What are the best service dog breeds? Read on to learn about different types of services dogs and which breed is best for your needs.
Well-trained service dogs can be a huge help for people struggling with a mental, physical, or emotional challenge. Dogs can make life easier in so many ways, whether it’s by performing a job or providing stability and comfort.
Service dogs help people to live more independently, and some dog breeds are better suited for the monumental responsibility. In this guide, we will discuss the best service dog breeds, as well as what traits make a reliable service dog.
What is a Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog who is professionally trained to assist people with mental and physical disabilities. Service dogs are trained to provide people with disabilities the support they need to participate in everyday life.
Service dogs are trained to perform a variety of different tasks. These can include providing stability, picking up items, or guiding someone. Service dogs perform a specific action in order to assist someone with a disability.
Service dogs are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This makes it so that businesses, agencies, and other public services must accommodate service dogs and their owners.
What types of service dogs are there?
There are generally 8 different types of service dogs. Each one is specifically trained to perform a particular job.
- Allergy and gluten service dogs are trained to sniff out and detect ingredients and allergens in food.
- Guide dogs help lead visually impaired people.
- Hearing dogs are trained to alert people who are hard of hearing.
- Diabetic service dogs can alert to chemical changes in a person’s blood sugar.
- Seizure response dogs will assist their owner who suffers from epileptic seizures. It is said that some dogs can sense incoming seizures, but there’s no solid scientific evidence to prove it.
- Psychiatric service dogs help calm people who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Autism support dogs provide comfort and stability for children with autism.
Next, we’ll talk about behavioral traits to look for in a good service dog.
Behavioral Traits of Service Dogs
Service dogs must be under the control of their handler at all times. This means that the dog must be harnessed and leashed unless doing so prevents assisting the person with a disability.
The handler must be able to maintain control of the service dog using voice, signals or other effective means of communication. The dog must not wander away from the owner at any time.
Service dogs are not allowed to bark uncontrollably in public situations. If a dog barks once or barks to alert their handler, that behavior is acceptable under ADA regulation.
Service dogs should be calm and tidy, as well as friendly with a predisposition for bonding with humans. Good service dogs are highly obedient.
If a service dog is out of control, the owner has the opportunity to correct the behavior. However, if the dog continues to be disruptive, businesses reserve the right to ask the handler and dog to leave the premises.
10 Best Service Dog Breeds
While any dog breed can be trained to provide service to a human, below are the 10 most popular and recommended service dog breeds.
Labrador Retrievers are one of America’s top dog breeds. They are incredibly friendly, loving, good-natured dogs. Labs make excellent service dogs because of their gentle demeanor.
Labrador Retrievers often work as guide dogs because they are large, strong, and gentle with their mouths. Labs are often seen leading the visual or hearing impaired. They are also active dogs who can thrive on intense daily exercise if necessary to assist their disabled owner.
Labs are popular service dogs because they are versatile, loyal, and affectionate. Their obedience is generally unwavering and they also make wonderful family companions.
German Shepherds (GSD) make some of the best working dogs in the world. They are easy to train and highly intelligent, making them the perfect breed for intense military and police work.
German Shepherds also make tremendous service dogs. They are well-behaved dogs with an affinity for helping and protecting their owners. Due to their large, sturdy size, GSDs are excellent for assisting with mobility and guidance.
GSDs can be trained for just about any job. These loyal dogs have the willingness to learn and stamina to complete any tasks they’ve been given. German Shepherds excel as guide dogs but can perform in any service capacity.
Golden Retrievers have loveable personalities and they make outstanding service dogs. Not only are Goldens highly intelligent, but they are affectionate, easy to train, and enjoy having a job to do.
Golden Retrievers are calm and happy, making them great service dogs for PTSD and Autism assistance. But they can also handle physical service tasks, such as helping someone with guidance or mobility.
Golden Retrievers do require regular grooming to keep their long coats healthy, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when choosing the best service dog breed for your specific needs.
You may think of fancy fluffy dogs when you hear the word “Poodle,” but don’t be fooled. Poodles are terrific service dogs because of their intellect and happy-go-lucky personalities.
Standard Poodles are large enough to be guide dogs, and they are bred for active work. Toy and Miniature Poodles can absolutely be service dogs, but Standard Poodles will be better suited for mobility-related tasks.
