German Shepherd Dogs. Labrador Retrievers. Golden Retrievers. When we think of service dogs, this trio immediately comes to mind. And for good reason. But these three just so happen to be the most popular (and therefore the most common service dog breeds). As it turns out, there are many other dog breeds that are used as service dogs and do as spectacular a job! And the mighty Great Dane is one of them. Let’s find out more.
What Makes Great Danes Good Service Dogs?
Great Danes can indeed be service dogs. In fact, if you’ll forgive the pun, they make great service dogs. How come that’s the case? In homes all over the world, Great Danes are known as “gentle giants” due to their non-aggressive personality, docile demeanor, and loving nature. This, coupled with their large size, makes them a spectacular service dog candidate.
Sometimes, size does matter. Because they’re so big, Great Danes make great service dogs for those who have mobility issues or struggle with their balance. Mobility service dogs need to be capable of supporting a fair bit of their owner’s weight. Great Danes are almost always strong enough to support most – if not all – of their owner’s body weight.
Great Dane Have Gentle, Easy-Going Personalities
Like many other giant dog breeds, Great Danes are known for their gentle nature. They’re very adaptively intelligent and are typically easy to train, which is another must-have for service dogs. Some of the typical personality traits associated with Great Danes include:
- Moderately playful
This plethora of positive characteristics makes Great Danes fantastic service dogs, but that’s not all they’ve got going for them. Surprisingly, they’re low-maintenance dogs because they don’t shed much, nor do they need intense amounts of exercise. Great Danes are truly the couch potatoes of the dog world. They are not doggy athletes by any means.
What Assistance Can Great Danes Provide?
When you look at their size and temperament, it’s not much of a stretch to say that Great Danes are built for the service life. So, what kind of help can this beautiful breed offer its owners?
Help with Mobility Tasks
As mentioned earlier, the Great Dane’s large size makes it a wonderful mobility service dog for those who battle with balance and mobility issues. In such cases, the typical tasks that a Great Dane would assist with include pushing and pulling wheelchairs, opening doors, and helping their owner change positions (such as moving from sitting to standing or rolling from one side to the other).
A big part of the Great Dane’s role as a mobility service dog is helping its owner stay upright when they experience difficulty standing or need someone to lean on while they regain their balance. Providing grounding, counterbalance, and both up-and-forward momentum are all par for the course.
Assistance with Retrieving Important Items
With the proper training, Great Dogs are very good at retrieving – though perhaps not quite as good as Golden Retrievers are. Great Danes can retrieve dropped items, as well as items ranging from purses and phones to medication, and mobility aids like walking sticks and canes. They can even retrieve their dog bowls when it’s time for feeding.
This is a common task for service dogs to help with, but Great Danes are particularly good at this because of their height. It’s simply easier for them to reach items than it would be for smaller breeds.
Psychiatric Services and Emotional Support
The “gentle” element of their “gentle giant” title means Great Danes are well-suited to a wide range of psychiatric services and emotional support. They can interrupt panic attacks, ease general anxiety, limit feelings of loneliness, and provide owners with a sense of companionship.
Plus, their love of physical affection means they’re always up for a soothing stroke or snuggle. All this means that on top of making wonderful service dogs, they make fantastic therapy and emotional support animals, too.
The Downsides to Having a Great Dane Service Dog
As you now know, Great Danes make great service dogs, but not for everyone. There are a handful of downsides that hinder this breed from being the perfect service dog for all – if there’s even such a thing.
For many, the biggest drawback of having a Great Dane as a service dog is the very thing that makes them such an amazing service dog for others: their size! Because Great Danes are so big, they generally need a lot of space, so this eliminates them as a service dog option for apartment dwellers.
In addition, and in contrast to their purpose, their size can cause accessibility issues while out and about. After all, they take up a lot of space on sidewalks and other public spaces. Can you imagine trying to squeeze into an elevator with a Great Dane in it?
Great Danes Don’t Enjoy Long Lifespans
Another factor that counts against the Great Dane is its limited lifespan. On average, Great Danes live for eight to 10 years, which is considered short – even in dog years! In comparison, other service dog breeds, like German Shepherd Dogs, live for nine to 13 years. Golden Retrievers live for 10 to 12 years, and Labrador Retrievers live for 10 to 14 years.
And finally, Great Danes may be low in actual maintenance requirements, but the same can’t be said for their maintenance costs. This is again linked to their size – thanks so much, breeding and genetics! Great Danes are expensive to feed as, to support their growth, they need to eat a lot of healthy, nutritious dog food, and lots of it! Needless to say, they can really run up your grocery bill!