Dog Service Breeds – Information

Are you looking for information on specific service dog breeds?

Well, the first thing to know about these working dogs is that you are NOT limited to one or two particular breeds. 

Service dogs include purebred andmixed breeds of all sizes. 

It is not so much how the dog looks, but whether the dog is able to competently assist you or someone you love with his or her disability or disabilities.

Karma, Viki's latest service pup

This page covers the following:

Criteria for Selecting Service Dog Breeds

  • the right temperament
  • good physical health
  • known debilitating genetic predispositions
  • strength
  • stamina
  • size
  • training or trainability
  • calmness in strange places
  • calmness around strangers
  • your ability to take care of a dog’s physical, emotional and financial needs

Legal Definitions

Service dogs are specially trained to help with specific disabilities as defined by the American Disabilities Association or ADA. The term, service animal, is confined mostly to dogs, although miniature horses are sometimes. Read more about the special requirements here.

Other dogs provide ongoing services to individuals with emotional support and are called ESAs or Emotional Support Animals. They do not need special training and come under different laws. They include many other animals besides dogs.

Therapy dogs provide comfort mainly to people other than their owners and are often visitors to institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. Again, the applicable laws differ from those of service animals.

Is a Service Dog For You?

Hannah, a great Pyrennees, who served Viki faithfully for a few years

Here’s some reality based advice from our friend, Viki Gentilman, who has owned and trained several different service dogs:

“Before someone decides they want a service dog, they need to think with the head, and not just the heart. An animal is a living, breathing, feels-pain being. 

Can you give the dog the BEST life it can have? Do you get frustrated easily most days or just some? Frustration can ruin a good dog.”

Viki continues with: “Do you have a lot of anger pent up because of the things you used to do but now can’t? Again, the dog doesn’t need an angry person tied to them…it could turn them aggressive (thinking you need their help) or scared (thinking you are angry with them).

Not every day is going to be great, and even more will only be good. Some will be bad…so do you have MOSTLY GOOD days with a sprinkling of the others?”

What Do Service Dog Breeds Cost?

Initial costs will vary, depending on whether you get your dog from a breeder, someone who is giving away a puppy, or from a shelter or rescue operation. 

Vicki with her service dog.

Viki has this to say about the costs:

“You will need to pay for GOOD quality food (you want them to live a long time!); toys (because they deserve off time); vet bills(including heart worm and flea control);  new equipment when the old wears out; grooming (if you can’t do it yourself); and perhaps dog walking or boarding fees on occasion.

Of course, if you have the time and ability, you can use the ideas on this site to help you cut down on many expenses. 

YOU CAN take all of these costs off your taxes, but you have to keep good records. And there are some organizations that can help with the general bills (IAADP.ORG for one)…but for the most part, it is at yourown expense. 

Note that service dog certification ought NOT to cost you anything despite multiple claims to the contrary. However, you may need to pay for a special dog license, sort of like car registration.”

Insurance is another potential cost. Pet insurance gets more expensive as dogs age, but could save you significant amounts of money in the long run. You may need to pay a pet deposit if you are renting. This covers potential damage to the landlord’s property as well as liability insurance if your dog were to hurt someone. If you own your home, there is usually a small additional charge under homeowner’s insurance.

Service Dog Breeds and Public Challenges

Karma in her vest being trained to stay in the down position

Per Viki’s experience:

“Be aware that even in this day and age you may encounter uninformed people in stores and elsewhere. You may be yelled at, told to leave, threatened to have the police called on you — all sorts of things. How would you handle that?

About the fifth time in one day, I get pretty peeved! However, since I live in Florida if they do happen to call the police, I can have them brought up on charges. Smiles…

People will want to stop you and ask things like:

‘Can I pet your dog?’; ‘Will it bite?’ (I call this one of the services that the dog does for me…ha!); ‘You don’t look like you have a disability, so why are you making the dog work for you’ and other strange or insensitive questions.

[See State Laws regarding what people working in a store can ask and require of you.]

Be aware that a trip to the store to pick up some milk, a 10- minute trip before service dog (BSD), will be a 30-minute trip after service dog (ASD). The days you are super easy to get mad, leave the dog at home.”

Service Dog Breeds Stories

For stories about Viki and her dogs, as well as other people who have lived with or are living with a dog assistant, please see Types of Service Dogs.