Most of us have a favorite breed or two, and we might argue that it is the best type of dog around. However, most canine experts would say that the breed known as the German Shepherd cannot be matched when it comes to working as a service dog. Is that true? In this article we are going to answer that very question – are German Shepherds the best service dogs?
What’s a Service Dog?
First things first, though. We need to know what a “service dog” is and does. Service dogs are often thought of in a few ways, such as a canine law enforcement officer or as a dog that helps someone with a disability. Both views are correct. Although some say that a “service dog” is a “working dog specially trained to help a person or group of people with a disability or specific needs,” there is more to the story.
While it is accurate to say that service dogs are a type of working dog, the formal definition does not usually include search and rescue or police dogs. The legal definition, according to the ADA (Americans with Disability Act), says that service animals are “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”
This means that they can be guide dogs for visually impaired people, for people with hearing impairment of any kind, for those with mobility issues, for people with seizure disorders, for those who have diabetes and need a dog that can detect changes in blood sugar by scent alone, and for those with mental health issues.
Why German Shepherds Rate So Highly
The Guide Dogs of America says that around 70% of dogs trained as guide dogs are Labrador Retrievers, and just 15% of all guide dogs are German Shepherds. For this article, we are going to look at German Shepherds and their top-ranking position among service dogs as well as working dogs.
After all, if you look at the majority of dogs working in the military, police, law enforcement of all kinds, and so on, you see that German Shepherds still rate as one of the top.
So, why is it that this breed is so capable of serving the disabled and working in some of the toughest jobs in the world? Let’s figure that out.
History Shows They Are Great Human Companions
The German Shepherd has been partnering up with humans for centuries and has shown itself to be one of the most intelligent, trainable, loyal and work-loving breeds of all others. Today, they are actually bred specifically to work with humans and perform specific tasks.
As the American Kennel Club says, “The breed dates back to the 1890s, where it worked as a herding and farm dog . . .” It is officially described as “approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand.”
Clearly, this indicates that they can think for themselves, do some problem solving and use their training to make the right choices. They are eager to meet challenges and actually enjoy training. With their strong work ethic and loads of energy, as well as their “shepherding” or herding instinct, they are the ultimate guide dogs, and have the strength to back it all up with physical support.
They have a very protective instinct, too. This is why they have to be especially trained for work as a service dog rather than remaining a guardian and on the defense.
In Germany in the late 1800s, Buddy, the world’s first famous German Shepherd, showed the breed’s capabilities when he demonstrated that he could lead a blind person through the Alps. Since then, they have become one of the most trusted service dogs and also one of the most flexible, helping the disabled, deterring criminals and more.
What do you think? Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, or a different breed entirely? Who makes the best service dog?