All posts by Noah

Great Danes As Service Dogs

While the lumbering giants are best known for their kind hearts and size, how would this beast work as a service dog?

Short answer, excellent! Comparatively, danes need very little exercise versus other breeds. They are content with one walk a day and then napping in the corner. Their short coat makes them a light shedder and mild manner easy to bring into public.

Service needs that a Great Dane provides:

  • Protection – You knew this one was coming. GD’s were originally bred to guard estates and carriages. They were also used as “sport” dogs and would frequently bring down wild boar.
  • Psychiatric Service Dog (PSDs) – GD’s are known for their gentle heart and will often try to imitate lapdogs with their owners.
  • Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD) - Due to their size Great Dane’s (GD’s) work as great BMSD buddies. Especially if their owner is larger than average and has balance issues due to a disability.

Great Danes are primarily used for Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD). They can accompany people with a variety of ailments including, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis etc..

What tasks will they perform?

  • Holding doors
  • Wearing a special harness and acting as a counter-balance. 
  • Picking up dropped objects, bringing crutches
  • Standing over a fallen handler so they are not stepped on
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Helping specific ailments for example: a Parkinson’s patient may experience “freezes.” Danes are taught to touch the foot or ankle of the person which will break the “freeze.” 

What size dog will I need for my mobility impairment?

A BMSD needs to be at least 45% of the persons height and 65% of the persons weight. For example a 6 foot tall man needs a 30” dog.

Service needs that would not be a great fit:

  • Visual Assistance Dogs – Danes are extremely willful and have a mind of their own. Many can be skittish and easily frightened. Shepards, labs, and goldens are a better fit in this department

As far as the breed goes GD’s are easygoing and mild-mannered. However, they can be some of the hardest dogs to train because of their size. What might be a warm welcome from a shitsu jumping on a stranger is dangerous from a GD. Therefore, it is recommended that owners of GDs have prior experience training dogs and are confident in there ability to curb bad behaviors early in development.

DO NOT GET A GREAT DANE IF!!!

  • You do not have time to socialize them – danes need socialization when young and can often develop anxiety if left alone for too long. Danes love people and are always ready to welcome a stranger.
  • You do not have time to exercise them – Although, danes may take less walking then you think they need a minimum of one 20 minute walk a day. If given a yard danes will be much happier which can lead to evening temperament in other departments.
  • You are not experienced with dog training – danes are not starter dogs. All bad doggy issues are heightened because of the size. danes take a strong owner who is willing to invest the time and sweat into training a very large rambunctious puppy.
  • You need a travelling buddy – Pretty self-explanatory here. As was alluded to in our previous article: , size matters!
  • You can’t hand a little slobber! – There will be saliva on your furniture.

If you need a kind hearted gentle giant then the dane is for you! When well trained from a young age danes can grow to become excellent service/ family dogs and are among the gentlest breeds to children. danes are the #15 dog in terms of popularity and there are many websites where you can adopt one.

Need a guide for finding the perfect companion online? check out our buying guide

What Is A PTSD Emotional Dog?

Two weeks after coming home Bob (a veteran) is driving down the highway with his dog Sam. Along the way he starts to remember going on patrols with his unit and the drives that they had. Then Sam starts licking Bob’s face and cuddling with him. This cheers Bob up and makes him feel calm. The panic attack that would have come while Bob was driving is no more.

PTSD can be caused by experiencing or witnessing traumatic events. nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks and panic attacks can all be symptoms of PTSD. Service dogs can be trained to interrupt these attacks and help their owners to bring out feelings of love and companionship.

Check out this video of a service dog (Gumbo) as he reacts to his owners feeling of stress: 

What can a trained Service Dog do?

· Interrupt nightmares

· Interrupt panic attacks/ anxiety

· Help their owners with a feeling of calm. Help owners to reintegrate with society

· Keep strangers from getting close

· Video on how a service dog helped a Canadian Veteran to cope from PTSD:

Many breeds can be used as PTSD Service Dogs depending on the owner's needs. Most commonly used are Labs, Shepards, Golden's because of their calm disposition and emotional sensitivity. But for those who need a smaller companion, Poodles and Affenpinscher's can work well especially for those with Aviophobia (fear of flying).

How to get a PTSD service dog

· Patriot Paws - non-profit organization that trains and donates service dogs for disabled veterans. 

· K9’s for Warriors – non-profit organization placing veterans with service dogs: 

· For those who would like to train their own service dog, Companion Training offers video class’s so you can train your own dog from the comfort of your home. 

· Many states have state specific organizations that will train and donate service dogs for free.

For more case studies on Veteran’s experience with Service Dogs check out these stories on Vdogs

Where can I bring my PTSD Service Dog?

As with all Service Dogs your companion can go to any business with you. You do not need to show the managers any papers or provide a reason why the dog is with you. The only exceptions to this rule are if:

1) The Service Dog is out of control and the animal’s handler does not try and take action

2) The animal is not housebroken

Many handlers can find it helpful to put a vest or ribbon on the dog denoting it as such. An official vest on an extremely well trained animal will allow you to roam freely with your buddy.

For more information on where to bring your service dog check out our article that goes over ADA regulations.

Can Service Dog's get PTSD? Can I adopt an ex-military dog? 

Yes absolutely. Service dogs are tasked with the same conditions as soldiers. K-9’s can be used to sniff out bombs that machines and humans can’t. Check out this amazing article on Sergeant 1st class Mathew Bessler and his SD Mike. Upon Mike’s return he exhibited signs of PTSD, instead of chewing tennis balls, which he loved, he would chew rocks and destroy his teeth and gums.

After returning from service the dogs are held at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio where they were trained. If the SDs are deemed unfit by law enforcement agencies for further work, which is most often the case. The dog’s personal handler has the first priority in adopting, more than 90% of returning dogs are adopted by the handler. After that it opens up to civilian adopters. In fact, the dogs are so popular that the list of applicants is 18 months to 2 years long.

For more info on next steps to adoption call Lackland AFB at: (210) 671-3376

Words of Caution

· Make sure that you are getting your PTSD dog from an accredited business like those listed above. Many organizations will label service dogs as such without the proper training or breeding.

· While a service dog may help people with PTSD to reintegrate back into society, there is a chance that owners might come to believe that they can’t do tasks without the dog. For example: if a victim can only walk in a crowded place knowing that the dog is there to comfort him, it may become difficult/ impossible for the owner to learn that he can do this on his own.

PTSD Service Dogs can be incredible for veterans and others. It only takes a simple search online to see heart-wrenching stories of the value these animals bring in peoples lives.