HARRISON — Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School senior Danielle Bean is becoming something of a dog training expert.

The Harrison teen discovered it almost by accident after her family took in a mixed breed rescue, Rocky, who had some social challenges.

“We acquired Rocky when a family friend told us about her brother needing to find a home for his dog,” Bean said. “He’d gotten him from a shelter, but his life ended up taking a different turn and he was going to travel. Rocky was not geared for that kind of life so he needed to find a new home for him.

“We had just lost our black lab mix unexpectedly and we decided to give Rocky his forever home,” she said. “He was very nervous and he had trust issues.”

While Rocky was fine with the family cats, he was unsocialized with humans, hard to lead and not well behaved – a problem for any 80-pound dog. Determined to help ease his fears and build trust, Bean began researching techniques on YouTube and following various trainers’ pages on Instagram. She worked with him constantly and slowly to bring him out of his shell.

Danielle Bean has taught herself to train dogs by working with her own. Baylee, left, is a Great Dane with the ability to work as a service dog. Rocky, right, is a mixed breed rescue who required dedicated attention to overcome his behavioral issues. Submitted photo

“Rocky is not food motivated so I had to find different ways to reward him,” Bean explained. “We worked together to help him get used to objects around him. One way was to teach him to jump, up on our chest freezer. He’s 12 now, but still a work in progress.”

As she and Rocky made progress together Bean realized how much she loved working with dogs, eventually setting up a training area in her basement where they could practice the things she was learning online. Then she decided she wanted to get another dog, a puppy, to try one that had a clean slate, so to speak. It took a while to get her mother on board with the idea of taking on double the responsibility.

“Finally, last spring my mom finally had a weak moment and said that if I saved enough money we could get a puppy,” Bean said, adding that she had to work all summer to do it. “We ended up with a Great Dane, Baylee. We found her by pure chance, in New Hampshire. She was the last pup in the litter that was available.”

Danielle Bean will attend the University of Southern Maine and major in biology and animal science. She plans to become a professional dog trainer. Submitted photo

Baylee’s training started immediately with crowd and people socialization. And setting her sights beyond general obedience training, Bean has Baylee on a service dog track.

“She is very loving and has the loyalty that is true to the breed,” Bean said. “Right now she is closing in on 100 pounds, and her adult weight will be about 150. A dog her size is appropriate to support someone with mobility challenges. I am also working to teach her deep pressure massage.”

Massage therapy involves training Baylee to relieve pressure points by patiently standing on Bean’s back.

As Bean progresses with Baylee’s training she is also becoming a better handler, recognizing when she and the dog may not be on the same page. She is learning new techniques that she did not utilize with Rocky.

“With Baylee, I realized that I introduced her to the electronic collar (e-collar) too early,” Bean acknowledged. “She started to shut down, and she was not herself. I decided to try a different type of collar, which helped. I’m learning how to adjust the methods I’m using with her. Not all dogs learn the same, just like humans. This is the concept of ‘balanced training.’”

After graduating in June, Bean will attend the University of Southern Maine so she can commute rather than move. She will major in biology and animal science, with the goal of eventually starting her own dog training business.

“Danielle definitely has a connection with both of her dogs,” her mother, Penny Bean, aid. “If she had her way she would continue adding (dogs) to our pack but our house isn’t big enough.”

Working with dogs is not Bean’s only passion. For years she has helped her mother coordinate Harrison’s Christmas for Kids drive. They work with the Harrison Elementary School to provide Christmas gifts for local families. Most years the drive involves a lot of shopping, but with COVID-19 restrictions they opted to provide gift cards to local stores of choice.

For her senior project Bean elected to run the high school’s food pantry this year. The project was ultimately eliminated as a graduation requirement due to the pandemic, but Bean opted to do it anyway. Normally the responsibility includes managing both financial and food donations brought to the school but currently no food is being accepted. Bean works with the school’s guidance counselors and student resource officer to coordinate the distribution of Hannaford gift cards to students in need.

Bean said it would be impossible for her to say no to help others. After high school she plans to continue supporting the fight against food insecurity, possibly with the Harrison Food Bank.

“One day when we were shopping we ran into one of the parents that we help with Christmas for Kids,” Penny Bean said. “She asked us if we were going to be able to do our program with the pandemic and conveyed to us with tears in her eyes how much this program means to her. It helps her family every year.

“I am so proud of the work Danielle does for the food pantry at school, and the work she does with me at Christmastime for the toy program,” she said. It is very rewarding to know that because of the work she is doing, students are not going hungry.”


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