Dog breeds

Harlequin Great Dane – The Truth Behind Their Amazing Coat


Harlequin Great Dane

The Harlequin Great Dane is the world’s largest dog breed. Known as the gentle giant of the dog world, this stunning, oversized dog is an easy favorite with his sweet spirit and family-friendly nature.

But there are a number of colors and color patterns when it comes to the Great Dane breed, prompting many interested potential owners to wonder if the color relates to temperament, health, and more.

With that in mind, let’s learn about one of the most popular and rarest colors of Great Dane – the Harlequin!

What is a Harlequin Great Dane?

The Harlequin Great Dane is one of several standard colored Great Dane dogs.

This color is perhaps the most difficult to come by as it takes generations of breeding to perfect, however, it is one of the most popular and perhaps most beautiful.

Along with Harlequin, other standard and recognized Great Dane colors include

  • Brindle
  • Fawn
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Mantle
  • Merle

As we mentioned above, perhaps one of the most impressive things about the Harlequin Great Dane is that it is one of the most difficult colors to perfect in the breed, and can be one of the rarest.

What does the Harlequin Great Dane look like?

Standing 28 to 32 inches tall and weighing between 110 and 175 pounds, the Great Dane is difficult to miss, and the Harlequin Great Dane has the added singularity of a stunning and unique coat.

Harlequin Great Danes’ typically have a white coat with black spots or ‘patches’, according to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard, with a white neck, and black or spotted ears.

There can be some variation of grey patches or spots throughout the coat as well.

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standard for show quality Harlequin Great Danes, any variation of colors that stray outside of these guidelines will be faulted or considered unacceptable for show.

But what about coat color and it’s the correlation with breed behavior and health?

To understand how coat color may impact your dog’s overall temperament and vitality, let’s look at the genetics of the breeding process.

Harlequin Great Dane Genetics

Harlequin Great Dane

Breeding a perfect Harlequin Great Dane can take generations and plenty of trial and error.

In fact, many breeders have found that just because you breed two Harlequin coated Great Danes does not guarantee that their litter is going to lead to Harlequin Great Dane puppies.

But, why?

Well, it all comes down to genetics.

The result of your dog’s color according to veterinarian Lynn Buzhardt, is ultimately determined by the colors, black and red.

As she explains, all dogs carry these foundation colors and these serve as the base for all other coat color variants.

The coat color a puppy inherits will depend on the genetics it receives from its parents, but there is also quite a bit of chance thrown in.

Even Harlequin Great Danes carry these two foundation colors in their genetics, which is why it is not always guaranteed that two Harlequin Great Danes will make a Harlequin puppy.

While studies are still ongoing, and opinions vary, most experts agree that coat color really has nothing to do with the overall temperament of your dog.

The bottom line is that your dog’s temperament is going to come down to whether or not he was responsibly bred, properly exercised and groomed, and thoroughly socialized.

What about health?

Unfortunately, coat color and the health of certain dogs have been proven to go hand and hand.

In fact, according to Dr. Stanley Coren, Ph.D., coat color and congenital deafness can be related. But is this something you have to worry about with a Harlequin Great Dane?

Actually, yes.

As Dr. Stanley Coren’s article states, dogs with lighter colored coats such as roan, piebald, merle, and white, are more susceptible to genetic hearing issues and deafness.

This is because the gene that creates these colors has a tie to the gene that leads to congenital deafness in dogs.

The unfortunate truth is that Harlequin Great Danes, in particular, can be very susceptible to congenital deafness due to the fact that their coats carry two pigmentations with the primary pigmentation being white.

Still, deafness is not the only health issue you should know about before you consider getting a Great Dane, although it is the only one that studies have found directly correlate with the harlequin color.

Before we dive any further into your Harlequin Great Dane’s overall health, let’s talk a bit more about their temperament.

Harlequin Great Dane Temperament

Yes, the Great Dane is a massive dog. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, the Great Dane is the largest dog in the canine kingdom!

Still, there is a reason this powerful pooch is known as a gentle giant.

One of the most endearing things about the breed is that they seem to have no concept of their actual size and considers themselves a lap dog of sorts, although they might accidentally wind up crushing you as they climb onto your lap to snuggle!

Harlequin Great Dane Nature

These big dogs are as sweet as can be and spend most of their days lazing about and enjoying family life.

Great Danes are patient with children and get along with just about everyone, although that doesn’t mean this is the breed for everybody.

Perhaps the biggest issue with a Great Dane is obvious – their massive size. If you are a first-time dog owner who is not prepared for the hindrance of such a massive dog, then you may want to downsize to something a little less imposing.

The Great Dane is not an outdoor dog by any means and will prefer to be inside and up underneath his family or watching from his cozy bed by the fireside.

And while sweet natured and friendly, Great Danes make wonderful protectors of the home and will certainly alert their family to anything suspicious nearing their domain!

Still, they enjoy their family and are endearing and eager to please, meaning they are a treat to train!

How can you socialize a Harlequin Great Dane?

Of course, due to this breed’s sheer size and strength, it is always wise to socialize and train a Great Dane early on beginning in puppyhood.

