Puppies mouth just about anything, Great Dane puppies included. This pic came from www.dogtraininggeek.com
Danes in general though are not great retrievers. So rewarding any mouthing of objects is going to be a huge priority for me. Retrieval and noise sensitivity are my two main worries about a Dane SD candidate.
I’ll have picked a puppy at 8 weeks that shows the signs of picking up and carrying, but that needs to be heavily encouraged. Toys, ropes, fleecy squeakers are typical for pups to pick up, but a service dog will be picking up metal keys, paper, wood, plastic…just a scan of the kitchen table reveals a large variety of materials.
So the idea is to get them first to mouth strange tasting and smelling items. Metal keys could use a smear of peanut butter to make them more appealing to try. An empty plastic medicine bottles with a smear of canned salmon oil might find itself licked half to death.
The mouthing is then rewarded further as soon as they’ve gotten the last itty bit off with some peanut butter on my fingers, and more gets put on the keys. I want them to associate those unnatural surfaces and textures with something good to put in their mouth.
This is a great time to teach them the names of the things they are readily mouthing, to make it a game to ID it and mouth it. I set out 2-3 items they will now know the names of. things I will want them to retrieve for me someday
But once they know them, I’ll ask them to id them without the goodies to lick off. If they go to the one I ask for, then I will put the salmon oil or cream cheese on it for them. If I have to lure them a time or two to the item again, that’s okay to. They’ll learn!
Some puppies will generalize mouthing those peanut butter keys to picking them up, and some will not. I wouldn’t be half surprised if I need to gently put the keys or the plastic bottle or small can in their mouth for a moment, then do some heavy duty click/rapid reinforcing with treats and playing with the objects.
Some items will likely be easier: never had a Dane that didn’t love running around with sticks outside, so a mop handle might well be an an ”indoor stick” they get to mess with. I’ve always played a game called “blankie monster” with fleece throws, and even my refuse-to-bring dogs would pick them up to play.
they love. That can be shaped into going from picking up to carrying something else if they have to work for that little mushroom can they’ve been allowed to play with before, so it then must be a toy of some kind, right?
The trick to rewarding a carry is to click before they drop it, or the reward is for dropping. I’ll have accidentally taught them not to carry. I can click and offer a bigger reward so they drop it on their own, or I can have them give it to me as I click, then treat them.