Service dogs are helpful for many people with a disability as they can be trained to provide different tasks both physically and emotionally related. Choosing the most suitable service dog breed can be a really challenging task, as there are many factors that need to be considered- the size of the dog, does he/she shed a lot, what are the particular needs of the handler, what is their lifestyle, do they live in a house or in an apartment...etc.
Some of the most difficult tasks that a service dog may need to perform are balance and mobility-related tasks, as they require a strong physique and a stable temperament. You may want to know more about the factors that you need to pay attention to when choosing a mobility service dog breed.
What Should You Consider When Choosing a Mobility Service Dog Breed?
Size of the Dog
If a dog is supposed to be trained to pull a wheelchair, you need to check the size that he/she can reach as an adult dog. Generally, a minimum size of 22” (56 cm) and a minimum weight of 55lbs (25kg) is considered suitable for a dog that will be trained to pull a child or a small woman. If the weight of the individual exceeds 130lbs (59kg), the size of the dog should be at least 60lbs (27-28kg).
If a dog will be trained to assist an individual as walking support, the animal should be at least 23” (59cm) high. This height is considered suitable for women of average size. It is important to mention that the height of the dog depends on the harness type as well. If the harness is made of soft material, the dog should be at least 28”- 30” (71cm – 76cm), so that his/her handler can lean on his/her body easily. If the harness is made of a hard material and is equipped with a robust handle, the dog’s size may be smaller- about 23” (59cm).
The care for the dog’s fur is crucial when choosing a suitable breed for a service dog. You need to keep in mind that the fur of some breeds may require regular maintenance or even visiting a grooming studio. The process may cost you a lot of money and you may need to invest a lot of time as well. Other breeds are easy to maintain, as they do not shed (a lot), they are short-coated, or brushing once a week will be enough for them to keep their coat tidy.
Moreover, some people may be allergic to dog’s hair which makes this factor even more important when choosing a suitable mobility service dog breed. Of course, there are people who are not allergic to dog’s fur but just can not get used to it when it sticks to their furniture or other surfaces in their house.
Since some dog breeds have a specific odor, especially when they get wet, you may need to consider which breed you would feel most comfortable with. Since the representatives of the Retrievers tend to have an odor, that may be a problem for some handlers or their family members.
How long is the average lifespan of a certain breed, is very important to consider when choosing a service dog. Some breeds like Bernese Mountain Dog, Irish Wolfhound, Mastiff are known as breeds with the shortest lifespan- 7-8 years. Other breeds like Maltese, Beagle, Australian Shepherd, and Shih Tzu are considered breeds with the longest lifespan- about 15 years. Unfortunately, some breeds like Maltese are expected to suffer from certain genetic diseases which may shorten their lifespan.
The age of the dog is another factor, that needs to be considered. The minimum age for a service dog is about 6 months and the age of 10 years is considered retirement age. You need to choose the proper age of the dog that will be most suitable for your needs and the tasks that he/she will perform.
You already know some of the most important things that you need to take into consideration if you have decided to get a service dog, especially for performing physical tasks. In the second part of the article, we will list 10 breeds that are deemed the most suitable ones for mobility tasks.
Most Suitable Breeds as Mobility Service Dogs
It is no surprise that the Labrador Retrievers take first place.
These dogs impress with their intellect, loyalty, and stable temperament. They are easy-going and training them to perform different tasks won’t be difficult. They are reliable and always ready to help. Their strength and physical durability make these dogs really suitable as mobility service dogs. They are able to pull a wheelchair or to be used as balance support. However, the tasks that they are able to perform are diverse and can not be limited to mobility tasks only. The Labrador Retrievers are energetic but not hyper-active and physical tasks suit their temperament very well. The representatives of this breed have strong social and obedience skills, which help them behave properly while in public.
