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Which Breeds Make the Best Service Dogs?

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Breeds By Ben Team 12 min read April 9, 2020 78 Comments

Best Service Dog Breeds

Many people who struggle with a mental, emotional, or physical health challenge have found that a well-trained service dog makes daily life much easier to navigate.

Service dogs can help their owners in a variety of ways, ranging from monitoring their owner’s blood sugar levels to helping their owner walk!

Just about any dog can be trained to perform service work, but some breeds are especially likely to excel in such capacities.

Below, we’ll talk about some of the breeds that are best suited for service work and examine some of the traits that make some breeds stand out in these contexts more than others.

But first, we need to briefly discuss the differences between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs.

The Different Types of Service Dogs

Although the terms therapy dog, service dog, and emotional support dog are often used interchangeably, they do refer to different things. We’ve written about how to identify a service dog extensively before, but we’ll provide a quick synopsis below.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are used to help reduce anxiety and fear in people who are typically coping with some type of trauma. This includes people who are dealing with relatively minor traumatic experiences or life-altering events.

For example, some therapy dogs work in airports where they allow weary or nervous travelers to spend a few minutes petting them. Others visit hospitals to help cheer up patients and frightened visitors who often have a lot on their minds.

therapy dog breeds

Note that therapy dogs are usually not expected to help their owners feel better – they are primarily tasked with helping cheer up other people.

Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support dogs are usually expected to help their owners cope with fear, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or other emotional challenges.

emotional support dog

Some do so by simply hanging out with their person, soliciting scritches, and generally being a dog, while others will intervene during acute attacks of anxiety or fear.

For example, if the owner of an emotional support dog starts showing signs of an impending anxiety attack, the dog may jump up on his person’s lap and start doling out kisses and affection. This is often helpful for stopping the attack and allowing their owner to relax and feel safe.

Service Dogs

Service dogs are quite different from therapy dogs and emotional support animals. Unlike these other dogs, which primarily provide value by just being lovable floofs, service dogs are trained to perform specific and essential tasks for their owner.

The classic example of a service dog is a German shepherd leading a blind owner around, but there are a variety of other tasks service dogs have been trained to complete.

service dog for blind

Some help wheelchair-bound owners open doors, while others are trained to notify deaf owners of ringing doorbells, fire alarms, and other important sounds.

There is occasionally a bit of crossover between the various categories.

For instance, a dog that is trained to take active, well-defined steps to help stop their owner’s anxiety attacks (as in the earlier example) is probably better characterized as a service dog for anxiety rather than an emotional support dog because he’s performing a specific task.

Some dogs are trained to monitor autistic children and even sit at their feet during meltdowns to help calm them.

The exact way your four-legged assistant is classified will affect the logistics of having him accompany you in your daily activities (for example, service dogs are allowed nearly everywhere, but therapy dogs are restricted from some places).

However, it won’t matter to you or him – you’ll just know that you make each other’s lives better.

Traits of Good Service Dogs

Although good service dogs come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds, most of the best exhibit a few common traits. This includes:

Intelligence

Pet dogs needn’t be especially smart – it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to follow you around, shower you with love, and randomly do cute stuff.

But service dogs must often perform complex tasks, which require considerable intelligence to pull off. So, most of the best service dogs are smart cookies.

 Friendly Disposition

Because your service dog will frequently be required to work in public settings, they need to be comfortable around and friendly with other people and pets.

dogs-that-like-people

Dogs who are aloof or overprotective may make good pets or guard dogs, but they rarely make good service, therapy, or emotional support dogs.

 Calm Demeanor

Service and support dogs must be relatively calm to ensure they don’t cause disturbances when you are in public. And this not only means avoiding dogs who tend to run, jump, and play during inappropriate times, it also means avoiding dogs who are reactive or easily startled.

 Strong Work Drive

Some dogs have a strong desire to work with their owner, while others are happy to lounge on the couch all day and have their stomach scratched.

If you are in need of an emotional support dog, you may be able to get by with one in the latter category, but a strong work drive is an important trait to seek when picking a service dog.

therapy-dog-breeds-with-focus

 Tidiness

For the sake of social harmony, you’ll want to make sure that your service dog doesn’t drool and shed everywhere you go. This will just lead to unnecessary conflict and strife, which may cause some to resent service and support dogs.

 Tendency to Bond Strongly

Although independent dog breeds can be wonderful in some circumstances, most good service and support dogs tend to be touchy-feely dogs who bond strongly with their owners. Besides, you are going to end up depending on your dog pretty heavily, so it’ll just work better if you pick one that’ll develop a strong bond with you.

10 Best Service Dog Breeds

It’s important to select a service dog that suits your specific needs, but the following ten breeds are some of the most popular choices by those who need a four-footed assistant!

1. Labrador Retriever

Service Dog Breeds

Labrador retrievers are one of the most popular pet breeds, and they make fantastic service dogs too.

Most Labs are ridiculously friendly and good-natured. They also tend to bond very strongly with their owners and often love having a job to do. Large individuals may even be able to help you stand or walk.

Labs can perform a variety of services for their owners, but they’re especially helpful for mobility-impaired owners who need help grabbing or manipulating items. This is partly due to their natural retrieving instinct, but Labs also have “soft mouths,” which means they grip things lightly with their teeth. This will help ensure they don’t mangle the objects you expect them to fetch.

2. Golden Retriever

Breeds for Service Work

Given their similarity to Labs, it shouldn’t be surprising that golden retrievers also make excellent service dogs. They’re smart, friendly, and easy to train, and most enjoy having a job to do.

Additionally, despite being pretty big dogs, goldens look gentle and sweet, which can help put other people (who may be afraid of dogs) at ease.

Goldens are ideal for emotional support work, making them one of the best service dogs for PTSD and a great breed for reducing anxiety. But they can also handle more physical work, such as guiding blind owners or fetching items for those confined to wheelchairs.

