How to Pick Your Future Service Dog

We already covered WHERE to find your future service dog in a previous post, where we addressed breeders vs rescues, male vs female, and breeds. This post will cover which puppy to pick out.

When we picked Gypsy out, we knew we wanted a girl, and there were only 4 girls in the 2 litters (it was a mom and her daughter, both bred to the same male, and born on the same day). So our choices were limited. The breeder knew we were looking for a service dog, and I asked for her input on which puppy would suit me best.

Out of the 4 puppies:

  • Puppy 1 was shy, she cowered a bit and didn’t approach us. When we dropped something next to her, she froze for a moment and snuck away.
  • Puppy 2 was very adventurous. She snuck out of the enclosure, knocked over a broom right on top of her and didn’t flinch. We called her back and she came back part way, then got distracted and took off exploring down the walkway. She was show quality. We are not sure if we are going to show her, but we did want show quality for full registration.
  • Puppy 3 went off on her own and hid. Then we couldn’t find her, even though the enclosure wasn’t that big.
  • Puppy 4 was happy go lucky. She wanted to play with sticks and leaves, and came to us when we clapped and called to her (“Here, pup! Pup! Pup!”). She was happy interacting with us and wasn’t fazed by anything (dropping items, holding her like a baby, etc). She was also show quality.


Which would you have chosen?


Puppy 1 & 3 were not show quality, but if one of them would have been a perfect service dog candidate puppy, we would have gone with her. But neither grabbed us as our new puppy. They were fine dogs and will make fine pets.

Puppy 2 & 4 were show quality, and they happen to be the more confident of the four. Either could make an excellent service dog. However, we wanted the puppy that was more people-oriented.


Some of the testing we did on the puppies included:

  • flip them onto their back and hold them like a baby. Did they squirm? Did they settle?
  • clapping our hands, “Here pup! Pup! Pup!” with excitement. Did they respond?
  • recovery – hold the puppy an inch off the ground and drop her. Did she flatten? Did she bounce up and keep on going?
  • toy drive – does the puppy want to play with a toy? Did she chase it and play? Chase it and ignore it? Ignore it all together?
  • food drive – does the puppy want to follow a food lure? Did she eat it and work at getting it?
  • how did she interact with her siblings? Did she chase everyone? Was she the one being chased? Was it back and forth?

There are also puppy aptitude tests, including the Volhard Puppy Test and Avidog Puppy Test. I highly recommend testing your dog and interacting with the puppies to help choose your puppy, and rely on your breeder to steer you in the right direction. After all, you did your homework and trust your breeder, who wants you to be successful.