Can My Golden Retriever Be A Service Dog?

Pet Care


June 4, 2020

For those with disabilities, a service dog can often prove invaluable. These dogs can assist individuals with a wide variety of physical and psychiatric conditions, and they are filling more and more roles every year. But if you are looking for a service dog, you are likely facing several tough questions. What breeds can be service dogs? Which breed is right for me? If I already have a dog, can they be my service dog?

These questions can be challenging to answer, especially if you are unfamiliar with the restrictions and requirements of service animals. After all, when it comes to choosing a service dog, there are a lot of options. A wide variety of dog breeds can be service dogs. In fact, there is no specific restriction on any particular breed, so any dog could theoretically be trained to be a service dog. However, some breeds are better suited for certain types of service work, some personality types mesh better with different owners, and purebreds are traditionally preferred to mixed breeds. 

Is a Golden Retriever a Good Choice for a Service Dog?

You might already have a preference for a particular breed, and in that case, the questions may change. The Golden retriever is a popular choice for service animals, and for a good reason. They’re loyal, intelligent, friendly animals, which makes them both ideal companions and ideal service dogs. If you are interested in a Golden retriever or already have a purebred Golden that you would like to train, then the most important questions you can ask yourself are: 

  • What is a service dog, and do I qualify for one?
  • What are the requirements a dog must meet to be a service dog?
  • What service will the dog be providing?
  • Does the dog have the right personality type?
  • Can I train my own dog to be a service dog? 

Each of these questions has a complicated answer, one that often depends on the personal needs and preferences of the individual. However, there are some important standards that you should become familiar with, which will be detailed in the following sections. If you’re interested in getting a service dog, and a Golden retriever in particular, then read on for more information on what makes a Golden retriever an excellent service animal for just about anyone. 

What Is a Service Dog and Do I Qualify for One?

With the rise of therapy animals and “emotional support animals” in recent years, the idea of what exactly is a service dog has become muddled. Service dogs are defined as “dogs that are individually trained to perform work or tasks for people with disabilities.” This means that, in order to have a service dog, an individual must have a disability that a service dog can assist with in some way.

The ADA specifically states that dogs whose only function is to provide emotional comfort or support are not service animals. This is a very important distinction: if you’re looking for emotional support, then you do not need a service dog, and the rest of this article will not apply to you. 

What are the Requirements a Dog Must Meet to be a Service Dog?

Once you’ve determined that you do indeed qualify for and want a service animal, the next step is to get familiar with the requirements a dog must meet to be considered a qualified service dog. While the ADA doesn’t provide a specific list of requirements that a dog must meet to qualify as a service dog, there are some general standards they must follow to be considered ready to accompany their owner in public. These criteria include: 

  • No aggressive or unruly behavior toward people and other animals.
  • No excessive barking.
  • No overexcitement or solicitations for food or affections.
  • Able to tolerate a variety of sounds and other distractions in various public spaces. 

If you believe that your dog is capable of following these standards and you are willing to either train them yourself or find someone to train them, then your Golden retriever may be a suitable fit to be a service dog. 

What Service Will the Dog be Providing?

Certain dog breeds can be more effective at providing different services. For instance, a small dog such as a Papillon would not be effective at pulling a wheelchair or guiding a visually impaired individual but would make an excellent hearing dog. Golden retrievers are a better fit for roles such as guide dogs for visually impaired individuals or mobility assistants for individuals who use wheelchairs or walking devices. They can also assist individuals with a variety of disabilities in everyday tasks such as activating light switches and carrying objects. Depending on your personal needs, a large dog breed such as a Golden retriever may or may not be right for you. 

Does the Dog have the Right Personality Type?

One of the most important factors in choosing the right service dog is personality. Different breeds can have drastically distinct personalities, usually because of the purpose they were originally bred for. Breeds such as Rottweilers, German shepherds, and Great Danes were originally bred for guard work and may require more confident handling. Hounds and terriers, on the other hand, are hunting dogs that are much more independent.

The Golden retriever is a great fit for many individuals because of their friendly, intelligent nature. Goldens are outgoing and trustworthy, making them ideal for public spaces. Additionally, their intelligence and eagerness to please their owners make them relatively simple to train. Overall, the Golden retriever has a personality that makes this breed ideal to be service dogs. 

Can I Train My Own Dog to be a Service Dog?

If you have determined that you would like to train your own Golden retriever to be your service animal rather than finding another dog, you must first be sure that you and your dog are both prepared to train. It’s best to start training a dog at around six months: younger puppies are often too young to retain the good habits they need to be taught, although older dogs can still be suitable. Before beginning training, you should do a temperament test on your dog: if they are too aggressive, fearful, timid, or nervous, they will not be an ideal service animal.

Once you have established that your dog is a good candidate, it is time to begin training. Service training takes approximately one year and can be very challenging for both the dog and its owner. Be aware of this before you decide to start training your dog to be a service animal. If you are still interested in training your own pet to be a service dog, find a good guide online so that you are prepared for what to expect, then connect with an experienced trainer. 

Final Notes

Of all the dog breeds that can be service dogs, the Golden retriever is extremely popular, second only to Labrador retrievers. Goldens, and retrievers in general, are popular because of their friendliness, trainability, and intelligence.

A Golden retriever can be trained to do many physical tasks with relative ease, including grabbing things gently with their teeth, leading their handlers around, or retrieving things for their owners. Golden retrievers also tend to develop powerful bonds with their owners and are eager to do whatever they can to help and to please.

If you are interested in having a Golden retriever for a service dog, or if you wish to train your own, you have made an excellent choice. With the right training, the Golden retriever can be one of the best service dogs for a wide variety of individuals, and it is likely that a Golden retriever could be the right choice for you.