Do note that goldens shed quite a bit, so you’ll need to decide whether or not you can deal with this issue before selecting one of these lovable canines.

3. German Shepherd

Service Dogs

German shepherds are most commonly associated with guard and protection work, but they also make good service dogs.

German shepherds have all of the things you’d want when picking a service dog, as they’re intelligent, well-behaved, and easy to train. They usually bond very strongly with their owners too.

German shepherds were likely among the first dogs to be used for service work, and they can do it all.

Many have enough size and strength to help mobility-impaired owners get around, they are attentive enough to notice when their person is feeling anxious, and they have a powerful sense of smell, which makes them well-suited for monitoring blood sugar levels.

4. Poodle

Good Service Dog Breeds

Many people think of poodles as prissy dogs with fancy haircuts, but they’re actually very smart and capable dogs who often love having a job (and for the record, you can give your poodle a pretty normal-looking haircut if you like).

Poodles have a great demeanor for service work and they’re very easy to train. Plus, they look great in a service vest!

Most people who plan to use a poodle for service work should probably select a standard poodle (poodles come in several different sizes – standard poodles are the largest), as they’re bigger and stronger than toy or miniature poodles.

However, if you don’t need your service dog to perform exceptionally physical work, smaller varieties may be easier to take with you into crowded locations.

5.  Boxer

Dogs That Make Good Service Dogs

Boxers aren’t often used for service dog work, but they certainly exhibit most of the traits that you want in a service dog. They are big enough to perform physical tasks, but they’re still small enough to comfortably navigate crowded locations.

Boxers are exceedingly good-natured dogs who are not only friendly with adults, they’re marvelous with children too. They do have high energy levels, like Labs and golden retrievers, so you’ll need to provide them with plenty of time to exercise.

That said, they can actually adapt quite well to apartments and small homes.

6. Great Dane

Dogs for Service Jobs

Great Danes are uniquely well-suited for some service tasks, given their immense size and strength. They’re often helpful for owners who need help standing or keeping their balance, but they are also great for people who need emotional support, given their calm and reassuring demeanor.

Great Danes are typically pretty friendly with strangers, but those who’ve been trained for service work will remain focused on their person at all times. Great Danes do drool quite a bit, so they aren’t ideal for all owners.

You needn’t take my word for any of this – look at how well this Great Dane is helping his person.

7. Border Collie

Dogs for Service Work

Border collies are often considered the smartest breed in the world, so it shouldn’t be surprising that they make excellent service dogs (note that many of the other brainy breeds, including Labs, poodles, and German shepherds are also on this list). They’re also remarkably easy to train, and most love having a job to do.

Border collies are pretty good with kids, but they will occasionally “herd” children, which can lead them to accidentally knock toddlers over, so they may not be the best choice for those who are frequently around unfamiliar kids.

Border collies are a high-energy breed, and they can be mischievous if under stimulated, so you’ll want to be sure you can provide plenty of opportunities to exercise and brain-stimulating interactive toys before adding one to your home.

8. Pomeranian

Therapy Dog Breeds

Most service dogs are on the large side, but the Pomeranian is a small breed that is often quite capable of helping in service-related capacities.

A Pomeranian isn’t going to help you keep your balance or walk, but he can learn to perform a number of tasks that don’t require a ton of size or muscle. They’re very attentive to their owners, and most will enjoy having a job to do.

The Pomeranian is probably the best choice for owners who need the help of a service dog but don’t have a lifestyle that is suitable for big breeds.

Given their small size, it is easy to carry a Pomeranian with you in a small pouch or backpack, and they are so cute that they’ll rarely frighten anyone when you are in public!

9. Bernese Mountain Dogs

Service Breeds

Bernese mountain dogs exhibit many of the most important traits to look for in a service dog, including a friendly disposition, impressive intelligence, and a strong work ethic.

They’re big and strong enough to perform some physical tasks, and they’re smart enough to learn how to perform complex jobs to help their people.

Bernese Mountain dogs aren’t ideal for warm climates, and they do shed quite a bit, so you’ll want to be sure these things won’t be a problem before adding one to your home. They also require plenty of time to run, jump, and play, so they aren’t well-suited for apartment life.

10. Pit Bulls

Dogs Good at Service Work

Pit bulls (and their American Staffordshire terrier cousins) often make excellent service dogs, although you’ll have to be prepared to deal with the negative (though mistaken) perception of the breed.

Many people fear pit bulls, but these fears are the result of ignorance and sensationalistic coverage by the media – in truth, the vast majority of pits are loving, gentle dogs.

In fact, pit bulls are one of the friendliest breeds around, and well-trained individuals are generally very well-behaved in public situations. They’re also pretty smart and easy to train, and most pit bulls have a strong work drive.

   

While the ten breeds discussed above are some of the best breeds for service work, there are plenty of exceptions and you should always try to find a dog who’s well-suited to provide the kind of service you need.

For example, Jack Russell terriers aren’t often used as service dogs given their penchant for mischief and independent nature, but I saw an elderly lady at the DMV a few weeks ago who was accompanied by a darling little Jack Russell in a service dog jacket.

I didn’t want to impose, so I didn’t ask her what service her dog performed, but whatever his duties entailed, he carried himself with a sense of purpose and appeared very observant of his mom. Unlike many other Jack Russells, who tend to be perpetually scanning the surroundings for potential adventure, this little fella kept his eyes locked on mom the entire time.

So, while you should certainly consider the breeds we listed above, don’t hesitate to stray from the list!

Do you have a service or support dog? Tell us all about him! You don’t have to share any details you don’t want to, but we’d love to know the services your dog provides, the breed he belongs to, and whether or not you feel like he’s helped make your life easier.

