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Service dogs seem to be a small enough niche that it actually makes sense to start actively breeding for the right mix of behavior and physical ability to create a specialized service breed. So why, then, do we have all these designer dogs with cutesy names and no real purpose, while trying to force herding/guard dogs (GSD) and water retrievers (Goldens, Labs) into a role that doesn't quite match what they were originally intended for?
 

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Originally labradoodles were being bred to be service dogs. It's not uncommon to find guide dog breeding programs that do cross breeds either just depending on what parents match up better regardless of breed.
 

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Because there's a vast number of dogs of varoius breeds who all work out as service dogs, and a vast range of individuals needing different characteristics in their SDs. I have a collie SD (my second), my best friend has a Dalmatian SD. I've trained a papillon and worked with a Belgian (Groenendahl) for other folks, and of course we know the usual labs, goldens, GSDs, poodles, and Aussies.
 

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not to mention the fact that you can go to the shelters/rescues and find a perfectly suitable dog for the necessary training for special needs....i know of a few places that train for different things in each dog and they 1st check out the dogs at the shelters and the rescues for the traits they're looking for....gives some of these "throw-aways" a purpose, yeah?
 

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not to mention the fact that you can go to the shelters/rescues and find a perfectly suitable dog for the necessary training for special needs....i know of a few places that train for different things in each dog and they 1st check out the dogs at the shelters and the rescues for the traits they're looking for....gives some of these "throw-aways" a purpose, yeah?

Actually I used to train at a prison "service dog" program and we did get several dogs from the shelters. Not all of the dogs can do it but the ones that washed out went into pet homes as trained dogs. There was always a list of people that wanted "wash out" dogs because they were still awesome pets and came Pre-trained. The ones that did work out became service dogs and lived a great life as a helper. It was a wonderful program.
 

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In addition to the above, some service dog programs do actually have their own breeding programs, particularly guide dogs for the blind. Sure they are (to my knowledge) generally consisting of a single breed, but they are being bred specifically because they have traits (physical, mental, etc.) that make them excellent service dogs.

Actually I used to train at a prison "service dog" program and we did get several dogs from the shelters. Not all of the dogs can do it but the ones that washed out went into pet homes as trained dogs. There was always a list of people that wanted "wash out" dogs because they were still awesome pets and came Pre-trained. The ones that did work out became service dogs and lived a great life as a helper. It was a wonderful program.
Haha, I actually applied for a dog from a similar program in the spring of 2008. They do have a lot of success, though, and the dogs they end up putting up for adoption tend to go quickly.
 

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This weekend I saw 2 great danes being used as service dogs. I was in a bar/restaurant and they were extremely well behaved. I typically think of labs and shepards as service dogs. I spoke with the lady and she said any breed can be trained to be a service dog.
 

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not to mention the fact that you can go to the shelters/rescues and find a perfectly suitable dog for the necessary training for special needs....i know of a few places that train for different things in each dog and they 1st check out the dogs at the shelters and the rescues for the traits they're looking for....gives some of these "throw-aways" a purpose, yeah?
The hard thing here is physical soundness - it's not that programs don't use this model and fairly successfully, but unfortunately a HUGE number of dogs end up washing out for physical problems (particularly hip dysplasia), since you obviously don't work a dog with a chronic health condition.
 

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Depends on what you mean by "service dog." I've bred Flatcoats that served as hearing dogs, Search and Rescue dogs, two assistance dogs for 2 different women with MS and a Police Narcotics dog. All of them have been excellent at what they do, but not every Flatcoat would have been right for those jobs.

There are lots and lots of dogs that can be "service dogs" that are at the pound right now, just waiting to be discovered. Depends on the dog and the job, but there really isn't much need to create a new breed to fill those roles.
 

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Because there are dogs of every shape and size that are service dogs, Some like to use small lap dogs as seizure or diabetic detection, then there are seeing eye dogs which need to be big enough to lead a person comfortably. There are as many different needs fora service dog as there are people that need them, it would be nearly impossible to breed a dog that would meet the needs of every disabled or ill person that needs a service dog.

Lets not forget that Police dogs and SAR dogs are also service dogs, as are therapy dogs. To many needs for just one breed.
 

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the hunting labrador retreiver and the service dog bred labrador retriever looks and acts different enough to be considered a different breed

Be careful with stereotypes like that; I have friends who breed what most people consider "Bench" Labs, and they also use those dogs in the field...and they title there too! The dogs are conformationally correct, and can still carry on their hunting heritage.

The 'field bred' labs on the other hand, that I think you are referring to (as hunters), wouldn't normally be shown, because they don't usually have the body type that the breed is known for. And they do tend to be more hyper, so probably wouldn't be the greatest at service work either.

