A Guide to German Shepherd Therapy Dogs

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German shepherd as therapy dog


German Shepherd as Therapy Dog: Since ancient times, people have understood that having a pet may reduce anxiety, offer emotional support, and generally make life happier. These days, canines that provide these functions are officially recognized as therapy dogs or emotional support dogs. Dogs may be great companions, whether your goal is to volunteer or take care of your own mental health.


There is a reason these dogs are commonly used for protection work, however. They have powerful territorial instincts and aren’t trusting of other people. Therefore, they do require extensive socialization to be service dogs and may not be the best choice. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)


They aren’t helpful as therapy dogs, though. They aren’t as trusting and affectionate towards strangers as therapy dogs need to be. They tend to be more aloof than anything.


However, not all German Shepherds can be used as therapy dogs. They don’t all have the temperament for this sort of work. Service animals have an exceptional temperament.


No breed produces dogs that will always be suitable service animals. Many service animals fail the course.



German shepherd as therapy dog



What Is a Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is a canine that has had specialized training to use volunteerism to offer humans emotional support, affection, and comfort. Owners can visit senior communities, hospitals, schools, and disaster zones with their therapy dogs.

Therapy dog visits can bring happiness and solace to those in these environments during trying times. Additionally, therapy dogs can assist with particular tasks like encouraging patients to engage in mild physical activity or providing experience reading aloud to youngsters with autism.

It has been demonstrated that therapy dogs assist people achieve their social and linguistic objectives and lower stress levels. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)



Why German Shepherds?

You may have noticed while you read all of the above types of service dogs and working dogs that German Shepherds are a common breed used for these services. This is not a coincidence. German Shepherds were bred for excellence.

In Europe during the 1850s, people were working to standardize dog breeds. Dogs were bred to preserve traits that assisted in their jobs, such as herding sheep, protecting flocks, guarding humans, etc.

In 1889, Capt. Max von Stephanitz took interest in a medium-sized black and yellow dog for its herding tendencies, intelligence, and especially its ability to take direction quickly and efficiently, with minimal training.

Thus, the German Shepherd dog began its growth to one of the most popular breeds around.

The German Shepherd is a medium-sized dog, with a built and lean conformation, with a few distinctive colors: black, black and tan, sable, and a few other variants. They typically weigh between 75 to 95 pounds at full size, and stand between 22 to 26 inches tall.

This breed can reach impressive speeds of 30 mph at maximum speed. The German Shepherd lives between nine and 13 years on average.



Read more: Pros And Cons Of Crate Training


German Shepherd Service Dog Training

If the German Shepherd passes through the temperament test, they will need to pass through the service animal testing as well.

The exact training a service dog will receive depends on what sort of disability they’ll be used for. Often, there is a specific disability in mind when the dog is being trained.

Occasionally, the dogs may be trained for a particular person, who will have specific requirements for their dog. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)



German shepherd as therapy dog



Service dogs can perform many different tasks. For instance, they can be guide dogs for the blind, pull wheelchairs, or alert owners about seizures. People with diabetes use dogs to warn them if their blood sugar drops too low.

Dogs likely also need familiarity with familiar public places. Many of those living in cities need to use public transportation. Shopping centers, elevators, and busy streets are all common areas that the dogs need contact with.



Emotional Support Dog Certification

Your German Shepherd may receive certification as an emotional support dog from a variety of organizations. Two major advantages come with certification: you may live with your dog in pet-free accommodation and you can bring your dog on commercial flights without incurring additional costs.

You must have a letter from your doctor granting you permission to own an emotional support dog in order to be granted these privileges. For emotional support animals, there is no formal certification or registration procedure. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)


Read more: What Is a Therapy Dog?


Types of Service Dogs 

Service dog: A service dog is the most common type and is the broadest category. A service animal can help with many things, so this category is dogs that provide support to someone who needs some form of physical assistance.