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Written by

Ben Team



Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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Kelly

The last few dogs you posted are super high energy and incredibly difficult to train. A boxer needs a ton of attention and purpose, they generally make terrible service dogs! Great Danes on average only live about eight years, and as a result the amount of time it would take to train them wouldn’t be logical for the return. Add to that the size, it’s a terrible idea(especially for someone with a disability of some kind). And border Collie‘s have a natural instinct to herd which means you’re not gonna be greater and kids sometimes, that’s a trait that needs to be taught and discouraged. So while all of the dogs may be smart, just because they are smart does not mean they’re good at being service dogs!
Having said that a dog like a golden retriever is a great service dog. Also, Due to their desire to please their human and incredible loyalty, Rottweilers are great service dogs, which is what makes Pitbulls great service dogs as well.

Reply
Ben Team

We appreciate you sharing your thoughts, Kelly. But it seems like we’ll just have to agree to disagree here.
For example, the Great Dane’s size is actually a benefit in many service-dog applications (especially for owners with disabilities who need physical support).
But as we say, it’s really about the individual dog anyway.
Thanks for reading!

Reply
Jamie

I wish it let me share a picture but I was born with a rare genetic disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a still unknown heart condition where I will randomly cardiac arrest and once my brain looses enough oxygen, I’ll have a grand mal seizure and somehow that triggers my heart to start again. I usually code anywhere from several seconds to 2 minutes and have we found instead of having to use the pattles, if I don’t revive soon enough they can inject adrenalin and my heart will stop EDS effects every part of the body as its a connective tissue disorder and every part of the body contains at least some connective tissue so it comes with over 250 possible comorbidities. Due to severe dislocations, especially in my spine I was paralyzed at age 28. One of these comorbidities to mention is called Systemic Mastocitosis. In a nut shell, my bone marrow produces way too many Mast Cells. Mast cells activate Histamine therefore I can have a severe allergic reaction to anything at any time. I love dogs but most I can only stay around for a limited amount of time because I’ll break out in hives and if I spend too much time around them I’ll go into anaphylactic shock This is especially common with dogs with course more greasy skin like beagles, Brussels Griffon dogs and you guessed it Labs. We tried for so long to find a place that trained service dogs for free or low cost and placed them with disabled owners. K9 for Companions, Pilot Dogs, Paws with a Cause etc and told them the issues with allergies and that I would need either a poodle, or a list of breads I knew I did well with. I’ve always seemed to do well with spaniels and a lot of the soft coated hypoallergenic dogs. I cant seem to handle most hypoallergenic dogs with course for for some reason, my grandmas Brussels Griffon put me in the hospital twice and I had a neighbor with a westie and one with a cairn terroir and even petting the dog in passing, I would break out with welts on my inner arms. No one would take my case. I was told time and time again that these places only train labs, they cant promise any specific breed, I’m too sick for a service dog, or simply beggar’s cant be choosers. Some of these places actually sent rather nasty letters about how you cant be allergic to hypoallergenic breeds and I’m making this up because I wasn’t a specific breed even though my list included about 12 dog breeds that I have been around and know for a fact I did not have a bad reaction to. One I did write back sending them a link to info about Systemic Mastocitosis and a note for my doctor explaining how we can have allergic reactions to things like textures which I think is the issue with the course hair because I cant help put up a Christmas tree in the winter, wear anything with exposed velcro etc or ill break out where my skin rubs against it and how this over production of mast cells, especially when exposed to triggers typically eventually causes mast cell leukemia. So they apologized but I was left still really needing a lot of help and wanting to depend less on my home health aids and family. I had a dog when I was in high school and college, she was a cocker spaniel and just a pet. A very smart pet but a pet and she started alerting me to seizures and the cardiac issues without training. If one was coming on she would come jump on me, bark, waller all over me and try to get me down on the ground and once I got on the ground she would calm down and lie beside me. Before she passed away at age 15.5 I got my first puppy as an adult. She too was part spaniel and soft coated. She’s a King Charles Spaniel mixed with a Bichon Freese named Maggie. I named her after my late grandma who wanted to get me a puppy while she was alive but it took me too long to experiment with asking friends if I could keep their dogs overnight and such to see if I had a reaction to them. She was only 2 lbs when I got her and is now only 17 lbs but when she was about 4 months old she started doing what the cocker spaniel was, I believe picking up alerting after her. At first I thought she was just copying Sandy, the cocker spaniel but about a month later, my mom had Sandy at the vet and Maggie alerted me, I ignored her and was sorry I did because I passed out, fell forward out of my wheelchair and into the closet door. That was when I realized she could also since both of these which both the passing out and the seizures were related to my heart so I call it cardiac alert even though its also seizure alert. Anyhow Maggie was probably the worse behaved puppy I’ve ever had, pealed wallpaper off the wall, took 8 months to housebreak etc but one thing she did fast was learn tricks and we learned that she was so destructive because she was easily bored. Two walks a day, lots of toys, another dog to chase around and my young niece and nephew who were currently living with me to chase around weren’t enough. She had to have almost continuous stimulation so I spent a lot of time teaching her tricks. She could have a trick down in 5 minutes flat and as she mellowed out her stubborn personality didn’t she wouldn’t do tricks for free. If you didn’t have a treat it wasn’t worth her time lol. Once I was paralyzed I wanted to work on her reliability so that when I let her out, if it was wet and I couldn’t go in the yard I could let her go on her own and she would come when called every time, not just when I had a treat and when that treat was tasty enough so I took her to petsmart. She knew all but one trick in the three level course but I told the trainer that I wanted to still take her in hopes she would do these without a treat, do it because she’s supposed to not to earn something. The trainer did not know she alerted me to anything at the time and I didn’t think to tell her because my goal was just a more well rounded pet, to give her more mental stimulation and for her to make some doggie friends She had turned four years old right before her first class. The first three days of the first class went by with Maggie soaking all of her doggie friends to the point that the trainer started giving her tricks to learn that weren’t part of the class to keep her occupied and to add to the tricks the class was learning. On the fourth class Maggie jumped up on my leg, started crying, trying to get up on my lap, sliming her body against me and doing what she did when I was going to pass out. I excused myself from the room and went behind the room and sat down in a corner, my mom came out a few seconds later and I passed out, my mom sat there with me until I woke up and soon after the trainer excused herself from the class and asked if I was okay. I said I was fine