By Arlene Scarbrough

Scarbrough Fair Great Danes


Please, when you read information on the internet, use your experience, logic and common sense to evaluate the information provided.  So many breeders and owners think they know what’s best for these dogs.  They like to see their ideas and opinions in print or hear themselves talk.  It’s difficult for me to seriously consider someone’s feeding advice if their experience with danes doesn’t exceed twenty years.    Some feeding programs can actually be dangerous, so put your brain to work.  Incorrect feeding, timing of feeding in relation to exercise, and/or a sudden change in food can contribute to the development of bloat and/or torsion.

Our Credentials:  We have raised great danes since 1970.  We have had well over 100 litters.  Since 1980, we have maintained a dozen or more of our own danes at all times.  The average life span for the breed is supposed to be seven to eight years.  The average life span of our danes is 10-13 years.   

The “proper” food for a great dane is quite a controversial topic.  Some breeders link their feeding instructions to their guarantee, and you can void their guarantee by deviating from their feeding instructions.   With this information in mind, we are not going to attempt to tell you what to feed your dane.  We are simply going to tell you what and how we feed our danes.

Basic Food:  Our danes’ basic diet is their kibble.   Once they pass five or six weeks of age, they are fed moistened kibble twice a day for the remainder of their lives. 

Free Feeding:  Free feeding means leaving dry kibble down at all times and letting the dogs decide for themselves when and how much to eat.  We do not allow our puppy buyers to  free fed for several reasons.  Danes carry an abundance of  water in their lips when they drink, and this can dribble out onto their dry food  causing it to sour.  Consumption of sour food can cause torsion.  Also, if you free feed, you lose a valuable tool for keeping up with your dog’s health.  Each dog will develop its own eating pattern.  Some eat all of each meal; some eat all of one meal and part of the other; some skip every third or fourth meal.  Any marked deviation from a particular dog’s eating pattern should sound an alarm.  The dane should be observed for a while to insure that nothing is physically wrong.

Kibble Change:  If you are feeding kibble and decide to change brands, you should never change brands of kibble suddenly, as a sudden change in kibble can result in the development of bloat and/or torsion.   If you want to switch kibbles, do so over a three or four day period.  First day, ¾ regular kibble and ¼ new brand of kibble; second day, ½ regular kibble and ½ new kibble; third day, ¼ regular kibble and ¾ new kibble; fourth day, all new brand of kibble.

Exercise in Relation to Mealtime:   Your dane should never be exercised or bred for an hour to an hour and a half after his/her last meal.

Our Kibble Brands:  We wean our pups on Iams Lamb and Rice Adult Formula in the red bag.  It’s appropriately low in protein.  We feed our pups Iams Lamb and Rice Adult kibble for their first six or eight months.  After that we feed either Buckeye Professional Kennel Formula or Pedigree Mealtime Small Bites.  For danes who tend to be chunky, we use Pedigree.  For danes who are energetic or who tend to be average to a little thin, we feed Buckeye. 

People Food:  Now, for the rest of the story.  We feed our danes snacks and supplements that include everything we eat except foods that cause a significant gas build up in people.  Here are just a few examples of what we feed our danes:  cooked meats, cooked eggs, cooked vegetables, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, salad, fruit, casseroles, popcorn, desserts, chocolate, cottage cheese, cereal, cookies, crackers, nuts, bacon grease, oils, candies, etc.  If fed in moderation, they can eat all of the above plus foods like spaghetti and mac and cheese. 

Bonus From Feeding People Food:  Feeding our danes people food has provided many bonuses over the years.  Each of our danes has their own favorite foods.  Some prefer meats and cheeses; other like the high carb foods like mac & cheese or potato; one likes tossed salad; and some like sweets.  Should a dane ever get seriously ill, chances are VERY GOOD that he/she will not readily eat kibble.  That’s when we bring out the big guns like spaghetti with sauce, cheese, salt, etc. or ice cream or whatever foods the particular dane prefers.  When a dane is really feeling ill or healing from surgery, he/she will often eat people food days before he/she will eat kibble.  Also, we enjoy training and we like to bait our dogs.  They seem to bait better for people food…big surprise!

Moderation Is The Key To Feeding People Food:  Adult danes weigh about the same as we do, so type of treats and/or supplements and the amount of the people food given is determined by their fitness level.  If they are chubby, we lay off of the fattening stuff.  If they are active and trim, they can have a moderate amount of anything on the list.  We do not  give our danes people food at every meal because they will stop eating their kibble.  The kibble provides a healthy, well balanced base for them. We give our danes treats when we  have left overs; if we’re having a birthday party; on special holidays; when a female dane has just had a litter; or when a dane is ill. 

If we are working with an under weight dog, a seriously ill dog or a dog recouping from an illness or surgery, we feed people food as often as possible.

Will Chocolate Kill Dogs?   I’ve heard but have not verified that only baker’s chocolate is dangerous for canines.  I know from well over thirty years of experience that regular chocolate like chocolate ice cream, frozen yogurt, chocolate candy, chocolate cake, etc. in moderation will not hurt danes or poodles.  Most of ours love it.  Our pups get to lick Tootsie Rolls before they even taste kibble.  An adult dane is the equivalent of an adult person, and a pup is the equivalent of a child.  All of our danes eat chocolate for their entire lives.  

Chewable Treats:  Our danes are not allowed to have any rawhide; cow hooves; pig ears; etc.  They are not allowed to chew chicken, turkey, lamb, or pork bones.  The only bones permitted are beef shank and or knuckle bones because they do not splinter. 


Food Related Practices or Diets I Do Not Recommend

Fasting:  Some breeders like to fast their danes one day a week.  The reason most of these breeders give for fasting is that “in the wild dogs fast”.  Folks, our danes are not in the wild.  They are in our homes.  Dogs in the wild generally fast because either they did not make a kill or they did make a kill and totally stuffed themselves, and are, therefore, not hungry.  Our danes don’t stuff themselves because we control their portions, nor do they kill their own food, so they DO NOT need to fast (except just before having a surgical procedure).

Raw Meat:  Since our danes do not kill their own food, they are not accustomed to eating tainted meat, as they would be if they were on their own in the wild.  Therefore, you should not feed raw meat to your danes.  Raw meat can  contain bacteria that the danes no longer tolerate well.

BARF DIET:  People frequently ask me what I think of the BARF diet.  My response is, “Not Much”.  Remember, I’ve told you what and how we feed our danes, and our average life span is 10-13 years.

A Reminder

A dog with health problems or allergies may require a very special diet that is appropriate for his/her condition.  If your dane has a problem that might require a special diet, you would probably do well to discuss your danes needs with your vet and your dane’s breeder.


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