In truth, just about any breed could be trained — with enough hard work — to be a service dog. But there are some breeds that were born to serve. Forget about your preconceived idea about what a service dog looks like, because you’re in for some surprises.
When it comes to what breeds make the best service dogs, it’s also a question of an individual dogs’ temperaments, physiques, and traits — not simply their breed — that qualify them for this difficult task. Keep reading to find out which types of dogs you probably never thought of perfect for service — including the Pomeranian on page 6 — and discover some cool information about service dogs along the way.
1. Golden retriever
According to the website SitStay, golden retrievers are not only great family dogs, they also make wonderful service dogs. Because they have such kind, gentle temperaments, goldens are perfect for, say, children with autism. They can learn to alert a child to important sounds he might not hear, distract a child from a meltdown, or intervene if a child is hurting himself. For children with autism, goldens can bring a huge sense of emotional and physical stability to the party.
Next: Lassie come home.
SitStay also says collies make good service companions, according to SitStay. They have friendly, intelligent, loyal natures that are perfect for those with disabilities, and they’ve been gaining popularity in the service dog field.
Some collies can detect seizures in advance, and they are perfect for calming those with ongoing conditions such as PTSD and anxiety. In addition, their herding background makes them a logical choice if a search-and-rescue mission is necessary.
Next: Gentle giants
3. Bernese mountain dog
These gentle giants are clearly great for helping those with mobility issues — they can act as an excellent brace. In addition, they can pull wheelchairs because they’re big and strong. According to SitStay, they are also great in emergency situations. These guys are smart cookies: They can get medications for owners, go for help, and open the door for emergency services.
Next: This one will surprise you.
Yes, poodles make excellent service dogs. Think standard poodle here, not mini or toy. Poodles are known for their discriminating noses — they can detect food allergens for people with life threatening allergies. In addition, poodles’ are typically curious and friendly — and they love to please their owners, according to SitStay. For owners with limited mobility, a poodle can open the door, turn lights on and off, and pick up items they’ve dropped.
Next: You’ll recognize this one.
5. German shepherd
You’ve likely seen a German shepherd or two serving owners as guide dogs. This breed is perfect for helping blind individuals navigate the world safely, according to the website My Assistance Dog Inc. Not only can German shepherds alert an owner to any potential dangers, because of their size and strength, they can provide a lot of stability if the person needs help with balance.
Next: This one has a special talent.
Granted, Pomeranians are 180 degrees different from most service dogs, but they do have a special talent, according to SitStay. People often use this breed as medical alert dogs. For example, if you are diabetic or hypoglycemic, your Pomeranian will likely know.
And, if you are having an asthma or a heart attack he will detect that, too. This breed is also popular for deaf owners — Poms let their owners know if there’s a sound, such as a phone ringing or a knock at the door — they should pay attention to right away.
Next: Characteristics count.
7. General service dog characteristics
There are some characteristics that all service dogs share. They must be the right size and have the right amount of strength — and stamina — to perform the duties their humans need, such as pulling a wheelchair or providing physical support. Their energy levels need to be somewhere around the middle of the spectrum, according to SitStay, because they have to be physically active as well as calm and quiet at times.
They must also be intelligent and obedient, and they have to be able to problem-solve. In addition, they must always be well behaved in public situations. A tall order for a dog, yes, but so many rise to the task.
Next: One hard-working dog
According to the My Assistance Dog Inc. website, Samoyeds have only recently made their mark on the service world. It history as a working dog has instilled in the breed some traits that are useful for service dogs. They can carry and retrieve things, which is great for someone who has limited mobility, but pulling a wheelchair might be out of their comfort zones.
Although they were bred to pull sleds, don’t forget that a team does the pulling, not one Samoyed. This breed’s calm demeanor, agility, adaptability, and intelligence make it ringer for service work. In addition, the breed typically bonds with one person but also accepts the whole family — another plus is that it is OK with strangers and other animals, so public behavior is not a concern.
