Destin Benoit
Your guide to this review today is by dog trainer Destin Benoit
Published 12:53 pm

Dogs truly are incredible creatures. Not only can they be your faithful companion providing joy in your life, but they can also take on all sorts of jobs that are useful in all walks of life. As well as being helping with personal care, they can also take on roles in public services such as the police and firefighters. But there are certainly some breeds of dog that are more suited to a life of service than others. It is these that we are going to focus on in this blog post detailing the best service dog breeds.

But first, let’s look at the main categories that service dogs can fall into.

Blind man with dog walking

Types of Service Dogs

Dogs can work in various different roles which can aid society. In the following section, we are going to look at some of the most common below.

  • Therapy dogs

First up, we have therapy dogs which can help people who have gone through traumatic experiences in their lives and now suffer from conditions such as anxiety. These can range from the minor to the extremely serious. An example of the type of work that they can do is to go into hospitals to offer comfort to the patients. They can even come into schools before exams to provide some stress relief! There are also dogs that can provide assistance with mobility such as bringing things to people and even pulling wheelchairs up ramps.

  • Guide dogs

These dogs provide assistance to people with physical impairments. The most well-known are guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired, who lead their owners through their lives, whether this is crossing a busy road or simply navigating a crowded street of people. There are also those dogs that can help people who have hearing impairments, alerting them to noises that they would have otherwise been unable to detect.

  • Alert dogs

Dogs can also be trained to help people with conditions such as diabetes and seizures. With the former, they can let them know if blood sugar levels have changed to dangerous levels. With the latter, they can provide help for people with conditions like epilepsy by alerting others when they have a seizure.

  • Emergency services

There are plenty of dogs that can be trained to work in various emergency service fields. For example, you have those working for the police or border protection, helping to sniff out drugs. Others work in the fire service and can even provide life-saving support. The same goes for those working in a search and rescue capacity.

Two poodles

Qualities of a Good Service Dog

There are several different qualities that make a good service dog breed. These are a few of the main ones, as well as why they are so important.

  • Intelligence

The primary quality that a service dog requires is intelligence. Without this, they cannot be trained to complete the tasks that they need to. And this is all-important when some of these jobs can be lifesaving. While not all dogs from each breed can be trained to complete individual tasks, a high level of intelligence will certainly help.

  • Friendly and calm demeanor

Since these dogs often work very closely alongside people and other animals, they need to have the type of friendly personality that is going to enable them to get along well. While defensive or overprotective dogs may operate well as guard dogs, they usually won’t have the necessary skills to work as service dogs. Also, these pooches may be placed in high-pressure situations, so they need to be able to respond calmly, and without the overwhelming desire to play that overtakes some dogs. At the same time, they cannot get riled up and become aggressive.

  • Strong work ethic

While some dogs are lethargic and content with lazing around the house for hours on end, this cannot be the case with service dogs. They need to have the type of get up and go that enables them to go about their tasks. So, the service dog breed needs to have a strong work ethic.

  • Ability to bond

Finally, the ability to form bonds with human companions is important. This is the case not only for dogs working in caring roles such as in therapy, but also for those who work in protection roles such as the police as they need to form bonds with human officers to do the best job possible.

  • Compliance

While some dog breeds are intelligent, they are stubborn dogs and challenging to train. The dog breeds that we are going to talk about below often display the type of compliance and eagerness to please that makes them easier to teach the necessary skills and techniques.

Top 10 Service Dog Breeds

Now, let’s run through 10 of the most popular and best service dog breeds out there, as well as the jobs that they can undertake and what makes them so suitable for each role.

German Shepherds

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are well-known for their loyalty, intelligence and hard-working nature. They are commonly linked with guarding and protection work, but they can also be caring companions who form strong bonds with their owners. The military and police are a couple of common examples of industries they work in, but they can also work in guide and hearing assistant roles. They were some of the first dogs in history who were used in a service capacity. Other conditions that German Shepherds can help out with include anxiety. When they are trained properly, they can even detect sudden issues such as panic attacks, as well as successfully preventing them – or simply providing some love and support.

Labrador Retrievers

Labrador Retriever

One of the most popular dog breeds for pet ownership and service roles, they are both loving and kind companions. They are most commonly associated as being seeing eye dogs for the blind and hearing assistant dogs. And they can also be useful for humans with mobility limitations. They have a natural retrieving instinct (as you may have already guessed from the name) and they have soft mouths which grip objects lightly, making it less likely that things that they pick up are going to get damaged. They can be incredibly comforting companions who can provide emotional support to their owners. Labrador Retrievers also display calmness in spades, which helps them to calm people down. An example of the support they can provide is to kids with ADD or autism.

