The term "service dog" applies to any dog that assists someone with a disability. While guide dogs for the blind are among the most common types of service dogs, other types include dogs that assist the hearing impaired, provide balance for the mobility-impaired, pull wheelchairs or fetch items for those that cannot retrieve the items themselves. Popular breeds include Labradors and golden retrievers and German shepherds. Many service dogs are also rescued because a service dog's main requirements--besides training--are good conformation, good character and good health. Size is also a factor, depending on the work. Chihuahuas are increasingly prominent in diabetic and seizure service cases, while bully breeds and mastiffs are popular in heavier service work, according to Service Dog Central.
How to Have a Dog Become a Service Dog
Enroll your dog in a basic obedience training class. Service dogs should meet a number of minimum requirements as outlined by Assistance Dogs International, INC. Basic obedience includes laying down, sitting, staying, walking with a disabled person and coming when called. The dog must comply with the commands 90 percent of the time in both home and public environments.
Enroll your dog in an advanced obedience class or a class with specialized service dog trainers. Because there are so many different disabilities, not all service dogs will need the same training. The dog should be able to--on command--handle three tasks that relieve the disabled person. For example, a service dog for someone in a wheelchair should be able to pick up items from the floor, turn lights on or off, give a store clerk the handler's wallet or open or close a door, according to Service Dog Central.
Have your dog regularly examined by a veterinarian. Your service dog needs all the legal requirements of a regular dog, such as vaccinations and registration. A service dog also needs to be in excellent health due to the dog being regularly involved with the public and because the tasks that are involved can be taxing.