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Saddle Breaking a Great Dane

If you’ve ever owned a Great Dane, you’re familiar with the typical reactions a dog of this size invites. On an average walk, you’ll hear “Is that a dog or a pony?”, “Can you ride that thing?”, “What kind of horse is that?” And then there’s my favorite: “Where’s the saddle?”

Since I have a rather twisted sense of humor sometimes, these comments tucked themselves away into the hinterlands of my brain and emerged a couple of months ago. On the last day of September, I gave my granddaughter a miniature horse for her birthday. Of course, she needed a saddle, so I bought one for her – a beautiful little Western saddle with a ten-inch seat.

After Snickers, the pony, died from a rattlesnake bite (I wrote a hub about it), the saddle somehow ended up at my house. One night as I was playing with my two Great Danes, Hamlet and Grendel, I noticed the saddle. Okay, you see where this is going.

Both dogs are super sweet and well trained. In fact, if you want to find a dog that loves kids, Great Danes are hard to beat. They're one of the best dog breeds for families. They even let the grandkids ride them. Hamlet will actually encourage the little ones to climb up on his back! The kids find it difficult to “hang on,” however. There’s really not much to keep them from sliding off. I figured with the saddle, riding the dogs would be a cinch. I thought it would be a simple matter of just placing the article on the dog’s back and drawing the belly girth.

According to veterinarians, a young, healthy dog can comfortably carry one-third of its own weight. The Danes each weigh at least 150 pounds and are in top physical condition, so that meant the “boys” could safely carry up to 50 pounds. The grandchildren in question weigh around 30 pounds each, and the saddle weighs about 20, for a total weight of about 50 pounds. Still, after deliberating the issue, I thought that was too much weight, so I decided that the dogs could just carry the saddle sans rider, kind of like a backpack. Maybe walking with the extra 20 pounds would help the dogs burn off some extra energy. I figured if Ceasar the Dog Whisperer recommended adding weight to the backs of dogs in order to achieve a better workout, it had to be a good idea. And the 20-pound saddle would certainly put no undue strain on the Danes.

In my younger, slimmer years, I trained numerous horses. In almost every case, the horses that had been properly handled had no objection at all to a saddle being placed on their back. And of course, the dogs were handled all the time, right? Piece of cake.

I placed the saddle on Hamlet’s back, and he took off like a shot! He hid in the office, curled up into a ball. Okay, I decided to go with doggie #2. I lifted the saddle onto Grendel’s back, and he just stood there for a minute, looking at me. He hardly seemed to notice it. When he started walking, however, he did not like the way the saddle felt – at all! He actually started bucking and spinning like a rank bronc in a rodeo. I had never seen a dog exhibit this particular behavior before and really didn’t even know a dog could “buck.”

Needless to say, we removed the saddle and aborted our attempts at saddle-breaking the dogs. I still don’t understand why they hated it so much. It’s a lot lighter than the kids who ride the dogs, and the dogs don’t mind their tiny human “back packs” at all. Maybe they have an aversion to leather?

I think if we ever decide to try this again, we'll remove the stirrups and stirrup leathers first. I don't think Grendel liked the way they moved as he walked. I've had the same experience with young horses before, so perhaps we'll achieve better results that way. Or maybe not...

NOTE: In the attached photo, the saddle looks much larger than it actually is because of the angle from which the pic was shot. This is a ten-inch saddle.

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Grendel under saddle.

Grendel under saddle.

Hamlet giving Tristan a ride, bareback.

Hamlet giving Tristan a ride, bareback.


Melody on July 31, 2013:

Hi!! We have a dane puppy who who will be one yr old this halloween. For halloween I wanted to dress up my 3yr old daughter as annie oakly and get a saddle for emmett. Any idea where I can get one for him? I don't actually let her ride him haha He's hearty but I don't want her to be in the habbit of doing that when she starts to get too big for it, so I just want something he can walk around in. Any help or suggestions?

noble on March 29, 2012:

I have a boxer mix (about 55lbs) and I am always trying to get him to wear a bridle but he hares the bit.I've never tried him with a saddle!

Amanda on November 04, 2011:

My mom tried a soft saddle when I was a child on our great dane I wont say it was entirely effective but he didn't mind so much ! I too used to ride on ours ! I cant wait my husband has finally agreed to let me purchase my first great dane and I have found a gorgeous blue puppy !!!!