Poodles are very obedient dogs. They are bred to work in a variety of different environments, and will not be easily overstimulated by a chaotic atmosphere. Poodles do have an incredibly high maintenance coat, which must be considered before bringing one home.
A common small service dog breed is the Pomeranian. Research shows evidence that Poms actually make excellent medical alert dogs, as they have heightened senses. These traits helped with detecting low blood sugar or incoming heart attacks.
Pomeranians often have a high-pitched bark that can help alert a hearing-impaired person to the ring of a phone or doorbell. A Pom’s small size allows them to be easily transported with an owner who is in a wheelchair or otherwise confined.
Poms are attentive dogs who love their owners. They are joyful as both pets and service dogs.
Border Collies possess the stamina and intelligence to perform any service job well. These dogs are agile and obedient, allowing them to be well-rounded and helpful.
Border Collies are the smartest dog breed. They can be trained to open doors, help a handler in a wheelchair or other physically daunting tasks.
Since Border Collies are so smart, they require loads of mental and physical exercise and stimulation. As a service dog or companion animal, Border Collies will need plenty of opportunities to work off energy.
American Staffordshire Terrier
American Staffordshire Terriers (Am Staff) are sweet dogs with a love for families and children. Am Staffs make great service dogs because of their sensitive nature, willingness to work, and gentle spirits.
Am Staffs were known as “nanny dogs” back in the 1800s because they were often tasked with looking over a family’s children. With their clownish personalities and loving traits, it’s no wonder they have become popular service dogs.
Like other breeds, Am Staff can perform any service dog job. They will be companions for children with Autism or helpful buddies for people with PTSD. Am Staffs just want to please their humans.
Great Danes have incredible size and strength, making them well-suited for difficult service tasks. This giant breed often helps people stand or keep balance.
Great Danes are known as “gentle giants,” and for good reason. They are super calm and collected, which are traits that make Great Danes amazing service dogs.
Although Great Danes tend to be slow and deliberate, their massive size may not be best for small children. A child could easily get hurt if a Great Dane were to fall or trip, and vice versa.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dogs are smart and strong. They thrive in cold climates and enjoy working for their owners.
Bernese Mountain Dogs can perform challenging physical tasks or provide comfort for someone with PTSD or Autism. Of course, this northern breed dog will also excel at assisting with heavy jobs.
With a laidback temperament and desire to work, a Bernese Mountain Dog would be a great service dog breed. You will just have to keep their large stature and routine grooming maintenance in mind.
In past wars, Boxers were used as messengers and guard dogs. They have a ton of energy, which can be a helpful trait when acting in a physical service dog capacity.
Boxers are happy, obedient, and ready to learn. They are great around kids, and can always make a person smile.
Boxers can be any type of service dog. They are big enough to help with mobility tasks but small enough to navigate areas efficiently. When exercised properly, Boxers can adapt to a variety of living situations.
FAQ About Service Dogs
Do service dogs have to be certified by the ADA?
The ADA does not require service dogs to be certified. However, they are required to be licensed through the state as well as vaccinated. Legally, businesses cannot ask to view any type of documentation.
Can a service dog be any breed of dog?
Yes! The ADA does not have restrictions on what breed of dog can and cannot be a service dog. Keep in mind that some breeds are better suited for jobs than others based on size, stature, and intelligence.
Do service animals have to wear a special vest or harness identifying them as a service dog?
According to the ADA, your service dog does not wear any type of accessory displaying their status. Whether a service dog wears a special collar, ID tag, vest or harness is completely up to the handler.
Do handlers have to carry paperwork for their service dog?
No. Business is not allowed by law to ask for an ID card or about a person’s disability. The two questions business can ask are what a service dog is trained to do, and what tasks they have been trained to perform.
Does the ADA recognize registration from service dog websites?
No. Service dog registration websites are a scam. ADA does not recognize anything brought forth by a service dog website.
The truth is, any breed of dog can be trained to be a service dog with proper training. There are no restrictions whatsoever on which dog can do which tasks. The list we provided is simply the perfect place to start when researching what breed will be best for your needs.
If you are interested in getting a service dog for yourself or someone else, you will want to consider breed laws and restrictions where you live. Unfortunately, breed discrimination does still exists in some parts of the US.