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Service Dog Selection – Buyer Beware

German Shepherd Service DogService Dog – Is the Breeder Being Honest?

I am about to get a German Shepherd pup. She was born in August and raised in outside kennel. We want to get this as right as possible from start.  There are 2 pups from prior litter that work with hospital patients and I would like to raise this girl with close to service dog skills. She may be able to assist the child of a friend with an autistic teenager. If I can do this right I’m hoping she might qualify for the formal training.


Hi Josephine,

Love your goals. What I’m not so sure I love is the place you’re getting this dog. This dog is already at least 10 weeks old and if all or the majority of its life experience has been in an outside kennel and the breeder hasn’t told you that a lot of dogs that leave this late from this sort of environment end up with some real coping issues later in life I think you’re dealing with a breeder that is too ignorant to breed and/or unscrupulous. I wouldn’t favour this dog as a family pet let alone a service dog candidate.

I have never met a German Shepherd breeder that didn’t claim pretty quickly into our conversation that their dogs were used as service dogs or that one police department or another bought from them. I’m not kidding, never met one. If a fraction of the breeders were actually telling the truth the service dog world would be inundated with German Shepherds and obviously its not. The stability in their breeding fell apart years ago and you have to really dig to find a good one. Another contributing factor is they take a year longer to mature in ways that impact filling that niche of the working dog world.

Either way, a dog intended for service work is raised from birth a certain way.  People in the business of making sure they are producing reliable dogs have a socialization schedule that normally starts with early neurological stimulation exercises that makes them physically and mentally stronger in a variety of ways later in life. The breeder also creates an incredibly environment. The pups see, hear, smell and touch new things all the time. Getting to and eating their dinner sometimes will be via wobbly different textured surfaces. They’ll have had many car rides. They will have been handled by people with the characteristics they will be providing service to later in life. That’s just a bit and all before they go up for sale. When they get to you, you’ll get a long list of must-dos to increase the chances that the dog will be well suited to a service role.

I really hate telling this to people with service dog aspirations that have their heart set on a specific dog. It’s one of the reasons I’m so down on the breeding world. Ignorant breeders hurt dogs and sooner or later hurt people. All of the things I’ve mentioned and more should be done by every breeder whether the dogs are intended for work or companionship. It’s not that you can’t still end up with a great dog but it sure increases the chances.

I’ll put together a socialization to do list for anyone thinking of getting a pup in the future and add it to my next newsletter along with some more information about the early neurological stimulation exercises benefits because it’s really neat. Go to my website and sign on for the newsletter if you want a copy.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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1 thought on “Service Dog Selection – Buyer Beware”

  1. Arija Dinbiers

    Enjoy your column and find it very informative. I am looking forward to receiving your newsletter.

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