Yes, German Shepherds are good service dogs. In fact, they’re considered to be one of the best service dog breeds.
But what exactly qualifies German Shepherds as good service dogs? Well, let’s find out as we look deeper into what exactly service dogs do and the specific German Shepherds traits and qualities that fit into this line of work.
What Is A Service Dog?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service dogs are dogs of any breed that are individually trained to do work and assist people(handlers) with any type of physical or mental disability that limits or prevents them from performing major life activities.
As such, service dogs are given full public access rights and are thus allowed to go to different public places such as stores, restaurants, transportation, and any other public places. Simply put, those “no pets allowed” signs generally don’t apply to them.
Types Of Service Dogs
To address a wide range of possible disabilities, service dogs specialize into the different types that follow:
Guide Dogs. These dogs help their visually impaired or blind handlers navigate through obstacles and take them from one place to another.
Hearing Dogs. These dogs help their hearing impaired or deaf handlers by alerting them to important sounds such as alarms, sirens, doorbells, and even just ringing phones.
Mobility Assistance Dogs. These dogs perform tasks for people with mobility issues. These tasks include pulling a wheelchair, opening or closing doors, and bringing objects to their handlers.
Allergy Detection Dogs. These dogs are specially trained to detect and alert their handlers of any allergens they may come in contact with.
Autism Service Dogs. These dogs are frequently paired with children with autism. They help their handlers navigate through a social setting as they provide a sense of comfort and predictability. They’re also trained to alert their handlers or their parents on any improper behavior that may lead to danger. Finally, they help prevent their handler’s from running away and track them in the event that they do.
Diabetic Alert Dogs. These dogs detect any changes in the blood sugar level of their handlers and alert them that it’s time to check and either intake glucose or take the necessary medication. They’re also trained to set off an alarm or even contact 911 through specialized phones in the event that their handlers need medical attention.
Psychiatric Service Dogs. These dogs assist people that suffer from issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They’re trained to sense any changes in their handler’s behavior and act accordingly to help prevent any damage brought about by negative symptoms.
Seizure Alert and Response Dogs. These dogs help people that experience seizures by either alerting them of oncoming or by responding to ongoing attacks. For the latter, these dogs are trained to call for help, bring their handlers back to consciousness, move them from unsafe places, and bring their handlers medicine as they come out of the seizure.
As you can see, service dogs not only assist with the physical and more apparent disabilities, but they also help with not so obvious and seemingly invisible ones. As such, service dogs play an important role in society as they help improve the quality of life of many people.
Why Are German Shepherds Good Service Dogs?
Now that we know what service dogs are and what they do, let’s go back to German Shepherds. Why exactly are they considered to be good service dogs?
To answer this, we look into the qualities that make for an excellent service dog, particularly the qualities that German Shepherds possess.
Intelligence And Trainability
Service dogs need the ability to learn a variety of tasks, and thus they need to be intelligent. If not, they may not be able to perform as intended.
German Shepherds won’t have that problem, as they are the third smartest dog breed and are very easy to train. Not only will they be able to perform their tasks well, but they also can learn them quickly.
Service dogs must be able to stay calm and composed even in chaotic situations.Only then will they be able to act appropriately to their handler’s needs.
Again, German Shepherds won’t have that problem as they generally grow to be calm dogs. With proper training, they are sure to keep their composure even in the most stressful situations.
German Shepherds were initially bred to work as herding dogs. So, it’s practically in their DNA to have a strong work ethic. Thus, they have a strong willingness to work and are very much reliable.
This fits very well with service dogs as they have to be hardworking and have the energy and the willingness to work to properly assist their handlers.
Willingness To Bond
To work as a service dog, a dog must know how to bond and build a strong relationship with their handler. That way, they will be able to stay motivated in helping and assisting their handler.
German Shepherds are just that. They can be very affectionate, devoted, and strongly committed to their loved ones, including, of course, their handler.
Eager To Please
Another important quality of service dogs is the eagerness to please. Simply put, service dogs should do their best to make their handlers happy.
Yet again, this is a quality that German Shepherds surely possess. They have a tremendous desire to please their loved ones and thus tend to oblige to what’s asked of them.
Service dogs often accompany their handles in public spaces. Thus, they must be friendly and welcoming towards other people and even strangers.
Now, while German Shepherds are thought of as intimidating, partly due to their size and their tough demeanor, they aren’t naturally aggressive dogs.Instead, they’re highly protective which may sometimes lead them to become aggressive towards threats. But with proper socialization and training, German Shepherds actually tend to be approachable and can get along with pretty much anyone.
Considering any dog can be trained to be a service dog, there aren’t really any physical requirements. However, there are cases, especially with physical disabilities, in which size and strength can matter. For example, one can’t necessarily rely on a Chihuahua or a Pomeranian to pull a wheelchair.
So, in such cases, German Shepherds would be highly preferable. They have the right size, and strength to work on more physically demanding tasks.
Potential Issues With German Shepherds As Service Dogs
While German Shepherds possess multiple qualities that make them good service dogs, they do have some weaknesses.
They’re Not Hypoallergenic
While not required, it is highly desired that service dogs are hygienic. They often go into public places, and thus, it isn’t ideal if they tend to leave some mess behind.
Now while German Shepherds are generally clean dogs, they aren’t hypoallergenic. Meaning, they tend to shed a lot. So, it’s highly probable for them to leave some fur behind.
Fortunately, proper grooming can minimize shedding, so there are ways to fix this issue. However, it doesn’t take away the fact that grooming would require some extra work and could be a hassle for some.
That said, this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, as it does not take anything away from the German Shepherds capability of being excellent service dogs.
German Shepherds will exhibit destructive behavior if they’re physical and mental exercise needs aren’t met. Simply put, outside of their daily tasks, handlers should be capable of physically and mentally stimulating a German Shepherd to maintain proper behavior.
It’s not a secret that the larger the breed, the higher the cost. German Shepherds are large dogs and thus, can be quite costly.
The German Shepherd Breed’s Service Dog Resume
History states that German Shepherds started to serve as guide dogs after World War 1. It began when a doctor named Gerhard Stalling was said to have left his German Shepherd with a visually impaired patient, a person of which the dog became very protective. Having observed such behavior, Stalling then, who was the president of the German ambulance association, tasked the organization to retrain their dogs to help blind veterans.
Stalling’s work shut down within the decade but was replaced by the opening of the German Shepherd Dog Association in 1923. Such association was said to have produced 4000 guide dogs by 1930.
The association then piqued the interest of Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who co-founded the first American guide dog school called Seeing Eye in 1929. She worked primarily with German Shepherds.
Are German Shepherds Good Service Dogs?
To summarize, yes, they are. In fact, German Shepherds are considered to be one of the most common breeds for service dogs. They’re kind-natured, highly intelligent, easy to train, and very obedient. Furthermore, they’re size and strength allow them to support their owners’ physical needs. Simply put, German Shepherds can do pretty much everything required of service dogs.
So, if you’re considering getting a service dog, a German Shepherd would be an excellent choice.