We just adopted our Dane from a rescue. We fostered-to-adopt, so we got to see how the dog would work in our home before we adopted. The first Dane we had was fabulous. He was with us for about a month and then we found that he wouldn't be a good match for a family with small children. He was never overly aggressive with dd, but would grumble at her and we felt like it wasn't a chance we were willing to take. Sending him to another foster was heartbreaking, but it worked out better for all of us in the end. He ended up being adopted by his new foster home and now lives with a middle-aged couple, their 16 year old son, and two other Danes. He's happy and doing very well.
The dog we have now is wonderful. She is an almost 2 year old brindle with very unusual markings (she looks like a fawn with widely-spaced tiger stripes), natural ears (of course!), and a "sport" tail - half of her tail had to be amputated when she came into Rescue d/t a severe infection. She's purebred and was bought at Petland for $1400 (another rant for another day WRT to pet stores selling purebred pups - grrr!), then left out in a backyard and neglected. Considering her background, she has done pretty well in our home. She was only 94lbs when she came to us and you could see every rib, every vertebra, and every nook and cranny of her pelvis. We've put about 15lbs on her and she could use another 15-20lbs or so. She's finally to the point that I can take her out in public without people looking at me as if I were starving her. She loves our dd and they will sit on the couch together and watch cartoons. She has had some separation anxiety issues, but I don't think that's anything specific to the breed or to rescues in general.
I would think long and hard about getting a puppy with two little ones in the house. Your little ones are likely to get knocked over and stepped on. You will be dealing with puppy behaviour in a 100+lb dog. Our rescue will not allow families with small children to adopt puppies. It's not them being snotty. They just see a lot of animals coming to them at 1 year old because people didn't know what they were getting into and once the dog started knocking the kids over, it had to go. They want lifetime placement for the animals.
We were very hesitant to adopt one under 2 years old, but went ahead with it because she was so good with dd. That being said, so far today dd has been stepped on 3 times and "bit" once. (She was not really bit, the dog yawned and she stuck her arm in her mouth.
: ) They take up a lot of space and don't seem to be aware of their size.
All in all, we are very happy with our Dane. We look at our close friends' dogs and realize how lucky we are. We've become Dane snobs now that we've gotten to know the breed. (i.e. "A Great Dane would NEVER
do that.") Watching my friend's 1 year old Australian Shepherd take a dump on the floor at Home Depot the other day after watching it misbehave on-lead just reinforced to us that we made the right decision with our dog. Even as a "teenager", new to inside family life, she is still better behaved than most other dogs we know.
She is a great companion. They bond quickly and are very eager to please. They are very sensitive and their feelings are obviously hurt when you have to get onto them. She's very gentle and quiet. She'd never be a good guard dog unless squirrels were trying to break-in. Then she'd let 'em have it.
She's a good listener and can follow basic commands. We will be doing a basic obedience class with her soon, just to polish up her skills.
I highly recommend the breed, I would just really think about getting a puppy with young kids in the house. Honestly, even if I didn't have a small child, I don't think I would be interested in a puppy. If you are going with a breeder, be sure to interview extensively. Here is a good link about what makes an ethical breeder and what you need to ask when you interview:http://www.phouka.com/puppy/bdr_ethics.html