In recent years, people are beginning to grasp just how important service dogs are for those who are suffering from mental and physical disabilities.
As well as offering companionship, service dogs make life easier for their owners in every possible way.
When we think of service dogs, the first one which comes to mind is the labrador, but German Shepherds can be equally good at aiding those with visual impairments, along with a whole host of other medical conditions.
They have been bred for centuries to be working dogs, so providing a service for other people is in their DNA.
In order to find out more about German Shepherds as service dogs, as well as assessing whether or not they might be a good fit for you, keep reading below.
Different Types Of Service Dogs
Before we delve into the specifics of German Shepherds in the role of service dogs, let’s take a look at each of the different types of service dogs that exist.
The type of dog that is suited to a person’s specific needs will differ based on what physical or mental disability they’re afflicted with. Keep reading below to find out more.
Emotional Support Service Dogs
A relatively new kind of service dog, the emotional support service dog will be assigned to provide companionship to their owners.
These dogs won’t be as highly trained as the others on this list, but nevertheless, they’re of equal importance.
These dogs are great companions for people who elderly, and require a pet to keep them company.
Unfortunately, German Shepherds don’t make great emotional support dogs.
This is because they could become overly protective of their owner, and show aggressive behavior when approached by strangers.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
Psychiatric service dogs pertain to those who help their owners overcome mental health disabilities.
These are incredibly wide ranging, and could include a whole host of different issues, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, or agoraphobia.
These dogs are remarkable, as they’re able to spot when their owners might be experiencing a panic attack, or a flashback associated with PTSD.
They’re then able to offer their owner emotional support and bring them back to reality.
Again, just like the emotional support service dogs, German Shepherds might not be the best fit for this role.
There are very few German Shepherds out there working in this kind of role.
The reason being that if their owners feel anxiety, the German Shepherd may direct this toward the person unknowingly causing it, subsequently becoming aggressive towards strangers.
Physical Disability Service Dogs
These are probably the most common type of service dogs out there.
These dogs can offer support to people suffering from a wide range of different physical disabilities.
They are able to complete basic tasks around the household to aid their owners.
This includes handing things to their owner, switching lights off, closing doors, and a whole host of other acts.
When we speak about German Shepherds as service dogs, these are the best roles that they are able to fulfill.
They are incredibly intelligent creatures, which means that they’re able to learn all of the different basic training tasks in order to help their owners.
They’re incredibly obedient and loyal too, so they’ll make perfect helpers for those who need extra assistance.
Are All German Shepherds The Same?
A factor that might need to be taken into consideration when choosing a German Shepherd as a service dog, is what kind of bloodline they come from.
They need to have the correct temperament, so that they don’t become aggressive or temperamental.
They’ll have to be calm, and able to mix with different people in other environments.
The different bloodlines of German Shepherds will also help to determine whether or not they make good service dogs.
This is because some were bred for the specific purpose of serving others, whilst some were bred to be show dogs, as well as domestic dogs.
The East German line working dogs make the best service dogs, and they’re easily recognizable, as they’re the same ones which are used in the police force.
The only issue with these dogs is that they are incredibly high energy, and like to spend all of their time doing things.
This pent up energy could prove to be potentially difficult for some service based environments.
This is why it’s always important to choose a German Shepherd service dog with a cool, calm, and easy going temperament.
Are German Shepherd Service Dogs Easy To Train?
Many people reading this article may be curious about how easy the German Shepherd dog is to train.
The answer is that these kinds of dogs respond well to difficult training situations, because they possess a very high level of intelligence.
Almost every dog is able to learn basic commands, but the training that service dogs have to go through is far more rigorous.
German Shepherds do have an advantage over general dog breeds simply because they’ve been bred and trained to be service dogs for centuries.
This means that this training comes more naturally for them.
There is a concept that service dogs are taught to grasp, which is called intelligent disobedience.
This means that if their owners ask them to complete a task which could potentially prove to be too dangerous, they must refuse.
German Shepherds are generally well equipped to understand this, making them great service dogs for those with disabilities.
It is however, important to note that no two dogs are the same, even when they come from the same breed.
So, some German Shepherds might be more adept at learning new things than others.
What Attributes Make German Shepherds Good Service Dogs?
German Shepherds possess a whole range of different attributes which make them an excellent choice to have as a service dog. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of these qualities.
When trained properly from an early age, and mixed with lots of different dogs and people, German Shepherds can learn to be extremely well socialized, which makes them great companions for disabled owners who need help getting out and about.