Kat on October 20, 2011:

Scroll to Continue

Hi Habee,

Thanks for sharing your photos and story. I have a Mantle Merle named Duke, he is a retired, mobility/balance Service dog and has a leather harness that he is used to wearing so I am wanting to find a saddle and I do not think he will have much issue with wearing that since the harness is kind of like that. But it sets on his shoulders, not directly on his back, so who knows till I actually put it on him. Then I have a gentle leader where I can fix it to look allot like a bridle. I have a couple small boys next door and he loves to give the 3 and 1 year old rides. Duke is a bit larger than your Danes, he is over 200lbs. He is 3/4 Euro in his lines, he stands 40 inches at the shoulders, so I definitely get the look at the horse comments all the time lol

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 25, 2010:

Myth, I did see an old photo from WWII where the Germans had a wagon that was pulled by 8 Great Danes! I guess I need 6 more for a full team. lol

mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on July 17, 2010:

I wonder... are there miniature chuckwagons? (wondering also if, in 3 or 4 months, Habee will hub about "Hamlet and Grendel Chuckwagon Champions" or something of the sort).


Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 12, 2010:

Danes are awesome, but I also love German shepherds. Great to see you!

Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on January 11, 2010:

wonderful great hrse/uhhh/dane hubs here habee :)

however, I will NOT be letting baby girl read least not until she has her bachelor degree in culinary arts(2013)then she can read them : ) shes always wanted a great dane...well,she gets her chef hat and she can cook for them too!!

actually I had a friend of a friend who had two and they were wonderful,well behaved, never jumped up on yo, looked right at you when you were speaking to them...I swore they understood me!!

but when we have the space...we will get a dog/but it will be a german shepard, I haven't had one since a teenager and hubby hasn't had one since the 70's

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 05, 2010:

That sounds fair, Crow! I'm an old-fashioned kind of gal. lol!

Calling Crow on January 04, 2010:

Haha! Let's keep it old fashiond, a quarter a head! ;) LOL!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 22, 2009:

Hi, Crow. Glad you enjoyed it. How much do you think I should charge for a performance? lol!

Sweetie, thanks for the compliment.

sweetie1 from India on December 22, 2009:

Hi habee,

i donot have a dog but my friend has a GS. i love her but great dane are too big and we got very small flats ( apartments) in delhi but i did like the kid on the Gr. Dane. Lovely pic

Calling Crow on December 22, 2009:

Very funny! I think I might pay money to see a dog buck! ;)

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 20, 2009:

Big dogs are great! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Lewgard!

Kathleen Lewis from Southern Michigan on December 20, 2009:

Oh, too funny ! My husband grew up with Irish Wolf Hounds. Talk about a large dog (I have had the pleasure of meeting a few of them). He recalls the most often suggestion from those who met the hounds: "put a saddle on him and you can ride him."

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 20, 2009:

Hello, Al. Thanks for reading!

Albertttt on December 20, 2009:

I didn't even know there was such a thing.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 19, 2009:

Thanks, Brian! So nice of you to stop by.

Yay, Michael, another Dane lover! They are awesome, aren't they? For some real giggles, read my hub, "The Ultimate LAp Dog"!

Michael Willis from Arkansas on December 19, 2009:

Really enjoyed this Hub Habee. My last 2 dogs were Great Danes. The last one was Blue Dane, with papers and while I had him he was the best friend any owner could ever have. Danes are awesome, but not for everyone. My Dane had a very loving nature around children, but extremely protective nature of me around adults. I think my Dane had a jealous streak! lol

From my experience with Danes, they do have a unique personality. Mine were easy to train. I never tried the saddle...loved what you did there. My Dane's favorite "item" he claimed to was a 2x4x8 he drug around to gnaw on. That was the one thing he did not like for me to touch.

Brian Stephens from Laroque des Alberes, France on December 19, 2009:

I saw that photograph and thought 'no way', then I read your dialogue and realised I was right. A very funny idea though, and glad you took the issue of whether it would harm the dog seriously. Enjoyed reading this, it was a refreshing change.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 19, 2009:

I'll bet that is cute, MrsMOe! Glad you stopped by.

