The Ultimate Guide To The Best Service Dog Breeds

golden retriever with yellow and black harness

Key points

  • Service dogs are trained to assist people with mental or physical disabilities in their everyday lives;
  • Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Boxers, Great Danes, Border Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Pomeranians, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are considered to be the best service dog breeds;
  • A good service pet should exhibit qualities such as a desire to work, calm demeanor, intelligence, friendly disposition, and obedience;

Dogs are truly incredible creatures. They can not only be faithful companions who enrich our lives but also make the daily routine of many people much easier. A special category of dogs, namely service dogs, is extremely helpful for those who suffer from mental, emotional, or physical health issues. Tasks performed by a service dog may vary from calming down the owner to helping mobility-impaired people walk.

What Are Service Dogs?

Service dogs are dogs trained specifically to help people with different kinds of disabilities. One example of a service dog is a guide dog for the blind. But there are many more tasks that canines can perform to make impaired people’s lives easier and more independent. For example, some dogs can guide deaf people or those with restricted mobility. In addition, some of the pets can fetch or carry items for owners, while others can detect and warn their owners of an allergen in their surroundings or an upcoming attack.

black and tan german shepherd running on field during daytime

Service dogs are allowed to accompany their owners in public places such as restaurants, hotels, and airplanes to provide them with the necessary assistance.

Types of Working Dogs

Dogs can perform various tasks that can help society. But not all of them are considered service dogs. Today, we’ll look at some of the most common types of working dogs.

Therapy dogs

brown long coated dog wearing black and red harnessFirst and foremost, therapy dogs are helpful for people who have had traumatic experiences in their lives and are now suffering from diseases such as anxiety. This can range from mild to severe illnesses. For example, they can be used in hospitals to give comfort to patients. They can even be brought to schools before exams to help students relieve stress! Therapy dogs are primarily meant to cheer up other people and not their owners.

Emotional support dogs

Emotional support dogs help their owners alleviate fear, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or go through other spiritual challenges.

Some pets calm their owners by simply being around them, while others step in when a person is experiencing acute attacks of anxiety or fear. Thus, emotional support dogs might stop the attack by jumping on a person’s lap, kissing, and cuddling them. This will help the owner to calm down and feel safe again.

Service dogs

Unlike therapy dogs and emotional support pets, service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks. These dogs help people with physical impairments. The best-known pets in this category are guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired, who guide their owners through life, whether it be crossing a busy road or simply navigating a crowded street full of people. Some dogs help people with hearing impairments by making them aware of sounds they might otherwise not be able to hear. Other dogs can help their owners with mobility by bringing things to them and even pulling wheelchairs up the ramps.

black and white curly coated small dog with black and white strap

Service dogs are also trained to help people with conditions like diabetes or seizures. In the first case, dogs can tell affected people when their blood sugar levels have reached dangerous levels.

Another subtype of service dogs is called psychiatric service dogs. They are trained to help people experiencing depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They can sense changes in their owner when they’re about to experience negative symptoms, such as a panic attack or a flashback.

Emergency services

There is a variety of dogs that can be trained to work together with different types of emergency services. For example, some dogs work for the police or border guards and help track down people smuggling drugs. Others work in the fire department and can even provide lifesaving aid. The same applies to dogs used in search and rescue.

Of course, sometimes tasks performed by different types of working dogs overlap. However, the exact classification of your pet is essential: while service dogs are allowed to go almost everywhere, there are some restrictions for therapy dogs. Thus, service dogs should be distinguished from emotional support animals and therapy dogs, although they might seem similar at first sight.

The Qualities Service Dogs Should Have

There are several characteristics that a good service dog should exhibit. Below, we discuss some of the most crucial service dog qualities and explain why they are important.


An essential quality that makes a good service dog is intelligence. Without it, dogs cannot be trained to do their jobs. And that’s especially important when some of the dog’s tasks can be lifesaving. While not all dogs can be trained for all individual tasks, a high level of intelligence is undoubtedly helpful.

Friendly and calm demeanor

Because these dogs often work very closely with people and other animals, they need to have friendly personalities that enable them to get along well with each other. While defensive or overprotective dogs can work well, guard dogs usually do not have the skills necessary to function as emotional support, therapy, or service dogs.

In addition, service dogs can get into situations where they are under tremendous pressure. Therefore, they need to be able to react calmly to all kinds of circumstances. Also, they shouldn’t feel or react to the overwhelming urge to play when passing other dogs. At the same time, however, they must not get upset.

Strong work ethic

While some dogs can be lazy and like laying around the house for hours, the character of service dogs should be different, as sometimes they are required to work quite long hours. They might also have to stay alert all the time if trained to look out for certain warning signs. So, service dogs need a strong work drive that will enable them to complete their duties.


While some breeds of dogs are intelligent, they could simultaneously be stubborn and difficult to train. Dog breeds that are commonly used as service dogs often display the kind of indulgence that makes it easier for them to learn the necessary skills and techniques.

Ability to bond

Finally, the ability to bond with human companions is also of great importance. This applies to service dogs and dogs used in protective roles, e.g., in the police because they need to develop a bond with their human companions to do their job in the best possible way.

Top 10 Best Service Dog Breeds

Below, we introduce you to the top 10 service dog breeds, explain what tasks they can perform, and discuss traits that make them so suitable for each role.

German Shepherd

German Shepherds are intelligent, quick-witted, and well-trained dogs. These pets are often associated with guarding and protection tasks, but they can also be loving companions who develop a close bond with their owners. When such a pet shows up in the house, it quickly becomes a fully-fledged family member who just doesn’t know how to talk.

black and tan german shepherd puppy on green grass field during daytime

Since this breed was originally created to perform the duties of a shepherd, German Shepherds have valuable traits such as endurance, high performance, and decision-making skills. Subsequent selection improved the breed even more, making it a perfect service dog.