Because service dogs need to constantly be at their owners disposal in order to help them complete different tasks, it is therefore important that German Shepherds are athletic dogs.
They’ll always be ready and alert in order to help their owners.
As we mentioned briefly above, German Shepherds are known for the high level of intelligence that they possess.
This makes them a good fit for being a service dog, because they’re able to grasp the high level of training required.
German Shepherds are known for being strong and muscular dogs, which makes them a great choice for aiding their owners with mobility.
Their owners will be able to lean on them to get around because they’re so physically strong.
Because of their long history of working as service dogs, German Shepherds are incredibly obedient, and don’t mind following commands given by their owners or those training them.
German Shepherds are also known for being fiercely protective, so if their owners ever get into an unsavory situation, they’ll defend them fiercely.
This makes them great choices for people who are particularly vulnerable.
The Size Of The German Shepherd Dog
So, when it comes to selecting a German Shepherd as a service dog, does it matter what size they are?
Obviously not every member of the breed will be as large as others, but could this be detrimental to their role as service dog?
The average male German Shepherd will weigh around 90 pounds, whereas the females will weigh up to 70 pounds.
This makes them exceedingly large companions.
Some German Shepherd dogs will weigh less than this, with the lowest weight being around 50 pounds as demonstrated by the female variety of the breed.
If you’re looking for a service dog that will need to help you with mobility, it’s a good idea to consider getting a German Shepherd.
They can easily withstand their owners putting some of their weight on them in order to maneuver themselves around.
Another benefit of having a German Shepherd as a service dog is that they can look quite intimidating purely because of their larger size.
Because of this, owners who might be anxious about being approached by strangers won’t need to worry, because the German Shepherd service dog gives off an unapproachable air.
Finally, if they are required to maneuver somebody who is taller, or heavier around, it won’t be difficult for them to do so.
Are They Easy To Take Care Of?
Another question which many people may be curious about is whether or not German Shepherds are easy to care for.
This is incredibly important, because many people who need service dogs won’t have a great capacity for being able to take care of them.
Sometimes, people with physical disabilities will require additional support from other people in order to take care of their dogs basic needs, including grooming.
Even so, it’s still important that the dog is relatively easy to care for.
German Shepherd dogs are extremely easy to care for, which is reassuring.
They require very little grooming, and are overall incredibly low maintenance.
The only thing that their owners will need to do regularly in order to make sure their dogs are kept in the best possible condition, is to brush their hair once a day.
Brushing the hair regularly will help to prevent massive amounts of shedding further down the line, because it gradually removes the hair.
German Shepherds may incur issues with their hips later in life, a common problem which also affects labradors.
This means that as they get older they might be required to take certain medications, and may need trips to the vet.
Finally, one more thing which needs to be considered regarding the care of German Shepherd dogs, is exercise.
They will need somewhere open to run around each day, because they’re so active and muscular.
This doesn’t mean that they need to be walked for long periods of time each day, but rather just left to run around by themselves to expend some of their energy.
Can German Shepherds Be Used As Mental Health Service Dogs?
As we previously mentioned, it might be difficult to train a German Shepherd to assist those suffering from mental health issues, but this doesn’t mean that it’s completely out of the question.
Because mental health service dogs are still a relatively new thing, people are still conducting research into which breeds are best for those suffering from these afflictions.
This means that it’s difficult to say whether or not a German Shepherd would make a good mental health service dog.
It is safe to say, however, that German Shepherd dogs may be a good option for those suffering from anxiety, as the level of protection that they provide for their owners can be incredibly reassuring.
As well as this, German Shepherds can also easily be trained to help owners who suffer from PTSD flashbacks, or panic attacks.
They can sense when this is happening to their owners, and they’re able to nudge them, and generally provide comfort when this is happening.
Finally, German Shepherds may also be a good option for sexual abuse or physical assault victims, as having these dogs by their side on the street may help to give them the confidence they need to carry on with their lives.
How Much Do German Shepherd Service Dogs Cost?
In terms of how much German Shepherd service dogs cost, this varies greatly.
A German Shepherd service dog can actually cost anywhere between 5 thousand dollars, to sixty-five thousand dollars.
The cost of the dog will be determined by which bloodline it comes from, which is important to take into consideration.
As we mentioned before, the bloodline of the German Shepherd will be important when it comes to their role as service dog, because it will inform their overall temperament.
