How Can You Train Your German Shepherd As A Service Dog

Where did you see your first German Shepherd Dog? Was it Rin Tin Tin at the movies? Or have you seen a working German Shepherd at the airport? I remember the response a German Shepherd made on me as he checked for bombs at the shuttle entrance of a big music festival.

But you might better remember when the German Shepherd was typical of a guide dog. German Shepherds are one of the most recognizable breeds around the world. Part of their fame stems from their longstanding presence on the police force.

However, the GSD has also proven his value as a service dog. German Shepherd service dogs remain in high demand despite the rise of the Golden Retriever in leading the blind.

The GSD’s history, physical composition, and personality make her ideal in many situations with emotionally or physically impaired people. Mobility assistance requires large dogs with sufficient strength to help adults. Medical issues require dogs with acute senses which are not afraid to act on their instincts.

Table of Contents

What Is A Service Dog?

A service dog has been specially trained to assist a self with a disability. A service dog is not just a pet that can be taken into public places; it is a legitimate working dog that does specific tasks for its disabled handler to help mitigate their disability.

While many service dogs tend to be medium- to large-sized breeds particularly Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds, a service dog can be any breed or mixed breed, any size, and either gender.

What Breeds Make Excellent Service Dogs?

What Breeds Make Excellent Service Dogs?

Many breeds can make wonderful service dogs. The following breeds are in no particular order, but Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dog and the most widely used service dog in the US.

  • Retrievers  namely, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers
  • German Shepherd
  • Pomeranian  psychiatric and emotional support
  • Standard Poodle
  • Border Collie
  • Great Dane  Along with the Mastiff, one of the newer breeds considered for therapy and other service tasks.
  • Boxer
  • Bernese Mountain Dog

Which Traits Make German Shepherds Suitable As Service Dogs?


Not every service dog needs to be large and robust, but a substantial physical ability is vital for mobility assistance animals. According to research, a German Shepherd should weigh at least 55 pounds to provide mobility support for a person up to 130 pounds in weight.

Since these dogs must sometimes retrieve objects from out-of-reach surfaces, a German Shepherd’s height is also advantageous. For the blind and other physically challenged people, a feeling of vulnerability may be a disruptive factor in their lives. Larger dogs provide reassurance. They also can lend balance and stability for any difficulty walking.

Moreover, if a dog needs to move you out of the way of danger, her size will be invaluable. German Shepherds are medium-large, usually weighing between 60 and 100 pounds. They are 22 to 26 inches tall at the shoulders.


Size is not vital for emotional support animals, but temperament is always of paramount importance for any service work. In the days of Eustis’ intensive training and selection process, she selected dogs for courage, intelligence, and loyalty, per her article distributed in the Saturday Evening Post. Agreement with the new owner was and still is of the highest consideration.

At the same time show, dog breeders were selecting for conformation over temperament and health; service dog breeders were choosing for disposition over physical traits.

Service dogs continue to undergo strict temperament screenings, and many German Shepherds do not cut because of their strong guarding tendencies.

How to Interact With a Service Dog?

How to Interact With a Service Dog?

People mustn’t distract a service dog from its duties. It is equally important that parents teach their children that a service dog is a working dog that should not be pet or disturbed. The service dog is always working, even if he is lying there next to the handler.

Petting him, talking to him, allowing your dog to “socialize” with him, or distracting him in any way will take his consideration away from his handler. For a dog that is an alert dog, such as for epilepsy or low blood sugar, this temporary disturbance can be enough to make him miss an alert, and this can result in the harm and hospitalization of their handler.

When You See A Service Dog?

  • Do not pet the dog.
  • Never approach the dog with the intent of interacting with it.
  • Don’t attempt to draw the dog’s attention by making kissy noises, baby talk, or other “Here doggie!” noises.
  • Do not let your children approach pet or hug the dog.
  • Do not toss a toy or treat toward the dog in an attempt to engage it or ‘test its willpower.
  • If you have a dog with you, do not let your dog interact with the service dog.

How to Trained Service Dogs?

Service dogs can be trained by their handler, by a program or private trainer, or be obtained already trained from an application or private trainer. The dog must demonstrate the right genetic temperament for the work, and also must be socialized and prepared carefully.

It takes approximately two years to train a service animal, and training must be customized to the handler’s needs for their particular disability. The dog will need to have excellent obedience, ethical behavior in public settings, and mastery of the specific tasks that mitigate the handler’s disability.