Guide dogs: These dogs are also known as seeing-eye-dogs and help guide the blind to navigate the world. A guide dog will help their handler avoid obstacles, ensure they step over curbs and holes, help them cross roads and open doors, etc. They undergo vigorous training and can accomplish dozens of tasks.

Morris Frank founded the first Seeing Eye guide dog school, which offered guide dogs for the visually impaired and helped boost service dogs’ popularity and the development of the guide dog. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)


Hearing dogs: These talented pups assist their deaf handlers as they navigate the world. Mainly, they are trained to help their owners with ensuring they receive vital cues of sounds they cannot hear themselves.

These cues include smoke or fire alarms, doorbells, door knocking, phones, alarm clocks, and even the person’s name. They will guide their owner to the sound or to safety, depending on the condition of the situation.


Medical alert dogs: These service dogs help owners suffering from seizures or epilepsy prepare for an upcoming one and keep them safe during it. Another type of service dog under this category is a diabetic assistance dog, who helps alert their owner when their blood sugar is low. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)


Mobility assistance dogs: A mobility assistance dog is a type of service dog that helps humans with spinal injuries, leg injuries, or any injury that makes walking, standing, or balancing difficult. These are typically larger breed dogs since they provide balanced support for their handler. They help them stay standing, open doors, retrieve items, etc.



German shepherd as therapy dog


Read more: Would a German Shepherd be a good therapy dog for my depression?


German Shepherd as Therapy Dog


German Shepherds as Service Dogs

Physically, German Shepherds are extremely impressive. Their size gives them great strength and speed, but it’s not that that makes them outstanding dogs. What really sets them apart is their amazing temperament and incredible obedience. Their breed characteristics include a strong desire to please, an excellent work ethic, and extreme loyalty.


They’re extremely courageous and their versatility is truly impressive. Their temperament is calm enough to be a family dog, but also a trained work dog. They make great service dogs and guide dogs for this exact reason. German Shepherd service dogs are great due to their size.


They’re large enough to help with mobility issues and provide a solid support system. They are also extremely intelligent learn tasks easily and are willing to work at any moment.


They’re a service dog trainer dream! Service dogs must be smart, devoted, and hard-working, which GSDs certainly are.(German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)


The German Shepherds’ extreme trainability is what sets them apart from the rest. German Shepherd service dogs are great service dogs and psychological service dogs. They even make amazing therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, search and rescue dogs, and more.


As dogs, German Shepherds are one of the best out there. They’re essentially Labrador Retrievers with more strength and loyalty. Even as puppies, they form very strong bonds with a person and excel in both owner training and program training.



What’s the Difference Between Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs?

There is a significant difference between therapy dogs and service dogs.


Service dogs are trained to perform a particular task for a particular person. They are required for their owner’s well-being. They have access to public places, as their owners require them.


However, therapy dogs are very different. They are not designed to perform a particular task for a particular person. Instead, they provide affection for people in hospitals, retirement homes, schools, and similar areas. They’re stress relief – pure and simple.


Some therapy dogs are utilized by libraries for reading, for instance.

They don’t have access to public spaces, though. Therapy dogs need permission before they are allowed into any public space, whereas service dogs do not. Typically, therapy dogs have to be “working” in order to be let in places where animals are otherwise not allowed.


They can’t just go to a school because they want to, for example. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)

Therapy dogs are not required to access any public space. They aren’t allowed in places where other dogs aren’t allowed. They don’t have any special privileges, whereas service dogs do.



Are German Shepherds Good Therapy Dogs?

German Shepherds, while highly skilled at so many roles, are not ideal therapy dogs. German Shepherds are not as friendly as some other breeds. They are often quite aloof towards strangers and probably aren’t very affectionate towards random people in hospitals.


Therefore, we don’t recommend German Shepherds ever be used for therapy work. It isn’t that they can’t do it. They aren’t as suitable for the job as other breeds.



Are German Shepherd Dogs Good for Work with Disabled People?

