Can a Small Dog Be a Service Dog?
Blame it on famous small dogs like Bruiser Woods from “Legally Blonde” or Toto from “Wizard of Oz,” but small dogs have the unfortunate reputation for being pretty and portable, but not very useful. They’re known as excellent lap dogs and fit snugly into a purse. And small dogs are the supermodels of the canine fashion world. But small dogs are much more than a pretty face. Some small breeds are highly intelligent and possess intuition that can be of great assistance to their handler. So, if you ever wondered, can a small dog be a service dog, the answer would be Yes, for the reasons highlighted in this article.
Why Choose a Small Dog for a Service Dog
Don’t be fooled. Small dogs are also intelligent, agile, and eager to please—ideal traits for a service dog. Because service dogs perform tasks for people with disabilities and are protected by federal laws, they’re often regarded as the epitome of a “helper dog.” Although more traditional service dog breeds are Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds, small dogs can also function well as service dogs.
When choosing a service dog, matching the right dog breed with a person’s needs is key. Also, lifestyle factors like the size of the home and work environment can play a part. Small dogs don’t require much space and can fit comfortably in smaller homes, apartments, or office environments. They’re less obtrusive than large dogs and can remain out of sight without attracting unnecessary attention.
Are Small Dogs a Good Option for My Disability?
It’s essential to match a service dog to a person’s disability, and not all disabilities need the help of a larger dog. Aligning a service dog’s qualities with a person’s disability requirements helps a dog fulfill the right tasks.
1. Mobility Service Dog
Although mobility service dogs that prevent their owners from falling are typically larger, many people who have mobility issues don’t have problems with falling. For these individuals, having a smaller dog may be a better option than a larger service dog. Smaller dogs can jump on chairs and tables to retrieve items for their handler. They can also retrieve dropped items quickly and maneuver through crowds during emergencies.
2. Sound Alert or Hearing Service Dogs
Service dogs for individuals with hearing impairments don’t have to be large or even medium-sized. Very often, small dogs can alert their handler to loud sounds just as well as larger dogs. Sound alert dogs notify their handler of sounds like knocks on doors, crying children, or alarms.
3. Diabetic Service Dogs
Diabetes is a condition that affects blood sugar and changes the chemicals in the body. These changes emit scents that are imperceptible to humans. However, a dog’s sense of smell can be 100,000 times stronger than a human’s. Therefore, dogs can pick up the scent of chemical changes in the human body, helping identify critical changes like a drop in blood sugar. Diabetic service dogs notify their handler when they need insulin or are experiencing blood sugar changes. A dog of any size can fulfill this job.
4. Seizure Response Dogs
Seizure response dogs assist individuals who are experiencing an epileptic seizure. After receiving extensive training, these dogs alert others for help by pressing an alarm, calling an emergency line, or obtaining medication to help their handlers recover afterward, which are similar tasks to a medical service dog. However, seizure response dogs also perform specific tasks related to seizures, sometimes even alerting their handler to an oncoming seizure episode.
5. Allergen Service Dogs
Food allergies are on the rise throughout the world, requiring new methods in allergy detection. Allergen service dogs fill that need through their keen sense of smell. Using their noses, allergen service dogs can detect the scent of allergens like peanuts or gluten. Because allergen detection isn’t dependent on size, small dogs can succeed in this task.
Good Service Dogs Come in All Sizes
Service dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and small service dogs can work as well as large ones. For some people, small dogs might be preferable. Smaller dogs typically require less dog food, which saves on costs. And small dogs fit in places that would be impossible for a larger service dog. As long as a service dog can perform the required tasks successfully and safely, size doesn’t matter—because good things can come in small packages!