Next: Calm and focused
9. Irish setter
This beautiful, boisterous breed are often chosen as service dogs for those whose with impaired hearing, according to My Assistance Dog Inc., Irish setters have gained popularity in the field because they are born to hunt, which means they’re eager to please, fast, smart, loyal, and perhaps best of all, highly trainable.
They’re big enough to retrieve and carry some pretty items, as well as offer physical support for owners. Another breed that bonds with its owner but gets along with everyone and everything else, Irish setters have the ability to remain calm and focused in public.
Next: These dogs serve and protect.
10. Shetland sheepdog
The Shetland sheepdog is another dog well suited to service work — with one exception. According to My Assistance Dog Inc., shelties tend to be protective of their owners, which might cause some issues in public. That said, they are some of the smartest dogs on the planet, and they love to follow orders.
Their stamina and work ethic, combined with attentiveness and natural steering instinct, makes them a good choice to help those with limited mobility navigate the world. Shelties are also a popular choice as hearing dogs for those who are deaf or hearing-impaired.
Next: This is amazing.
11. Service animals can do so much
Do you know all the things service dogs can do? Probably not. Check out all the tasks these special animals can handle, according to thelabradorsite:
- Pick up difficult-to-reach things, such as a phone, keys, wallet, or even a credit card
- Help people get dressed and undressed, including zippers
- Collect the mail
- Load and unload the washing machine
- Open doors
- Interrupt a child’s tantrum
- Stop a child from running into the road
- Play games
- Press the button on a pedestrian crossing
Next: A new addition
Vizslas were originally bred as hunting dogs in Hungary, according to My Assistance Dog Inc. They are people-focused, high-energy dogs that aren’t traditional to use as service dogs but have been getting much more play in the arena in recent years. Although they’re not as strong as goldens, Labs, and German shepherds, they can still handle fetching and carrying tasks, and they learn quickly.
Vizslas bond strongly with humans — as well as kids — and they are eager to please, two characteristics that are key in service dogs. They are also not terribly wary of strangers, so they can do their jobs in public with no problem. In addition, they are known for its exceptional sense of smell and for noticing everything that’s going on around them.
Next: This breed springs into action.
13. Springer spaniel
English springer spaniels are loving, alert, obedient, and hard working — what more could you want from a service dog? Although this breed likely won’t be able to pull a wheelchair or offer physical support to owners, it’s a great one for those who need a hearing dog, or for those who have epilepsy or diabetes, according to My Assistance Dog Inc.
English springer spaniels have a strong work ethic and lots of energy, yet they are able to remain calm and focused when necessary. They have a protective nature, but they are people-friendly enough so that it doesn’t present a problem with public behavior. In addition, these spaniels are super smart, obedient, adaptable, and ready for any challenge you can throw at them.
Next: Not your typical service dog
14. Welsh corgi
The American Kennel Club ranks the Welsh corgi 22nd most popular breed in the U.S., according to My Assistance Dog Inc. And although they can’t perform service tasks that involve heavy lifting and physical support, they are great for the hearing impaired and deaf. In addition, they work as alert dogs for people with diabetes — they can sense when their owners’ blood sugar reaches dangerous levels and let them know.
They have tons of energy, love performing tasks, and are super alert. Their only downside to being a service dog is their protective streaks, so it’s important to train find one who has been trained to bypass those instincts.
Next: A perennial fave
15. Labrador retriever
Labradors have a long tradition of working as service dogs, according to My Assistance Dog Inc. And, in recent years, these roles have only diversified. Originally bred for hunting, Labs are among the most able, intelligent dogs to work with disabled people.
They are particularly useful as guide dogs for those who are blind, enabling them to live a more independent life. Labs are hard working, obedient, and good-natured — and they listen carefully and try to do the best job possible. There’s a reason these beautiful animals are so common among service animals.
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