There are different types of service dogs. A service dog can provide assistance to those individuals who have a disability. This may include individuals with physical disabilities, visual limitations, or even Autism. There are also service dogs that are used in public service environments, police and fire departments as well as search and rescue dogs. No matter what the dog is used for there are certain characteristics that all great service dogs possess.
Obviously all service dogs need to be strong, alert, and in excellent health. Potential guide dogs will be screened for health issues such as hip dysplasia and eye abnormalities. Service dogs are almost always required to be spayed or neutered. Fluctuating hormones will only impede the dog while trying to do its job. Ultimately, a person has to be able to depend on their service dog, so obviously the fewer health issues the less risk involved.
The Right Age
Ideally, a service dog would work a maximum of eight years. By the time a dog is old enough to begin training and then fully completes training, the dog is approximately two years old. Even under the best of conditions the dog will most likely retire by age ten. If the dog is much older than four it is probably not worth the time or expense to train him.
The Proper Size
Depending on what exactly the service dog is needed for, the size of the dog is important. Usually service dogs need to be fairly large. German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors are often used as service dogs. Smaller dogs, however, can be used for certain needs. Chihuahuas are sometimes used as seizure alert or diabetic dogs. Some people may prefer to use a smaller sized dog for other needs as well. A smaller dog costs less to feed and can live comfortably in a small apartment.
An excellent service dog must be even tempered. The dog shouldn't be fearful or get overly excited easily. On the other hand, the dog can't be overly aggressive either. There are professionals who are trained to test the temperament of a dog. This should be completed before a dog goes into training to become a service dog. Included in good temperament is adaptability. A good service dog needs to be able to adapt to a variety of stressful situations. The dog must also be able to bounce back quickly from a frightening experience.
Strong Work Ethic
Work ethic is an extremely important characteristic of a good service dog. After all, these dogs have been trained to do a job on a regular basis. Dogs that are inclined to take frequent naps or have low levels of energy are not suited to be service workers. Not only physical but mental stamina is required. Certain breeds of dog are better suited for this than others. The dog must be able to focus and concentrate at all times on the task at hand. A dog that is easily distracted would not make a good service dog.
Neil Kilgore is the Jack (Russell) of all trades at Greenfield Puppies in Lancaster Pa. He regularly blogs about dogs, breeders and puppies on the Greenfield Puppies website.