This question is by far the number one question we get during the phone consultation for our Lead Dog Service Dog training program through Dog Works Training Co. and Alaska Dog Works. Let’s break this down.
Service dogs began working for individuals that were blind in the beginning. Over the past nearly 100 years service dogs have been trained to assist humans in all kinds of ways with the most recent being psychiatric and autistic. Until recently, there were three signature breeds used for service work. Those being German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers. These working breeds have been bred to serve humans for 100 years which has enriched their lineage and bloodlines with the innate temperament and cognitive skills to perform the tasks.
While it is true nearly any dog has the potential to become a service dog, these are the breeds with proven bloodlines, genetics, drives, trainability, adaptability, and workability necessary to perform the tasks day in and day out for 10 to 15 years.
In the photo, you see Frank Morris and his dog Buddy. They are the very first service dog team. Frank and Buddy are crossing the street in the photo taken circa 1928. As you can see Buddy is a German Shepherd. She went through a training process that took Frank and his trainer two years to complete, but training is lifelong.