Some bloodlines of German Shepherd will become aggressive when they feel as though they haven’t rid themselves of their pent up energy.
As well as the initial cost, the ongoing cost of food and potential trips to the vet will also need to be taken into consideration.
Training A German Shepherd As A Service Dog
Some people may opt to train their German Shepherds to be service dogs from the time that they are puppies.
This can be an incredibly difficult, although rewarding venture. Training German Shepherds will take a great deal of patience as well as expertise.
The person training the German Shepherd will also need to be passionate about their goals, as there is very little money to be gained training service dogs.
When training German Shepherds to be good service dogs, there are various different factors that need to be taken into consideration to do this properly.
First of all, the trainer should make sure that they’re receiving adequate amounts of socialization on a daily basis, this means both with different people, and also with different dogs.
This will prevent them from feeling aggression towards strangers when they’re ready to take their role as service dogs.
They’ll also need to be socialized to ignore those around them, as service dogs should be impervious to distractions, and instead be completely immersed in their owners and their needs.
Another aspect of training that needs to be taken into consideration is goal setting.
Any proper dog training regime should have specific goals in mind that need to be achieved.
These goals should be achievable, whilst at the same time challenging.
After the dog has learned a certain skill this should be repeated, whilst gradually incorporating new skills so that they’re able to progress.
Another thing trainers will need to practice when training service dogs is patience.
Although German Shepherd dogs are renowned for their high intelligence, they will still take some time to learn such complex commands.
There will be a requirement to repeat certain commands and training over and over again until they’re able to grasp it, but this is a natural part of service training.
Finally, another thing that the dog trainer should keep in mind is to always present themselves as the alpha.
From the time that they are puppies, you should clearly establish yourself in a leadership role, otherwise you won’t be able to train them.
Because they are such large and muscular dogs, they need to be shown who is the boss, or it could lead to some potentially dangerous situations where they try to lead.
How To Find A Good Breeder
If you choose to get a German Shepherd dog to train, you’ll need to make sure that they come from a good breeder.
Finding good breeders can be difficult to spot, however, especially seeing as there are so many out there.
When searching for a good German Shepherd breeder, there are some qualities that you should always make sure to look out for.
First of all, you will need to make sure that they are highly specialized.
This means that when you visit their page to see what kinds of dogs they’re selling, they will exclusively consist of German Shepherds.
If you choose a breeder that sells lots of different breeds, it could actually be a sign that they’re running a puppy mill.
By choosing a breeder that only sells one or two specific breeds of dogs, you can rest assured that they probably know a great deal about the breed.
This brings us to the next point, which consists of the breeders knowledge about the specific breed.
They should be able to answer any questions that you may have about training or taking care of German Shepherds, as well as being able to provide you with lots of advice.
Another good sign that the breeder you’re purchasing from is the real deal, is if they will happily welcome you into their home.
This shows that they’re confident enough to let you witness how they rear their dogs.
You’ll be able to see their living conditions fully and how their dogs are being raised.
Finally, another positive sign when choosing a German Shepherd breeder, is whether or not they require you to fill out an application.
Good dog breeders will always require potential owners to fill out application forms, in order to make sure their puppies are going to good and responsible owners.
Another thing that being required to fill out a form indicates is that the breeder is in high demand.
They might be receiving so many applications for their puppies that they have lots of choice as to who they give them to.
What Kind Of Roles Are German Shepherds Best Suited To?
There are specific kinds of disabilities and impairments that German Shepherd dogs are well suited to.
Below are some of the specific conditions that they may be able to help with.
One of the main things that German Shepherds are able to help their owners with is mobility.
As we mentioned above, they’re incredibly strong, and so can help to carry some of their owners’ weight.
German Shepherds are capable of altering other people if they witness their owners having a seizure.
They can help people with hearing disabilities, and alert their owners of potential noises that they need to be aware of.
They are great for people who are suffering from diabetes, as they will be able to tell when their owners blood sugar is low.
German Shepherds can also be great for people suffering from visual impairments, as they make incredibly good guide dogs.
Because of their large size, this means that they would be a good option for blind people who are taller or heavier than average.
To sum up, German Shepherds do make good service dogs, but it depends on what kind of service they are required to provide.
For example, German Shepherds make great service dogs for people with physical disabilities, because they can help them with mobility, as well as aiding them with household tasks.
They might not be a good fit for those who are seeking a service dog for mental health, as they can prove to be overly protective of their owners when they feel anxious.