Many people with disabilities and disabling illnesses rely on mobility service dogs to perform many of their everyday tasks. Because of the nature of the work these dogs are expected to do, it is essential to find the right one to train and rely on.
Among the best dog breeds to use as mobility service dogs are:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Standard Poodles
What Is A Mobility Service Dog?
The most basic task of a mobility service dog is to help a person with a disability to stand, remain upright, keep their balance, or walk. However, most service dogs are trained to do much more depending on the needs of their humans.
For example, these dogs can be taught to:
- Retrieve items that are difficult to reach
- Remove obstacles out of a path
- Assist with dressing up or undressing
- Switching lights on and off or pressing elevator buttons
- Opening and closing drawers or doors
- Bark to attract attention and get help when needed
- Retrieving a phone in case of emergency
What Factors Make A Good Mobility Service Dog?
To assist with mobility, dogs need to have desirable physical and temperamental traits. They also should be generally easy to care for so as not to cause unnecessary burdens to the people they care for.
Here are some of the most important factors that will determine whether a certain breed or individual dog would make a good mobility service dog:
Size & Build
Because of the work they’re expected to do, mobility service dogs must be tall enough to become an effective brace. They must also be muscular, strong, and stable enough to support the weight of the person they are assisting.
The amount of training involved in becoming a mobility service dog means they typically start officially working when they’re older. But apart from age, these dogs need to be mature enough to have a good work ethic and be resilient to all sorts of distractions.
All assistance dogs must be even-tempered. They must have an abundance of energy but also have a calm demeanor.
Additionally, they must be eager to please and offer their services. Because of the nature of their work, they must be comfortable with being around or touched by strangers but have enough discipline to continue focusing on the needs of their humans.
People rely heavily on their service dogs and develop a deep emotional connection with them.
Given that the first two years of their lives are already spent on training, they need to have a long-life expectancy so that they can serve their humans for longer.
Mobility service dogs should not cause an additional burden to their humans. They should be easy to maintain and require no extraordinary attention to keep healthy.
Ideally, they would need a visit to the groomers no more than once a month, unless the human partner is able to provide the dog care essentials of bathing, brushing, oral care, ear care, and nail clipping.
General Health & Well-Being
Dogs must be physically and mentally healthy in order to provide excellent and uninterrupted service. The massive investment of both time and money will all be wasted on a dog that isn’t in optimal health.
Additionally, they might cause more burdens on the human in need rather than providing a life-changing service.
What Factors Do Not Make A Good Mobility Service Dog?
Even dogs that don’t have perfect traits can still assist with mobility. However, certain traits would definitely make a dog unsuited for this type of work. This includes:
Mobility service dogs need to be the perfect size and height for the person they will be assisting.
This is especially true if the individual requires help with balance and being able to stand upright. Otherwise, the partnership could lead to injury to both the dog and the human.
Balance Or Structural Issues
Large dogs are more prone to joint conditions like hip and elbow dysplasia.
It is crucial to check a dog’s breeding stock to minimize the risk of these conditions, which will have a massive effect on the safety and quality of assistance they’ll be able to provide. Dogs with balance issues should also be avoided.
Any problems with temperament can make a terrible service dog. Some dogs might be too timid while others will be too aggressive for this type of work.
It is also essential that mobility service dogs are not reactive to other dogs and humans, and are not overprotective of their human partners.
Additionally, while keenness to work is a good trait, excessive drive can spell trouble.
Some breeds are aloof and stubborn. These are dogs that have no desire to serve or interact with their humans. In this case, it would be difficult to rely on them for everyday activities.
They wouldn’t be trained very effectively and would not have the level of obedience required from a service dog.
Vision Or Hearing Problems
Although vision and hearing problems can occur in any dog, some breeds are more prone to such conditions.
It is essential to avoid dogs with these issues even if they are in good health and well-being otherwise. These are senses that will be critical to the service they provide.
Why Would Someone Need A Mobility Service Dog?
Mobility service dogs assist people who cannot or have difficulty performing day-to-day activities due to a physically disabling impairment, illness, or disorder. Some of the most common examples include amputation and spinal cord injury.
Individuals who suffer from diseases like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spina bifida also benefit greatly from mobility service dogs. So do people with muscular dystrophy, impaired balance, and vertigo.
What Type Of Training Does A Mobility Service Dog Need?
Mobility service dogs are handpicked as puppies. They are chosen for their temperament and are raised specifically to become assistance dogs.
The first 12 to 18 months of their lives are spent with a puppy educator who is tasked to ensure they grow up well-behaved and properly socialized. Most of the training that takes place during this time is focused on mastering basic obedience cues.
Service dogs don’t need to be trained by professional assistance dog trainers.
However, there are many certified trainers and organizations that specialize in this type of training, which typically takes an additional 6 months. Relying on their services ensures proper and well-rounded training specifically for providing mobility services.
This includes being able to safely offer stability, ignoring distractions, removing obstacles, and retrieving items.
After undergoing mobility assistance training, dogs will need to be trained to offer services specific to the needs of the person they are matched to. Only when they are guaranteed to safely and accurately provide the service they’re meant to can they be turned over as a mobility service dog.
Are There Any Special Certifications Needed?
Service dog certifications are provided by specialized trainers and several other organizations. However, the American Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require any certification for a dog to be considered a service animal.
Relevant legislation may be different in other countries but, generally, mobility assistance animals are expected to work and perform tasks for their handler whether or not they is certified to do so.
5 Best Mobility Service Dog Breeds
These breeds are the most commonly used as mobility dogs not only because of their size but also their general demeanor and trainability:
1) Labrador Retriever
The Labrador isn’t only America’s favorite breed but also an excellent choice for assistance dogs. This is because they are quite large and stocky, and they are wonderfully even-tempered.
They are affectionate with their humans and do well with young kids and other animals. These dogs are also energetic and highly trainable.
2) Golden Retriever
Like the Labrador, the Golden Retriever is another popular companion breed. They are well-built and energetic, making them a good choice for mobility assistance.
They are also intelligent and eager to please so they can be trained for even the most specialized work. Additionally, they are quite sociable with strangers, other dogs, and kids.
3) German Shepherd
German Shepherds are best known for their remarkable work drive. These dogs have the strength and are built to provide mobility assistance.
Their intelligence, eagerness to please, and confidence also contribute to the quality of service they provide as service dogs.
German Shepherds are also known to be protective of their humans but also open to the presence of others when properly socialized.
4) Standard Poodle
The Standard Poodle is known to be the most intelligent among large dogs. So, not only do they have the size and strength to assist adult human beings but also the mental capacity to learn what they need to do to be most useful.
Furthermore, these dogs are protective yet playful and able to socialize with strangers.
The Newfoundland might seem too large and cumbersome to have around, but they’re perfect for taller or heavier humans who need mobility assistance.
Apart from their size and strength, these lovable dogs are incredibly affectionate, patient, and devoted to their human partners. They also make good guard dogs but are never too aggressive to be around children and small animals.
Service dogs can tremendously improve the quality of life of the disabled and people with disabling illnesses. Although any breed can generally be service dogs, only several have the perfect combination of physical attributes and temperament to excel as mobility dogs.
If you’re not convinced that the service dog for you is on this list, you may also want to check this list of large dogs with long lifespans.