and a few minutes later we went back to class. After Class the trainer asked me to stay behind, I did and she said “Did Maggie just do what I think she did?” I said “what do you mean?” She said “Did Maggie let you know you were going to pass out before you did?” I said “Oh, yeah, That, she picked that up off of my Cocker Spaniel when she was a puppy?” She said “was your other dog a service dog?” I said “no” She said “well have you ever considered making Maggie a service dog?” Naive at the time I said “Nahh, service dogs are big dogs. I wish small dogs could be service dogs. I mean I know some smaller dogs can but not that small” The trainer looked me in the eye and said “any dog can be a service dog if they have what it takes.” I said “I don’t have anyone to train her though and told her about all of the places that had denied to help me get a service dog” She said “Hello!!! Yes you do!” I said “no, I don’t think so” She then said “Hello, yes you do, me. I don’t only work here, I also work as a trainer for the police dog academy. I mostly train police dogs but I have trained two service dogs too for two of the officers. I can do this. I mean Maggie cant be much of a better candidate. Yes she’s stubborn but she’s incredibly intelligent. She has picked up everything we have taught faster than any dog in any of my classes, yes she’s stubborn but in only four classes I’ve seen her change and start to do things without a reward. She cant help you a lot with your mobility needs because of course she’s too small to be able to bear weight but there’s a ton of stuff she can do. I have another class which started out with three but two of them didn’t come back after the first class and I cant see this owner sticking it out through the whole class so if your okay with the time I’ll move you to that one and work with her on more task related skills. We have to of course work on stuff taught in the class too but I have no problem adding new tasks that would help you at the end of the class, after we’ve done what’s required. She already knows everything anyways, its just down to practicing without treats so I can use the time at the end and you can tell me what you want her to do and I can practice it with you once or twice to show you how to train her what you want her to do and you can work with her on it at home during the week. The next two classes we were put in the smallest classes and moved around as dogs would drop out and had one and a half classes where Maggie was the only dog and one where there were two other dogs. In the last class we had another trainer who wasn’t a trainer anywhere else but the first one showed us lots of tasks before she left and how to work on them in our spare time so the third teacher worked on public access Since Maggie was the only dog, She asked if we could go on “field Trips” Taking us to places connected to the strip mall that pets mart was at like Half Price Books, Hobby Lobby, a few small clothing and Homegood stores like Maureses, TJ Max and a Furnature store attached to the strip mall to work on public access. I had already worked with Maggie at several pet stores and Lowes but this was really good practice for her and helped her to understand the difference between working and home. I wont lie, I was terrified to do this because at home she does still act very much like a dog, she barks when people come to the door or ride a bike past the house, she barks for about two minutes when people first come in, she’s never been a violent barker and never aggressive in her life, she always wiggles all over the place while barking or jumps on people to see her, she still likes to play with her toys but after her training she tends to bet bored with regular old squeaky toys, ropes, balls and bones so now she has a lot of interactive puzzle games. Her alert was one thing they worked on so now she alerts more appropriately instead of wallering all over you barking and crying. she will now simply wine one time, paw my leg and lean against it until I lay down then lie around my head or on my chest until everything passes so now the alert is pretty subtle and most don’t even notice when it happens. She can now retrieve several named items. we started with one of her favorite chew sticks then worked our way up to things like medications and bottled water, she can jump up on her hind legs and hit the buttons to open doors and turn on one light in our house. We have a recliner up against the wall below the light switch and she will jump on the seat, then up on the back of the recliner and flip the switch, she knows how to go get help so if something happens when I’m in the bathroom or in an different area of the grocery store we taught her to sniff them out alert them and bring them back to me she also knows how to get other people but typically goes and gets someone she knows if I’m with someone she knows like my neighbor or a doctor I see often that she now knows. She knows some other non task related things that do come in handy too like how to jump on my lap and I put a cat hammock under my wheelchair which I can command her to go into. The hammock and lap work well in busy situations and I like to have her sit on my legs when my neuropathy is acting up because her weight is about the perfect weight to help ease some of the pain and help with spasming in my legs so both really come in handy, besides when she gets to ride on my lap she sticks her chest out and gets this serious look on her face like her stuff doesn’t stink lol. She thinks she’s a big shot when she gets to ride in my chair like its her thrown or something. I was really scared to start working her, worried she wasn’t ready because she acts so much like a regular dog at home. She can drop a toy in a split second to come alert me if need bee so isn’t easily distracted but she still acts very much like a dog at home but the trainer told me I would never know if she was ready or not if I didn’t give her a chance so I did and I’m so glad I did. When she gets that vest on and leaves the house she’s a totally different dog, even her facial expression changes. We call it her serious face. She loves visiting people at home but when she goes in public if someone tries to pet her without permission she will literally side step like “Nope Mom didn’t tell me it was okay.” She is so attentive and behaves flawlessly. She has turned into my little mischievous, wall paper ripping, waking you up at 2 am to play, tearing up everyting if you left her alone for five minutes, super hyper and stubborn puppy into this Incredibly loyal, do everything the first time asked, loyal, loving and helpful creature. She really is my hero and has helped me not only to be able to do more on my own but to gain confidence in myself. She really is my hero and even though she acts like that silly dog she was before, still very well behaved but fun loving dog at home she knows when she walks out that door she’s on the job and ya know what? I dont mind at all. People say service dogs can’t be pets but I disagree. I believe they can be both. I mean you go to work everyday and may be a doctor or a lawyer or any other career title by day but when you come home at night your just part of the family so in my opinion why cant a service dog, as long as they can drop what their doing and perform a task if needed I see no problem with her being laid back, playful and acting more like a regular old dog at home. I feel like that only makes her more well rounded. Some may not agree but she’s perfect for me. When you have a delivery person you frequently see at Lowes who sees your dog working and at tip top behavior and one day he comes to deliver something and Maggie barks at him and runs around when he comes in the door all excited to tell everyone he’s here and he looks at me and says ” Is that the same dog? I didn’t know she knew how to bark. Its like she’s two totally different dogs here and when you have her out? I feel as if the job was done well. He didn’t comment or say she was behaving badly just noting how much more laid back and pet like she is at home and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Reply
Ben Team

