German Shepherds have been bred as working dogs for centuries. The breed has shown itself to be one of the most intelligent, trainable, loyal, and work-loving breeds of all others. Today, they still partner up with the disabled, rated as the most popular service dogs worldwide.
What makes German Shepherds such good service dogs?
To answer this question, we must first find out what a service dog is and does. Service dogs are working dogs that have been specially trained to help a person or group of people with a disability or specific needs. German Shepherds are one of the most popular choices as service dogs because the essential characteristics of this breed line up with the requirements of service animals of any kind:
German Shepherds were bred to listen and obey any command given to them without hesitation. Obedience training wouldn't be a problem for them either.
German Shepherds’ protective instincts make them excellent guard dogs and ensure that their owner stays safe.
Strong and healthy
German Shepherds are large enough to help with physical disabilities, where a person may need to use the dog to aid mobility. Besides, most German Shepherds are healthy dogs, which gives off a strong presence.
Active and athletic
German Shepherds require lots of exercise for their physical and mental well-being and love to keep busy, which means they are always ready to work.
Intelligent and hardworking
This breed is a highly intelligent companion and an outstanding worker. German Shepherds are eager to please and put their best paw forward, so they always get the job done.
They trust anyone their owner trusts. They are also comfortable and confident in many different environments, surrounded by many other people.
What kinds of jobs are suitable for a German Shepherd?
Guide Dog - help people with visual impairments to navigate their surroundings.
Diabetic Alert Dog – detect and alert a person with diabetes about low blood sugar.
Seizure Alert/Response Dog - alert people about an individual having a seizure.
Allergy Alert Service Dog – detect and alert someone with life-threatening allergies about the presence of an allergen.
Hearing dog - alert someone with hearing impairment of key sounds.
Mobility Support Service Dog - assist the mobility of someone who uses a wheelchair or walker; pick up and deliver household items for someone with physical disabilities; open doors and turn on lights.
Psychiatric Service Dog - Interrupt dangerous, repetitive behaviors of someone with OCD; provide companionship.
German Shepherds can make excellent service dogs, but they may not be the right choice for everyone
However, it should not be overlooked that German Shepherds aren’t always the right breed for the job.
Reason 1 These dogs are very athletic and intelligent, which means they need to exercise and be challenged. They are more task-oriented. Thus, anyone who plans to have a German Shepherd as a service dog must also be prepared to spend time and energy by giving them physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Reason 2 They have a strong, protective instinct and are suspicious of strangers. When they sense anxiety from the handlers in public, German Shepherds can be anxious or even act aggressively in public.
How to get a German Shepherd service dog
Option 1 Get an already trained German Shepherd service dog
Where - Most German Shepherd service dogs are trained by professionals. Find an organization or an agency that trains them. You will have to sign a contract for a puppy they have specially bred and screened to be a good candidate for work as a service dog. They will then fully train the puppy until it is ready to join your family.
Cost – These dogs can cost anywhere between $6,000 and $65,000. The specific amount will vary based on how they were trained, what they were trained for, vet bills, etc.
Option 2 Get a German Shepherd service dog for free or at a discounted rate from a non-profit organization
The following organizations may be able to help you to afford a service dog if you meet their criteria:
However, the waiting list can be very long, and it might take years to get your dog partner home.
Option 3 Train your German Shepherd to become a service dog
Due to long waiting times and high costs, people are looking to train a service dog themselves. However, before you dive in, you should know that it will take a lot of time and effort.
Here are some benefits of owner training:
- You can train them according to your specific tasks and needs.
- You have more control over your dog, as you are making sure your dog learns to work specifically with you.
- If you prefer, you can also raise service dogs from puppyhood so that you can enjoy and bond with the dogs over their entire lifespan.
How to train a German Shepherd as a service dog yourself
If you aren’t sure which route you want to take, here are our basic recommendations:
1. If you don’t have the time, experience, or energy to train a dog for any tasks, we suggest attending local program training if you really want to make sure you get results.
2. If you have basic dog training experience and have the time and ability to dedicate yourself to training your own dog, we recommend doing it yourself. If you do not want to spend hours just researching the training techniques, take a look at the Intensive Service Dog Training Course. This course will take you step-by-step through training your own dog to become a qualified service dog, with the help of your individual trainer who is assigned to you throughout the course.
Without a doubt, German Shepherds are excellent friends of humans. They have various wonderful characteristics such as intelligent, alert, watchful, curious, loyal, obedient, courageous, and confident, making them well-suited service dogs.