How to Train a Great Dane to be a Service Dog

How to Train a Great Dane to be a Service Dog
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon12-24 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

A service dog is considered a working animal, not a pet. Service dogs must meet exacting criteria in order to obtain service dog registration. A service dog is not the same as a therapy dog, who goes into hospital settings with a handler to bring comfort to patients. Rather, a service dog serves a definable function to aid her owner in living with a disability. Service dogs can help people who are vision or hearing impaired, suffer from seizures or have trouble moving, or are in a wheelchair. Service dogs can also assist people who suffer from PTSD, severe anxiety or depression. 

While most service dogs are labs or retrievers, very large breeds like the Great Dane or Pyrenees can help people who need a lot of physical assistance, are very tall or who simply prefer the character of these breeds.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

While the Great Dane was originally bred to hunt boar, the breed has not been used for this purpose for a very long time. Instead, Great Danes act as loving companions to their family members. While the ferocious sounding bark and immense size of the Great Dane will certainly scare off any intruders, Danes are typically gentle and unconcerned with strangers when out and about, as long as the Dane is well socialized. If you are considering a Great Dane for service work you will need to make sure your Dane is well socialized and understands how to control her huge body in and outside of the home.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

Not all dogs of any breed are suitable for service work. Your Great Dane should be mild tempered, focused on her handler, and calm in all situations to be eligible for service work. No matter what the disability, a disabled person must be able to rely completely on their service dog. A dog who is distractable, easily frightened, or who becomes bored of her work will not serve well. To assess your Great Dane, teach her simple obedience and then take her into a variety of situaions and ask for the obedience. If she is able to focus and do her work despite distractions, and if she remains mild mannered and good-tempered throughout, she may be a good fit for service work.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Practice Sessions Method

Most Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Isolate behaviors

Think about the behaviors that you will ask of your Dane. Break them into the simplest steps that you can, keeping in mind how you will build the training goal from the individual steps.

2

Motivate

Find out what motivates your Great Dane and have a wide variety of rewards available. Keep training sessions short so that your Dane remains motivated as she grasps new concepts.

3

Build behaviors

Build desired behaviors by demonstrating the need and asking for a simple behavior. If you want help standing up, ask your Dane to stay still in front of you. Reward her for standing still until she will stand steadily for some time before getting her reward.

4

Increase demand

As your Dane becomes more comfortable with being asked to stand, put more and more weight on her shoulders, rewarding her with each increase.

5

Practice in multiple settings

Practice the behaviors you need from your Dane, as well as behavior in public and outside, around other animals, etc. Be sure to practice being nervous with your Dane, as you will likely be nervous on test day.

The Model Dog Method

Effective

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Effective

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
1

Learn how to meet needs

If you are getting a second service dog because yours is getting older, or otherwise have access to a dog trained to do what you need, your Great Dane can learn from this dog.

2

Pair the dogs

Let the dogs spend enough time together to get used to each other and form a bond. Encourage your Dane to mimic the other dog in everything, rewarding her anytime she does the same thing as the other dog.

3

Demonstrate need

Elicit the desired behavior from the trained dog. If your Dane shows interest, praise and reward her, even if she didn't demonstrate the behavior itself.

4

Practice until she repeats

Keep practicing until your Great Dane mimics the behavior of the trained dog. Reward her enthusiatically.

5

Alternate and practice alone

Alternate doing behaviors with both dogs until your Dane is doing the behavior reliably, then practice alone. Polish behavior and practice for the test before applying.

The Together Constantly Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Assist through bonding

If you are able to be with your Great Dane constantly, you can train her continuously throughout your time together so she will learn what she needs to do to assist and be constantly aware

2

Learn what motivates your Dane

Does your Dane like fetching a toy or does she drool for a particular treat? Learn what motivates your Dane so you can reward and motivate her. Use daily food and chew toys as well as rewards.

3

Demonstrate need

As your Dane becomes deeply bonded to you, begin showing her your needs and how she can help to assist you. If you need help getting up, very slowly put weight on her shoulders, never her back.

4

Praise and reward

Praise your Great Dane as she works for you and reward her every time. While she won't always recieve rewards for every act of helping you, at the beginning praise and rewards teach her what is desired.

5

Get certified

Study the certification test thoroughly and make sure your Great Dane is polished in all situations before beginning the certification process. Try to work with her in situations that make you nervous, like the test will, so that she is prepared for your emotional changes.

By Coral Drake

Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Arlo

Dog breed icon

Great Dane

Dog age icon

3 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

Can he be traimd eto be a service dog to help my husband who recently ssuffered a stroke?

Feb. 27, 2021

Arlo's Owner

Expert avatar

Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

257 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Yes he can. You will want to check with trainers or organizations in your area. In some cities, there are even non profit organizations who help people work with their dogs to become service dogs.

March 1, 2021

Dog nametag icon

Cash

Dog breed icon

Great Dand

Dog age icon

2 Months

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found this helpful

User generated photo

Want to have a well behaved Happy and very focused dog that can go anyplace without fear.

April 27, 2019

Cash's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gail, Check out the free PDF E-book downloads. Socialization, teaching bite inhibition, and teaching him to accept handling/touch should be your biggest priorities at this age. You can absolutely start obedience now too, but if you are limited on time your window for socialization, teaching bite inhibition, and teaching handling tolerance will close with age, where as the opportunity to teach obedience and tasks remains for longer. I highly suggest joining a puppy class that includes time for supervised off-leash puppy play, practices having pet parents handle each others puppies while giving them treats, and works on other elements of socialization, in addition to some basic obedience. After he has learned general obedience and manners, then a Canine Good Citizen is a great class to join to prepare dogs for future Service Dog work also. It simply works on calmness around distractions, focus, and a bit more socialization. Continue socializing him often for the first three years of life to maintain what you gain while he is a puppy. Socialization should be an ongoing project. Click on the puppy pictures on the web page linked below to download the two free PDF e-books on raising puppies. https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

April 28, 2019


Wag! Specialist
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.