7 Best Breeds for Service Dogs
Different breeds of dogs have their own unique qualities and characteristics. Check out our list of the 7 best breeds for service dogs.
Are you looking for a hard-working friend who is sensitive to your physical and emotional needs? This might sound like a description of the perfect therapist or romantic partner, but it also fits the definition of “service dog” to a tee.
The best breeds for service dogs have service in their blood. With their inborn temperaments and the right training, they can become indispensable to their human companions.
What are the best breeds of service dogs, and what makes them so well-suited to the tasks they perform? We answer that question and many more in this guide to service dog breeds. Read on to get your answers!
Different Types of Service Dogs
Not all service dogs serve the same purpose. Some help with mobility issues, while others are attuned to the specific medical problems of their owners.
One thing all service dogs have in common is that they are not therapy dogs, nor are they emotional support animals. These other, highly trained and valuable types of dogs provide emotional support to one or many people, but they are not trained to help with specific disabilities in the way service dogs are.
Here are some of the disabilities service dogs can help with.
These service dogs are trained to alert their deaf or hearing-impaired owners to certain sounds. Alarms going off, doorbells ringing, and the cries of babies are all examples of sounds their owners may need help hearing.
Highly specialized training helps diabetic alert dogs sense changes in their owners’ blood sugar, which can prevent extreme hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
The guide dog is the most recognizable of the service dogs, and for good reason. These dogs help blind and visually impaired people navigate the world and live full lives.
What Qualities Make a Good Service Dog?
Do some dogs have heightened senses that predispose them to help with the disabilities we just listed. Well, yes and no.
They may not be born with the ability to sniff low blood sugar or lead the blind, but some dogs are better equipped than others to learn these skills. Here are the traits that make their learning easier.
It is no surprise that a dog who is willing to learn will pick up new skills faster than a more stubborn counterpart. Service dog training is rigorous, but some breeds genuinely enjoy the engagement they get from it.
Intelligence is another factor that makes dogs trainable. We love all breeds equally, but some breeds are smarter than others. Smart breeds train more easily.
The ideal size of a good service dog depends on the function they are performing, but for most disabilities, a large, sturdy dog is preferable. This is especially true of dogs who help with mobility issues. A dog cannot pull a wheelchair if they are not large enough to develop that strength.
What do we mean by temperament? Focus, for one. A dog that is able to ignore distractions can digest training more effectively than a hyperactive dog.
A gentle disposition, though not required, is another personality trait that makes dogs good for service. An angry or rough service dog is simply too much of a contradiction.
7 Best Breeds for Service Dogs
Now that you know more about the different types of service dogs and the qualities that make them good at what they do, you have more context for the breeds below. Here, we will give you more information on what makes each of these breeds uniquely qualified for service work. See for yourself.
1. Golden Retrievers
Golden retrievers are among the sweetest of dog breeds. They are social and loving, which makes them good companions along with the physical work they do.
Boy, can they ever do physical work. These dogs are gentle giants, which makes them great at guiding and pulling wheelchairs, if that is what is required of them.
As retrievers, goldens are predisposed to pick up items and return them to their owners. This is key for owners who need visual or memory help.
2. Labrador Retrievers
Labs are some of the most popular service dogs. If you have an image of a guide dog in your mind, the chances are high it looks like a labrador retriever.
Labs have a natural intelligence that pairs well with their loyalty. They bond deeply with their owners, and when it comes to trainability, they are especially engaged in the process of training. They love having a task to accomplish.
3. Golden/Lab Mixes
We do not forget our hybrids on this list, and what could be a better service dog than a mix of the previous two breeds. Like both of their parent breeds, these dogs are highly sociable, which makes them ideal for bonding with their owners.
Golden/lab mixes are big people-pleasers too, which means they respond well to early training.
Poodles get a bad rap. This is one of the most intelligent dog breeds that deserves to be known for more than a highly stylized haircut.
Their intelligence and their heightened sense of smell, even among dogs, makes poodles excellent dogs for diabetics and people with life-threatening allergies. They are quite common in the diabetic alert dog community.
A standard poodle has the heft a strong service dog needs. Plus, this breed is exceptionally trainable. Their intelligence means they learn quickly.
5. Tibetan Mastiffs
Tibetan Mastiffs may not be what comes to mind when you think of service dogs, but they have many of the qualities that make training and physical assistance easy.
Most importantly, Tibetan Mastiffs are gentle, and they work hard. They are a hulking breed, which means their hard work pays off in substantial physical ways. Forget just one wheelchair; your Tibetan Mastiff might pull three!
One thing you should know about Tibetan Mastiffs is that they are a more independent breed than others on this list. That means they can go their own way at times, but it is straightforward to redirect this impulse early with good training.
The loyalty of a labrador retriever combined with the intelligence of a poodle makes the labradoodle a near-perfect service dog. Despite being highly social, labradoodles’ intelligence allows them to make distinctions between work and play time.
That same intelligence resides in goldendoodles, thanks to each of their parent breeds scoring in the top four of the 150 smartest dog breeds. Here is what goldendoodles bring to the table that is unique: the gentleness of a golden retriever. They bond with their owners similarly to labradoodles, but they tend to be even more affectionate.
Here to Serve
We hope this guide to the best breeds for service dogs has given you insight into what makes a good service dog and the breed that may be right for you. A service dog is nothing without good training, and now you understand just how much work goes into that training.
If you want to explore getting a service dog for yourself, learn more here.