Today, there are any number of ways pups can be trained to provide comfort, service and support for their humans. But there are differences between emotional support and other therapy dogs, and active-duty service dogs.
Service dogs have been highly trained to become almost an extension of their owner, and they perform physical tasks that disabled people can no longer perform. So, it’s no surprise to learn that service dog breeds best suited to these jobs tend to be those bred throughout history to be working dogs.
Common Traits of Service Dogs
While certain breeds work best in certain areas of service (more on that later!), all of these incredible dogs have a few key character traits in common:
- Top service dogs are highly intelligent, easy to train quick learners.
- They live to work and are happiest when they have a job to do.
- As most service dogs are required to go wherever their owner goes, pups that are especially friendly, calm and collected usually graduate with top honours.
- They are highly emotional – but in a good way! Aloof pups don’t make for great service dogs. Rather, breeds that form deep, emotional bonds with their owners (without becoming overprotective, of course) make perfect service dogs.
Service Dog Jobs and the Best Breeds to Fill Them
Guide Dogs: Seeing eye service dogs began with German Shepherds helping veterans returning from war, and while they are still in service, these days you’re more likely to see Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers in those highly recognizable harnesses. These breeds perform well as service dogs due to their high desire to learn and please their owners, as well as their calm and focused disposition while working.
Mobility Service Dogs: Retrievers — with their built-in instinct to fetch — also make great service dogs for people with mobility problems, retrieving items, opening doors, pushing buttons, even helping with walking and balance issues.
Hearing Dog: Hearing dogs are specifically trained to alert their owners to any numbers of sounds, be it a baby crying, an alarm, an approaching vehicle or a doorbell. Most are trained to not only alert, but also lead their human to the source of the sound. Those multi-tasking retrievers make fantastic hearing dogs (on top of their already many other talents!), but so do other alert and active breeds like Terriers, Spaniels and Poodles. Bonus, Poodles are hypoallergenic and hardly shed.
Medical Alert Dog: Just as the name implies, medical alert dogs are trained to be alert to the onset of specific medical conditions, like heart attack, diabetes, epilepsy or stroke. Not surprisingly, pups with exceptional sniffers make great medical alert dogs, including Poodles and Pomeranians – who can detect changes in blood sugar levels through scent.
Last but Not Least, the OTHER Working Service Dogs!
Of course, we feel a special love for those very good boys and girls who work to assist and support their owners and help them manoeuvre through the world safely. But many other breeds of service dogs are out there on the front lines keeping us all safe every day.
Beagles sniff out contraband at airports (and bedbugs pretty much anywhere, believe it or not!), while German Shepherds assist both police forces on the streets and soldiers on the battlefield.
Bloodhounds and Foxhounds are active in search and rescue units, while Belgian Malinois and Vizslas patrol busy transportation hubs and alert their handlers to the scent of explosives.
Basically, we don’t deserve dogs, as the old saying goes. But boy, are we ever grateful for everything they do for us. They really are incredible additions to our lives, aren’t they?