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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking at getting my first dog in a few months, and I have some unusual requirements. I'd like a purebred because I'd like the health guarantee many breeders offer, and since this is my one chance to go for a purebred without it being a "frivolous" expense, I may as well. (My twin brother has resigned himself to carting me to the groomer already, and I can't pass him up on that kind of offer.)

I'd love to know more about breeds recommended for two items:
  • service work (possible but rare light mobility, daily medication reminders, mental issue support; yes, I've got the necessary doctor/psych recommendations for one.)
  • trekking (short, mid, and long distance; I'd like to train with them for a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in a few years.)
Preferably, a breed that is capable of doing both.

I've got my heart set on a boy, if that's important at all. I'll also be working with professional trainers.

Ideally, I need something at least 50 pounds. A breed not prone to high anxiety. Something that has a fur coat (while I do love the Xoloitzcuintle, our climate in the Carolinas isn't exactly a great place to keep one; it's too hot in summer and winters are quite icy). High energy, but with an "off button". Happy to go for runs and play Pokemon with me, yet okay with an occasional down day of gaming and naps. Needs to be chill with fish (tank has a top), and preferably with cats.

Some things that don't matter:
  • I could care less about grooming requirements; I'm willing to put in the time for a standard poodle, but would be equally happy with a shorthaired breed that needs almost no brushing.
  • Upper size limit doesn't matter. The size could be 50 pounds, or 150. We have space and I'm down for long walks.
Any advice breed-wise would be appreciated! There are hundreds of breeds I've probably not even considered that might be a match for me. I don't know enough about dogs to know where to start, and only three of my friends have dogs, so I don't have much exposure in general. I do have the time and patience to put into training.
 

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Goldens and Labs are classic service dogs for a reason. Seems to me they fit all your requirements plus it should be easy enough to find one from a line that's successfully produced service dogs already.

You should be very aware, though, that any non-tiny dog is going to be a real pain in the ass for the first couple of years, so if you need a service animal right away - or if your condition responds poorly to stress - that's a big consideration when getting a pup rather than an adult.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'm not terribly into labs, as they have a "filmy" coat texture, and they have a huge predisposition to hip issues. Goldens aren't as bad, but there's a lot of elbow issues there as well.

My top choice so far has actually been the Standard Poodle, but I'm curious as to whether there are others that are recommended and DON'T have associated hip/elbow issues (a real deal breaker).
 

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Hip dysplasia is also common in Standard Poodles.

Easy enough to find a breeder who has a few generations of clean hip and elbow tests on record in the pup's pedigree (and the other offspring of the parents and grandparents). You just need to do due diligence in the OFA database. It's not a guarantee, but it very much decreases the risk.

Weight control also helps avoid and mitigate joint issues. In my experience, Labs will eat until they explode if you let them. Can't think of the last time I saw a Lab that wasn't very overweight.
 

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Well, Labs and Goldens are the go-to service dogs for a reason! I just read that you aren't too keen on Labs (I'm not too keen on them for the same reason, actually, as well as the SHEDDING, although I think they are great dogs...just not to live with, lol). Picking a good breeder will really help mitigate those health issues, too. With any dog over 50 lbs, I think you will have to deal with arthritis and "old age" diseases no matter what at an earlier age. You're simply not going to find a breed that is completely clear of health issues for the entirety of their life. Try to pick a breeder that can demonstrate their dogs have been healthy throughout the "prime" of their life and have clear OFA certificates. A good breeder should be able to tell you all about their line's health through multiple generations.

Standard Poodle would be great! I would also suggest a Collie, Rough or Smooth. The right German Shepherd might be a good pick, as well.

With any breed you pick, I would look for a breeder that can show their dogs have performed well in therapy work, or perhaps have even become service dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
parus-
There's a phenomenal poodle breeder here in the Carolinas with a very good history of no hip/elbow issues, long-living dogs, and pretty much all recognized colors.
I've met some healthy looking labs in the past, but I also deal with hunting/hawking dogs occasionally, so that's probably a situational thing.... pet labs are rarely ever in ideal condition.

3GSD4IPO-
I'll look into that! I've not even looked at shepherds, and I've definitely heard of them being used for light to medium mobility.

