Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

10 Best Service Dog Breeds (with Pictures)

Nicole Cosgrove

June 24, 2021

Living with any disability can be a challenge, but one thing that has made life easier for those who need it are service dogs. These amazingly bright animals help people live better lives. Not only do they perform various tasks, but they also make a difference on the mental health side as well.

Now, there is a huge difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal. Service dogs are trained to do specific tasks that help their owners. While the emotional support animal is there to help regulate a mood, but they have no special tasks to perform.

There are some breeds that are better suited for working than others. When looking for a service dog, you need to know a few things. Not only that but there are 10 breeds that just are overall amazing dogs that love to work.

divider-paw

What Makes a Great Service Dog?

When finding the perfect service dog for you, there are a few characteristics you need to be on the look for. Not all dogs are going to make great service animals. Toy breeds, hyper breeds, or even just dogs with a ton of fluff sometimes don’t make the cut.

There are five key characteristics that make for a great service dog. Those are:

  • Enjoys working
  • Clean
  • Friendly and calm disposition
  • Intelligent
  • Trainable

Without those five traits, a dog will not enjoy working or be as helpful as another breed might be. You have to remember that your dog is going to be doing an important job, and they need to do it right 95% of the time.

1. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers_Shutterstock_Tina Rencelj
Image Credit: Tina Rencelj, Shutterstock
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Size: 22-24 inches (male), 21-23 inches (female)
  • Weight: 60-80 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)

Most Labs are insanely friendly, and good nature dogs, making them perfect for the service industry. They bond strongly with their owners and love to work. Since they are larger breeds, they make great use for those who need mobility aids.

There is a reason many seeing-eye dogs are labs. They enjoy helping their owners find where they need to go, and their instinct is to help. However, many people who need mobility needs will often find that labs are helpful. These dogs have “soft mouths” which means they grip things lightly with their teeth. They won’t mangle the object you want, and other than being slightly damp, the object you need is ready.

Thanks to their natural retrieving instinct, they make simple work of helping owners pick things up, or bringing items to them.


2. Golden Retriever

golden retriever_Shutterstock_Olena Brodetska
Image Credit: Olena Brodetska, Shutterstock
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Size: 23-24 inches (male), 21-22 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-75 pounds (male), 55-65 pounds (female)

Golden Retrievers had to be on this list, because like labs, they make great service dogs. They are intelligent and willing to do any job you throw at them. Not only that, but they have this sweet demeanor to them, making them easy to relax around.

Goldens are more ideal for those who need emotional support work, or those who have PTSD and need a dog that can handle those needs. However, they can easily do more physical work, such as retrieving. Their instinct is to retrieve items, and with a “soft mouth” they too bring items without mangling them.

However, these dogs shed more than other dogs.


3. German Shepherd

german shepherd dogs resting in the yard
Image Credit: Ivor Ilic, Pixabay
  • Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Size: 24-26 inches (male), 22-24 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-90 pounds (male), 50-70 pounds (female)

When it comes to a service dog, a German Shepherd was almost born to do this type of work. They are incredibly intelligent, but they also love working. Shepards are easy to train, well-behaved, and enjoy helping their owners out.

Many dogs in this breed have the size behind them to help with mobility issues of various types. These dogs can grab items with a soft mouth, although this has to be trained, unlike the labs. With a powerful sense of smell, these dogs make great diabetic alert dogs as well.

Much like the Goldens, these dogs do shed a fair amount. Many people also only see these dogs as police dogs, which can put people on edge.


4. Standard Poodle

poodle-lying-on-grass
Image Credit: Rosalie Barley, Unsplash
  • Lifespan: 10-18 years
  • Size: 15+ inches
  • Weight: 60-70 pounds (male), 40-50 pounds (female)

Poodles are incredibly intelligent dogs, and that often goes unnoticed because people only see the fancy haircuts. These dogs often love to have a job, and they enjoy doing it with their owners.

Now, for most service work, a standard poodle is going to be what works best. Since they are bigger and stronger, they can help with more physical work than the toy size can. With the size of these dogs, you could easily lean on them or have them help you stand up with the right harness.

Like any service dog, this breed is easily trainable. What you have to watch out for is a dog that gets bored easily. Poodles need to be working or their mind just isn’t stimulated, and that is when they can get destructive just like any bored dog.


5. Border Collie

border collie_xkunclova_Shutterstock
Image Credit: xkunclova, Shutterstock
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Size: 19-22 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female)
  • Weight: 30-55 pounds

Bored Collies are often considered one of the smartest breeds in the world. There is good reason for that, as they learn quickly, and then remember the training without worry. Most also love working, which makes them great service animals as you won’t have to worry if they like their job.

