Service Dog Types From Open Range
Open Range Pups as service dogs
Open Range specializes in cross-bred working dogs. Open Range works with proven work dogs whose attributes compliment those of a poodle. Our breeding stock is picked from the best available stock worldwide. Our concentration is on breeding stock with verifiable health genetics that is traceable for more than 4 generations. Much of the reason for choosing show champ style dogs is for their undeniable genetic traits and in addition Open Range searches for breeders who take a great deal of pride in their behavioral qualities as well.
Why doodles? Poodles have many noble qualities, desired behavioral traits and they offer coat characteristics that are nice for the majority of homes. When cross bred with other working dog breeds, Open Range doodles offer many amazing traits, that include:
- Intelligence: the working intellect of our dogs, combined with their naturalistic working genetic backgrounds, makes for highly intelligent dogs that are eager to please (a desired working dog trait).
- Health: cross bred dogs exhibit traits and vigor that benefit life-long health and wellness attributes. Open Range compounds these natural crossing characteristics with the fact that our foundation stock is way above par even for their respective breed standards. To sum up we expect our dogs to have longer than purebred puppy lives with fewer complications and veterinary maintenance.
- Daily Life: when crossed with a poodle all of our working dog breeds inherit the qualities of a low shedding and low dander fur. This trait makes everyday life cleaner and provides allergy relief to those affected by dog dander.
Which Breeds Are Best For Service Dogs?
That is a loaded question. It seems every training company (especially those with in-house breeding programs) has their "perfect service dog" breed. Funny enough, some of Open Ranges favorite non-profit Service Dog Training companies in the US train rescues exclusively. These companies prove time and time again that it is not the breed that makes the dog.
It is in fact (in our humble opinion) a combination of 3 things that makes for a great service dog:
- Naturally (genetically) inherited or breed traits.
- Organic disposition of each individual puppy. As a breeder we can honestly and objectively state that every puppy is different even when from the same litter.
- The quality of skill that the handler possesses to shape these qualities into the desired outcome.
Which Breeds Have The Genetic Disposition For Service?
Some will say that even with "proven" breeds that very few (some say 1 in 1000) dogs have the essence to make a great service dog. Open Range strongly disagrees with that idea. We believe the MOST IMPORTANT STEP TO HAVING THE PERFECT SERVICE DOG IS. . . the age at which you start training.
We would also like to state that most "Service Dogs" are NOT 24/7 working dogs. Most service dogs that are in service in family homes (not in the workforce) are a different grade of service dog. If you are looking for a service dog to provide you hearing, seeing, alzheimer, aspergers, or other sever conditional assistance than you may only find that 1 in 1000 dogs can truly work for you. Most conditions do not require this level of 24/7 service. Most condition types rely on the service of their dog to: pick up keys, switch on lights, open doors, remind you about pill schedules, etc. Open Range has seen first hand that a much larger majority of dogs fit these requirements of intelligence, stability and reliability. With our in-house breeding program we will hold back the top 5 candidates (or about 50%) of each litter based specifically on their traits that qualify them as service dogs.
So, with that being stated, lets look at some different breeds and why their breed characteristics naturally make for better Service Dogs.
This is a highly subjective way of looking at potential characteristics of breeds; but it is a good place to start.
Group 1: High reactivity, low trainability, aggressiveness:
Lhasa Apso, Pomeranian, Maltese, Cocker Spaniel, Boston Terrier, Pekinese, Beagle, Yorkshire Terrier, Weimaraner, Pug, Irish Setter
Group 2: Low trainability:
English Bulldog, Old English Sheepdog, Elkhound, Bloodhound, Basset Hound.
Group 3: Low trainability, high aggressiveness:
Samoyed/Malamute/Husky, Sain’t Bernard, Afghan, Boxer, Dalmatian, Great Dane, Chow Chow.
Group 4: High reactivity, aggressiveness:
Shetland Sheepdog, Shi Tzu, Poodle (miniature, toy, and standard), Bichon Frise, Springer Spaniel, Corgi.
Group 5: Low reactivity, high trainability, low aggressiveness:
Retriever (Labrador, Golden), Newfoundland, Collie.
Others in this cluster (but usually too high-energy): German Shorthaired Pointer, Vizla, Brittany Spaniel, Keeshond, Australian Sheepdog.
Group 6: Very high aggressiveness:
German Shepherd, Akita, Doberman, Rottweiler. Note that we sometimes use some of these breeds if we are working with an adult.
Group 7: High reactivity, very high aggressiveness:
Terriers (including Cairn, Highland, Fox, Scottish, Silky, Airedale, and most likely American Pit Bull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier), Schnauzers, Chihuahua, Dachshund.
How Does Open Range Choose Its Pups For Service Dogs?
