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Any type or breed of dog, large or small, can be a service dog. As a breed on the large side of the spectrum, a Great Dane service dog offers unique advantages. Great Danes are gentle giants, which makes them ideal for helping with physical disabilities, such as balance and mobility limitations involving multiple sclerosis or another disability or injury.
The Great Dane's huge body is perfect for supporting a person's weight, unlike other dog breeds. For suitable individuals, the Great Dane breed, fully trained to assist individuals with mobility issues, mental or emotional disabilities, and other service work, makes for great service dogs.
Can Great Danes be Service Dogs?
Great Danes can indeed be excellent service dogs, especially for those with mobility and balance issues. Their size and strength allow them to provide support and assistance, and their calm demeanor makes them great companions. However, proper training and temperament evaluation are essential for any dog to become a successful service animal.
Despite Great Danes being large breeds, they make fantastic service dogs. Great Danes get along with any family members that may be in your household. They are among the most common types chosen as guard dogs, making them excellent protective pets.
If you want a protective, loyal, strong, and caring pet, Great Danes can help improve your quality of life and support your health journey through life, keeping you alert and healthy at all times.
The Bottom Line
What are service dogs? - Service dogs perform tasks for people who have disabilities. They have individualized training to equip them for the task. The Service Dog Project extends training classes and advice to help train Great Danes and other service dogs.
Why are Great Danes as service dogs? - In addition to their large size, other traits that make Great Danes good service dogs include their loyalty, obedience, and calm, gentle demeanor. The breed is most common for those who need physical help and support.
How to get a Great Dane service dog - The first step is to consult a licensed mental health professional to ensure you qualify. While for some, it can mean a very long time of waiting to get your ESA, the focus is forever on your health and wellness, quality of life, and how your ESA can help with that.
What's the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal? - Service dogs receive training to perform specific tasks for their handlers. Emotional support animals help keep their handlers calm through their presence.
What Are Service Dogs?
The ADA and the United States Department of Justice offer similar definitions for a service dog: A dog that receives individual training to perform specific tasks to assist suitable individuals with disabilities. Certain physical and mental conditions can make it difficult for people to go to work or school or carry out activities of daily living. Service dogs can help with complex tasks for these individuals to assist people in becoming more independent.
Why Great Danes Make Great Service Dogs
Great Danes have many qualities that make them excellent service animals. They are intelligent and quick learners. They assist people in their daily life by helping them balance and be active. They are great for families, especially as they are protective and loyal to their owners. They are among the most common guard dogs but are great household pets and friendly animals.
Great Dane puppies are also easy to train, potentially improving the training process. The Service Dog Project trains Great Danes the same as other service animals. The Service Dog Project donates service dogs to those who qualify, depending on their background and financial concerns.
The Great Dane is a giant dog breed, and its size can be a significant advantage for a service dog. At a minimum, a service dog should be 65% of the handler's body weight and 45% of their height. A Great Dane service dog should effortlessly meet these minimums and, in many cases, actually exceeds them. A Great Dane can reach or even exceed a typical person's height when standing on its hind legs. Great Danes are muscular in addition to being enormous.
A Great Dane service dog has a short coat that is easy to groom. Great Danes do not require frequent baths, and when they do need one, it can be as easy as soaping them, scrubbing them, and rinsing them off with a garden hose. Occasionally, their coats may need brushing, but this needn't be a daily chore. You can ask your veterinarian for grooming recommendations specific to your service dog.
Low Exercise Needs
While all dogs need at least some exercise, the Great Dane's need is lower than many other breeds. This minimal exercise requirement means that a Great Dane service dog is ready to work when needed but, when not required, is happy to relax and wait until called upon to work again. Some breeds of service dogs require at least an hour's worth of exercise every day, and specific disabilities may make this a challenge for their handlers to fulfill. Often, a Great Dane makes a good service dog for many individuals with mobility limitations because of its low exercise needs.
Many people consider the Great Danes "gentle giants." They tend to be very friendly and mild-tempered, making them excellent candidates for potential service dogs. They are social animals enjoying being around people, meaning they tend to be comfortable and well-behaved in public areas.
Great Danes are average compared to other dog breeds regarding canine intelligence. Intelligence is an essential trait for a service dog, but the most intelligent dog breeds sometimes get bored if they do not receive enough mental stimulation and may become destructive. Therefore, average intelligence may be a strength in service dogs, hearing dogs, and medical alert dogs.
