You may have seen the video of Diesel, a perfectly-trained service dog from Saint Francis who helps his owner in so many ways. No nonsense. Open the fridge: “Diesel, tug” – the door opens. “Shut the door“ – done. Perfect. We tried that with our Dane Walter. We obviously missed some important part.
In the case of Danes and refrigerators, you would have a large problem teaching them not to do it on their own. For that matter, teaching the Dane to open any door is not a good idea. To start with, Danes learn differently than Labs. Their biggest instinct is to find a comfortable place to rest near you. This works out perfectly for someone with a disability who has a job, goes to work (or the movies, or school, or out to eat). A service Dane will help you get there perfectly: up stairs, down curbs. Then rest up for the next trip.
They have zero instinct to retrieve anything. To a Dane puppy, a bouncing yellow tennis ball is something to watch and wonder why the person then goes and picks it up and throws it again. Retrieving can be taught at great expense of time and effort. Danes must be carefully matched to their partners; if you want a dog who will retrieve your credit card which has fallen to the floor so you can pay for a trip to climb Mount Everest, a Dane is not the dog for you. There are perfect uses for dogs Walter’s size: walking, balance, and stability.
– Carlene White, founder of Service Dog Project in Ipswich, MA. The organization trains and places Great Danes with people who live with Multiple Sclerosis, Friedreich’s ataxia, and veterans with disabilities.
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