The idea of hybrid breeds of dogs, mix-breed dogs that come from two purebred parents of different breeds, is not new. Small hybrid breeds like the Yorkie-Poo and Cock-a-Poo poodle mixes have been around for many years. Recently, this trend has begun to include large breed hybrids, like the Great Dane, Mastiff mix known as a Daniff.
Large breed hybrids give folks access to the larger, more family-friendly breeds of dogs without some of the unfortunate behavior and health problem often associated with large purebred dogs. For instance, Black Labs were widely loved as family pets but then unscrupulous breeders allowed hip dysplasia, genetic weakness of the hips and hind end, to become common in the breed. By mixing Labs with other breeds, like the Boxer (Boxador) or Poodle (Labradoodle) you get a dog that carries a lot of the positive attributes of the Lab but without as much risk of genetic problems bringing health issues like hip and elbow dysplasia.
Once people saw the potential of large hybrid mixed breed dogs, the race was on to create as many different pairings as possible. While some of these pairings did not succeed, some, like the Great Dane, a Mastiff mix, or the Daniff, quickly found a following.
Perhaps a closer look at the two giant breed mix that combine to create a Daniff, the Great Dane and Mastiff, will help us to understand why their hybrid is quickly rising in popularity – and more importantly, whether or not this is the best dog breed for you.
The Great Dane
Originally known as Boar Hounds, the Great Dane breed was developed in Germany. Boar hunters needed a dog that was large enough to take on an angry boar but obedient enough to back off when ordered. Their large size and loyalty to their owners soon attracted the attention of the German nobles who were looking for guard dogs to protect their properties and their families.
From there the breed’s popularity as a guard dog spread. Although not overly aggressive, they didn’t need to be. Their size and the volume of their bark were enough to scare away even the most determined thief. As countries became more organized and the need for packs of guard dogs lessened, the Great Dane very easily adapted to life as a family pet, becoming known as the “Gentle Giant” of the dog world.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Great Dane should be large and appear both powerful and graceful. Their coat should be short and dense and appear glossy and even. They come in many different colors, from solids to harlequins and merles from dark shades to light.
The females range in height from 28 to 32 inches and weigh between 100 and 160 pounds. The males range in height from 30 to 34 inches and can weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. While both genders should be lean and muscular, the males are broader across the chest and hips with thicker necks and wider heads.
Very few people who have owned or worked with Great Danes can find negative things to say about this breed’s personality. They seem to take their nickname as the “Gentle Giants” to heart and seem to win over every dog lover they encounter.
Fun-loving and playful in nature, they are eager to please and are smart enough to train easily. Their biggest drawback is their size and so it is necessary to make sure they are well socialized and trained before they are too big to easily control by force.
Despite their size, they do not need a lot of space to be happy. While not well suited for small apartments, they adapt well to large apartments or small homes as long as they get plenty of daily exercises.
The English Mastiff is an ancient breed, with evidence of their existence tracing back over 5000 years. Originally bred for war, the ancestors of today Mastiffs were very large, very aggressive, fearless, and bloodthirsty. They fought beside the British in battle and Caesar had a pack that was trained as Gladiators and fought human gladiators in the arena.
As the need for war dogs abetted, so did this breed’s aggressiveness. While still valued as a guard dog breed in feudal Europe, it was more their size and strength than their aggressiveness that was valued. By the time they found their way to America on the Mayflower, the breed was well regarded as a personal companion dog— loyal, attentive, and friendly to their owners but still willing to be aggressive if the need arose.
They are still widely used as protection dogs today, not because they are aggressive by nature but because their size is intimidating and their strength imposing.
According to the AKC, the English Mastiff should be massive in all ways. Broad across the shoulders and rump with a thick powerful neck and wide head. The coat is short and dense. They can be fawn, apricot, or brindle but all have the distinctive dark mask, ears, and nose.
The females range in height from 26 to 30 inches at the shoulder and although still well-muscled and broad, not as heavy as the males. They weigh between 120 to 180 pounds. The males are taller, ranging in height from 30 to 34 inches at the shoulder, and tend to be significantly heavier, from 180 to 230 pounds.
Despite their size and history, Mastiffs can make great family dogs. It is essential that this breed be well trained and socialized at a young age. While not known to be aggressive, they are very protective of their families. If they are not taught that strangers do not represent a threat when they are small, they may perceive every person they do not know as a threat. Their size and their strength make that possibility problematic.
That is not to say that these dogs are ferocious or dangerous. In general, they are very placid creatures. Even if they do perceive a threat, they are much more likely to let their size and their voice do the intimidating than actually show aggression.