Hey there, Jamie.
Thanks for sharing your story! We’re so sorry about the difficulties you’ve faced, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for you!
One thing we’d definitely agree with you about is that people absolutely can have allergic reactions to “hypoallergenic” breeds. All dogs — even “hypoallergenic” breeds — shed hair and produce dander. They tend to produce less than other breeds, but that doesn’t mean they can aggravate the allergies of individuals sensitive to the proteins in their hair/dander/saliva.
Best of luck!

Reply
Danielle Johnson

I’m looking into different breeds for multitasking like mobility, retrieving, and psychiatric service work. I am a first time service dog handler and don’t which breeds are best for what expect

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Danielle. It’s hard to give concrete advice without knowing more about your situation, but a golden retriever may be a good option. A standard poodle may also work.
Best of luck!

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Thom Comstock

I just thought that I’d like to say that this is a good list of breeds for service animals.

That having been said, my first service animal (autism, ADHD & PTSD) was a Staffordshire Terrier that was gifted to me already trained as a service animal. Betty was a remarkably intelligent and attentive partner. When she died about three years ago, I was devastated. I did not know what to do without her so I began looking online for a young doggie that looked similar and needed a home. About two weeks later I found Bonnie who was described as a ten-month-old, mixed-breed Staffordshire Terrier/Pit bull. I trained Bonnie myself with the help of a local organization named Clear Path for Veterans. Later I had Bonnie genetically tested for breed and it turned out that she is a pure-bred Dogo Argentino. Dogos are much like a Pit bull, but larger, stronger and more tenacious (and more stubborn) as well as all being pure white. In the last three years Bonnie has definitely become the equal to the great and gentle service animal that my sweet Betty was. I would heartily recommend a Dogo Argentino to those that require a large, strong breed for physical stability.

Reply
Ben Team

Hey, Thom.

Thanks for the kind words. We’re sorry about the loss of Betty, but we’re delighted to hear that you have a good service animal at your side now.
Dogo Argentinos are certainly a great breed for many homes (including those in need of a service animal). We simply left them out because they’re not especially common in the U.S.

That said, I do run into one several times a week at a local park, and he’s a delightful chap.
Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Reply
Maya M

Thank you very much for this article! I am almost 40 and have been seeking a service dog since my late teens – and have exhausted all of the local options that I’m aware of in Georgia. I would prefer a cross-trained dog due to the multiple disabilities I have had since birth / childhood. The ones that impact daily life the most are cerebral palsy (I have mobility and balance issues and had a bad fall earlier this year which has only aggravated the pre-existing issues), anxiety, and autism (the last two generate a feedback loop and perpetuate each other). Also unfortunately CPTSD and depression.

I found a local(ish) trainer (CPT Training in Atlanta) but they are telling me I will have to choose and select my own dog, then bring it to them for training. (They are also telling me the cost for training is basically two years’ salary…..)

I already know I need a non-reactive, work-oriented, attentive, intelligent dog, but I am at a loss as to where to even start given my multiple issues. I have had very good experiences with German Shepherds in the past (a friend of mine breeds and raises them — her male alpha took me on as his ‘person and his task’ the day we met, even without a harness he was walking beside me trying to protect me from a fall), but am finding that most breeds (if not all of the ones listed here) are on the restricted breed list at 95 percent of the apartment complexes I am investigating for housing. I am fairly certain that local laws prevent places outright refusing to rent to me, but this is still a major concern as a number of the tasks I need assistance with (balance, mobility, not falling off curbs, walking down stairs safely…) will require a larger dog. Any advice or suggestions you can give would be appreciated.

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Ben Team

Hey, Maya.
Glad you enjoyed the article (and good to see another Georgian! Howdy, neighbor!).

It’d probably be wise to stick with a Lab, golden, or poodle — all three get relatively large and rarely appear on restricted breed lists. You may also want to look into Newfoundlands — they’re even bigger and just as gentle.
Best of luck! Let us know which one you choose!

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amy

I have to say that my beautiful Lbrador Retriever. Is such a great emotional support dog, Sheloves being there for me, is a large black Labrador retriever .And she has the best personality, she is older anx loves every1, but mostly. Loves having a job, knows she is helping me, very smart, senses my Anxiety, always watching out. For me. She gives usboth a purpose. The first time in store. She acted as if she had been doing it for years, She helps with ptsd, Anxiety, mobility. She gives my life a purpose. Also she is. Such a great dog for mAJOR DEPRESSION, LIFE IS GREAT WITH MY EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DOG. I LOVE THAT SO MANY SHELTER DOGS CAN BE SAVED FOR PEOPLE WITH DISAbilities. She gives me so me reason to live. I think she feels she has. Purpose too. We both been through so much traumatic events

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Hollalina

I am a veteran and have PTSD, depression, and anxiety/panic attacks. The top floor breeds I am looking at are on this list, Lab, Golden, Shephard, and Pit. I also need the dog to perform some service tasks as well. After reading this article, I am still not sure which breed I want to go with; shoot, if I could have four, I would have one each
Any further suggestions on which if the four would be a good one? I need the dog to grab my meds for me (in a pill box), grab my PJ’s for me. When in public and am either triggered or about to have an attack, physically push me towards the exit while calming me. These are just a few of the service tasks I need done. Thanks for any feed back, it’s greatly appreciated.

