Magna's Got Momentumm
Casey has his mothers face but largely reminds me of his father. This is such a beautiful and sweet boy. He gets along with everyone and everyone loves him.
This is Casey. He is going to be a service dog in New Mexico. As an outstanding retriever at just 11 months of age Casey will pick up anything- even hard things like metal keys, bristly brushes, Tupperware lids.... His training started here at Magna and he was a brilliant student only impeded by his concern for disappointing me as I was training him to retrieve. (Which of course we overcame, but he has VERY TENDER FEELINGS! Perfect for a service dog.) He left here with an extremely solid foundation to start his more specific training unique to his new Mom's needs in his new home. She wanted me to spend a couple months training him since I understood her needs and the dog as well. My daughter had a service dog for eight years and I am keenly aware of the needs of the recipient as well as the obligation of having a service dog that works well and represents these wonderful dogs responsibly. I knew this guy would be great when I threw an item under an wobbly, flimsy rot iron plant stand. There was no plant and therefore could not hurt anything so I let him figure out how to proceed . He was diligent and cocked his head considering the possibilities and went under for the item which lay in a most precarious way. Without even moving the metal stand he successfully retrieved the item with no additional encouragement. This was very complicated and delicate; and he is gentle, diligent, and intelligent. Now that's a great start for a super dog career! I am looking forward to seeing this dog progress. Click to see the video of Casey in training..
*Please make note that it is not our belief that Giant Schnauzers are appropriate as service dogs generally and unfortunately there are dogs of every breed that are called service dogs but do not truly qualify as such- this breed is no exception. (It is not their job to protect and can never show aggression towards people, dogs nor animals of any kind, they must control their drives, must be altered, must perform a real service, confident yet quiet, be easily corrected with just a verbal command is best, and have a strong desire to stay in-tune with the owner and please him. (This is why Golden Retrievers are better suited "generally" for this job.) There are exceptions however and Casey is one of them. I have known that Casey was special in this way since he was a very young lad. If you would like a Giant Schnauzer to be your service dog you will need an honest breeder who is skilled to evaluate and watch for that special pup to become available for you. It is likely you will have a wait for the right dog but real success of any kind is not random nor mere luck and having a pup selected very carefully by a qualified trainer is a must. We recommend using the guidelines provided by a legitimate certifying organization for your service dog and finding a qualified trainer in your area to support you once you get your dog home.
**Training for your dog may be available here at Magna.
Ben & Sonny's story relative to obtaining Casey and their comments from emails:
March 22, 2006
It’s been a little over a week since our Magna Giant Schnauzer, Casey, arrived here in New Mexico, and we couldn’t be more pleased with him. We wanted to write to tell you that and to tell our story of how we came to adopt Casey for the benefit of those who may be considering a Magna Giant Schnauzer and in particular, one you train.
About a year ago my wife Sunny and I were in the REI here and met a woman who had a Doberman Pinscher with her as a service dog. Because Sunny has multiple sclerosis, that encounter got us thinking about getting her a dog that could be trained to help her. At the time we had two Mini Schnauzers who were approaching 14 years of age, and we felt we couldn’t introduce a new dog into our home, especially since the male, Boomer, wasn’t very fond of other dogs. So, we put thoughts of getting a new dog on hold.
Because of her disease, Sunny’s strength and balance aren’t good, and she has taken a number of falls. Last September she took a very bad one that resulted in a head wound requiring a number of stitches to close and which could have been far more serious had someone not been home with her. That got us to thinking again about the need for a service dog, and then in December we had to put Boomer to sleep. That was a tremendously difficult thing for us, but as I’ll explain in a moment it opened up the opportunity for us to get Casey.
In the past, I had briefly discussed getting a service dog with my nephew Gary, who has two Magna Giants. When he learned about Boomer, he sent us an email saying how sorry he was. Gary stayed with us on and off while he was in graduate school and interning in the Washington, D.C. area, where we lived at the time, and he knew Boomer very well. In that message he also mentioned that if we were now interested in getting a dog to help Sunny he would put us in touch with you to see if a Giant would suit our needs. Obviously, he’s a big fan of Giants, especially the one’s you breed.