This is a dog who can easily overpower you on walks and should learn early on what it means to sit, stay, and walk on a leash and harness.

Early socialization will also help with their overall mental health and happiness.

You can socialize your Harlequin Great Dane early on through dog parks, on walks, and getting around as many people and pets as possible.

Experts recommend that any new experience you introduce your Great Dane puppy to should be a positive one to ensure they aren’t fearful of new people or places in the future.

But, what about their health?

Harlequin Great Dane Health

The thing about very large dogs like the Great Dane is that they don’t always live very long. In fact, most studies conclude that the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan.

Being the largest breed in the doggy world, the Great Dane has a rather short lifespan of only 7 to 10 years.

Furthermore, this massive dog can be susceptible to a number of health issues due to his massive size.

Even with responsible breeding practices, potential owners should keep an eye out for health issues including

  • Congenital Deafness
  • Cardiac diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Bloat

Let’s take a moment here to talk more about bloat.

Also known as gastric dilation-volvulus, or GDV, bloat is a serious and life-threatening condition that is considered the number one killer of Great Danes, according to the American Kennel Club.

Before committing to getting a Great Dane, or any breed that is susceptible to this serious condition, most experts recommend educating yourselves on the signs and symptoms, so you know what to do should bloat occur.

The good news is that, if caught early, you have a higher chance of saving your dog. There are also some preventative methods you can take for your Great Dane to help reduce his chances of developing Bloat in the future.

To learn more about bloat and how it can be prevented, diagnosed and treated, click here.

The Great Dane’s Diet

Of course, another way to help keep your Great Dane healthy is by making sure he is on a healthy and balanced diet.

Since Great Dane’s are so susceptible to bloat, it is important to feed them a high-quality and healthy diet and give them smaller meals multiple times a day rather than one or two large meals for breakfast and dinner.

Experts also recommend that you do not exercise your Great Dane immediately before or after meal time, as doing so can increase the chances of them developing bloat.

And speaking of exercise, due to their large size, Harlequin Great Danes can be prone to joint and hip issues. This is a breed who will need plenty of exercise but should also be watched and monitored during play.

Try and avoid letting your Great Dane run up and down stairs, especially as a puppy or young adolescent when still growing.

You should also keep in mind that over-exercising your Great Dane can cause health issues just as under exercising can.

A good amount of exercise for your Great Dane will be a nice, fast-paced walk a few times a day.

So, how else can you help keep your Great Dane healthy and happy throughout his lifetime?

While most reputable breeders will have had their Great Dane puppies health tested, you can also have your Great Dane health screened yourself.

Some of the recommended tests for a Great Dane as specified by the national breed club are

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam

Keeping your Harlequin Great Dane properly groomed will also help to keep him healthy and happy. Let’s talk more about grooming below!

Harlequin Great Dane Grooming

Although Great Danes have short coats and are minimal shedders, they do shed seasonally, and their sheer size alone can mean they will produce quite a bit of loose hair.

For the most part, brushing your Great Dane once a week should suffice and help keep loose hair at bay and his beautiful coat looking healthy.

Luckily, Great Danes only need occasional baths unless they get particularly mucky.

And, like all dogs, your Harlequin Great Dane will need his ears checked and cleaned regularly to keep moisture, debris, and wax from building up and causing infection.

In addition, it’s worth keeping nails trimmed or ground down regularly to keep them from cracking or breaking, which can be extremely painful for the pooch and lead to infections.

Your Harlequin Great Dane

Yes, it’s true that the Harlequin Great Dane is gorgeous, sort of rare, and oh-so-massive! It is also true that these beautiful dogs make wonderful companions and get along with just about everyone.

Unfortunately, Harlequin Great Danes can be susceptible to a number of health issues including congenital deafness and bloat, and due to their large size, they have a shorter lifespan than most other breeds.

However, with proper care, exercise, a healthy diet, and lots of love, your Harlequin Great Dane is sure to make a head-turning companion you will certainly fall in love with!

Do you have a Harlequin Great Dane? Tell us what you love most about him or her in the comments below!


The Health and Research Chair, Great Dane Health and Research, The Great Dane Club of America

Stanley Coren, PhD, DSc, FRSC, Your Dog’s Coat Color Predicts His Hearing Ability, Psychology Today,

Stanford University Medical Center, Science News, Genetics of Coat Color in Dogs May Help Explain Human Stress and Weight

Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, Genetics Basics – Coat Color Genetics in Dogs, VCA Hospitals,

A. Ruvinsky, J.Sampson, The Genetics of the Dog, Chapter 4, Page 81, Genetics of Coat Color and Hair Texture

S. M. Schmutz, T. G. Berryere, Genes Affecting Coat Color and Pattern in Domestic Dogs: A Review, Animal Genetics

Tiffani J Howell, Tammie King, Pauleen C Bennett, Puppy Parties and Beyond: the role of early age socialization practices on adult dog behavior, Volume 6, pages 143-153

Stanley Coren PhD, Psychology Today, Are Black Dogs Less Lovable?

The American Kennel Club, Great Dane

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