Category Archives: service dogs

Do Great Danes Make Good Service Dogs?

By Linda Cole

When you think of service dogs, it’s the German Shepherd or Golden Retriever that comes to mind, not a huge dog like a Great Dane. However, this breed is finding a place as a service dog precisely because of their size. The Service Dog Project has been training these massive dogs to assist children and help war veterans have a better quality of life, and you can follow the development of six puppies on two different puppy cams.

The Great Dane is second only to the Irish Wolfhound when it comes to height. This working dog is from the mastiff group, and known as the “Apollo of all dogs” because evidence of the breed dates back to 36 B.C. The Great Dane is most likely a combination of the Irish Wolfhound and the old English mastiff, and was used in the early years as a war dog and hunting dog. Regardless of his name, the Great Dane is of German origin. This dog has the stamina that was needed to chase down wild boar and bear, and the strength and courage to stand up to his prey. He has also been used as an estate guard dog.

A service dog is trained to assist their owner with a specific disability. Mobility assistance dogs helps people who suffer from diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord disease, stroke and brain injuries, as well as other diseases or conditions that limit a person’s mobility.

The Great Dane is a perfect breed to train as a service dog because of their giant size and gentle personality. Any dog that’s used to help give balance support for their owner needs to be at least 45 percent of the person’s height and 65 percent of their weight. It takes a strong, tall dog to give confidence to someone who needs support to walk and help to regain their balance if they start to fall.

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The Different Jobs of Highly Trained Service Dogs

By Linda Cole

Many people rely on service dogs to help them get through their day. Therapy dogs bring a smile to sick children in hospitals or an older person living in a nursing home. Our amazingly talented canine friends can assist people with disabilities, detect medical issues and make it possible for people with disabilities to live a normal life as best they can. Service dogs are in a class all their own. What are some of the different jobs service dogs do?

There’s a difference between therapy pets and service dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as one that has been trained to give assistance or perform a specific task to aid a person with either a mental or physical disability. A service dog is a working dog. The correct definition of a therapy pet is an animal that has been trained to give comfort and affection to people in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and retirement facilities, and to help disaster victims deal with stress. The therapy pet usually belongs to the person handling him/her.

A disabled person assisted by a service dog has access to businesses because the person’s rights are protected under the ADA. Therapy dogs are not under the protection of the ADA and their access can be limited or restricted. It’s important to point out, the ADA protects the rights of the disabled person, and not the rights of the dog.

Mobility assistance dogs help people who have physical impairments. These dogs are trained to help open/close doors, push buttons, and retrieve objects for their owner. They can give assistance to people who need help with balance and to walk. Larger dogs can be trained to pull a wheelchair with a specially made harness to prevent the dog from being harmed or injured.

Walker dogs are in the same category as mobility assistance dogs. They provide help for people who are recovering from a physical injury and need help walking. If a dog’s owner falls or loses their balance, the dog is trained to be a brace the person can lean against or use as a “crutch” to get back up. Walker dogs are important for people with Parkinson’s disease; they assist them with walking and helping them keep their balance.

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Therapy Dog Comforts Kids and Seniors with Teddy Bears

An Interview with the Amazing Stacey Mae 

By Langley Cornwell

Stacey Mae is a beloved therapy dog in Canon City, Colorado. With over 19,000 Facebook fans, this Greater Swiss Mountain Dog’s good deeds span the globe. Some of us at the CANIDAE Responsible Pet Ownership Blog wanted to know more about this four-legged angel.

I had the opportunity to interview Stacey Mae. With a motto like Never Give Up, Never Back Down, Never Lose Faith, you get a sense of the dog and her guardian’s character. Throughout the process, however, I was only granted access to Stacey Mae herself. Apparently her guardian wants all of the credit and acclaim to go to Stacey Mae. Maybe that’s another peek behind the curtain?

Our interview:

What made your family get involved in canine nursing home therapy? 

My family had another Greater Swiss Mountain dog named Gracie who visited nursing homes for several years. They wanted to do something nice for the elderly and knew that people in nursing homes really like dogs. Gracie was mellow and loved people, so my family thought it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, the nursing home where Gracie visited closed down. When that happened, my family stopped going. Then Gracie crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 2008.

Sorry to hear about Gracie. What happened next? 

Once Gracie passed away, my family thought I would do a good job visiting homes since I am so relaxed. I don’t lick, and just like to spend time with people. I’m fine if people want to pet me and if they don’t, I’ll just lay down near them to keep them company in their final days, months or years.

How old were you when you started?

Just a little over a year old.

What do you most like about being a therapy dog?

The people; I’ve met wonderful people at the nursing home, and I can tell I’m helping. Even though it is hard to say goodbye, knowing I helped make their time better is worth it.