We consider all of these characteristics and quite honestly, once again, these traits very greatly from litter-to-litter, breeder-to-breeder and there is no definitive way to say - "YES, THESE DOGS ARE THE BEST SERVICE DOGS". Golden Retrievers are one of the better purebred breeds, however, purebred Goldens have high rates of medical complications and much shorter life spans (don't believe us, do some research and you will find that the breed is plagued by common medical complications). We are not big fans of labs because MOST have high energy that is difficult for most homes and handlers to handle. This is mostly to do with the breeders and not just the breed, the breed is common due to price and availability.
As the list of acceptable and un-acceptable traits shown above states there are many "maybe" breeds. The Old English Sheepdog (low trainability) falls in this in-between space and yet they are one of our favorite. Why? Because of their natural calm demeanor and their desire to be with their human. We see worldwide that OES are trained as champion herding (extremely intelligent) and even water diving dogs. However, we would agree that most pure-bred OES from MOST non-competative US and European breeders are truly dull. We say this with the utmost affection as some of our purebred OES are quite dull. Can they be trained? Yes, of course they can. Is it more difficult? Yes it is. Would they make good service dogs for un-experienced handlers? No, they would not.
Just like purebred breeders cross male and female who have complimenting attributes, Open Range crosses breeds to accomplish the same. By themselves poodles can be high strung and difficult to manage, but when combined with purebred OES we have complimenting traits and characteristics.
- Docile OES offsets high-strung Poodles
- Intelligent Poodles offsets the not-so intelligent OES
- Both have non-shedding, low-dander coats
This concept is why it is more than possible to find and place mix-breed pound pups in Service Dog environments. The most important thing to consider when placing a rescue is there developed behaviors (aggressiveness, fear, lack of training, etc.).
Advantages and Disadvantages Of Purebred Service Dogs
One advantage of mixed-breed dogs is that they’re less likely to have inherited diseases. A recent study of mixed breeds vs. purebreds looked at 24 different genetic disorders. For 13 of the genetic disorders, no difference was found between mixed breeds and purebreds, but purebred dogs were found to be more likely to have 10 of the genetic disorders. Unfortunately, the study focused on the number of diseases rather than the prevalence of each disease, so it's hard to draw firm conclusions, but in general, it does seem like mixed-breed dogs tend to be healthier. In other words, there are some inherited diseases that are just as common in mixed-breed as purebred dogs, but unfortunately, there are many inherited diseases that are much more common in purebred dogs.
A disadvantage of mixed-breed dogs is that we have less information upfront about possible temperament issues, such as aggression. So just as with a purebred dog, any time we consider training a mixed-breed dog, we rely on the temperament test results and the evaluation period to determine whether or not that specific dog is a good candidate for Service Dog work. I once asked the Head Trainer of the biggest Hearing Dogs nonprofit in California if he had some easier way of finding good candidate dogs (even with all our experience, we find it quite difficult). He said that their organization has just as much difficulty as we do, and it's part of the reason why Service Dogs are so rare.
Overcoming Service Dog Breed Obstacles
Like Open Range, many Service Dog Breeders specialize in temperament. Open Range goes above and beyond by testing for known and common genetic disorders in the lineage of each breeding pair. As stated above, mix-breed dogs seem to benefit from fewer genetic complications, Open Range goes the distance in our due diligence to get purebred parents with NO genetic traits that lead to common (and un-common) complications.
Did This Help You Make A Decision?
Hopefully it helps you understand the complexity of choosing a Service Dog but it probably doesn't simplify the process. Here are our key takeaways when search for your perfect service dog:
- Age: we recommend new puppy of 8 weeks if you plan on training yourself
- Size: variable to your needs
- General Temperament: more often than not, should be calm. Sometimes people with public fear, anxiety, or certain PTSD conditions may want a dog that displays confidence in public that is more assertive than some Service Dogs (this is a complex behavior and should be discussed with a professional).
- Aggressiveness: the pup or dog should not show no natural signs of aggression.
- Fear: the pup or dog should not show signs of abuse or fear.
- Energy: for most people the dog should have low energy levels. People with more active lifestyles may want a pup who can keep up.
- Trainability: this attribute is highly subjective and we would say that trainability is simply "intelligence". More important than trainability is your (the "handlers") ability to shape or train their pup. Intelligence is a double edged sword and you should be careful when desiring a super smart dog. Problems with smart dogs: boredom, escaping, breaking in, breaking out, etc. It is best to have a good balance of behavioral traits.
- Last but not least - YOU!!! If you are willing to become an accomplished handler than you can shape a pup in many directions. You can shape out fear, calm a hyper dog, train a slow dog, and much more. You are as dynamic as your dog and you should find a dog that provides you (and your home) balance.