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Ben Team

Hey there, Hollalina.
In your case, given that you need a dog to perform specific tasks, we’d recommend focusing on finding a dog with the necessary talent, skills, and training, rather than focusing on a particular breed.
That said, I think any of the four you mention may be a good choice.
Best of luck!

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Kristen

Hi Hollalina! I just wanted to say that my husband with CPTSD from being a combat veteran has a Labrador retriever as his service dog, and she is wonderful. I think he will always have labs based on his experience with ours. And good luck!

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Carolin

While Zeus is actually a cat, my mom called him my well behaved and trained dog. He did everything on my service animal letter, including mobility. He’s a 15 lb Ragdoll breed. I’m looking at getting a dog through a service organization. I’m acutally hoping for a pittie. I love them. They’re so sweet.

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Becki Btts

I had a mini dachshund that trained himself to be my psychiatric service dog. He was intelligent, caring, and low maintenance, plus small enough for apartment living. However if your main ailment is anxiety you might want to think twice about the breed, as when my boy got degenerative disc disease I experienced more anxiety about his health and what I would do if I had to put him down. Otherwise he was a wonderful little service dog.

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Katie kat

This was so informational! thank you. My dog is a lab german shepered mix. From what you provided my dog would be a perfect therepy dog! Awesome. p.s. love dogs :3

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Lynn

I’ve got a 15 year old dachshund that alerts me when my potassium levels drop she is just amazing the meds have tons of bad side effects because of my 4 leg savior I’m med free now the only side effect is nose prints I can live with that LOL

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Diane McClellan

Do service dogs bark?

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Liz

A lot of the information I was looking for, thanks. I have PTSD/Agoraphobia, and heart problems. They aggravate each other, so it’s important to stop issues as soon as they start. Unfortunately, muddled thinking is one of the first symptoms, so I’m usually the last person to realize I’m starting a panic attack or having a cardiac episode. I don’t want to have to take another person with me everywhere I go, so I’ve been wondering if this is something a service dog could be trained to do. Can they be trained to alert me that I need to sit down, or take meds, or get out of the situation that’s making me panic? Basically I guess I’m asking if they can be trained to detect and alert me to these things. Is that still a service dog, or would that be classified as an emotional support animal?

Also, I’ve never owned a dog before. Would that make it more difficult to work with a service animal? I need it to be a small one because I don’t have the room or the physical strength for even a medium-sized dog. Is any of this feasible?

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Austin

I have datchund that’s probably not how you spell it but he’s like an emotional Support dog

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Ben Team

Hey, Austin. It’s “dachshund” (don’t worry — it took me forever to learn how to spell it myself — lol!)
Just call ’em wiener dogs — everyone will know what you mean, and that’s easier to spell!
🙂

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Pam

Thinking of getting a Rottweiler
Can u suggest any pedigree breeders
Or any reputable places to buy a puppy

Or do u have any recommendations where I can get the pup trained

And finally can Rottys be vegetarian
Also what foods could a vege totty eat

Is there any vegetarian dog food out there if so which brands or foods

Thank you so much
Pam

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Ben Team

Hey, Pam.
I absolutely adore Rotties — especially my own! Just be sure you familiarize yourself with the breed before getting one, as they can be a handful for novice owners.

We don’t have any specific breeders to recommend, but a simply Google search should turn up several in your area.
We don’t typically recommend feeding dogs vegetarian diets, unless there is a medical reason for doing so (which would be quite rare). If you are committed to feeding your new pet a vegetarian diet, we’d recommend getting an herbivore for a pet.

Best of luck!

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Chris

, I have caregivers I’d like to replace with a service dog. No offense. I am skillfully scanning the environment for the best service companion. I am overwhelmed by the many choices.

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Katie kat

This was so interesting. From what i gathered my dog is a good service dog, she is a black lab german sheperd mix. But this waas awesome I <3 dogs.

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Christine Besiada

The information presented helps me to narrow down the path of interest I choose to follow when selecting a breed to join me in the Apartments in Tacoma Washington

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Sandy Bond

Another excellent service dog, especially for PTSD, is the Doberman. They are one of the top 5 smartest dogs, they are single coated and shed very little, and are know as velcro dogs because they bond so tightly with their owner. I have a 5 year old, 90 pound, male Dobie, who is fantastic with my 10 grandchildren and my daughter’s yorkies.
I’ve owned different breeds of dogs, but I will never be without a Dobie!! He is so loving and gentle, but you would not want to make the mistake of trying to hurt me

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Darlene

I’m looking for a dog for a variety of reasons I have emotional anxiety depression and hearing loss my dr gave me a letter for one I live in a studio apartment what kind of dog would be good for me I’m up in the air with finding the right dog

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Ben Team

Hey, Darlene.
I hate to give you a vague answer, but it really depends on your specific needs and situation. If you’re looking for a true service dog to help perform tasks, you’ll want to focus on the individual dog’s skills. But, if you’re simply looking for a four-footer to “lean on” and provide some emotional support, Labs, golden retrievers, and poodles are hard to beat (especially first-time owners).
Best of luck!

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Roger C. Kontos

Hello,
My name is Roger and I just purchased a Welsh Corgi to be trained for a service dog or emotional support dog. Doe’s anyone know where I can find a Trainer in my area. I live in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. My dog just turned 6 months old and is very smart. I would appreciate is anyone can help me with this. My wife and I are disabled and I had a small bowel transplant. I was also thinking of possibly training my dog myself. Has anyone done this? Can you give me any advise? Thanks

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Ben Team

Hey there, Roger.
We can’t help with finding a trainer in your area (although Google should turn up plenty of options). However, you may want to check out these articles:
6 Best Free Online Dog Training Video Courses
5 Hacks For Cheap, Affordable Dog Training
Best of luck!