Service dogs seem to be a small enough niche that it actually makes sense to start actively breeding for the right mix of behavior and physical ability to create a specialized service breed. So why, then, do we have all these designer dogs with cutesy names and no real purpose, while trying to force herding/guard dogs (GSD) and water retrievers (Goldens, Labs) into a role that doesn't quite match what they were originally intended for?
A service dog doesn't have to be a specific breed, that is why there is no specific breeding taking place to breed one. Along with that it would be extremely difficult to breed a 'one size fits all' service dog breed.

As far as 'forcing' breeds into roles they weren't intended for, I don't think that is necessarily wrong; the dogs that are used for service work are extremely intelligent and enjoy working to please their handlers; GSDs, GR, Labs, etc, are breeds that have excelled in service work because of their intelligence and willingness to learn\please. Dogs that go through the training but don't pass every aspect of the testing phase at the end of the training, don't stay in service work...they are placed (often times with the family that raised them), in a home that will continue to love and care for them; and that doesn't necessarily mean that the dog will start hunting, or herding; he may pursue obedience, agility, rally, or other 'sports', or just be a loved member of the family.

Most dog breeds aren't even used for their original use now a days anyway; alot of them are strictly pets.
 

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Lets not forget that Police dogs and SAR dogs are also service dogs, as are therapy dogs. To many needs for just one breed.
I dont wish to nitpick, but therapy dogs, police dogs, and search and rescue dogs do not meet the legal definition of a service animal. The ADA defines a service animal as one that has been individually trained to mitigate the effects of their handlers disability. Police and search and rescue dogs do not mitigate disabilities, and therapy dogs do not mitigate a single disabled persons disability.
While they do perform very important jobs, they do not meet the legal definition of a service animal and are not classified as such under the law, so they should not be identified as such. There have been many incidents of people taking therapy dogs into public venues where they do not belong believing that they have the same rights of access as legitimate service dogs accompanying their disabled handlers. This causes access issues for disabled folks who have real service dogs, which is not something else that needs to be foisted upon them. It is hard enough dealing with businesses and employees who do not know proper service dog ettiqutte without having to also deal with the fallout from a "therapy dog" that acted improperly in a public venue and tainted the view of legitimate service dogs.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
A service dog doesn't have to be a specific breed, that is why there is no specific breeding taking place to breed one. Along with that it would be extremely difficult to breed a 'one size fits all' service dog breed.

As far as 'forcing' breeds into roles they weren't intended for, I don't think that is necessarily wrong; the dogs that are used for service work are extremely intelligent and enjoy working to please their handlers; GSDs, GR, Labs, etc, are breeds that have excelled in service work because of their intelligence and willingness to learn\please. Dogs that go through the training but don't pass every aspect of the testing phase at the end of the training, don't stay in service work...they are placed (often times with the family that raised them), in a home that will continue to love and care for them; and that doesn't necessarily mean that the dog will start hunting, or herding; he may pursue obedience, agility, rally, or other 'sports', or just be a loved member of the family.

Most dog breeds aren't even used for their original use now a days anyway; alot of them are strictly pets.
That's actually kind of what I'm trying to get at. Service dogs are selected from different breeds because each of those particular breeds exhibit certain characteristics which make them amenable to the work. They also express certain traits that make them worse at it; the washout rate in service academies is over 75%. I've met some of these washouts (including two Labs and one GSD living in my building) - without exception, they are absolutely brilliant, sweet, healthy, and devoted creatures. While I think it's great that those dogs make excellent pets and find great homes - the fact that even THESE dogs couldn't cut it shows just how difficult it is to train one successfully. It's an extremely difficult job that has very specific, very demanding requirements. In other words, it's the exact reason breeds were established in the first place - to perform a particular job that most other dogs can't.

Wouldn't it make more sense to breed the successful service dogs with each other and to select for the types of traits that make good service dogs? And if the tasks are too diverse for a single breed, then why not specialize even more? It just makes more sense to me for there to be an actual working breed called the American Guide Dog, or the Canadian Assistance Dog (or, better yet, the Guatemalan Gazehound).
 

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No, it doesn't, not everybody needs a large breed dog. Some only need a dog that is small and compact to detect an oncoming siezure or their blood sugar dropping or rising. another person may want a giant breed dog because they are a larger person to be their hearing or seeing eye dog.

Even if you developed a breed to do the jobs, there would still be a high wash out, even in specialized breeds their are going to be individuals that won't be up to the job due to physical disabilities, temperament issues ect. Not to mention it takes at LEAST 20-30 years and many generations to develop a dog that is consistant in size, appearance and temperment enough to be recognized as a true breed.
 