The one major downside to the Bored collie is they love to herd things. It is in their DNA to herd, after all. Collies herd sheep, cattle, horses, and anything else that could be a herd animal. This can lead to them doing that with children, and they could easily knock toddlers over.

As with many dogs who are high energy and intelligent, they need to be stimulated. Finding toys can be a straightforward way to keep your dog’s brain stimulated and focused.


6. Great Dane

Great-Dane_Martin Tajmr, Pixabay
Image Credit: Martin Tajmr, Pixabay
  • Lifespan: 7-10 years
  • Size: 30-32 inches (male), 28-30 inches (female)
  • Weight: 140-175 pounds (male), 110-140 pounds (female)

If you are looking for a gentle giant, then look no further than a Great Dane. They are often helpful to those who need help standing, keeping their balance, or just need some extra help walking. Given their giant size, they make great dogs for those who need a dog that can reach up to things like a standard adult could.

They are also dogs that have a friendly attitude and are focused on their human rather than what is going on around them. Great Danes are typically great for those who need emotional support as well, as they are calm and reassuring. You won’t see a Great Dane panic unless panicking needs to be happening.

Great Danes do drool though, so they aren’t ideal for all owners.


7. Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog_AnetaAp, Wikimedia
Image Credit: AnetaAp, Wikimedia
  • Lifespan: 7-10 years
  • Size: 25-27.5 inches (male), 23-26 inches (female)
  • Weight: 80-115 pounds (male), 70-95 pounds (female)

Bernese Mountain dogs have all the skills to be a service dog, but they aren’t ideal for those who live in warm climates. Since these dogs do shed, they can create a problem for those who aren’t prepared for a dog that sheds or can’t handle a dog that sheds.

While they love to work, they aren’t ideal for those who live in apartments because of their size and energy level. If you aren’t having them work, they need a sizeable space to run and play in. Just like any dog that enjoys working, if they get bored, they can be massive chewers.


8. Boxer

boxer dog_Steve 1911_Wikipedia
Image Credit: Steve 1911, Wikipedia
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Size: 23-25 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)
  • Weight: 65-80 pounds

With service dogs, Boxers aren’t high on the list for many people. They are large enough to preform many physical tasks, but they are also small enough to navigate through crowds with ease. They have all the skills required to be a service dog, but often get overlooked by the more popular breeds.

Boxers are dogs that are well suited for all age groups as well. They have plenty of energy to keep up with children, but they also know when to calm down.

Unlike some of the other larger breeds, they can adapt well to living in smaller homes or apartments with ease.


9. Pomeranian

Pomeranian_Shutterstock_APIWICH PUDSUMRAN
Image Credit: APIWICH PUDSUMRAN, Shutterstock
  • Lifespan: 12-16 years
  • Size: 6-7 inches
  • Weight: 3-7 pounds

Pomeranians are a small but mighty service dog. While they can’t help you keep your balance to walk or help you get up, they can perform numerous tasks that require brain power. Do you need a dog that can fetch your medication when you need it, but live in a small space? A Pomeranian could be the dog that solves that problem.

Given their small size, they aren’t a hassle to take anywhere that lacks large room. Most people aren’t afraid of a small dog, anyway. However, that can also be a huge problem. Service dogs are working, and people will want to pet your dog. Thankfully, these dogs are very attentive to their owners and focus on the job at hand, but you have to watch out for other people.

While they do shed, it is easily managed with a trip to the groomers.


10. Bloodhound

bloodhound_-Edoma_Shk
Image Credit: Edoma, Shutterstock
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Size: 25-27 inches (male), 23-25 inches (female)
  • Weight: 90-110 pounds (male), 80-100 pounds (female)

While they are at the bottom of our list, Bloodhounds are amazing service dog companions. They are intelligent, loyal, affectionate, and easily trainable.

The best job for a bloodhound is that of that that requires a scent change. Diabetic alert needs could easily be the best job for this breed. They have an incredibly powerful sense of smell, so even the smallest change could be alerted to with ease.

A downside to this breed is they can be lazy. This makes them best suited for those who aren’t as active.

divider-dog

Conclusion

While not every breed makes a great service dog, these ten really shine. No matter what your needs are, you’ll be able to find it on our list. The important thing to remember is that your service dog needs to not only suit your needs, but will work too. As long as you can train your dog for your needs, they will be a great fit for you and your life.


Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.