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Service Dog Breed Selection Criteria: How to Select the Right Dog

guide dog and other service dogs and animals are very helpful for persons with specific disabilities
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | July 24, 2021 (Last update: November 16, 2022)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Service dogs are companions or better say an extension of their handler. So, you cannot randomly pick any dog as your service dog. If you are planning to get a service dog for yourself or a loved one, you must make sure it is the right fit for the role. In this article, we will be talking about the important traits to look for in a service dog breed. Although the law does not specify any particular dog breed, some breeds are naturally a better fit for being service animals as compared to the others.

Traits to Look for in a Service Dog Breed

People often wonder about how to select a Service Dog Breed that would be most suitable for them. Different people may have different expectations from a Service Dog. Following is the list of some of the selection criteria which will help you in getting the best Service Dog for yourself.

1. Intelligence

The job of a service dog is strenuous and complex. Any dog with a lower level of intelligence won’t make a good service dog. The dog candidate chose to be a service dog need to master multi-faceted tasks. It needs to learn and recall different tasks and commands for which it has been trained. While individual dogs of all breeds can be intelligent enough to be trained as service dogs, choosing an intelligent breed is the best bet.

2. Friendliness

A service dog needs to visit different public settings. So, the dog you choose should be comfortable in small as well as large crowds of people. You don’t want a dog that can easily get intimidated or be aggressive towards others. A service dog may need to interact with strangers during a medical emergency. So, it needs to be a breed that loves to interact with new people.

3. Emotional Composure

Being friendly is not enough, the dog breed you choose should also have a calm disposition. It needs to remain calm and composed in any situation. If a service dog loses its calm in a chaotic situation it won’t be able to help the handler when most needed. While professional trainers train the service dogs when to stay calm and when are they allowed to get excited, a hyperactive dog breed cannot be expected to become a calm service dog just with the training. So, choose a breed that is naturally calm and composed.

guide dog and other service dogs and animals are very helpful for persons with specific disabilities

4. Reliability

One of the most important traits for a service dog is reliability. You should be sure that the dog will respond to a given command in any given situation. If you can’t be sure, the dog is not reliable thus not a fit candidate to be a service dog.

5. Strong Work Drive

You cannot choose a hyperactive dog but it should also not be a lazy one. The dog you choose as a service dog must be hardworking and willing to do the required tasks when commanded. Service dogs need to work intensively and not all dogs are willing to put so much effort. While a highly energetic dog gets distracted easily the lazy ones are not willing to do their tasks daily. A dog breed with balanced energy and willingness to work can only become a service dog.

6. Willingness to Bond

Not all dogs are willing to bond with humans. The duty of a service dog requires a very high sense of bonding with the handler so that the dog can protect its handler in any given situation. Choose a dog breed that is known to develop deep bonds with its human partners. Dogs who develop good bonds with their handler are always willing to please them. This type of dogs get trained easily and serve their handlers for many years.

7. Hypoallergenic

Service dogs have special rights to accompany their handlers to even those places where other pets are not allowed. So, it is important to choose a hypoallergenic dog as a service animal. It is good for the health of their handlers as well as allergic people who may encounter them in public spaces. Dogs who drool or shed excessively or have other such unhygienic traits are not considered good as service dogs.

One point to remember is that no particular breed will have all the above-mentioned qualities in a perfect balance. Further, individual dogs have some personality traits that may or may not exactly match with their breed’s trait. You need to strike a balance between all the traits based on your specific need for a service dog.

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