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Paul Raser

I am looking for a cross-trained service dog. Preferably a lab or German Shepherd. I suffer from diabetes, coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure with a history of heart attacks, balance issues with a history of falls, anxiety and depression.

I live well below poverty having had no income for more than 2 years but expecting SSDI within a few months so I will need financial assistance with acquiring a suitably trained and registered dog/partner.

I live in Middle Tennessee and would appreciate any help, guidance and/or assistance offered in acquiring a suitable service dog.

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Susan Bolin

What do you think of a samayiod. I might have misspelled that. I need a service dog to keep me upright and help me stand since my closed head injury has limited my ability to do so.

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Aly

I was recently diagnosed with severe seperation anxiety, severe anxiety in general,and PTSD. ALONG with asthma,copd,and panic/anxiety attacks and in August of last year I got my service dog whom is a husky/wolf with a tiny tiny tiny bit of German shepard. Her name is Texas and she is so smart only dedicated to me and sometimes that aggravates my husband cuz she its always focused on and around me but she it’s fully trained and amazing… Just goes to show your service dog should pick you……. Texas Sky #mysaviour #mybestfriend #best service dog

Ps also in process of sending my male pit bull puppy off to get trained as well

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paula smith

I have Jack Russell Service Dog. He is CALM, DUTYIFUL, LOYAL, DEVOTED, FRIENDLY, EXCEPTIONALLY INTUITIVE AND INTELLIGENT.

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Ben Team

HE SOUNDS FANTASTIC, PAULA!
😉

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Morgana Hoecherl

Anyone have an idea for a dog that is good for both hearing tasks and balance work? I suffer from severe hearing loss (I’m not deaf, but significantly impacted) and I have narcolepsy, so I have disorientation and ‘drunk walking’ spells. I am young (20) so I currently can only live in apartments so a great dane isn’t the best idea. I’m also fairly short, so possibly that helps?

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Dawn Enberg

I have a Standard Poodle Service Dog. His name is Zamiel and he is my Mobility Dog. We are just getting started. On his mobility tasks as he just turned 18 months. I train my own dogs and he is my 3rd Poodle I have trained. He is so bonded to me. He also helps me calm with my anxiety attacks in public. He picks things up for me as well as I broke my back in a riding accident 14 yrs ago. My Fibromyalgia causes my loss of balance and need of him to keep me from falling. Life would be a dark painful place without Zamiel in it to guide me through.

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Ben Team

Hey, Dawn. Just wanted to say we’re so happy Zamiel has been helpful to you.
And this: “Life would be a dark painful place without Zamiel in it to guide me through” was just heart-warming.
Thanks for reading and sharing.
🙂

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Isar King

Thank you for this insightful article on service and support dogs. Thank you again for the discussion on the differences .
I have been blessed for the past 10 years with the service and companionship of my flux Jack Russell -Coco. She is small enough for apartment life, long car trips and hotel accommodations. My doctor prescribed a dog to assist me with an excise plan during a time he suspected depression. In the meantime she taught herself to alert the entire family whenever a smoke alarm went off. During times when our family resides together , she does a late night check on the entire house. Because of her size we use a dog stroller when we go out in public, too many people don’t understand the difference between Service Animal and pets. Its so sad to see them look dejected when she physically turns her back on them when they try to engage her as a pet… once again she is My Service Animal .

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Virginia

Love site and information

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BECKIE

My BFF service /therapy dog is awesome Buttttt rescued him Soo he was already trained he goes everywhere most of the time he hates the cold like I do I want to know how I can register him he’s already trained

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Annette W Mastick

How does a Rottweiler train for service as well as dealing with human anxiety and ptsd issues? They are not overly shedding, don’t drool, and ae large and love to have a job. If you have any experience with Rottweiler as a service dog, I’d love to hear from you.

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Laura Breitegger

You must be very strict with Rottweilers and you must do extreme socializing as they tend to be loners and dominate but my Rottweiler is a worker and my bff good luck

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Jackie

I have a three year old pitbull for my PTSD and other disabilities. And personally I think pits make the best service dog breed and I couldn’t imagine having a better dog.

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Laura Breitegger

I love in Nor Cal Humboldt Co. I have a Rottweiler I specifically for for my diability. My Orthopedic Surgeon have me a prescription for a Mobility Animal and I got my dog at 28 days old my county have my Service Animal a Assistance Animal tag Tehama co. then I relocated to Humboldt as the housing choice was of considerably better quality. The Animal Control Officer wants ride certificate of training from a reputable trainer the ADA laws I have read say that is not a responsibility I must fulfil to obtain the county assistance animal tag. Do you know a local person or organization that can help me with this issue? Thank You Laura

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Albert Lewis

I had to put down my service dog 6 months ago and I’m looking for one that can help me. I’ve contacted agencies in our are with little or no help unless you have plenty of money I am 100% disabled vet. Maybe someone can help.

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MSG Leon T Myers, Jr., USA Retired

I have a 14 year old Japanese Chin / Chihuahua mix as my service dog for many years. Now she is with congestive heart failure and will not last very long. I shall miss her sorely for she has been my confidant, my friend and my companion. The biggest thing is she has been one fabulous young lady and I shall miss her dearly. Now I must start the process all over again. I guess any ideas?

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small family dogs

Magnificent website. A lot of helpful information here.

I am sending it to several buddies ans also sharing in delicious.
And obviously, thank you in your effort!

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Cela a.

What age is best for a emotional support dog to go to school with me..?

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Ben Team

It really depends on the dog, Cela. You’ll need it to be old/mature enough to rest quietly during class, but aside from that, I’d focus on the dog’s temperament, personality, and physical characteristics more than age.
Best of luck!

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Rebecca

I am looking for a service dog for my epilepsy which one would be a good fit for me I prefer big dogs

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Ben Team

Hey, Rebecca.
Because your dog will need to be trained to perform very specific tasks, I’d recommend focusing on picking a pup with the right skills and temperament for the work.
I’d also recommend discussing your needs with a trainer who has experience training epilepsy service dogs.
We wish you the very best of luck! Let us know what kind of pupper you end up choosing!