Great Danes are receptive to training, and when it comes to adaptive training, Great Danes rank very high. They are good at problem-solving.
Did You Know?
Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are legally granted access to places where pets are prohibited, such as airplane cabins, storefronts and restaurants.
Find out more
Different types of service dogs provide various types of assistance. Because of their size and strength, Great Danes are trained as mobility assistance dogs but can learn to perform any service dog task.
Sometimes a person who uses a wheelchair has difficulty moving independently. If this is the case, a Great Dane can learn to move the wheelchair by pushing or pulling it. Other animals and breeds of service dogs may be willing to perform this service work but unable to carry it out because they lack the physical strength required. Thanks to its vast size, a lack of power is not a problem for the Great Dane.
Another way that the large body of the Great Dane can come in handy as a service dog is that its size and weight can help it push open doors for someone who uses a wheelchair or has mobility limitations. It is not only the weight of the Great Dane that is beneficial, but also its height.
One of the most common tasks a service dog may have is retrieving objects off high shelves. Because of its height when standing on its hind legs, which can rival or exceed that of a human, a Great Dane can perform this valuable service more effectively than a smaller dog might be able to.
Provide a Calming Touch
Great Danes lean up against the people it feels closest to as a sign of affection. A service animal trainer can use this natural inclination of the breed to teach the dog to provide a calming touch to a handler experiencing anxiety, a post-traumatic flashback, or other symptoms of psychiatric conditions.
Form a Physical Barrier
A person experiencing symptoms of a psychiatric condition may need a barrier to separate them from others when in a public area. Great Dane service dogs can learn to form such a barrier when needed, and because they are so large, they can form a very effective one. Creating a barrier is another way the Great Dane's natural inclination to lean against the people it is closest to can apply to its duties as a service animal.
How to Get a Great Dane Service Dog
Getting a psychiatric service dog letter can take a while if you take the typical route of seeing a licensed mental health professional in person. If you are not working with a licensed mental health professional, you must find and schedule an appointment to meet with them.
This mental health professional may or may not decide that you need a psychiatric service dog and can deny you a PSD letter. If you want to speak to someone else for a second opinion, you will have to start this process from the beginning. This method is time-consuming and costly, depending on your health insurance.
Luckily for you, Pettable has a more straightforward alternative.
Complete Our Assessment
Whether you already have a Great Dane that you would like to train as a service animal or wish to obtain one in the future, the first step to joining approved applicants is to receive a letter detailing your disability.
On our website, we provide a brief, three-minute online assessment. Completing this assessment for approved applicants communicates your psychological needs and specific situation.
Consult with a Therapist
We match you with a licensed mental health professional in your area and help you schedule a live consultation to complete a mental health evaluation. Before meeting with the therapist, you must fill out forms we will provide relating to consent and privacy.
Get a Psychiatric Service Letter
Following your evaluation, you can receive a legally-recognized letter stating that you have an essential need for a service dog, in the therapist's opinion. Unless you live in California, receiving the letter within 24 hours of the consultation may be possible. We offer a 100% refund if the letter does not work.
Can I Train My Own Great Dane to Be a Service Dog?
All service dogs must receive specialized training in particular tasks to help their handlers and families become legally recognized. Most service dogs begin training with professionals or volunteer organizations when they are puppies. If you or your family already have a Great Dane that you would like to become a therapy dog, you can perform the training yourself or work with a private trainer. Experts recommend that service dog training begin before the dog is two years old.
Service dog organizations provide training and work to match specific dogs with individuals. Otherwise, Great Dane puppies are available for purchase from pet breeders. Be sure to choose a reputable breeder, or the puppy you purchase may be unhealthy or unsuitable for service work.
There are also quality rescues from which you may be able to adopt and train Great Danes. Look for breed-specific rescues and services.
What Disabilities Qualify for a Great Dane Service Dog?
Disabilities that qualify for a service dog include the following:
Blindness and low vision
Balance and mobility limitations, such as Parkinson's, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and other mobility issues
Seizure disorders and related severe balance issues
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is a law that makes it illegal for travel providers to discriminate against people with disabilities, and it requires that air travel be made accessible. Any accommodations that meet that standard also cannot come with an extra charge.
In addition to the ACAA, disabled passengers should also know about the Bill of Rights for Disabled Passengers. This bill of rights includes ten legal protections passengers have as airline patrons in the United States. This does not expand or restrict any disability rights established already but summarizes existing law.