We offer service dog training here at German Shepherd Watchdogs; please contact us if you are interested in training your dog for service work.

What Can Service German Shepherds Do?

Medical Alerts

You have heard of dogs saving their owner’s lives reacting off a signal about the person’s health. Trainers have realized they can take the support of the German Shepherd’s exceptional sense of smell and train her to alert her owner to changes in diabetic status. She can also recommend her owner of impending epileptic seizures. Shepherds can learn to remind you to take your medication.

Hearing Impaired

You might rely on a service dog to let you know when critical audible signals were occurring. German Shepherds can alert their handlers, according to the AKC, to common but important sounds like smoke alarms or oven timers or even the doorbell. Your dog would not bark but would physically get your attention or wake you up and lead you to the source of the alert.

Specific Disability-Related Assistance

Certain Shepherds and other service dogs have a fantastic capacity to learn how to help people perform day-to-day tasks they might ordinarily need another human to do.

  • Pull wheelchairs
  • Help you dress
  • Operate buttons and switches such as on lights or remotes
  • Operate entrance doors as well as drawers and cabinets
  • Call 911
  • They can locate help like Lassie
  • Apply pressure therapy as for anxiety or panic attacks
  • Interrupt nightmares and flashbacks

How Much Time do You Need to Train A Service Dog?

German Shepherds learn faster than many other breeds, especially the more untraditional service dogs coming onto the scene like Mastiffs and Great Danes. Nevertheless, depending on the complexity of their tasks, training a good service dog may take as long as two years.

What About Service Roles in Different Countries?

As mentioned above, most countries outside the United States examine dogs working in the police and military to be service animals.

German Shepherd Role in Police Investigation

The GSD perhaps has his highest calling in police work. Cited as not mindlessly brave enough to outperform a Malinois in the military or bubbly sufficient to be as popular a special representative as the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherds have endured as the face of police dogs.

Many Alsatian traits ideal for police detail are those same qualities that made people think of them as service animals in the first place. Max von Stephanitz, with his grand vision for the breed, sold the Shepherd to the German police around 1910.

He touted the same features he had developed. By the 1930s, German Shepherd police dogs were widespread in Europe. Police dogs became part of US law enforcement culture beginning in the 1970s, although Bloodhounds had been used decades earlier for tracking escapees during slavery.

As of the 2020s, working line German Shepherds, along with the Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd, are the most in-demand dogs for police work.

Does the German Shepherd Beneficial For the Military?

German Shepherds remain prominent in the military despite recent preference changes of many German And US armed forces to the Belgian Malinois, a nearly-related cousin. When the US army narrowed down the list of dogs worthy to serve in the military in 1944 to seven breeds, German Shepherds decapitated it.

Recognized as having the ideal mix of characteristics required for a military dog, German Shepherds still cut in modern times.

  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retriever – specialist
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Dutch Shepherd
  • Yorkshire Terrier – specialist
  • Doberman Pinscher – Marines
  • Airedale
  • Rottweiler
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Siberian Husky

Dogs like the Labrador Retriever are recognized for their exceptional odor-sniffing capabilities. Yorkshire Terriers find use in search and rescue operations that require fitting into tiny spaces.

Toy Pets and Shiba Inus fulfill similar roles in Japan. Huskies and Malamutes track over snow and ice. German Shepherds can work in warzones as armed combatants, scouts, trackers, or messengers.

In ancient times they moved injured soldiers to safety. Otherwise, they often work with the United Secret Service organization detail or drug or explosive detection.

What Are The Works of Service Dogs?

What Are The Works of Service Dogs?

Hearing Dog

This is not a German Shepherd, but it shows you what a dog can potentially do for a deaf or hard of hearing person. The dog learns to become both visually obvious and to use more physical contact than an untrained pet would.

Mobility Assistance Dogs

German Shepherds are particularly adept with mobility assistance as they are healthy and have the appropriate size to get in and out of tight situations. This is a GSD mix, most likely, slightly smaller than an average German Shepherd.

Police Investigation Work

Skills also useful in the military in pursuit and combat, the German Shepherds exhibit speed, athleticism, obedience, and courage.

Search and Rescue

This dog is illustrating a combination of air scent utilization and ground tracking to locate someone on a practice run. He is on a loose leash, but many dogs perform their duties off the lead.

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