Golden Retrievers

Golden Retriever

A very similar breed to Labrador Retrievers, they work well in similar capacities to them too. As well as being intelligent, they are also easy to train. And they have the same kind of loving and caring personality that also makes them so popular as pets. While they are quite large, they don’t have an intimidating look. They are excellent in helping people who suffer from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also guide blind people and help to fetch things for people with mobility issues. They naturally learn to love and want to please their owners.

Poodles

Poodles

While the top three might have been obvious examples of service dogs, little fancy Poodles may not have sprung straight to mind. But they are actually very clever dogs who can be trained easily and often enjoy having jobs to do. Poodles come in different sizes, but it is usually the Standard Poodle which is trained in a service capacity. The name can be a little misleading as this is actually the biggest of the set compared with Toy or Miniature Poodles. Of course, they cannot take on some of the more physical work of the larger breeds listed above, they can still perform some useful roles in society.

Pomeranian

Pomeranian

Again, with their slight physical presences, this is another breed which you might not think would be the great service dogs that they are. And like the poodle, they are not going to be involved in the most intensely physical tasks, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be useful. They form strong bonds with their owners and can be quite attentive to their needs. Some of the physical and psychiatric conditions that they can help with include PTSD, epilepsy, and autism. They can also be lifesaving for people with diabetes as they have a talent for alerting when people are suffering from low blood sugar. As for epilepsy, they can also become alert to when fits are going to occur, as well as providing comfort if they do.

Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs

On paper, Bernese Mountain Dogs display many of the characteristics needed for service dog excellence: intelligence, friendliness, and a strong work ethic. They also have the size and strength needed to perform various physical jobs, combined with the mind needed to be taught more complex tasks. They have also been known to pull wagons or wheelchairs providing mobility to those who cannot move too well. Emotional support is another positive quality that they can provide. There are a couple of points to bear in mind which may impact where they can provide service. First, they are high shedding dogs, so they may not be best for warmer climates. Also, they need a lot of physical activity, so apartment life is not appropriate.

Border Collies

Border Collie

Thought to be up there with the most intelligent dog breeds out there, they can be trained to complete a host of tasks with relative ease. Their strong herding instincts have made them highly popular with farmers for controlling livestock. However, these strong instincts may not make them the best choice for families with young children as they are at risk of knocking them over. They also need to get regular stimulation through exercise, which means they are best suited to homes that have easy access to the outdoors. Otherwise, they can engage in bad behavior such and nuisance barking and destruction. Remember, you also need to provide plenty of mental stimulation too through games and interactive toys.

Boxers

Boxer

Boxers have many of the qualities that make them great service dogs, but they aren’t used as commonly in this capacity as many of the others that we have discussed above. One of the most positive traits that they display is a good nature with adults and children too. Also, like some of the other breeds that we have discussed above, they need plenty of physical stimulation or they are likely to become bored and unruly. Their protective nature has made them popular guard dogs, but they can also provide support to people with disabilities.

Great Danes

Great Dane

The penultimate dog on our list of best therapy dogs is the appropriately named Great Dane. Large and strong, they can help people with movement or balance issues. They are gentle giants, which helps people who need mental and emotional support. Again, it is important that you have the right type of living situation for a dog of this size, and you need to take proper care of them with the right diet and plenty of physical exercise.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Finally, we have the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which are extremely good-looking dogs, but they can also be extremely good in various service roles. As they form such strong bonds with their owners, they can help people who have psychiatric issues such as depression. They are also one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD. As you would expect, they are intelligent and easy to train. Again, you need to make sure that your dog is properly stimulated both mentally and physically.

Final Thoughts

Some dog breeds are better than others at becoming service dogs, and the 10 that we have discussed above are amongst the most popular. While they come in different shapes and sizes, they have many qualities in common including intelligence, the ability to be taught loving natures, and strong work ethics. Let’s hear it for dogs!

Destin Benoit
A former Special Forces Canine Handler, Destin Benoit has extensive knowledge and experience with military canine training. He has worked with multiple military dogs in the most stressful places and situations in the world. Currently, Destin is a SOC Canine Handler, aiding in the protection of the US diplomats abroad.

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