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Service-dog

Best Service Dogs - Copy

Best Service Dogs - Copy

Why are Certain Dog Breeds Better as Service Dogs?

All dog breeds have unique characteristics and traits, but some canines are much better at being service dogs than others.

What is a Service Dog?

Service dogs are trained to work and perform a specific task. The dogs understand the job they must complete and when to do it. Service dogs are everywhere around us and may be very visible, like a guide dog for someone who is blind or visually impaired. Service dogs such as search and rescue dogs deployed in disaster zones to seek out human life and sniffer dogs at border control are perhaps less noticeable. Certain breeds are favoured for specific roles. It’s true to say that most guide dogs for the blinds are Labradors, and many dogs deployed in disaster zones are Spaniels. Sometimes, a larger breed can be more beneficial for someone with mobility issues, and a smaller breed is better at accessing tight and difficult areas during search roles or in search and rescue. However, the most important thing with any service dog is that they are trainable, focused, reliable and eager to work. Some breeds (naming no names!) are just less biddable and would rather do their own thing than work to order. 

The Most Popular Service Dog Breeds

Top of the list of suitable service dog breeds is Labradors and Golden Retrievers, which is probably why they are also so popular as family pets. Labradors and Retrievers are very people-orientated, generally calm and gentle at maturity, with absolute devotion to their owner. Their size is useful to help people to walk as they offer balance assistance, and they are incredibly trainable. 

Service Dog, Emotional Support Dog, Working Dog or Pet?

All service dog owners form an incredibly close bond with their trusted pets, but their role is primarily to work. It’s usually why they wear a vest or harness, which identifies their role so it’s easier for people to understand their function. However, at home, a service dog is still an essential household member and has all the usual health and nutritional needs of a regular family pet. Service dogs require vaccination, a microchip and all the routine care you would expect to give any family dog. Some veterinary practices offer discounted rates to service dogs, but owners will need to be able to provide evidence of the dog’s status as well as the health condition that the animal supports. There are many other ways to help with veterinary care costs, which can be helpful and open to all dog owners, not just those with service dogs. The German Shepherd is also sometimes used for people with mobility issues, although it is seen less commonly as a guide dog. German Shepherds are loyal, intelligent and easy to train. They are a popular choice as service dogs for the armed forces. The Saint Bernard, with its trademark barrel under the chin, is one of the largest breeds of service dogs. Not often seen in the UK, this is because St Bernard’s are used for mountain rescue in the snowy peaks of the Alps. Hearing dogs don’t necessarily have to be a large breed, so sometimes Poodles and Miniature Spaniels are trained for this role alongside the ever-popular Labradors and Retrievers. There’s no particular favourite regarding Diabetic Alert dogs, as all canine breeds have supercharged noses. Hence, the tendency is to revert to popular tractable, calm, and trainable breeds. Diabetic alert dogs are trained to pick up changes in their owner’s blood glucose levels and alert them when their blood sugar is too high or too low. This training can be widened to include alerting other family members to the problem or even setting off an alarm. Mobility Assistance dogs tend to be larger breeds like Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Rough Collies. These dogs must be able to perform physical tasks for their owner and potentially provide balance and support their handler’s weight, so they need to be large enough.

What are Emotional Support Animals?

Emotional Support Animals or ESAs include dogs but other species as well. ESAs are not the same as service dogs. They provide emotional, mental or psychological support to their owner but are not trained to perform a specific role or set of tasks. Their support is very often invisible, and they may simply look like the family pet. An ESA can be any breed, not even a recognised breed, or maybe even a rescue – they come in all shapes and sizes. Their role is to support their owner, which may be more ad hoc than a trained guide dog, who will work daily to perform specific tasks. Emotional Support dogs don’t have the same status as service dogs, so they don’t always enjoy access to specific locations and public areas open to service dogs.

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