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Patti

Hi Ben ~ my question is: Do qualified service animals (really performing a service to owner) need to be specifically trained? Of so, who or where would someone go to get one trained?
Thanks
PS… we live in AZ and California

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Ben Team

Hey, Patti. Yes — service dogs must be trained to perform specific tasks that help their owner.
I’d recommend just doing a Google search for service dog trainers in your area to find some help!
Best of luck!

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Caomi Rampley

Ben there is one on tv it is good he trainers dog’s

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Gerry moran

My dog jessie is a boxer she is my anxiety assistant, when she’s with me people want to chat and it helps me to hold a conversation with strangers and travel she relieves a lot of my G.A.D traits when we are together.

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Caomi Rampley

That is my birthday Gerry!

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Brenda Webb

Hello Ben,

Thank you for the great advice! I am a veteran and getting treatment for non-combat PTSD. Do you know of any resources that will assist me in obtaining and training a service dog for PTSD related symptoms?
By the way, I currently have an elderly Boston Terrier who does a great job of waking me up from nightmares when they’re really bad. She scratches my shoulder, and once I’m awake lays against my back to calm me. She’s never been trained – she’s learned this intuitively. I think a Boston would make a great trained service dog.

Thank you,
Brenda

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Tawnie Gerken

Looking to get a puppy to train for a service dog, alert me to respiratory distress and siezures,to alert me.he is a loving l toddler I believe in my heart thier is a pup out thier ,will alert me to acute respiratory distress when his airway is closing down.Help this little guy find his best friend.hebis not afraid of large dogs.he loves horses too,,

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Tami

I am going to get a service dog soon. I have PTSD and have trouble with my balance which causes frequent falls and injuries.
Could you give me any breed suggestions for my mobility challenges.
Thank you
Tami

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Nikki

Hi Tami! I am applying to a place in my state for a SERVICE animal to help with my PTSD, severe anxiety, depression and epilepsy. I read on their webpage that it takes near 3-5 years to get one due to a waiting list. Did it take this long for you as well? The lady I talked to said they need to train the dog for my needs, and my disabilities.
Thank You,
Nikki

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Alyssa

I absolutely loveeee this website!! My current service dog is a havanese, named Harley! She assists me in helping detect oncoming seizures as well as helping me through a panic attack. She is almost ready to retire within the next year, so I am getting ready to train another dog for service dog work. I will definitely consider some of these breeds as this was very helpful thank you!

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Ben Team

We’re so happy you enjoyed the site, Alyssa.
Best of luck with your new pooch, and make sure Harley gets the retirement she deserves!
Be sure to tell us about your new pup when you get him or her!

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Tammy Diaz

Can you help me or forward me to the correct person and/or company in regards to how to get my dog certified to become my emotional or service dog? I’m on disability and need help. Thanks Tammy Diaz

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Ben Team

Hi, Tammy.
You don’t typically need any certification for an emotional support dog (although there are plenty of companies that’ll gladly provide you with a “certification” in exchange for your money).
What you need is a letter from your doctor or psychologist. We explain a little more about the subject in this article about the best dogs for anxiety.
I edited out your phone number for privacy’s sake.
Best of luck!

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Abigail Stokley

I have a mini Aussie mix who is an excellent service dog for both ptsd and vasovagal syncope. I think if I decide to have another service dog in the future, I might go with a larger breed to provide physical support when I’m recovering from vasovagal episodes, but my little one does a great job 🙂

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Charlotte Vena

I am looking for a service dog to train myself. A border collie just might fit the bill. Can you send me any info that would help…

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Jazherah MacMornna

I’m surprised that the Collie (Lassie type, not Border) was left. Well, a little surprised. They’re not quite as popular as they were over 50 years ago , but they’re still the best. They make great Service Dogs , though you may not have seen many doing this. Mine will be trained as a Parkinson’s Disease Assitance Dog.

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Sj

They shed alot.

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Bruce

I have a Collie, his calm demeanor and strong bond is perfect for PTSD and anxiety. Brushing him daily (to keep the shedding down) is actually therapeutic for me. Also, you need to understand that it is the undercoat that `blows out’ so you need the right tools to properly brush them and be effective. My biggest problem is that some people will not recognize him as a service animal without his vest, as they are not commonly seen as service animals (but he definitely draws a lot of attention).

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Linc Marie Benkert

Are you famiiar with dog powered trikes? My Doberman is being trained now as my service dog for stability and mobility. To provide him the extra exercise he needs. I will be purchasing one. Other than one man in northern California, is there anyone in Florida who would know how to properly make the proper harness for my dog?

Thank you.
Ms. Linc Marie Benkert
Tampa, FL
linc(at)lincmbenkert.com

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Ben Team

Hey, Linc. I edited your email address to protect you from the bots!
Best of luck finding a harness maker!

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Randi Goss

Called lead designs specializes in service dog equipment. It is handmade with excellent customer service. I always enjoy ordering products from them. https://boldleaddesigns.com/

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Dawn

I’m looking for a Service Dog for P.T S.D. that is apartment size. I’ve heard that a king Charles or a Havense would be a good choice. Grooming cost are on the rise with everything else.
What do you think about these 2 breeds as Service dogs ?
Thanks

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Ben Team

Hey, Dawn. Either of those breeds would probably work. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, in particular, are very loving, easy-going, people-oriented pups.
Best of luck!

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Kim thomas

Hello. I currently have a 5 month old pit bull that has the best disposition I’ve seen in a dog yet. I am in the process of training him and would like to continue up to his first year.
I am thinking that he would make someone a very good service dog for ptsd. I live in the north East Tennessee area and was hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction with a group that matches dogs to those in need. Any info you could send my way would be much appreciated. Kim

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