In spite of their great size, this breed does need a lot of room to be happy. They adapt well to either urban or rural living but they are not outdoor dogs. They overheat easily and are much happier watching a movie with you on the sofa or a dog bed than sleeping in a dog house. They do need regular exercise but are not terrible active dogs.
Now to the Daniff. The origin story of this large breed hybrid is still being written and as a Great Dane, Mastiff mix breed, there are no AKC specifications. Daniffs are recognized by the International Designer Canine Registry but they are too new a hybrid to have height, weight, or personality traits attributed to them. All we can discuss is the averages and likely outcomes of crossing the 2 great breeds of dog.
Like most mixed breed dogs, it is difficult to predict exactly which parent Daniff puppies will favor. Some look like Great Danes, some look like Mastiffs, most have attributes of both parents. All are very large. Heights of 34+ inches and weight of 250 pounds, while not average, are not unusual.
The great personality of the Great Dane, Mastiff mix, the Daniff, has its fans raving. While both the parent breeds are known to be good family dogs, being loyal, gentle, and protective, it seems this hybrid breed takes the best of both of them when it comes to personality. Meet the new “Gentle Giant” of the canine world.
From the Great Dane side, the Daniff takes playfulness, intelligence, and general friendliness with other pets as well as people. From the Mastiff side, the Daniff takes calmness, patience, and attentiveness.
The result is a dog that makes a loyal and devoted companion for a single person or an entire family. Gone is the high-strung exuberance of the Great Dane side, replaced with a cheerful expression and drooly smile. Gone is the stubbornness of the Mastiff, replaced with an eagerness to please and an inquisitive mind. Gone is the distrust of strangers, replaced with a friendly curiosity about them making obedience training easy.
The Daniff is not a rugged outdoor type of dog. Although they enjoy a good run as much as the next pup when playtime is over they are happiest curled up on the sofa with their family. They never seem to get the concept that they are way too large to be lapdogs. They will not be content sleeping on a bed removed from the people in their lives, they like to be in the center of all the action.
The Daniff does not do well being left alone for long periods of time. They tend to get bored and suffer from separation anxiety both of which can lead to behavior problems. Whether their bad behavior includes pooping or peeing in the house or destructive chewing, their size guarantees a hefty mess to clean up.
As with any large dog breed, including both of the parent breeds of this hybrid, The Great Dane and Mastiff, early training and socialization are imperative for the Daniff. Although they are not known to be difficult to train, on the contrary, they are eager to please, they do need a firm hand. Letting them get away with small infractions as pups made leads to a disastrous situation when you cannot control them as adults.
Because their sheer size will make them intimidating as adults, a Daniff puppy needs to understand from a young age that they cannot respond to fear with aggression. Fear is a confusing emotion for dogs and encountering a human that is afraid of them may lead to them responding with fear of their own. This fear can very easily become aggression if the dog feels cornered or that his family is at risk.
The only way to counter this response is to keep you Daniff well trained so they trust you and are well socialized so the hesitation of strangers does not trigger a fear response. Don’t worry that you will train the protectiveness out of your dog. It’s not possible. If your Daniff believes you are in danger it will always come to your aid. You just need to teach him which fears are real and which are not.
If you have the time, patience, and room to deal with a huge, loveable, drooly clown then the Daniff may be just the right dog for you. Any effort you have to expend when they are pups will be well rewarded with a lifetime of goodwill and good times.
How big do Mastiff Great Dane mixes get?
As with all mixed breeds, there is a fair amount of variation in the size of the Daniff. Most average between 27 and 30 inches tall at the shoulder and between 125 to 180 pounds, although there have been weights as high as 230 pounds recorded. Generally speaking, males are taller and heavier than females.
How much does a Daniff cost?
Because they are a relatively new hybrid breed, and they are growing in popularity, the Great Dane Mastiff breed can be expensive for a mixed breed. The prices range from $500 to $2000 for most reputable breeders. With a little bit of research, you may be able to find one at a shelter or rescue for significantly less. They are, unfortunately, often turned in by owners who simply were not prepared for their size and/or amount of destruction a 100-pound puppy can do.
Are Daniffs good family dogs?
Despite their size, Daniffs are very gentle dogs who would never try to hurt a member of their family. They make great family pets for older children but perhaps not so much for toddlers who can be easily knocked over by an exuberant Daniff paw or tail.
Is a Mastiff bigger than a Great Dane?
That depends on your definition of the world as “bigger”. Great Danes are the taller of the 2 breeds, ranging in height from 26 to 36 inches at the shoulder whereas English Mastiffs range in height from 25 to 30 inches at the shoulder. Mastiffs are the heavier of the 2 breeds with weights that average between 150 to 200 pounds. Great Danes usually weigh between 100 and 160 pounds.