Any Dog Can Be A Service Dog, Right?

Actually, no. It takes special dog to train up as a service dog. Here is my service dog history…

I found a Siberian Husky running wild in a park. I caught her and brought her home. No one claimed her, so I started training her. We named her Boo and this is the dog that started my professional dog training career. She trained up to be a fantastic therapy dog and service dog. We were initially told she was around 2 years old, however, that is what everyone who finds a dog of unknown age is told, because the dog is older than a puppy and still has a long life ahead of them. But when we talked with a Siberian Husky breeder, we discovered she was around 8 years old when we found her. All the training that she had, and now I had to look for a replacement.

A friend involved in local rescue told us of the litter of purebred 4-month old German Shepherd puppies dropped off. Of course, with my dog training background and reputation for rehabilitation, I ended up with the worst of the litter, because the rescue didn’t trust her with anyone but me. We brought Jedi home and hoped that she would be my future service dog. However, breeding matters and even though she had a high level of training, she never had the temperament to be a service dog, and was never used as one.

We adopted Zoe, a border collie, from another rescue, and while she had a fantastic temperament (I learned my lesson after Jedi!), she did not have the physical health to work as a service dog. Of course, we learned this (again) after we put the work into her and she was working with me. She has hip dysplasia and if she moves the wrong way, she cannot move for a day.

Which brings us to Arrow, our malinois and my current service dog. We knew we needed a physically healthy dog with a good temperament and trainability. He is a phenomenal service dog for me, and will do anything we ask. However, I do not recommend a malinois service dog for anyone. He only works for us because we are both professional dog trainers. We keep his mind and body active and exercised. Let me give you an example. After a full day (10 hours or so) of being at Disney World with us, walking around, riding rides, dealing with crowds, etc, when we go to the hotel and his working gear comes off, he wants to play “towel” which is his version of fetch in the hotel room. I am exhausted after the time in the parks, but he needs the physical exercise so he gets it.

Gypsy is our newest service puppy. She is a golden retriever and will be the foundation of our service dog breeding program. Her service puppy training begin at 8 weeks old, the day we picked her up from her breeder. You can follow her story on Instagram @ gypsy_rose_service_dog.

What I hope you take away from my history with my own service dogs, is that it takes a special dog to be a service dog. Even dogs who are specially bred for service dog work have a high fail rate. We do not recommend adopting a dog for service dog work because you never know what baggage they have or when that baggage may show up. Health, temperament, and workability are key, but they need that special bit of magic that makes them an extraordinary service dog companion.