My Breeding Philosophy
I am not breeding just for producing puppies, but to improve the breed. My breeding goals are health and longevity, a sound temperament and a healthy anatomy without any physical exaggerations. Therefore I have submitted myself to breeding rules which are much stricter than of any breed club worldwide. Even though I try my best to reach my breeding goals I can of course not guarantee them, because I can only work with what generations of breeders before have left me and nature also has its own way. And of course the puppy buyer also plays an important role!
- I only use health-tested dogs for breeding. The most important health test in danes is the heart ultrasound + EKG, which should be as up to date as possible by the time of mating. The heart disease DCM is frequent in danes and develops with advanced age and therefore the screenings have to be repeated every 1-2 years. Hip dysplasia is not so frequent in danes, but it is often the only mandatory health test required by the breed clubs. Elbow dysplasia can occur in danes and has much more severe consequences than HD, therefore I also screen my dogs for it. My dogs are furthermore free from the Ichthyosis gene, a gene which causes disabled puppies.
- I avoid inbreeding and promote genetic variety. Decades of inbreeding are the main reason for the bad health status of many pedigree dogs. It is scientifically proven that a big genetic variety is necessary for a functional organism, which includes the immune system, metabolism, but also a sound temperament. Outcrossing also lowers the risk of an accumulation of sickening genes and thus the occurrence of genetic diseases. Therefore I always try to keep the COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding) as low as possible and the ALC (Ancestor Loss Coefficient) as high as possible. A COI of max 3,13% and an ALC of min 85% are advisable (calculated over 6 generations).
- I don’t use popular sires. Popular sires are males, which produce a lot of offspring. A lot means – as a rule of thumb – more than 5% of the offspring of a population in a generation (i.e. 3-4 years in danes). The so-called “popular sire syndrom” is one of the main reasons for the loss of genetic variety in many dog breeds and the spread of genetic diseases. Since I don’t only think about my own line when breeding, but about the whole breed, I want to preserve rare blood. Therefore I only use stud dogs which have not produced plenty of puppies. Popular sires are often Champions/Multichampions. I don’t care at all about show titles when I choose a male for breeding.
- I use old males. The great dane is a breed with a low average life expectancy and many health problems. Therefore I only use sires older than 5 years (and preferably over 8 years) for breeding, because my breeding goal is longevity. The heart disease DCM develops mostly between 3-6 years, so the older the dog while his heart is screened, the more diagnostically conclusive is the result. A male which has a healthy heart at the age of over 6 or even 8 years only has a very low risk left to develop DCM. Also many other genetic diseases like stomach torsion or bone cancer appear mostly in advanced age. Another advantage with old sires is, that there is more health information available about their ancestors (which age reached the parents/grandparents, why did they die?) and their progeny, if existing. If you use a 2 year old male with 4 year old parents and 6 year old grandparents you have almost zero data health-wise. The use of frozen semen of males which died old gives extra advantages considering the availability of the above-mentioned informations. An old stud dog has also proven a certain fitness that allowed him to reach a high age. There actually exist genes for longevity which can be passed on to the offspring. I don’t suggest that young dogs should not be used at all, but if then preferably with older females and only for very few litters. And then one should wait and see how the offspring develops and if the male stays healthy. What do you do if a two year old male has produced 10 litters and then dies of DCM at the age of 4?
- I use dogs with many old ancestors. I always try to gather as much information as possible about the dogs I use for breeding. This is not always easy, the lack of transparency, but also the lack of systematic data collection, is a huge problem in pedigree dog breeding in general and especially in great danes. I know a lot about my mother line and I do my best to find out what the parents/grandparents of the sires I want to use died of and at which age. I will not use a dog whose parents and/or whose offspring have died of a genetic disesase which is frequent in great danes (t.ex. DCM, bone cancer, stomach torsion). But as mentioned above, it is unfortunately almost impossible to get 100% of informations. There are also diseases of which it is not known yet to which degree they are caused by genes or by environmental factors.
- I protect my females. My females are not only breeding dogs for me, but mainly family members. That’s why I want them to have a long and happy life. I use them for breeding only between the age of 2 years until the age of max 6 years and they don’t have more than 3 litters in their lifetime (and only if everything went well in the earlier litters). My females have at least one heat break between their litters (min. 10 months) and when the litter is bigger than 8 puppies they get at least two heats (min. 15 months) time to recover.
- I don’t breed hypertypes. The trend to breed very heavy danes with a lot of loose skin has spread amongst Continental Europe since the late 1980ies and got worse over time (more info about this: here). Those dogs have a lot of health issues like eye diseases, orthopedic problems etc. Furthermore they don’t comply with the great dane standard (which unfortunately not all judges seem to know and award those dogs with champion titles). They are also not fit for function, which means they would not be able to perform the original tasks great danes were bred for, which is hunting and gripping big wild animals. My breeding goal are anatomically sound and athletic danes without any physical exaggerations. Great Danes of the so-called classic type that could be found all around the world until the 1980ies.
- I only breed with dogs with a good temperament. The temperament of a dog which is so big is very important, especially nowadays when we want our dogs to share our everyday life with us. Therefore I always try to get to know the males I use for breeding personally already before the mating to check their personality. The stud dogs I used until now even have passed official temperament tests. Also my stem females Gaia and Alma are temperament tested and their offspring have a stable and friendly character.
- I socialize my puppies well. After having laid the genetic foundation of a good temperament I do my best to give the puppies a good start to life. They are born in my living room and grow up in the house so they get used to all everyday-life situations. I offer the puppies a lot of stimuli for them to develop into curious, fearless dogs. They are raised in my pack and learn the dog language very well. I also train with the puppies to drive in a car, to go on a leash and show them the world outside our house and garden. They get to know many different kinds of people to become philanthropical dogs. Since a good socialisation takes a lot of time and energy I don’t have a lot of litters.
- I support my puppy owners. I feel responsible for my puppies their whole life and try my best to keep in touch with their owners. I organize puppy meetings and try to visit all my puppies at their home or meet them when they are grown up. My puppy buyers can always contact me when problems occur and in worst case scenario I take my dogs back and/or help to rehome them. When I have the possibility I also take care of my puppies later when the owner is sick or wants to go to holidays without the dog. For me as an ethical breeder it is of utmost importance to see how my progeny develops and if I reached my breeding goals. Without this information I have no chance to improve.
You find more detailed information about modern breeding, classic type and health issues in great danes on my info page. There you can also check if a great dane fits to you and if a male or a female suits you better. If you are interested in my breeding program you can find my past, current and upcoming litters here:
If you are interested in a puppy from GaiAlmas kennel please fill out this application form (without any engagement)! You can answer in English, Swedish or German!