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That's actually kind of what I'm trying to get at. Service dogs are selected from different breeds because each of those particular breeds exhibit certain characteristics which make them amenable to the work. They also express certain traits that make them worse at it; the washout rate in service academies is over 75%. I've met some of these washouts (including two Labs and one GSD living in my building) - without exception, they are absolutely brilliant, sweet, healthy, and devoted creatures. While I think it's great that those dogs make excellent pets and find great homes - the fact that even THESE dogs couldn't cut it shows just how difficult it is to train one successfully. It's an extremely difficult job that has very specific, very demanding requirements. In other words, it's the exact reason breeds were established in the first place - to perform a particular job that most other dogs can't.

Wouldn't it make more sense to breed the successful service dogs with each other and to select for the types of traits that make good service dogs? And if the tasks are too diverse for a single breed, then why not specialize even more? It just makes more sense to me for there to be an actual working breed called the American Guide Dog, or the Canadian Assistance Dog (or, better yet, the Guatemalan Gazehound).
Breeds are/were established for very, very specific purposes. A basset hound tracks rabbits while a bloodhound tracks humans. A basset is very capable of tracking a human scentwise, but doesn't move fast enough to make it practical to track a moving human. A bloodhound probably would not be the best at hunting rabbits either. A deerhound is better at hunting deer than a basset or a bloodhound would be, but probably would not excel at tracking either humans or rabbits.

With service dogs you're not looking at an extremely specific behavior. A seeing-eye dog needs different characteristics from a psychiatric service dog or a dog for a deaf person or a dog that is trained to detect fluctuations in blood sugar.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
No, it doesn't, not everybody needs a large breed dog. Some only need a dog that is small and compact to detect an oncoming siezure or their blood sugar dropping or rising. another person may want a giant breed dog because they are a larger person to be their hearing or seeing eye dog.

Even if you developed a breed to do the jobs, there would still be a high wash out, even in specialized breeds their are going to be individuals that won't be up to the job due to physical disabilities, temperament issues ect. Not to mention it takes at LEAST 20-30 years and many generations to develop a dog that is consistant in size, appearance and temperment enough to be recognized as a true breed.
I agree completely, but I don't think any of that contradicts what I've said.

I'm not talking about creating a new breed in a year; I'm talking about a concerted effort over several decades to breed a dog that is temperamentally suited specifically to being an assistance dog. Where a successful field or herding dog is bred with the expectation of improving the line, a good service dog's genes die with him, as they are spayed/neutered long before they enter service.

That seems self-defeating to me; if you know that certain traits are necessary to a good service dog, and if you're already trying to improve your odds by starting with specific breeds, then it makes sense to take obvious next step of selecting for behavioral traits within those breeds. Merely reducing the washout rate from 75% to 65% still amounts to a 40% increase in productivity - so instead of buying 40 pups in the hopes of training 10 successful service dogs, you only need to buy 30 (or buy 40 to train 14 dogs). Not every Border Collie is a great herder, but after a hundred years of careful breeding, the odds are now pretty good.

You are, of course, correct about different size requirements, but I don't see that as being a game changer; most service dogs are already GSD's, LR's, or GR's in the 60-80 lb. range; selecting among these breeds just means serving the same population of people who currently rely upon them. Moreover, just because it wouldn't serve everybody at the start doesn't mean it couldn't serve many, or even most. Once a stable population is established (say, after 25 years), I can imagine attempts to breed for smaller versions if the need exists.
 

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The only common trait is the need for sound temperment, that can already be found in the established breeds. However, each type of service dog needs a tendancy toward different behaviors, that alone is why one breed would not be able to cover all the types of service dogs needed. A very keen nose is needed to detect sublte body chemistry changes for a person about to have an epileptic siezure or whose blood sugar is changing rapidly enough to cause a diabetic coma or about to have a phsychotic episode. A seeing eye dog needs different behaviors than a hearing dog ect
 

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I agree that there are too many specific needs for service dogs (hearing dogs, autism support dogs, diabetic alert dogs, guide dogs, assistance dogs, etc.) to have a specific breed that fits all needs. I have seen a papillon as a hearing dog and a doberman as an assistance dog. However, the group that I am most familiar with (Canine Companions for Independence) does have a breeding program. They take dogs that were trained to be service dogs and did exceptionally well and they use them as breeding dogs. CCI's dogs are all labs, goldens, or mixes of those 2 breeds.

I am fascinated by service dogs of all kinds. I recently started to learn more about them and all they are capable of and it is amazing. From a hearing dog alerting to a person's name being called to a diabetic alert dog alerting to a drop in blood sugar (not sure how you would train that, must be an innate thing that some dogs have) and everything in between. I am actually looking into training service dogs as a career. I can't imagine a more fulfilling job!
 
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