Then you wanted to do more? 

Yes. After about 2 years of simply visiting the elderly, we wanted to do something more. So in October of 2010 we launched the Teddy Bear Project.

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The Life of a Certified Service and Therapy Dog

By Ambassador Doc-Barker

My name is Ambassador Doc-Barker. I’m a 2 year old Chocolate Labrador Retriever and Team CANIDAE Member.  I am a service dog certified through Canine Support Teams, Inc., a therapy dog registered thru Delta Society®, and a Canine Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish Foundation® of America through the Wishes Forever® endowment campaign, as well as my family’s loving pet.  I have eaten CANIDAE dog food my whole life! I started out eating the All Life Stages (ALS) formula, and for the past year I have eaten Grain Free pureSEA, and I love them both.

As a balance and mobility service dog, I help my mama do many things. I pick up items she has dropped like her car keys, money, credit cards, etc. I help her by pulling her wheel chair or scooter and a grocery cart, which is a huge assistance to mama. I also help her get up from chairs and up and down stairs and inclines. Because I am a therapy dog, my fur needs to be soft, shiny and petable for all whom I visit, and my CANIDAE food keeps it that way.

As a canine ambassador, I travel around the country accompanied by my family, bringing awareness about service and therapy dogs and the important jobs they do, and also bringing awareness about a children’s charity through a canine connection. Ambassador Barker, my mentor, was mamas first service and therapy dog as well as a canine ambassador. He ate CANIDAE All Life Stages (ALS) too!

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How Pets Help Children with Autism

By Langley Cornwell

Most people who share their life with a pet enjoy talking about how strong their connection is with their animal. They like to discuss how much they delight in spending time with their pet. They share stories that illustrate how well their dog or cat understands them. I’m one of those people; I can talk about the power of the connection I have with my dog and my cat for hours. I am completely convinced that living with pets is good for my mental and physical health. What’s more, I know living with a cat has helped my mother-in-law tremendously. My husband and I are amazed at the positive influence a little gray tabby cat from the local animal shelter has had on his 87-year-old mother’s life. It’s as if she’s awakened from a long sleep. She and ‘Skeet’ are a perfect match, and getting her this cat is one of the best things we’ve ever done for her. 

With this in mind, it’s not a far leap to believe that being around domesticated pets can be a helpful, positive and enriching experience for children with autism.

How animals help autistic children

First hand testimonials from parents and documented reports from clinicians confirm that interacting with animals (sometimes called animal-assisted therapy) offers emotional and physical benefits to autistic children. Structured programs like horseback riding or swimming with dolphins are beneficial, but the animal interaction doesn’t have to be that organized to be helpful. Something as simple as having a dog in the house can have a positive influence on a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder; it helps with their physical development by improving their coordination and strength. Additionally, a joyous relationship with an animal will help an autistic child develop more self-confidence and a deeper sense of well-being.

Colleen Dolnick, a Missouri mother who has a 10-year-old son with autism, tells Everyday Health: “Animals can be amazing for children with autism. Animals can relate to these children. And these children, who have a hard time relating to peers, can really relate to animals.”      

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Dogs Helping Humans with Invisible Disabilities

By Linda Cole

For those of us who are writers, comments from our readers are special. We write because it’s something we love to do, and having an opportunity to write about the pets we love makes it even better. Sometimes a reader will ask a question or make a suggestion that sends us on a quest to find more information. My topic today, dogs that help humans with invisible disabilities, was suggested by a reader. After doing some research on it, I discovered another wonderful example of how important dogs are to us.

My mom developed Rheumatoid arthritis when she was pregnant with me. In the early stages, she didn’t really show any outward signs of the disease. She worked outside the home, took care of three kids, was active in our church, and appeared to be perfectly healthy. As I grew, her pain increased and the crippling effects of the disease began to take hold. By the time I was in grade school, she was spending more and more time in and out of the hospital for operations to repair damaged joints and continuous monitoring of new arthritis drugs she was taking. Mom was a fighter and refused to let her arthritis get the better of her, but I saw how hard it was for her on her worst days. As an adult, she told me on many occasions how important her dogs were to her. Without them, there would have been a lot of mornings she never would have gotten out of bed. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the invisible disabilities.

One important lesson I learned growing up is that just because someone looks fine on the outside, inside they may be dealing with crippling and life changing disabilities. Diabetes, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, lupus, sleep disorders, Lyme disease, food allergies, PTSD, epilepsy, lactose intolerance, chronic pain, autism, and ADHD are just a few of the invisible disabilities people live with every day. An invisible disability is any disease or disability that affects normal everyday life and hinders a person’s ability to perform daily activities, and it isn’t obvious to people who don’t know you.

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