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So You Want A Service Dog? (What You Need To Know)

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Dogs and humans have been working in partnership for thousands of years. Ever since the very first domesticated dogs helped us hunt and watched our homes, while we, in turn, fed and cared for them, the two species are a match made in heaven.

Today, that bond still is upheld with over 500,000 service dogs estimated to be employed throughout the US. 

In this blog post, we’ll look at what a service dog is, what the training entails, and the ideal traits of a service dog. 

Man with disability with his service dog using electric wheelchair.

What Is A Service Dog?

A service dog is a canine trained to perform specific tasks that assist disabled individuals. These dogs are typically classified as either guide dogs, which help those with visual impairments, or assistance dogs, which provide support for those with other types of disabilities. 

Some common types of service dogs include: 

Guide dogs – Guide dogs help the visually impaired around in their daily lives or give warnings about potential hazards to the hearing impaired. 

Medical alert dogs – These sniffer dogs alert their handlers on impending medical conditions such as seizures, or low blood sugar levels. 

Psychiatric service dogs – These loving dogs help support and provide care for those with severe mental health issues such as PTSD and anxiety.

Military service dogs – These impressive canines do all kinds of stuff for law enforcement and the military like search and rescue, and drug and explosive detection. 

For many people with disabilities, a service dog is an essential partner in everyday life.

Service Dog Training

The specific tasks that a service dog can perform will depend on the needs of the individual but may include such things as providing mobility assistance, retrieving objects, providing emotional support, or alerting to sounds. 

The training of a service dog is extensive and thorough, lasting more than 18 months, and costing upwards of $10,000. 

When properly trained, service dogs can provide invaluable assistance to their handlers, improving their quality of life in a very significant way. 

MELBOURNE – APR 14 2014:Blind man is led by his guide dog.Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles,they are partially color blind and are not capable of interpreting street signs

What Makes A Good Service Dog

Not all dogs are cut out for service work! Hyperactive dogs might get easily distracted, while some dogs get moody, irritable, or whine excessively when tired or stressed. 

Service dog training is extremely rigorous, with more than half the dogs flunking out of training.

To be a good service dog, a dog must first and foremost be well-trained. They must be able to follow commands, even in distracting or stressful situations. 

In addition, they must be calm and gentle, as they will often be working around vulnerable populations. 

They must also have a strong constitution, as they may be required to work long hours or in difficult conditions. Finally, perhaps most importantly, they must have a deep bond with their handler. 

This connection is what allows the dog to truly understand its handler’s needs and fulfill its role in an invaluable way. 

Very broadly speaking, the common traits of all service dogs are healthy, calm, well-trained, obedient, and in some cases, fearless.

In most cases, they also need to have the physical capabilities to conduct their responsibilities. 

Top Three Service Dog Breeds

While all dogs are different, certain breeds have the genetic predisposition for service work.

Labrador Retriever

This breed has been the most popular breed in the US for decades. Patient, versatile, easy-trained, and calm, Labradors serve best as sniffers and guide dogs. 

German Shepherd 

Obedient, intelligent, and courageous, German Shepherds are the go-to breed for military work and law enforcement. They are explosively athletic and have high energy levels, and might not do as well in more sedentary jobs. 

Golden Retriever

Friendly, loving, and affectionate, the Golden Retriever is another hugely popular breed that makes an excellent guide or psychiatric service dog.

therapy dog sitting beside a teddy bear on white background

Final Thoughts

If you are considering getting a service dog, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, you will need to demonstrate that you have a disability that significantly impacts your ability to live independently. 

Second, you will need to be able to care for your service dog, including providing food, water, and regular exercise. Finally, you should be prepared to commit to training your dog on a regular basis. 

If you think a service dog may be right for you, talk to your doctor or another healthcare professional about the next steps. Good luck! 


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Saturday 16th of July 2022

My son is blind and I have been thinking about trying to encourage him to investigate into getting a dog. His vision faded out due to genetic eye disease. He is 50 and still lives with me, mostly for me. The time is fast approaching he will have to live without me, we have all ways had a dog and he is very soft heart for them. anyway Thanks for info and maybe a little shove for me! My Chi Buddy will have some adjusting to do maybe!?


Saturday 16th of July 2022

I think that's a great idea for your son to get a service dog LaVada. One of my best friends also has a genetic eye disease and though he still has a little sight left, he seems to be losing it pretty quickly and I worry about him. I'm trying to get him to get a service dog too though he's not a dog person (even though he adores my dogs).

Malik Robinson

Wednesday 13th of July 2022

Great post. Thanks for sharing. A service dog isn't for everyone, but the people that put in the time and energy will have a GREAT dog. Love the blog here. Keep it up.


Wednesday 13th of July 2022

Thanks Malik!