They are excellent guardians, guards, guides, shepherds, and companions. Due to their size, German Shepherds are suitable for supporting mobility-impaired people. They can also help their owners cope with anxiety. If properly trained, they can even spot sudden problems such as panic attacks and successfully prevent them, or just give the owner some love and support.

You can keep a German Shepherd in an open-air cage, house, or even in an apartment, but keep in mind that they shed quite heavily.

Labrador Retriever

brown short coated dog lying on floorLabrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds, as they are loving, friendly, and intelligent companions.

Most often, they are used as guide dogs and hearing assistance dogs. But they can also be helpful for mobility-impaired people. This is because they have natural retrieving instincts (as the name might suggest) and a soft mouth that allows them to easily grip objects, making things they pick up less likely to be damaged.

They can be incredibly calming companions who provide emotional support to their owners. Labrador Retrievers also have a great deal of composure, which helps them calm people down. Furthermore, they can provide excellent support to children with ADD or autism.

golden retriever puppy on grey wooden fence during daytime

Golden Retriever

Since these dogs are very similar to Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers can also act as perfect service dogs. Not only are they intelligent, but also easy to raise. In addition, they have loving and caring personalities, which makes them so popular as pets.

Although Golden Retrievers are quite large, they don’t have an intimidating appearance. They are great for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also guide the blind and help people with mobility problems. They naturally learn to love and please their owners.

white poodle puppy on brown wooden table


While the first three examples of service dogs are quite obvious, the small, chic poodle may not immediately come to your mind when you think of a dog that can help its owner.

They are actually very clever dogs who are easy to train and often enjoy having a job. Poodles come in a variety of sizes, but typically, regular poodles are trained as service dogs. The name can be a little misleading, as the standard poodle is the largest of the group when compared to the toy or miniature poodle. Of course, they cannot do the physical labor that larger breeds mentioned above are capable of, but they can still be very helpful.

brown pomeranian puppy on grey concrete floor


This is yet another breed that might not seem like it could make a good service dog due to its small size. And just like Poodles, they can’t carry out the most intense physical tasks, but that does not mean that they can’t be useful.

Pomeranians form a close bond with their owners, and they can be very attentive to the owners’ needs. As a result, they are a perfect choice for people suffering from PTSD, epilepsy, and autism. They can also be extremely helpful for diabetics, as they have a knack for detecting people with low blood sugar. Even with epilepsy, they can alert their owner when a seizure is coming and provide comfort when it occurs.

black and white border collie on green grass field during daytime

Border Collie

Border Collies are among the most intelligent dog breeds, and, therefore, they can be easily trained to perform a variety of tasks.

Their strong herding instinct has made the breed very popular with farmers for controlling livestock. However, those strong instincts don’t necessarily make them the best choice for families with young children, as they run the risk of knocking kids over.

Border Collies also need regular stimulation through exercise, which means they are best suited for owners who live in homes with access to the great outdoors. Failure to provide enough space to the dog may result in bad behavior, e.g., annoying barking and destruction. Remember, you must also provide Border Collies with plenty of mental stimulation through games and interactive toys.

black, tan, and white dog resting on snow covered land

Bernese Mountain Dogs

Bernese Mountain Dogs possess many of the qualities required for a good service dog: intelligence, friendliness, and a strong work ethic.

Their size and strength allow them to perform various physical tasks, while their mental abilities help them learn more complex assignments. This breed is also known for pulling carts or wheelchairs and generally providing mobility for those who cannot move. Emotional support is another positive quality Bernese Mountain Dogs can offer.

Keep in mind that these dogs are not suitable for warmer climates. Moreover, this breed needs a lot of exercise, so you shouldn’t keep them in an apartment.

Great Dane

adult greyhound on forest during daytimeThe Great Dane is considered to be one of the best service dog breeds. Since they are tall and strong, they can help people with movement or balance problems. They are gentle giants that help those who require psychological and emotional support. If trained, Great Danes will always remain concentrated on their owner, paying only a little attention to strangers.

Again, it is important that you ensure that there’s enough space for a dog of this size and that you provide it with proper nutrition and plenty of exercise.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is not only a very good-looking dog but also a pet very suitable for various jobs. Because they develop strong bonds with their owners, they can help people with mental health issues like depression. They are also one of the best service dog breeds for PTSD. Unsurprisingly, they are intelligent and easy to raise.

Keep in mind that your dog should be properly exercised, both mentally and physically.

brown and white short coated dog standing on dock during daytime


Boxers have many qualities that make them excellent service dogs: they are smart, trainable, and friendly. However, this breed is not used in that capacity as often as many of the other dogs we discussed above. One of the most positive qualities Boxers have is their ability to deal with both adults and children. And like some of the other breeds mentioned above, they need a lot of physical stimulation. Otherwise, they can get bored and restless quickly. Their protective nature has made them popular watchdogs, but they can also support people with disabilities.

Boxers are perfect service dogs if you live in an apartment or small home.

Final Thoughts

Some dog breeds are better suited for service than others, and the ten breeds we featured above are among the most popular. Although these dogs come in different shapes and sizes, they all have one trait in common – they can make your life better!


What qualifies a dog for a service dog?

If a dog is trained to help people with physical or mental disabilities, it is qualified as a service dog.

Can I get a service dog for anxiety?

Service dogs are primarily meant for people with disabilities. If you do not have any medical conditions, consider getting an emotional support dog instead of a service dog.

Can you leave a service dog at home?

Yes, you can. You are not obligated to take a service dog along whenever you leave the house. However, make sure that your dog is ready to stay alone and that the pet won’t get scared.