Your Diabetic Alert Dog will be with you everywhere you go. People will watch you, some mutter things under their breath, some will try to speak sweet nothings to your dog which can be very distracting to the working animal, they will be curious and they will ask you questions. Does the breed of my DAD really matter!? I personally do not think it is so much that the specific breed matters, what matters is that the dog has been trained properly, and does it’s job to the absolute best of it’s ability. In general, I think “most” people are used to seeing “America’s Dog”, the Golden Retriever, or the Labrador Retriever in working/service dog positions, but like everything in life, things change and adapt over time.
You will find that people have VERY specific and sometimes strong feelings towards specific breeds and whether that is because they have had a bad experience with a certain breed of dog, it is up to us as Service Dog handlers to prove that our dog can handle whatever situation it is placed in. If my service animal is a Rottweiler, a Toy Poodle, Border Collie, Boxer, German Shepherd, (this list is literally endless) it is the dogs training that will prove he/she is worthy of his/her job. Our DAD is 4 years old, she is a very small Labrador so most people think she is a puppy in training. We get comments non-stop about how well behaved she is and how amazing she is with our daughter. That is exactly how it should be. You should never have to be worried about your dogs behavior while out in public (or at home for that matter). These dogs are trained to save lives and they are constantly “on the job” and in working mode which is why it is so important to be aware of your surrounding AT ALL TIMES to help them (and you) stay safe. I do think, however, that if you feel a specific breed is better suited to you and it isn’t what “most” people are used to seeing out in public as a service animal, you need to be willing and prepared to field the questions that are inevitably going to follow. Another way you can help promote a positive response with your service animal, no matter what breed, is by keeping them well groomed and in great physical condition. This is so important on so many levels. Not only are you keeping your service dog in the best health for longevity but by keeping them well groomed, you are also being considerate of everyone that will be near your dog. Cleanliness is key for your service animal when dining out, attending public functions, visiting friends, going to doctors appointments, shopping, etc.
There are organizations that specifically rescue dogs from shelters or bad situations and then train them to be service dogs. While I believe it is great (and necessary) to save and place animals with new handlers, I personally would not be comfortable being placed with a rescue to be my service dog. I feel very strongly that I want to know the background of the animal I am going to be placed with, and I want to know that the breeding lines of these dogs have proven themselves over time. I also want to ensure, to the best of my ability, that the health and longevity has been proven from past working dog lines that have been used. There is no way to ever be 100% certain, but knowing the track record of past litters/service dogs was very important to me when choosing the organization that would be training our daughter’s Diabetic Alert Dog.
Lower cost service dogs are also a huge “turn on” for people researching for their prospective alert dogs. While the organizations that rescue, train and place service dogs with families might do a great job and produce fine working service animals at a much lower cost, I felt more comfort knowing that the organization I chose to train our daughters dog (while yes, it cost a considerable amount more $$, that money was easily fund-raised) had put in the extra time, money, effort, training, and overall care to ensure the longevity, safety and overall abilities that our DAD is capable of. In the end, it really comes down to what is the right fit for you and your family and it all goes back to RESEARCH!! Please do your research and find an organization that will fulfill your needs and one that you feel comfortable doing business with.