Thanks for the comment, Ginch.

6inchboot on December 19, 2009:

I like it!Thank you for sharing!

MrsMoe on December 19, 2009:

When I put my dog's reflective jacket on (he WILL wear it - it was just hunting season!) he always does a little dosey-do as though he's trying to walk out of it. He looks at me with those doggy eyes, then settles into our run.

We laugh every time. It's adorable.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 18, 2009:

Good idea, KAri! Maybe I could get a patent.

Hi, Audrey. I had a mal once named Yukon. Thanks for reading!

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on December 18, 2009:

I love Great Danes too - just got hung on mals - I'm wondering if I could possibly get the mals to tolerate a saddle - oh I so doubt it since they are totally into pulling....but maybe they could pull a Great Dane with a saddle on. I'm thinking I'm in the next town parade! Great hub - Audrey

karirosepink from Oregon on December 18, 2009:

Great Hub! I love Great Danes! Maybe someone needs to invent a saddle specifically made for Great Danes and their comfort! :)

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 17, 2009:

Hi, Peggy! Irish setters are gorgeous! Thanks for reading - I appreciate it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 17, 2009:

This was a fun hub to read. We remember when we put the first collar and leash on our Irish Setter pup Kelly...he bucked just like a bucking bronco. Fortunately he soon got the hang of it. I can just imagine your dogs bucking with that saddle. Too funny!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 17, 2009:

Well, at least that should clean your sinuses! Good to see ya!

ralwus on December 17, 2009:

I am laughing my beer out me nose! Too funny.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 16, 2009:

Yes, UW, the only time they pout is when we leave that at the doggie hotel for a family vacation. Even then, Grendel doesn't pout, but Hamlet sure does! He's so funny - he won't even look at us for a day or two after we pick them up. Thanks for reading!

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on December 16, 2009:

And the dogs are still talking to you? :) That was hilarious.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 16, 2009:

Thanks, Sally, for your thoughtful comments. Anyone who knows my furkids know that they are spoiled rotten! They even sleep with me!

Hi, Redelf! Funny, I had a horse like that once, also. Dancer hated saddles. I still think it might be the dangling stirrups.

RedElf from Canada on December 16, 2009:

My Grampa had a horse like that. You could ride her bareback forever but she hated saddles! Funny critters ;)

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on December 16, 2009:

What a fun Hub! I wonder what the difference might be between the saddle and loaded saddle bags? My daughter's 80-pound Chow mix happily carries those bags fully loaded, and never had a problem adjusting to them. But then, the loaded bags hug the sides and don't have anything like stirrups dangling, as you mentioned. I think this was a great experiment.

About Peyton's comment, dogs love to work because they love to please. You were informed about the weight guidelines for your Danes, so there was no problem there.

Thumbs up for a great read!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 16, 2009:

Tattoo, Danes are truly AWESOME dogs!

Thanks, Hammerj for reading and commenting!

Thanks, Ernesto, for the kind words!

Jess, I love your sense of humor, too! Thanks for visiting.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 16, 2009:

Peyton - is this your real name, or is this in reference to an Ambrose Bierce character? I love that story, by the way. Dogs aren't pack animals? Do some research, my friend. You'll discover that dogs have been and are still often used as work animals, including pack animals.

This was not for the amusement of children - no children were present. Dog trainer Ceasar Milan recommends using back packs and other weights on your dog to increase the value of their walks. Most dogs who live inside do not get enough exercise. My dogs were not harmed by this at all!

Jess Killmenow from Nowheresville, Eastern United States on December 16, 2009:

You are such a scream. Thanks so much for this hub :)

earnestshub from Melbourne Australia on December 15, 2009:

Great hub as usual habee. Love the saddle!

Hammerj from Cebu City on December 15, 2009:

Its nice to take good care of our puppies..nice hubs...

PeytonFarquhar from So Cal on December 15, 2009:

I think putting a saddle on a dog for the amusement of children -even a large breed and small children- is abusive. The dog isn't a pack animal. Teach the children better than trying to turn your pet into a circus sideshow.

TattoGuy on December 15, 2009:

Lol oh god that really made me laugh, I love great danes, really friendly dogs, cheers for that ; )

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 15, 2009:

I can picture that, Moranna! Weimaraners are beautiful dogs. Thanks so much for reading!