Lillith-
I've not really taken the time to look into shepherds or collies! I'll do so in a bit, since they're pretty common around here.
(Also, someone who understands why I'm not keen on labs! At last!)
There's definitely a weight/health correlation, but any dog in ideal conditions will be keeping a steady weight. I'm working with a vet already to get some plans in line for nutrition regarding what kind of work we're doing, but that will partially depend on breed so it's impossible to fully prepare.
The poodle breeder I'm looking at (Family Affair Standards) has a pretty good service candidate screening process. I've met a successful guide dog descended from their lines, and was wildly impressed. They've got a decent history of working dogs all around: service, therapy, show, and competition. I started looking into them a few years ago. If I get a poodle, it will be from them. At the moment, I'm trying to make sure I didn't overlook any better fitting options before I go and contact them directly.
 

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Our Standard Poodle breeding stock present on the farm at any given time is between 40 and 45 dogs. We may have a few more depending on how many we are growing up to replace the ones retiring and how many are here from their fostered homes being breed or whelping a litter.
Christ. They're dogs, not cattle. This would be an immediate dealbreaker for me, especially with a people-oriented dog like a Standard Poodle.

I clicked on a few of the pedigrees of the sires and dams of the pups for sale, and of the ones I looked at, it appears the titled and/or OFA-listed dogs appear sporadically generations back, occasional ancestors of the animals in the breeding program, not the animals in the breeding program themselves. Mass breeding animals that haven't done anything noteworthy and haven't been thoroughly health screened is very puppy mill. It looks like as far as puppy mills go, it's one of the cleaner, more pleasant ones, but I'd still probably classify it as a mill.

To further check, I did some OFA database searches and none of these bitches - https://www.familyaffairstandards.com/white-cream-ladies.html - were listed in the OFA database, which doesn't for sure mean they don't have hip (and other orthopedic/genetic disorder) testing but it does mean the breeders aren't being transparent. It costs like $7 to send in tests to OFA, so if they are testing, there's no real excuse for not sending in the results - which suggests either they're not testing, or the results aren't good. I didn't go on to search the other colors or the sires (also, is it just me, or is it a bit ridiculous that they divide up the animals by color?) because I'm not at all interested in a pup from them, but I'd say that even a superficial look at that site raises some major red flags. Definitely do further due diligence before you even consider purchasing a pup from them.

In any case, you could get a nice pup from a responsible small-scale enthusiast breeder who was actually doing something useful or interesting with their animals and has done all the recommended health testing for the same or less than what they are charging. There are even Standard Poodle owners out there specifically selectively breeding for service dog work.
 

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The poodle breeder I'm looking at (Family Affair Standards) has a pretty good service candidate screening process. I've met a successful guide dog descended from their lines, and was wildly impressed. They've got a decent history of working dogs all around: service, therapy, show, and competition. I started looking into them a few years ago. If I get a poodle, it will be from them. At the moment, I'm trying to make sure I didn't overlook any better fitting options before I go and contact them directly.
Well, this is enough to make me pass on this breeder (taken from their FAQ page on whether they are a PCA member): "Also the POODLE CLUB of AMERICA will not allow us to be a member because our living depends on our breeding program." As parus said, they are dogs, not cattle.

Some health testing results you need to see in SPoos are OFA hips, elbows, and eyes, as well as a skin punch biopsy test. Those are just off the top of my head. There might be others.
 

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Some health testing results you need to see in SPoos are OFA hips, elbows, and eyes, as well as a skin punch biopsy test. Those are just off the top of my head. There might be others.
Heart and thyroid, IIRC. And DNA tests for VonWillebrands and PRA if there's a chance the parents were carriers.

I think elbows are more pressing in little poodles than Standards, but it can't hurt.
 

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I am working towards being able to offer professional service dog training services and am almost at the end of training my first service dog for myself for psychiatric work and momentum pulling and retrieval tasks. That seems pretty similar to what you're looking for. Since there aren't a huge number of people on this forum with personal experience training/working service dogs, I thought I'd chime in.

First, expect to get help in training this dog, and expect to meet with a trainer early and often. You're a first time dog owner and it sounds like you don't have much dog experience, which is difficult enough. Add to that the difficulty of training a dog to the high level of obedience and in the sometimes complex behaviors you need for task work, and you're putting A LOT on you plate. There are a number of places online that you might find help, which I'd be happy to refer you to, as well as multiple organizations that offer distance help with training you own dog that might be worth looking in to.

