While walking outside or in stores, I sometimes see someone with a service dog at their side. Most of the time, those dogs happen to be German Shepherds. I wanted to find out if German Shepherds truly are good to be service dogs, and if you’re wondering that, too, then here’s what I found with my research.
Are German Shepherds good service dogs?German shepherds are one of the best breeds to be trained as service dogs, especially as a guide dog. They have kind natures, and their greater size equals greater strength, which allows them to provide balance, stability, and physical support for their owners.
German shepherds are one of the best choices for a service dog, but if you are interested in getting one for yourself or for a family member, there are some things about this particular breed that you should be aware of, like their temperament, nature, and some potential problems that could arise if the dog isn’t trained properly.
German Shepherds as Service Dogs Are Not for Everyone
There are a large number of reasons why German shepherds make for a great service companion for a person. Their work can range from police dogs or assisting in narcotics and bomb detection to being a loving companion to someone suffering from PTSD or depression- and there’s a reason why!
German Shepherds are very intelligent, and they possess reliable obedience. They have a strong work ethic and a high level of energy to match, which makes them a good choice for any variety of jobs, whether as a police dog or simply as a loyal family pet.
One reason why German Shepherds would make great guide dogs lies in their nature. They are herders by instinct, and they like to lead and make sure that others are following.
Healthy dogs have a lean, muscular, solid physique which gives off a strong presence. If the owner of the German Shepherd is blind, for example, the dog can ward off anyone who might want to make them an easy target. Not to mention, German Shepherds are great at warning people of danger.
If someone is getting close to the edge of the sidewalk, if they are at risk by someone else (like the scenario above), or if they’re struggling within the confines of their own home, a German Shepherd will do its best to forewarn and protect them.
A German Shepherd’s fur provides good tolerance against hot and cold. So, whether you’re in the mood for a summer stroll down the street or a snowy walk through the park, your pet will be fine against the weather.
Like every other breed of dog, German Shepherds have a very kind and loving attitude, and they are natural helpers who are willing to serve others.
Despite all these good qualities, not everyone is suitable to possess a German Shepherd. German Shepherds require a lot of daily exercise. Rather than playing as a source to burn off energy, they are more task-oriented.
Because of their task-oriented personalities, they need someone who is capable of keeping them mentally and physically stimulated. If they are neglected in these things, a German Shepherd can develop behavioral problems.
Another part of their personality is they have a strong, protective instinct. If left unchecked, a German Shepherd can be prone to aggressiveness in public, like if they encounter other dogs or people.
They can also be easily distracted, which is not something you would want your pet to do if you need to get someplace and they want to go wherever they please.
In order for a German Shepherd to overcome this temperament, they need to be properly and successfully trained, which is why they should be partnered with people who are able to exercise strong authority over them and restrain them if needed.
The Cost of Owning a German Shepherd
Like any animal, it can be costly to take care of them. For German Shepherds, the average cost is $500 to $1,500 per year. German Shepherds have an average lifespan of 9 to 13 years, so a lifetime commitment can cost upwards of $20,000 if you got them when during their puppy years.
These costs include food, accessories, and vet expenses. If your dog contracts worms, parasites, or any other medical issue, that can definitely raise the price.
Before you set out to get the dog of your dreams, it’s very important to evaluate your financial status and determine if you are truly capable of properly owning a German Shepherd (or any dog for that matter).
Owner Training VS Program Training
If you are set on getting a German Shepherd, now it’s time to decide whether you are going to train it yourself or if you’re going to enroll them in a program and have someone else do it for you. Both options have pros and cons to them.
If you were to train your German Shepherd yourself, you have the benefit of providing custom training to your pet. In other words, you’re able to train them according to your specific tasks and needs. You also have more control with your dog, as you are making sure your dog obeys, and responds to, and works specifically with you.
While program training can have a limit as to how old your dog can be in order to take the classes, by training your dog yourself, you can start them as early as you’d like and keep doing it throughout their life.
And there’s one obvious upside to owner training- it’s free! Or, at least, it costs a lot less than enrolling them in a program. Just remember that training a dog yourself will require copious amounts of patience, dedication, and perseverance.
Enrolling your dog in a training program also has great benefits.
There is a much higher success rate if you are to have your dog trained professionally. The word professional means someone does this kind of thing with all breeds of dogs for a living.
They have experience and expertise in training German Shepherds that you don’t, so your dog has a greater chance of being the kind of obedience dog that you need.
Another thing that a professional is able to do is determine if your dog is fit to be a service dog. Like I said before, they have trained countless breeds of dogs, including German Shepherds, so they know about behavior and personalities. They will be more likely to detect anything in your dog that might make them unsuitable to become a service dog.
A professional will also be able to tell if a dog is done with training, or if they’re still learning, while a less-experienced individual might think that training is done because the dog is showing results.
It all comes down to having experience and time. If you’ve had experience raising animals, whether from having pets growing up or helping take care of other people’s pets, and you have a great deal of time on your hands to consistently train them, then you will have better success at training your own dog.
If not, then don’t feel bad about needing to sign your pup up for classes. Any of these two choices will be correct if you give it enough time to mull it over.
A German Shepherd doesn’t sound right for me, but I’d still like a large breed for a service dog. What other options are there? Other breeds that people like to choose are Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Those are both larger breeds, just like German Shepherds, so they’re good for both physical and emotional support, and they also have excellent qualities that qualify them to be good service animals.
Can smaller dogs be service animals? Yes, they can! Smaller dogs would be just as perfect as emotional support dogs. However, due to their smaller physique and possessing weaker strength compared to larger breeds, they aren’t recommended for someone who needs physical assistance. Any dog has the potential of being a service dog if they are well-tempered, well-socializing, and obedient.
What kinds of jobs are suitable for a German Shepherd? A German Shepherd is capable of a tremendous variety of jobs with the purpose of helping others. Here’s a list of a few:
- Guide dogs for the blind, deaf, or physically impaired.
- Emotional support and companionship for those suffering from depression or loneliness.
- Psychiatric service to alert their owners when it’s time to take medication or help calm someone during a PTSD or anxiety attack.
- Help do tasks for someone who might temporarily be unable to do them themselves.
- If your dog is very kind and gentle, they might be good at providing therapy for others, including animal-therapy and helping console with the elderly, those in distress, or people with mental illnesses.