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Service Dogs: Purebred vs. Rescue Dogs

There may be some debate whether to use a purebred dog or a rescue dog as a service animal, but one thing remains conclusive, all service dogs must have certain key traits to become a good service animal. This includes being intelligent and obedient, having overall good health, and possessing a calm and friendly temperament.

Some more important factors to consider are a willingness to please, a strong work ethic, an inclination to bond with the handler, the ability to be alert, yet calm in a variety of settings, and the ability to be trained to do work and tasks while ignoring a variety of distractions.

Service dogs also need to follow some service dog rules such as no barking at people or other dogs, and no begging for food. We will look at some more common pros and cons of utilizing a purebred dog vs. a rescue dog as a service animal.

What are some benefits of using a purebred as a service dog?

There are many positive attributes of using a purebred as a service dog. One positive is that purebreds have a more conducive temperament to be a service dog. After all, purebreds are bred to have certain physical or behavioral traits. According to the article “Some Good Reasons for Purebred Dog Traits,” by Brent Ruppel, “It is this consistency type-behavior and temperament-that working dogs rely on.” 

Not only can a purebred carry the right temperaments to be a service dog, but they can also have the right physical advantages. For example, certain breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, have the physical build to be great mobility dogs and have a mouth large enough to retrieve items for a handler. Labradors also tend to have the right temperament to become service dogs because they are friendly and train easily. Another benefit of using a purebred dog is that their upbringing is known. They most likely stay with their mothers and siblings while growing up. 

What are some negatives of using a purebred dog as a service dog? 

The price of a purebred dog is one of the more obvious negatives of using a purebred. The price of a purebred varies by breed but can cost upwards of a few thousand dollars. New Life K9s typically pays $1500 to $2000 for a puppy from thoroughly vetted breeders.  

Another con of using a purebred as a service dog is the risk of genetic disorders. Genetic disorders may be more prevalent in purebreds than in dogs that are mixed. An example is hip dysplasia which can be found in large breeds like Saint Bernards. New Life K9s works to reduce this risk by conducting various veterinary examinations before a puppy is selected for the program.

What are the benefits of using a rescue dog as a service animal?

The upside of using a dog from a shelter is it gives the rescue dog a second chance at living a healthy and fulfilling life. With being a service animal, they are given a chance to thrive aiding a handler. Another benefit of using a rescue dog is that it is more likely to be of mixed breeds. Mixed breeds of dogs are less likely to suffer from genetic disorders. 

What are some cons of using a rescue dog from a shelter as a service dog?

The primary concern with using a rescue dog as a service animal is the sad fact that these dogs are most likely traumatized. More often than not, rescue dogs have been through an ordeal. Whether it is being abused or neglected, there is some trauma.

This does not mean they do not make great pets to a loving family or even a good therapy animal, but they may not be suitable to do work and complete tasks as a service animal.

Some signs that usually disqualify a dog as a service animal are aggression, fear, reactivity, and other such behavioral concerns, since these cannot be “fixed.” These types of behaviors are more likely seen in traumatized animals.

Some may argue that there is a percentage of rescue dogs that have not been traumatized and were simply abandoned or surrendered by their owners for various reasons. Such rescues, if deemed to have the appropriate traits to be a service dog, may very well be a suitable service animal. 

It is important to note that whether the dog is a purebred or a rescue, there is no guarantee that the dog will be a good fit as a service dog. According to The National Center of Biotechnology Information, some estimates say only about 50% of dogs that are trained are fit to become a service dog. The bottom line is, a service dog candidate must have a unique temperament to thrive as a service animal whether it is a purebred or a rescue. 

Both types of dogs have the potential to become service dogs, but it is imperative that each dog is screened individually for temperament, health, and behavior. 

Help save lives and donate to our cause!

New Life K9s places service dogs with veterans and first responders with PTSD at no cost to the veterans and first responders.


“Selecting Quality Service Dogs” The National Center for Biotechnology Information

Team, Ben, “Which Breeds Make the Best Service Dogs?” K9ofmine. April 9, 2020

“What Qualifies a Dog to Be a Service Dog” Service Dogs Certifications

“Can a Rescue Dog Become a Service Dog?” Service Dog Certifications,and%20performing%20the%20tasks%20needed.

Karetnick, Jen “Service Dogs 101-Everything You Need To Know” American Kennel Club, September 24, 2019

Grace, Kea “Evaluating Service Dog Candidates At The Shelter: 5 Traits to Look For” Anything Pawsable, March 14, 2016

Ruppel, Brent “Good Reasons for Some Purebred Dog Traits” The New York Times, February 12, 2013

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