Don't take this the wrong way, but have you looked in to programs at all? Owner training a SD is hard, and very often does not meet with success, especially when you're starting with a puppy. I can say right now that if I need a SD after my current one retires, I would probably be thinking about trying to find an 8-10 month old dog to start with.

Second, with any kind of psychiatric work, and especially when you're talking about owner training, it's really important to remember that the thing you need above all else is a dog that is not going to get stressed because you are stressed. You don't want a dog that needs you to work it through anxiety while you're anxious and you can't have a dog that decides that it is going to take it upon itself to protect you. Because it sounds like you're planning to owner train this dog, and especially because it sounds like this is your first dog ever, you ideally want a dog that is unlikely to experience these issues at any point in its life, not just as a fully fledged adult. Plenty of dogs in programs have these issues and work through them with experience puppy raisers or with professional trainers from the program. It's not easy for you to be learning how to work through them while trying to work a dog through them, though, and depending on the manifestations of your anxiety, it can be almost impossible. Having just come off 2.5 years learning to work young dogs through these issues while having severe anxiety of my own, I say this from experience.

In terms of your reasoning that Labs and Goldens are susceptible to hip/elbow issues and that's why you don't want to consider them, keep in min that hips are going to be a concern in pretty much any large breed, and elbows are a concern in most large breeds AND many smaller breeds. As someone mentioned above, poodles are also a breed with which hip dysplasia is a concern. However, orthopedic concerns are something that can be tracked through the lineage of a dog with OFA or PenHip standardized testing. If you get a dog that has dogs behind it for 5 generations with appropriate clearances, you greatly reduce the risk of orthopedic issues.

On "Family Affairs"- I've come across them before, and I cannot stress enough to look elsewhere. Their breeding program is at best subpar, and at worst downright alarming. Dogs may come from pedigrees with some health testing, but their breeding dogs pretty much never are. You CANNOT guarentee a dog is free from hip or elbow issues "from parentage", and there are other concerns aside from that that warrant testing. It's also impossible to completely clear a line of orthopedic issues, given that there is a strong environmental component and sometimes even in lines with good hips issues come up. You want an orthopedically educated vet looking at X-rays and making an unbiased call, or you can follow the (IMO more reliable) Penhip protocols to test joint health. They breed at a HUGE volume, which makes it almost impossible to track all their puppies in their new homes for health and temperament, and is in itself something I balk at on principle. They do nothing to prove their dogs- no competing of any kind, which means that the call that any one dog is worth breeding is completely their own and has no outside eyes on it. Their dogs also all live in kennels, which IMO limits what you can really say about their temperament, given these dogs don't seem to really be leaving the property- with that number of dogs and the fact that they don't compete with them, I struggle to believe they're doing much beside staying in their kennels and sometimes playing with one another. Add to that that the breed club has banned them from joining, and it's red flag after red flag. Their website is filled with buzzwords and marketing jargon and pretty pictures. On the surface they do look great, but it's very clear their main goal is to make money selling their puppies, and IME that doesn't go hand in hand with responsible breeding practices.

In terms of actual breed recommendations:
- Stay away from GSDs and other guard/guardian breeds. As a first time dog owner, they'd be a challenge. Add in training a service dog to the mix and you're courting failure already.
- I would personally recommend labs/goldens over poodles, because labs and goldens tend to be more affable and less sensitive from what I've seen of the three breeds. They are IMO/E an easier temperament for a first time owner and trainer to work with. Look for breeders who have placed successful service dogs and have dogs with health tested pedigrees at least 5 generations back.
- If it's a texture issue with the lab coats, that's understandable. While I bet you could find labs with coats you like more (diet plays a huge role in coat texture, so its possible the ones you met just weren't on great food), sometimes texture just isn't right with a certain breed's coat. If you DO want a poodle, I would be looking for lines that have produced a lot of service dogs that are fully trained, not just sold dogs with the intention of them being a service dog.

I really like the facebook group "Fact or Fiction: Uncensored Opinions of Breeders" because it has a wide range of people from a wide range of breeds that can make recommendations.
 
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