(translated by Mary Petter)
The starting point for our breed was our pedigree bitch Rebecca "von der Gigantengrotte". Rebecca had not, in fact, been acquired for breeding; it was some time later that I decided to apply my experience as a performance breeder to the breeding of dogs. Slowly, and with patience,the new breeding base was built up.
By a stroke of luck I met a breeder who not only had many years of experience in breeding harlequin and black Great Danes, but also could prove the achievements of his line of breeding with Exzellenz and Eila "von der Gigantengrotte" themselves, as well as their pedigree. The term "line" should not be taken to mean inbreeding; on the contrary, here it means the constant efforts to improve and consolidate the breeding base by using top quality pedigree males. The end result is by no means an indefinable mix of types; through careful selection during breeding the trademark of the breeder is clearly recognizable. In Britain this method of breeding is called "like to like".
I was able to continue this work, making use of my knowledge and concepts of breeding value gained as a performance breeder while working in research. Unfortunately, misunderstandings often arise with regard to terms such as "breeding value" and " phoneys"- animals which dazzle you with their appearance but may well be of no true value. The absolute standards necessary for exhibitions are disadvantageous in that they lead us to look for the absolute in appearance but to forget to look behind the scenes.
In addition, puppies from the mating of champions are easier to sell. The term genetic-" phoney" or "dazzler" is well-established in agriculture but unfortunately unheard of in dog breeding in Germany.
Great Danes "vom Gehrensee"
The Great Danes from our combination lines are good-natured, sensitive, fond of children, devoted and affectionate by nature. They can certainly compete with breeds used as service and working dogs. We have never had any puppies that might be called "spoilt". Our animals have firm characters, so that biting out of fear does not occur even in stress situations. All our puppies have become very good family dogs, who respect their place in the family hierarchy implicitly. One should bear in mind, however, that in keeping with their temperament they need plenty of exercise without a lead. They will, however , thank their owners for this with stable good health and a long life.
Keeping Great Danes
Our Great Danes have the free run of 800m² of land. Breeding and rearing without such kennels seems problematic to me. The result would be bitches and pups who are constantly under cover and with very restricted exposure to sunlight, which is so essential to the forming of vitamin D. In the 40m² pen for the puppies there is a special 8m² protective space with a hut for the litter, which is made of 12 cm thick wooden walls with additional insulation..Inside the hut an infra-red lamp provides the necessary warmth for cold weather.
Our Great Danes also spend time in the house at regular intervals, so that the necessary attachment to the family is formed. The mother bitch always gives birth in the birthing box which is in the house. During the first 20 days the whole litter stays in the house. After that for reasons of hygiene and better development the litter is moved to the puppies' pen, but during the first 20 days the puppies have already become very used to humans.
All the Great Danes are used to travelling on public transport in Berlin. They can also be taken on holiday as overnight stays at hotels are no problem. Whether in a mountain hut in the "Riesengebirge " in winter or during a trip to Vienna, there have never been any problems. Our Anuschka "vom Gehrensee" accompanied us on a cycling tour of the Polish Baltic coast. She took distances of 25 km in her stride without any signs of fatigue. This is just one example of the enormous advantages that breeding for vitality through outcrossing bring to dog, owner and breeder.
In future we do not intend to increase our limit of one to maximum 2 litters per year. We will continue to use only excellent males who are free of hip-joint-dysfunction and who have a positive and stabilizing influence on the type and its health.
One worry should be mentioned, however. On account of the rapid further development and restructuring of the economy on a world scale, the middle classes, who were the chief buyers of Great Danes are being put under pressure. This pressure is being increased by the loss of buying power of broad sections of the population. The 150,- to 200,- DM (£50 to £70) per month which the upkeep of a Great Dane costs, combined with the high level of expenditure needed for the breeding of Great Danes, could have far-reaching conseqences. Not only might smaller breeds of dog take over the market, but in a few years cheap breeders could set the tone. That would definitely have negative effects on the type, health and reputation of the breed. For this reason among others I am in favour of animal protection groups, vets, breeding associations and responsible breeders working hand in hand.
30.1.98 Dipl.Päd. G.Dießel