Due to the Great Dane's size and slow maturity it is strongly recommended that anyone wanting to do agility with their Dane adhere to these points: 

Danes must not start doing competition sized obstacles until they are at least 2 years old damage to an immature growth plate from a fall or a bad landing could permanently injure the dog.

By their very nature Danes will need more space to safely run a course and handlers must be aware of this during training and competing and must not place "Border Collie" demands on their dogs. 

Hip and elbow xrays should be taken at 18 months so that handlers can be aware of their dog's limitations in this respect - only sound dogs and bitches should do agility.
Following is a brief outline of the training obstacles that can be worked with from a very early age and jump heights - please note that competition sized obstacles are not attempted until they are at least 2 years old

In general I have found that Danes can safely negotiate the following heights (for both jumps and contact obstacles) in relation to their size. A point worth making is that when a Dane is running at full tilt, their joints actually take more impact than doing these jumps.

bulletUnder 9 months - Pastern height
bullet9 - 12 months - Midway between pastern and elbow height 
bullet12 - 18 months - Elbow height
bullet18 - 24 months - Midway between elbow and shoulder height
bullet24 months plus - Shoulder height

Jumps:  Danes can simply run between the standards to get used to this. 

Aframe: A very low aframe gets them used to this obstacle. Danes tend to overjump the contact areas as they have such a large stride. It is important to slow the dogs down and do this obstacle slowly. 

Tyre: A very low tyre that the Dane can literally walk through. 

Seesaw: Most seesaws are not adjustable, so this must be done with three people i.e. one controlling the dog, one supporting the dog on the other side and a third to control the descent of the seesaw. 

Tubes & Tunnels: Believe it or not, Danes seems to LOVE these small tubes! These can be safely done with young puppies as there is no strain on their developing bones at all - and they LOVE them. 

Long Jump: One of the boards is enough in the beginning (height 5cm) 

Dogwalk: This is a very tricky obstacle and as such I recommend using a "puppy walk", which has a height of about 20cm, for the first two years. An adjustable dogwalk is ideal as the height can slowly be increased. 

Weave Poles: This obstacle is best taught by setting the poles about 30cm apart and having the dog run through them. Over time this distance is reduced until the poles are in a straight line. An immature dog should NOT be doing competitive type weave poles as they do place unnatural strain on the spine. 

The most critical point is not to overtrain. My dogs do agility once a week for about 15 minutes and that's it! If they get tired they loose concentration and may hurt themselves. Also I want them to LOVE agility and over working them will reduce the enthusiasm. Repeatedly putting a giant breed (even when mature) over countless jumps and obstacles is crazy. A week before a competition I will practice every day for 5 minutes (early in the morning or late afternoon). 

Other safety tips: 

Warming up - This is a must. This can just be a gentle jog for a couple of minutes. If you can teach your dog to stretch legs and back on command this is an excellent way to prepare muscles for activity.  

Equipment - This should be non-slip and must not have any rough edges. If you are unsure about the equipment rather give it a miss instead of running the risk of hurting your dog. This also applies to competition equipment - some of this equipment is not built to the right standards and by NO accounts should you force your dog just because it's a competition!  

No sharp turns - This is where 99% of agility injuries occur. Remember that a mild turn for a smaller breed is a very sharp turn for a Dane.  

No food - due to the torsion risk no food is fed 2 hours before and 2 hours after a practice session. 

Short nails - it is very uncomfortable for a dog with long nails to work the contact obstacles no matter what height they are.  

Weight control  - an overweight dog will of course take extra strain so the dog shouldn't be carrying any excess weight.  

Toilet - Give your dog the chance to relieve itself before practising. 

Collars - Training must either be done with NO collar or a snug flat buckle collar. On no accounts should a Dane do agility training with a check chain or harness! 

Water - Make sure your dog remains well hydrated, but the sessions should be very short in any case (10 -15 minutes) 

Fitness - Don't expect a couch potato to be able to handle this training straight away. The dog should have a good fitness level before it starts formal training.  

Lameness - If your dog show ANY signs of stiffness after a session take them to your vet immediately! 

Even with the most careful training, accidents can happen - so be careful! 

If you or your Dane are not enjoying the training then stop. The dog may simply not enjoy the activity and might prefer something less physically demanding. Some Danes get so over excited that training them in agility can be quite nerve-wracking. I have a young bitch like this and have to run her for a while before we start training so that she's calmer. 

I have had great joy doing agility with my Great Dane, Hamba, who is now retired. The one negative is how the number of spectators increased when Hamba competed! It is quite unusual to see a Dane in the agility ring so there were always lots of curious onlookers (like most people I would prefer not to be under the spotlight). 

Hamba also loved playing to the crowd, so I was often very nervous about what she had up her sleeve now that she had an audience! Twice she pulled off some stunts that left the poor judges rolling on the floor - once she decided it was too easy to go over a jump, so she went in between the poles (really slowly so she didn't knock the poles down!). The poor judge didn't know what to do except laugh his head off!

Another time she went into the tube when she wasn't supposed to. Halfway through the "lights came on" and she turned around inside the tube and came out of the same side she'd gone into! There was a deathly hush over the showground while everyone sat there scratching their heads and wondering how the heck she managed that. What can I say? 

On occasion Hamba has also decided to stop halfway during her run and go a give the judge a cuddle. She is such an affectionate dog, but it is very embarrassing to be left standing dogless in the ring while the crowd is having a good belly laugh at Hamba's antics! Once the cuddle is complete Hamba will quite happily resume her run and think that she scored extra points by being so "sweet".

Hamba is pictured below pulling her "cuddle a judge today" stunt at the Goldfields 2002 Championship Show (the SA equivalent to Crufts and Westminster).

My sincere thanks to the judge for ignoring her. I will get my revenge Mr. Wright!

It is strange to see a Dane in the agility ring, but if you think about the demands that were placed on them while chasing their quarry through forests etc. it is not a push to agree that Danes should be up to the task.


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