Moranna on December 15, 2009:

I have never had a Great Dane, but my Weimaramer used to sit on the front seat of my car, seat belt on, wearing a black french-style beret.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 14, 2009:

Hi, Nemi. Actually, we spend more feeding the cats! Great Danes have slow metabolisms and are couch potatoes. Thanks for reading!

Well hello, Yass! Glad you stopped by!

yass from kuwait on December 14, 2009:

that is so nice

Nemingha on December 14, 2009:

What a gorgeous dog but I can see why they would attract so much comment. It must cost a fortune to feed them.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 14, 2009:

Hi, Dolores. I used to have a little wagon for one of my danes to pull. that was years ago, when my girls were small. Ebony used to pull all three little girls around the farm. Now, since we have two Danes, we could get a 2-dog cart!

Thanks for reading!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on December 14, 2009:

Whoops, sorry to pop up twice, but I see you have a 99 score. Only one to go! I'll keep my eye on your score!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on December 14, 2009:

habee - lovely hub. Great Danes are such wonderful, beautiful dogs. I wonder if they would like to pull some kind of little cart? They were bred as working dogs, weren't they? I knew a woman who had some huge dog, I forgot what kind, a working dog, and she had a little cart that the dog learned to really enjoy pulling. She put the dog to work when she was gardening.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 14, 2009:

Maita, I think I was born loving horses!! I'm so glad you stopped by for a read!

prettydarkhorse from US on December 14, 2009:

it is nice hub and I like your humour habee, saddle with a dog, LOL< I like you more now, you love horses and a horse trainer one time, YIPEE< Maita

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 14, 2009:

Hi, Tatoo. You look kinda scary now! But thanks for reading.

General, glad you enjoyed reading about my boys! Thanks!

Gener Geminiano from Land of Salt, Philippines on December 14, 2009:

Great Hub... Habee!

Love dogs too... and a nature lover...!

TattoGuy on December 14, 2009:

The Captain returns, tattooed and bald lol ; )

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 14, 2009:

Hi, Carol! Yeah, I don't think my boys would be too happy about a bra. Good to see you!

Tammy, glad you're a fellow dog lover. Thanks for stopping by!

Putz, glad you enjoyed it. It's always good to see you!

Putz Ballard on December 14, 2009:

So funny! Thanks for sharing.

Tammy Lochmann on December 14, 2009:

I laughed out loud very funny. I love dogs...thanks for the laugh!

Tammy :-)

Carolyn Blacknall from Houston, Texas on December 13, 2009:

I guess a dog bra is out of the question then.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 13, 2009:

HH, thanks for re-visiting! lol

Hi, Ethel. My dogs definitely have a sense of humor - especially the harlequin. He's a real clown!

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 13, 2009:

What a sweet dog. Dogs are so funny and each has its own peculiar traits

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 13, 2009:

Thank you for the comeback and explanation. Something else I have learned.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 12, 2009:

Hi, HH. The underside of the saddle is lined with thick pile. I think the stirrups scared him. Thanks for reading!

Glad you enjoyed it, Dohn. You should get a Great Dane!

Cooper, you were lucky to have a Dane live that long. Thanks for reading!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 12, 2009:

Hi, Carlina! Thanks for reading. Glad you got some chucks!

CooperFlys from Ghostly Savannah,ga on December 12, 2009:

Danes are without a doubt the most awesome dogs..My Dane lived to be 12 and she was the love of my life!!!One Halloween I tried to put a basket on her back, much like a saddle, to go trick or treating..and she did the same thing bucked like a bronco..funniest thing

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on December 12, 2009:

Aw man, and I wanted a ride! Just kidding :D I've an affinity for Great Danes ever since I was a kid who avidly read Steven Kellogg's Pinkerton books. So much for that idea, huh? I had fun reading this, habee, thank you.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 12, 2009:

Honestly, habee, whatever are up to next? I am still giggling about your bra. Maybe that saddle toughing some bones in the back which is uncomfortable? Maybe if you put a little blanket underneath?

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 12, 2009:

Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Kaie!

carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on December 12, 2009:

Hilarious!! What a funny concept... he looks a little dubious about the idea, though! LOL

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