What We Do
Service Dog Project, Inc. is the culmination of Carlene White’s 30 years of experience with animal training and a lifelong dream to assist the disabled population through the aide of service dogs. Founded in 2003 by Carlene Service Dog Project has trained and donated 150 fully certified Great Dane service dogs to individuals who have balance and mobility issues due to neurological diseases or war injuries.
Our Great Danes are born, raised and trained on the farm and for the first month are watched 24/7 by staff and/or volunteers. Once the dogs are fully trained (usually a year or older) they are matched with a recipient and are then trained to meet the individual’s exact needs. As balance dogs they are taught to be steady in harness and match their gait to the handler’s speed. The dogs learn to halt and brace in case the handler should fall and require assistance to stand.
Breeding for Size & Temperament
Carlene White has owned four generations of Great Danes and also imports bloodlines from Europe. All breeding dogs are obedience trained and many are used in therapy work.
At three days old each pup is fed a very small quantity of goat’s milk with a bottle, along with all of the mother’s milk they can manage. The pups are handled and weighed regularly. Once they start solid puppy food each pup is given their own dish and are NEVER allowed to push and shove for food. Food aggression is not allowed! Spoon feeding is done in the group to learn names and manners.
Once the pups can get over a 12" high barrier they are moved to the heated puppy house where they have access to the outdoors. Once they can climb over an 18” high barrier, they can come and go from the puppy pasture which is a wooded ¼ acre on a hillside.
Volunteer 'puppy sitters' take the pups daily to various areas of the farm in a specially built 'puppy school bus'. As they get stronger they march down to Puppy Hill with mom. Most discipline of the puppies is usually left up to the mother dog.
Raising Service Dogs
Pups are handled from birth and notes are taken on their markings, personality and disposition. Each litter is introduced to adult dogs who guide and teach them along the way. The pups are often taken to the local fairgrounds to let them run in an open field. This is important because they learn to behave in a group, enter and exit the van when their name is called, and learn some of the commands they will need to know when working.
By six months the puppies are shuffled between three kennel areas. The kennels are heated and air conditioned, have loft beds and a dining table where they eat within 3” of each other. Food aggression is just NOT ALLOWED. Treats are given to one dog at a time as their name is called.
Read Carlene's "Get'em young, train 'em early..." Explore Blog Post
Training for Balance
As balance or walker dogs they must learn to be steady in harness and match their gait to the handler’s speed as it varies. The dogs learn to halt and brace if the handler should fall and by standing still to be available for the person to use the harness to pull themselves up. The dogs must also learn to turn right and left and to ease themselves through various doorways, elevators, aisles, checkout counters and restaurant tables. They must learn to concentrate amid lively children, meat counters, squirrels and many other daily encounters. They should be able to relax and fall asleep almost anywhere for meetings, movies, lectures or work.
Read Carlene's "Getting Danes ready to work" Explore Blog Post
Selecting Service Dogs
By one year they should be "Canine Good Citizens" with a firm base of obedience, both on and off lead, and should accept anything the general public has to offer.
We have a very low percentage of "fabulous failures/perfect pets" but when we do they are adopted by caring people who are usually our staff and/or volunteers.
Matching You with a Service Dog that Meets Your Exact Needs
At this point there will be individualized tasks the dogs must learn for each recipient depending upon their needs. For example a Parkinson's patient who has a problem with "freezes" can be helped to walk if the dog is taught to touch the foot or ankle. This simple action breaks the "freeze" and the person can then walk on.