hits time is of the essence – literally you have to get them to a vet immediately!www.dogsymptomscure.com/dog-bloat-symptoms.php

  • Great Danes are obviously ‘your’ breed, and your love and respect for them is clearly immense. They’re very impressive dogs, but I would imagine that owning one has its’ own unique challenges (as of course is true with any breed). Do you have an opinion as to what sort of home or environment is most suitable for one of these beauties?

    I have always had a couple breeds at one time, but I am most familiar with the challenging giant breeds. I have owned Pugs for years, shown some and had a few litters – I currently only have one. I used to take at least one Dane with me everywhere, but the traveling got to be a problem because if they get sick and you are out of town, or bloat perhaps, good luck finding a clinic that will take them. They don’t board well which is why most Great Dane owners have dog sitters. Boarding kennels don’t like to take Danes because they get stressed and bloat. This breed does not handle stress well, they are so people oriented that even when well socialized, they are still kinda big babies.

    The kind of homes that get Great Danes need to be owners that can spend time with them, make them an integral part of the family and keep them well socialized. They do need room to play so a large fenced yard is critical for wellness and keeping up muscle strength as they age. I have had other breeds, my Collie is wonderful but he is much more of a “working dog”, he needs a job all the time and in spite of his classy pedigree, he is much more of a “Dawg” than my Danes – a Dane is like having a 4 year old in a dogs’ body. They can be needy..oh so needy….and sitting on your lap is a Great Dane thing – it’s genetic not learned. Sitting in the back seat of the van, on the bench at the vet’s office or on your lap when they are frightened – that is a Great Dane, they think they are little.

    Right now we have a 5 week old singleton puppy (only 1 in the litter) and her socialization process has to be different because she has no siblings. The bad thing is she gets all our attention, which she will expect as an adult. All she wants to do is be held…we have probably babied her too much, but gosh what are you going to do – she is so precious……but when she is 100lbs at 6 months and wants to crawl up in the lazyboy with someone, we have problems!

    There is something about Great Danes, they always want to be near your face, their presence is like that of a human being – they take up that much space, when you talk to them their face is often eye level to yours. When you lose one, you know it, there is an enormous presence/energy gone from your home, it’s like losing a human. They don’t take the heat or the cold, they must have comfortable bedding available to them, they are not like a beagle that you can let out and know they will be fine.This breed, like all giants are fragile, people think because of their size they are like a horse, but they are not. They are a freak of nature and man has intervened.

    Dogs are genetically meant to be about 40-60 lbs tops, when you get out of that size range then orthopedic and heart issues do occur. This is why diet is so critical to keeping these dogs healthy and long lived. When I started in Danes, a 5 year old dog was very old. Now it’s nothing for a 10 -12 or older Dane to still be active.Having a Dane is like living with a special needs child, so know that before you ever venture into owning one.

    Everything has to be bigger. A bigger yard, car, bed, crate, food bill and vet bill. All require more, more, more to house one Great Dane properly. But along with their size goes their huge, sweet heart and it makes them all worth while.

  • Finally, Linda I know you are very heavily involved in educating dog owners. You often give seminars and lectures, and have been featured in many well-known publications. What is on your ‘to do list’ for the next couple of years, any up-and-coming projects or new ventures that you’d like to share with us?

    I retired from the University in 2006 – hoping for more time to write and work in the studio. That never happened, in fact I have never been busier but I am hoping for more time to do those things in the future months. Joe and I just returned from the K9 College Cruise to the Caribbean (sounds fun), but I am exhausted. The preparation for the seminars, then the seminars, then the interaction with dog breeders – it’s so fun -- but I am worn out. People want me to write a book, that’s going to wait! I also have a human nutrition website I want to get up and running and then move my human articles which are on GreatDaneLady over to that website. It’s all designed, just waiting for updated text.

    So, I have way too much to do – too much to research and write about and as always, help people with their dog’s problems. The new science of nutrigenomics, which is to make feed programs to support dogs with all kinds of conditions and heritable diseases, be it epilepsy, diabetes, heart problems etc and there is a nutritional way to ease the pain and suffering of these dogs. This is what I am doing with my Feed Program and Supplement Kits for specific problems or prevention of problems which Dr. Wagner carries at www.FirstChoiceNaturals.com.

    Currently, we are working on a cancer kit – that is a big project.So.... that’s what I am doing and right now, I can’t want until April so we can bring the boat out of storage, no laptop, no cell phone – just quiet days floating on the lake with good food, wine and good friends, where nobody knows 'The Great Dane Lady'..... where I am just Linda.

  • Thank you so much Linda!

    I can't thank 'The Great Dane Lady' enough for devoting her time and energy to giving us such an fascinating interview. As the owner of large breed dogs, I've found the information VERY interesting!

    Linda, I wish you all the best with your future plans and projects... and I hope you get to enjoy a little bit of that 'quiet time' you so richly deserve.

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