Similar to the Labrador Retrievers, the Golden Retrievers are one of the most suitable breeds as a service dog, especially for fulfilling mobility tasks. This breed is perfect as guide dogs for people with visual impairments or as balance support dogs for individuals with mobility impairments. These canines can be trained to pull a wheelchair or to retrieve different objects to their handler if they are unable to get these themselves. Very intelligent and adaptive these dogs are affectionate, loyal, and compassionate. The Golden Retrievers enjoy being engaged in different activities, as they are energetic. They get along with adults as well as with children. Due to their friendly and easy-going personality Golden Retrievers, as well as Labrador Retrievers are usually welcomed in public spaces and enjoy people’s positive attitude.
If you have decided to get one of the breeds mentioned above, you need to keep in mind that Retrievers tend to shed and may have a specific odor when they get wet.
The representatives of this breed are very popular due to their great obedience and training skills. These dogs usually have a really strong bond with their owners and they tend to enjoy different challenges. Extremely suitable as police dogs, working dogs, and mobility service dogs, you will not regret if you get a German Shepherd. Physically strong and durable, these canines can fulfill even more demanding tasks. We have to note that you should train them properly in order to keep them well-behaved and controlled. The proper training is really important for these dogs, as they have strong protective instincts, whose expression may lead to aggression towards strangers. You need to have a strong personality and sometimes you may need to behave authoritatively in order to control a dog of this breed.
As we explained in some of our previous articles Poodles are not just dogs with fancy haircuts. They are intelligent and loyal dogs with good obedience skills. Because of their size (when related to standard Poodles) these dogs are a very appropriate choice when it comes to physical tasks. Their personality is friendly and enthusiastic and they get along with different people or situations. Poodles are able to adapt fast to environmental changes and are easy to train. Due to their physical and mental advantages Poodles are very suitable as mobility assistance dogs.
The Newfoundlands are considered one of the largest dog breeds. These canines are perfect as mobility service dogs for taller persons with mobile impairments. The male representatives of this breed can reach up to 150lbs (68kg) in weight and 28inch (71cm) in height. However, despite their large size, these dogs are very affectionate. This breed is suitable both for physical and emotional support tasks as they make their handlers feel safe and balanced, they are intelligent, and can sense any changes in their owner’s behavior.
Bernese Mountain Dog
These lovely furry dogs can make almost every person feel comfortable, safe, and loved. They are large, gentle, very fluffy, and can be of great help to individuals who have to deal with balance or mobile disabilities. You do not have to worry about the size of these canines while in public, as they are well-behaved and very intelligent. The male representatives of this breed can reach up to 115lbs (52kg) in weight and 27” (69cm) in height.
Dogs of this breed are known as guard dogs who tend to be aggressive. Actually, these canines are gentle and very loyal. Despite their reputation, they are friendly and reliable and are easy to train. These dogs are very attached to their owners and are ready to protect them when necessary. Owners of Rottweilers may need to provide proper training in order to control the overprotective behavior of their beloved dog partners. Due to their large size (male representatives can reach a weight of up to 134lbs – 61kg and height of up to 27”- 69cm) the Rottweilers are one of the most suitable breeds as service dogs for people who need to use wheelchairs or have balance issues.
The representatives of this breed are really large and strong dogs who have a great reputation as mountain rescue dogs, as they were originally bred for rescue work on the Italian-Swiss border. The male dogs can reach up to 180lbs (82kg) in weight and 30” (76cm) in height. Due to their strong physique and thick fur they can provide perfect assistance to people with mobile disabilities. Despite their large size, St. Bernards are gentle, calm, and easy-going with children. However, you need to supervise these dogs if you have children, as they can accidentally hurt them because of their size. As already mentioned above they are calm and not aggressive, but they just can not manage their size.
What is the first thing that you associate with these dogs? Their size, right? The Mastiffs are one of the strongest and largest dog breeds. They are perfect as guard dogs as well as mobility assistance dogs, especially for taller persons. If you need help and support you can lean on these dogs. Although they are very large, they tend to be gentle. Adult male representatives of this breed can reach up to 200lbs (90kg) in weight and 30” in height (76cm).
Strong, affectionate, and eager to please their owners- these dogs can provide great mobility assistance. These canines love to be around their handlers and to support them. You can rely on these dogs in every situation you have to deal with.