Choosing A Service Dog Breed

Discussion in 'Service Dog Training' started by tx_cowgirl, May 26, 2011.

  1. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    I'm beginning to believe that choosing a service dog breed is like deciding when to get pregnant. Maybe you're focusing more on the breed than the individual dog; first, find the right 'dog' and then let common sense work out itself. Is A German Shepherd right for someone who doesn't like to clean? Nope, but find the right German Shepherd and cleaning becomes a small price to pay for the honor of owning that dog. Even when you decide on the right breed, you may not find the right dog an vica versa. Look for the dog; if you build it...they will come.
    Lexy88 and abby_someone like this.

  2. fickla Experienced Member

    I think rotties on a whole could be a good choice. They're a nice working breed. Downside is the males seem to take forever to mature! Labs can too, but the rotties I've met are a little more obnoxious and puppyish for longer. Also since they are a bit bigger than labs and goldens they don't fit quite as easily in smaller spaces, but I don't think that's a huge factor (pun intended!).

    They could be a bit harder for certain clients to handle but on the whole I would think they would bond nicely and work nicely without being too high energy once they mature.
    JoAnne likes this.
  3. JoAnne Well-Known Member

  4. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    How 'bout a Swiss Mountain Dog? They've got great strength, low maintainence coat, nice dispositions and admirable loyalty. They're big. but they seem to know it and act accordingly.
    abby_someone likes this.
  5. running_dog Honored Member

    Rotties in the UK do have rather an attack dog stigma - perhaps because we don't have pits as a scapegoat. I've only met about 5 rotties to speak to and haven't fallen out with one myself but my Mum had issues with one (it wouldn't let her into a friends house after she had been invited in) and a friend had issues with another (it sat and growled at her, it also regularly growled at one of it's owners). I have to say that labradors don't tend to behave like this!

    Larger size is also likely to increase the cost of feeding?
  6. Lexy88 Well-Known Member

    Although I personally like Rotties, they arent a breed for first time dog owners - which could be the case for someone needed assistance dogs - my dog behaviour tutor told us years ago that they are very 'challenging' dogs, and by this I mean, if the owner/handler doesnt have a strong personality, then the Rottie will 'challenge' them as a leader - not aggressively, but theyre less likely to take direction from someone who has a 'quieter' personality. And with my experience with Rotties, Id agree with this claim.
    running_dog likes this.
  7. bekah1001 Honored Member

    Bernese Mountain Dogs? Hmmmm they shed a lot and gain weight easily, but they are smart, easily trained, and natural watchdogs.
  8. bekah1001 Honored Member

    or golden retrievers ... or would that be too similar to the labs
  9. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    The body doesn't manufacter fat, the only way dogs get fat is by being fed that way and didja ever notice how fat people have fat dogs; hmmm, I wonder.
  10. JoAnne Well-Known Member

    It's basically the same dog, just different coats.
  11. abby_someone Well-Known Member

    I have been thinking about the perfect service breed. I don't think that there is one. For instance, if you need a dog for the deaf, or a seizure/diabetes dog, a smaller breed would be effective, but if you needed a dog for sight or for a person that had limited mobility that might need help up, then a larger breed might be better suited. I think that it really is a matter of what type of service is required.
  12. Lexy88 Well-Known Member

    I strongly disagree. Labs and Retrievers have very different personalities.

    I was thinking about this thread while walking Blade last night. Tx - are you thinking about breeds that come from a shelter? Or were you asking about a specific breed that could be sourced anywhere - ie from a breeder. As the thought came to me - you're interested in using Pits, Dobes and Rotties... but if youre using those breeds rescued from a shelter, maybe you need to consider why those breeds in particular are in a shelter and if they would be suitable to place into a home where the owner may not be very experienced with dogs, let alone dogs that have had 'issues' in the past.

    If youre not just considering breeds from a shelter, then the idea of using 'less common' breeds would probably mark up the purchase price hugely.

    Just a few thoughts.
  13. AliciaD Member

    I think it may be helpful if you used the term "mobility service dog". To the best of my knowledge, mobility dogs are the ones who assist people who have a handicap that limits their mobility (ie. people in wheelchairs, sever arthritis, etc).

    These are breeds that I, personally, would consider for the job if I was in need of a service dog, though I know you have already ruled out some of the breeds:
    German Shepherd
    Short-haired Collie (doesn't require the coat work like a long-haired)
    Standard Poodle
    Pyrenean Shepherd
    bekah1001 likes this.
  14. abby_someone Well-Known Member

    Very good point! I didn't know the term.

