The Noble Life of German Shepherd Service Dogs

German Shepherds have always been synonymous to police and military dogs. But in fact, GSDs are also very popular as service dogs. Their attitude of going to great lengths to please their owners and as a task-oriented dog breed made them a popular choice to be a service dog. As a clever dog breed while having a medium to large-sized built, it is very easy for them to give their support and assistance to human beings, especially to the physically incapacitated, mentally challenged or even to the emotionally weakened.

What is a German Shepherd Service Dog?

During World War I, a German doctor named Dr. Gerhard Stalling accidentally stumbled upon the idea of using GSDs as service dogs. It all began when he accidentally left his GSD with a blind patient, coming back he was surprised to see that his dog seemed to be guiding the blind patient. Astounded, he began to train more GSDs as guide dogs and eventually set-up the first training school for service dogs in Oldenburg, Germany.  GSDs were the first guide dogs for the visually impaired. In 1928, Buddy was the first service dog for the blind who was brought to the United States of America. From then on GSDs have taken the role as service dogs for different kinds of human disabilities.

German Shepherd service dogs are trained in assisting humans with incapabilities to do daily tasks, support emotionally, physically, and mentally which eventually improve human quality of life. They are trained to do specific tasks that their would-be owner or handler requires. However, there are many types of services that GSDs are trained for. 

German Shepherd as Psychiatric Service Dogs

GSDs can be trained to support and assist their owner or handler living with mental health issues. They  are usually trained according to their handlers’ psychiatric disability. Providing safe presence, they can help their handlers in stressful situations. Their training includes reminding handler’s medicine intake, assess environment and interrupting behaviors that can eventually lead to mental breakdown or anxiety and panic attacks. German Shepherd service dogs are not randomly picked by would-be handlers. GSDs and handlers are matched together according to the handler’s needs and challenges. GSD service dog and would-be handler will train together for the GSD to be familiar with the handler’s circumstances. 

  • German Shepherd PTSD Service Dog

PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric condition brought about by a frightening or traumatic event. PTSD may interfere with a person’s daily routine. Paranoia, flashbacks about the event, severe anxiety and nightmares are some of the symptoms of PTSD. Soldiers and victims or witnesses of horrifying events are the usual PTSD sufferers. Treatments may include psychotherapy and medications but the most critical part is support. This is where GSDs come into the picture. As a PTSD service dog, it is their duty to disrupt their handlers when experiencing stress and anxiety by demanding to be pet and cuddled. In this way, handlers will be less focused on their panic attacks and handlers can recover from PTSD triggers more easily. 

  • German Shepherd Service Dog for Anxiety

People with anxiety disorders tend to have a sense of impending doom. They usually have frequent, intense fear or anxiety about everything that it affects their nervous system leading to hypertension. These feelings are very difficult to control that usually hamper with their daily activities. With GSD service dogs around, anxiety attacks are prevented because GSDs can sense them before they happen. They even remind their handlers to take their medicine at a given time. During anxiety attacks, GSD service dogs can calm their handlers by licking their face for distraction, fetch medicine, bring someone to help, retrieve a phone and preventing people from getting near their handlers.

  • German Shepherd Service Dogs Autism

GSD Service Dogs Autism, also known as Sensory Signal Alert Dogs, are GSDs trained to help keep a child or a person with autism safe. In children with autism, a GSD’s main role is protection. They usually stay very close to the child while adults or parents hold the leash. GSD service dogs for autism are well trained to block the child when he/she tries to bolt away into danger, as well as alert parents of seizures and behavioral meltdown. Adult People with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder may or may not function independently. So A GSD service dog’s role is to alert its handler(adult with ASD) of things requiring attention and to perform simple tasks such as opening lights or doors. When their handler is having an anxiety attack , which is normal in adults with ASD, a service dog can calm its handler down by sitting on its handler’s feet, lying down on handler’s body or putting its paws on the lap. They can interrupt their handlers from overstimulation or self-harm. GSD service dogs autism provide great support to people with ASD. They sometimes become a channel for social interaction which can help their handlers slowly adapt back into society.

German Shepherd as Physical Disabilities Service Dogs

Being physically strong and intelligent,GSDs are excellent as service or guide dogs to physically challenged individuals.They can help make daily tasks easier for their handlers.

  • German Shepherd as Seeing Eye Dog

As the first ever dog breed to become a seeing eye dog is a reputation that GSDs are best known for. They are trained to lead their visually impaired handlers to cross the streets safely and warn for obstacles on the road. Seeing eye dogs become literally the eyes of their handlers. 

  • German Shepherd As Diabetes Support 

GSDs who are service dogs for diabetes support are sensitive dogs who will alert their diabetic handler of an incoming hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic attack. DADs or Diabetic Alert Dogs can detect chemical shifts in the body through their sense of smell and alert their owners by jumping , touching by its nose or sometimes sitting and staring on their owners. They also remind their handlers of medications, likewise alert people around the owner if needing assistance.

German Shepherd as Physical Therapy Service Dogs

GSDs are very obedient and if trained properly, they can be very sociable. As PT service dogs, they can help patients needing physical therapy to recover quickly by simply engaging in a play. A simple catch and fetch game can improve a patient’s mobility and regaining muscle strength. They can also help console people stricken by disasters or even liven up moods.

German Shepherd Service Dog Facts

Looking for a GSD Service Dog is definitely not a walk in the park. A person needing a GSD service dog will need to undergo a series of interviews to better understand their specific needs and requirements and to easily match them with a service dog. They can either buy a professionally trained GSD service dog from reputable organizations or have their own GSDs undergo professional training or they can train their GSDs on their own.

  • German Shepherd Service Dog Price

If there is one big factor that will affect the price of a GSD service dog, that would be training specialization. The more specialized the training is, the more expensive the service dog will be. They usually range between $15,000 to $65,000 which includes the training expenses, adoption and legal fees, and general care. Organization-training will assure owners or handlers that their high-quality GSD service dogs passed the Assistance Dogs International Public Access Test. This is a series of tests that will ensure service dogs can do their tasks on command even in distracting environments. 

  • German Shepherd Service Dogs Training

Owner-trained GSD service dogs are increasing in popularity due to the high costs of organization-trained service dogs. Moreover, waiting to be matched with the specific GSD service dog usually takes longer. It is best to ask a reputable organization like Assistance Dogs International(ADI) for advice in looking for a professional service dog trainer and get familiar with laws on service dogs ownership. ADI is an international non-profit organization specializing in service dog training and placement.

Conclusion

GSD service dog training is a series of long and gruelling tests. These GSD service dogs willingly undergo such trainings to make their differently-abled would-be owner’s or handler’s life a lot better. There are many countries that allow service dogs to accompany their handlers anywhere at anytime provided that these service dogs are trained not to disrupt normal operations of establishments. These GSD service dogs may seem like an ordinary GSD but they are responsible for their handler’s safety and well-being. It is very important to remember that these GSD service dogs do not only serve their disabled handlers but also give unconditional support that most people can’t give.

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