Recent Changes in Airplane ESA Policy
In December 2020, The United States Department of Transportation amended its rules on emotional support animals. Effective January 2021, the US DOT no longer classified ESAs as service animals. The new laws, similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, define a service animal as a "dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability."
As of September 2022, there have been no policy changes regarding which animals are allowed to board with passengers.
Airline Pet Policies to Know
If you plan on traveling with a Great Dane, there are many things to consider to ensure safe travels for you and your dog. There are some airline-specific rules you should be aware of, but there are some general rules to get you started.
Most, if not all, airlines will require you to pay a fee to bring your Great Dane as a carry-on for the flight. This fee may increase depending on the size and weight of your dog.
Some airlines restrict the breed of dogs that can be stored in cargo. Short-nosed breeds will not commonly be allowed because they will likely have difficulty breathing during the flight.
Travel requirements may change between domestic, international, and US inbound, so you should ensure you know the laws and procedures of the country you are flying to or from.
What's the Difference Between Psychiatric Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs?
The most crucial difference between psychiatric service and emotional support dogs is their ability and training to respond to their owner's needs.
Psychiatric service dogs receive training to perform specific tasks for their handlers to help them manage their conditions. For this reason, they receive legal recognition. The laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination allow them to bring service dogs to most public places in everyday life. There are specific contexts where the dog's behavior can inhibit them from being allowed in public and private spaces, but generally, they can be brought anywhere.
Emotional support animals help ease symptoms of mental illness for their handlers by their presence, but they don't know how to perform specific tasks. Therefore, they do not receive the same legal recognition as guide dogs.
Here are some answers to other questions that people frequently ask about having Great Danes as service dogs.
How much does a service dog cost?
The costs to obtain a trained dog average between $15,000 and $30,000. Professional training can cost up to $250 per hour. You are also responsible for expenses such as dog food and veterinary care.
How to catch a fake service dog?
Thoroughly trained service dogs behave in public because they received training for a long time. They know not to leave their owner or handler's side. A dog that lacks focus, misbehaves, or disrupts by wandering around is not a service dog.
Can you get a service dog for anxiety?
Yes. Anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, qualify for service dogs.
Can any dog be a service dog?
Under the law, any breed of dog can be a service dog. However, individual dogs have to have a particular temperament, and not all dogs are suitable. It is worth checking out the Service Dog Project to get specific ESA or PSD letters.
The Service Dog Project trains Great Danes to be great service dogs. A Great Dane can be an easily trained dog to be a therapy dog and provide valuable service to the individual.
Do Great Danes have to be on a leash?
When a fully trained service dog of any breed works in public, it must be under its handler's control. Retaining control means remaining on a leash or harness.
Does insurance cover Great Danes?
Typically, health insurance does not cover the costs of acquiring or caring for service dogs, regardless of breed, from large species to small.
How to get a psychiatric service dog?
If you have a condition that qualifies for a psychiatric service dog, you need a letter from a licensed mental health professional attesting to that fact.
Are Great Danes allowed everywhere?
Under the law, service dogs must be allowed access to most public spaces to accompany their handlers. There are a few exceptions, such as places of worship and hotel swimming pools.
How to get a Great Dane for PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, is a qualifying mental condition for a service dog. After you obtain your letter, a service dog project or organization may be able to help you find one, such as a veteran's organization, if you were in the military.
Does my psychiatric service dog need a vest?
According to the ADA, psychiatric service dogs are not required to wear vests or any identification. You are welcome to buy an identifying vest if you believe that that will make you feel more comfortable being in public with your PSD, but the choice is up to you.
What can disqualify a Great Dane from becoming a service dog?
Generally, dogs that display aggressive behaviors in public are poor choices to be PSDs because private businesses are legally allowed to ask you to leave if your service dog is behaving disorderly.
How many tasks does a service dog need to know?
There is not a specific number of tasks a service dog needs to be able to complete to be considered a "real" service dog. They need to be able to complete at least one task related to their condition or illness, and if you want to teach them more, you can!
What age is too late to train a service dog?
There isn't a specific age that makes it impossible to be trained. As long as your dog can or has the accommodations to follow you around and provide support, they are the right age.
There are also benefits and drawbacks to training a dog at any age, so it is best to do what works for you and your situation.
Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.