    I was mentioning that there is no perfect service breed for all applications. Even mixed breeds would work well if chosen carefully and they can be picked up at the shelters.
    Lexy88 and bekah1001 like this.
  15. bekah1001 Honored Member

    here go to this website ... and there is a breed to choose a good dog for you... hope it helps:
  16. Simon123 New Member

    Weimaraners might be an option... they are intelligent and sensitive and big enough to get the job done without looking 'scary'.

    Also, I just want to add that I've met a therapy/service dog that was a Bull Terrier, which seems like an unusual choice, but she was the sweetest thing!
  17. running_dog Honored Member

    Might Weimaraners too energetic? :confused: I normally meet them on 3 - 9 mile walks or running beside a bicycle not on a stroll round the park.

    I thought they were a bit temperamental too? Not sure, there are a couple of local ones that are very nice and a couple that I'm not impressed with - one is the worst local dog aggressive dog and the other is simply a clumsy nuisance.

    I prefer the idea of bull terriers! Gorgeous dogs.
  18. Jukes Well-Known Member

    I have an autistic son and I can't begin to describe how much his dog "Bella" helps him.
    Before I go into breed recommendations I would just like to make sure that you plan on setting up as a registered service and that the dogs all have the jackets -the jacket means people know that my son has a problem and isn't just being ignorant/obnoxious, and it also means the dog can come into shops and things with you, this is a huge advantage because it used to be in normal places like supermarkets that my son had the most problems.

    As for breeds, Bella is a black lab.
    The postive aspects of her breed for this particular type of work are:
    1. She's big (son's preference but when he's walking he likes to constantly stroke her for comfort so it is useful that she's so tall means he doesn't have to bend down to far).
    2. She's very affectionate
    3. She has a high concentration span
    4. She's intelligent
    5. She's quite energetic and is happy to play with him but isn't always looking to play (can relax)
    6. She likes other people but isn't easily distracted by them

    The place where we got Bella only trains labradors/golden retrievers or first time crosses with those two breeds, but we didn't choose her on her breed, we chose her based on her personality. In fact at the end of the day 'we' didn't choose her at all, my son did, and so long as he wants her, that's all that's important.

    So as long as the dog is fit for purpose, well trained and friendly then it should be fine, but I would caution you about using breeds that are frequently used as scapegoats like staffies/bull dogs because often the family themselves might not want one, due to the bad publicity they might be scared and not trust the dog therefore there is no point in having a dog that's supposed to comfort and support an autistic child if that child is scared of it - you see where I'm coming from?
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  19. Lexy88 Well-Known Member

    Jukes - I love your post. Especially "So as long as the dog is fit for purpose, well trained and friendly then it should be fine, but I would caution you about using breeds that are frequently used as scapegoats like staffies/bull dogs because often the family themselves might not want one, due to the bad publicity they might be scared and not trust the dog therefore there is no point in having a dog that's supposed to comfort and support an autistic child if that child is scared of it - you see where I'm coming from?"

    And I agree with this and maybe add to it? Tx - are you wanting to train service dogs for the PEOPLE WHO NEED them, or are you wanting to train the dogs as service dogs for the dogs themselves. I know you want to use certain breeds to show people that they can be used as wonderful service dogs, and also rescue dogs and give them a job, but ultimately, service dogs are FOR the people who need them and what is best for those people is the most important factor in the end.
  20. tx_cowgirl Honored Member

    For both reasons, really. My mom is a special education teacher, my uncle has been in a wheelchair since before I was born, and he is part of a group to help wheelchair-bound people become more independant and learn that being in a wheelchair does not limit you, but instead challenge you to find other ways to accomplish things.
    I've known people with service dogs of all kinds--assistance dogs who are the hands for those who can't pick up what they drop, or have trouble giving a clerk money to buy simple things, or have trouble opening doors, washing dishes, doing the laundry, dogs who lead their handlers through the safest routes and grant them independence they've never had before.
    For me, owning a dog is a simple pleasure; wonderful companionship in the form of a furry friend. They do not judge, they do not question, they do not hold ill will. They love purely and deeply, no matter the circumstance. For me, they are the best friend a person could have and also make life more interesting. :)
    But for someone who needs them, literally needs them to function....they are so much more. They are a friend, a shoulder to lean on, sometimes literally. They grant them independence they may never have had before. They allow them to see the world, literally and figuratively depending on the disability; they allow them to socialize and become a member of society. They allow them to live. To be able to give that kind of a gift to another human being is nothing short of incredible. Training the dog is fun, definitely. But it's more than that. You are changing another person's life in so many ways, simply by training a dog. When I am actually able to feel what it feels like to give someone that, I am sure there will not be words that can describe it perfectly. But I know it must be incredible.
    So, it's both. Training the dog, and helping the person. Yes, I think it would be nice to use another breed, because I do think others could be suitable for it. But, I will not put that personal desire over the needs of those who need these dogs.
    running_dog, Lexy88 and abby_someone like this.

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