Thus began a series of emails and phone calls between us to discuss the desirability of getting a Giant to train as a service dog. You made it clear that, in general, you wouldn’t recommend Giants as service dogs because of their protection instincts, which might make it difficult to be confident that they wouldn’t overreact in some situations. You felt, however, that Casey (who was then called Bud) had the temperament and other characteristics that would make him suitable to be a service dog. We certainly respected your judgment on that, especially given your personal experience living with a service dog for your daughter. In addition, Gary was very familiar with the dog and also felt he would be a good fit for us.
So, in mid-January I flew back to Maryland to meet you and the dog. (This was the first time I ever had to be interviewed to adopt a dog, which actually made me feel very good because it showed how much you care about your dogs.) That was my first exposure to Giants, and I immediately was smitten by all the dogs I met (about 15 I’d say including the puppies and visiting dogs you had sold as older dogs; Purple, Patina and Slick) and was impressed with how well behaved and how well taken care of all of them were. I could see that Casey (aka Bud) was exactly what you described – a gentle, responsive and intelligent dog
It was clear from the time I met him that we should make Casey our own. He was then about nine months old, and you graciously agreed to keep him for two months to establish a good foundation for future training and to teach him basic obedience skills which included . It was truly painful to wait two months to get him, but the wait was more than worth it.
Well, Gary accompanied Casey on the trip from DC to New Mexico about ten days ago, and our expectations for him, which were high to begin with, have been far exceeded. His gentle nature is obvious. He quickly learned that the 14 year-old Mini that we still have isn’t a puppy he can play with, and he is careful not to hurt her. He walks calmly with Sunny when she’s using her walker in the house and when he accompanies her when she’s in her scooter. (Of course, one of our concerns was that he might pull Sunny over – not a worry now.) He responds immediately to commands, and he never retrieves something without placing it directly into your hand. And we haven’t passed anyone in a store, on the hiking trails or on the street who hasn’t commented on how handsome he is (good grooming job, Pat). He’ll need more training, of course, to be certified as a service dog, but he is so far along already that we have little doubt he’ll reach that goal.
Pat, in closing Sunny joins me in simply thanking you for the gift of bringing such a wonderful animal into the world, for rearing him beautifully so he could become a part of our family.
March 22, 2006
April 5, 2006
Pat - Quick update. Casey continues to do so well. We are working with him on retrieving. Today I dropped a money clip a couple of times - he picked it up and handed it to me (although one time he tried to make off with the money - smarter than I thought!). Virtually everything we challenge him to retrieve he does, and he gets things from some pretty precarious places - e.g., under things, behind pottery vases. The group classes are difficult for Sunny, and we are working on setting up private lessons. We're in touch with a person who trains dogs for Assistance Dogs of the West, and I'm hoping we can set up lessons with her. He's doing well at the basic obedience stuff, and we work with him on that every day.
We're running about 4 miles in the foothills every other day and taking pretty long walks on the other days. He's getting lots of exercise.
We still hardly pass a person who doesn't comment on how handsome and athletic he is.
We've been going to training sessions with Assistance Dogs of the West for about a month. We go to Santa Fe every Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours. The first two sessions essentially covered the basics of training, but the week before last we started clicker training. It's just amazing to see how Casey thinks and figures things out. We started the training by having him touch a telescoping pointer. Initially, if he touched it anywhere he got a click and a treat. After several appropriate responses by him we reduced the acceptable touch area without coaching him about the change - it didn't take him long to figure out how we were messing with his brain. Eventually he got a click and a treat only if he touched the tip of the pointer.
At last week's session we worked on closing a drawer. At first he got a click and a treat if he touched the drawer, and then only if he moved it a little, and then only if he moved it more, etc. Sunny and I were working with him today and he was essentially closing the drawer all the way!
Another thing we're doing is putting a box on the floor and trying to get him to do something (really anything he chooses) with it. The object of this activity, just like the other clicker training activities we're doing, is to teach him to problem solve, i.e., to figure what earns him a click and a reward.
He's doing really well in all this training. Only our lack of diligence will hold him back, and we're trying to be really good about working with him between ADW training sessions.
He has retained the wonderful training you did. He comes (even off leash), sits, goes down, heels, stays and waits at doorways until he's released. His retrieving skills are fantastic. Example - this evening Sunny dropped a business card, and without a word from her he picked it up and handed it to her!
Apart from the training, he is just a fabulous dog. We can't imagine life without him, and he's only been here for four months.
Hope you're doing well.
Ben (and Sunny)