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Dog Breeds & Behaviour

What breeds of dogs make good Service Dogs?

A lot of assistance dog programs use Golden Retrievers and Labradors. They have many of the characteristics that make for a good service dog. However, there are examples of many other breeds that have been successfully trained as service dogs. Although the needs of the person may determine the ideal size of the dog, the work they do generally requires a dog to be a reasonable size. Small dogs will struggle to pick up and present objects in a suitable way, large dogs are hard to put under a table in a restaurant or out of the way on a bus or plane. A good service dog is not protective, is people orientated, not overly active, confident but not dominant or submissive. Service dogs should not require complex grooming as this could be a problem for their owner.

What breeds make good Hearing Dogs?

Historically, many hearing dog programs have acquired their dogs from shelters, as well as from known breeders. As a result, many of the dogs used are mixed breeds. They come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. The great majority of Hearing Dog applicants request small to medium sized dogs, so most Hearing Dogs are Sheltie size or smaller. In addition to size, personality and temperament are important for a Hearing Dog. They must be energetic, ready to work in an instant when a sound occurs. They must be friendly and people oriented. Because of these requirements, a lot of Terrier mixes are used along with various combinations of Poodles, Cockers, Llasa Apsos, Shih Tzus,Chihuahuas.

Why shouldn't an Assistance Dog be protective?

An Assistance Dogs job is to make a disabled individual more able, not to protect them. The dog’s presence is a natural deterrent. Because disabled people take their Assistance Dogs into public places and many are not able to physically restrain their dogs, the Assistance Dog must be safe for the public. Many dogs, especially working breeds, will sense their owner’s disability and their vulnerability. These dogs can learn on their own to protect at inappropriate times. This can be compounded by an individual who doesn’t recognize that they are unconsciously encouraging this behavior.

How long does it take to train a Service Dog?

There is no exact set time for training an adult service dog once they have completed their early socialization, but service dog programs will have very clear training plans for every dog. In general, adult dogs will undergo specific training (obedience, task work etc) for 1-2 hours a day for a period of around 6 months before they are matched with their future owner.

I think it would be cool to be able to take my dog out in public. How do I do this?

Remember, that no dog has access rights – only people have access rights. In most countries and states, people with disabilities who are partnered with an assistance dog have the legal right to take their assistance dogs into public places normally prohibited to pet dogs. In some countries, the law give public access rights to assistance dogs when they are accompanied by an assistance dog trainer.