German Shepherds are larger breeds, so they often work well for those who have mobility problems. They can help pull wheelchairs and provide extra support for people walking down steps. However, other breeds can perform these tasks – often better. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)


German Shepherds aren’t best for working out in public since they aren’t entirely accepting of strangers.


Some German Shepherds are great service dogs – it just depends on their temperament. Temperament testing is essential to determine if these dogs will ever pass their training. 



German Shepherd Service Dogs for PTSD

They can, however maybe not to the same extent as other dogs. They still need a lot of instruction and socializing. Even while these dogs are more frequently used in law enforcement and the military, that doesn’t always imply they are good PTSD dogs.


When these dogs get violent, their owners may be alarmed as these dogs may be quite protective. Compared to other dogs, German Shepherds are not as prone to do this. Once more, a lot relies on the disposition.


We advise choosing a different breed if you’re searching for a dog with PTSD. They could work if you already own a German Shepherd. But usually, you have to get a dog that has already received PTSD training.


Most of the time, dogs that have been pets don’t pass the temperament tests required to become service dogs.



What Breeds Make Good Service Dogs?

Several breeds are typically better service animals than German Shepherds. For instance, Labrador Retrievers are standard options. They are suitable for all sorts of service work. For instance, they are commonly used as seeing-eye dogs.


They are friendly and very devoted to their people. Therefore, they are much better than German Shepherds when strangers are involved. You can socialize with a German Shepherd to a point, but you’ll never get them at the same level as a Labrador Retriever. (German Shepherd as Therapy Dog)



German Shepherds can occasionally make good service and therapy dogs. However, they are prone to failing the temperament test – even when socialized from a young age. They have higher territorial instincts than other dogs, which can make them untrusting of strangers.


When you plan on having a dog work in public, it usually isn’t recommended to choose a potentially territorial breed. Friendly breeds like Labrador retrievers are often much better options. They are often better therapy dogs for this reason.


Poodles, Golden Retrievers, Pomeranians, and Greyhounds are often better animals for service and therapy pets.


In many cases, you cannot train a dog for service work if you have already adopted them. Service animal organizations often have suppliers for their puppies that they trust. Pet dogs often don’t pass the temperament test – especially if they are German Shepherds.




Why do German Shepherds make such great service dogs?

German Shepherds are loyal, intelligent, work-minded, a good size, and extremely athletic. They are also extremely friendly.


How do I get a psychiatric service dog?

First, you must consult with a mental health professional to see if you qualify. If you are diagnosed with a mental disability, you will begin your search for a dog and begin training


What are German Shepherds commonly used for?

This breed is very versatile! They are beloved pets, police dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, military dogs, working dogs, herding dogs, and much, much more.


What is the difference between a therapy dog and an emotional support animal (ESA)?


Therapy dogs and ESAs are different in terms of their legal status, training, and public access rights:


Therapy dogs: Must be certified by a recognized therapy dog organization and accompanied by a handler during visits. They are allowed in specific settings like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to provide comfort and support to people.


ESAs: Do not require formal training or certification. They are not granted the same public access rights as service dogs but may be allowed in housing with pet restrictions. ESAs provide emotional support to their owners but are not trained to perform specific tasks.


How are therapy dogs trained?

Therapy dogs undergo specialized training that teaches them specific skills and behaviors appropriate for therapeutic settings. This training typically involves:


Obedience training: Commands like sit, stay, come, and heel.

Socialization: Exposure to different people, animals, and environments.

Therapy-specific skills: Depending on their role, they may learn tasks like providing deep pressure therapy, retrieving dropped objects, or offering comfort during anxiety attacks.


What are the benefits of therapy dogs?

Therapy dogs can provide a variety of benefits to people in different situations, including:


  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving mood and well-being
  • Providing companionship and social interaction
  • Motivating physical activity and engagement


What qualities make a good therapy dog?

While breed can play a role, any dog with the following qualities can be a good therapy dog:


  • Friendly and outgoing personality
  • Gentle and calm temperament
  • Good manners and obedience
  • Ability to stay calm in various environments
  • Patience and tolerance



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