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Small Service Dogs: Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs?

By Mawoo Pets · 5 May · 15 min read
Small Service Dogs: Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs?

Big or small, service dogs have important jobs to do. They need to be calm, smart, social and obedient, as well as affectionate and loyal to their owners. In this industry, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, and a small dog can be a wonderful service dog. 

In fact, there are some cases where a small service dog might even be preferable over a large one. Perhaps you live in an apartment, are intimidated by large dogs, or simply don’t have the strength or resources to handle a big dog. 

In any case, little dogs can put a smile on your face and be practical at the same time! Let’s talk about the pros and cons of small service dogs and explore seven breeds worth considering.

Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs?

Yes! Toy Poodles, Pugs, Corgis and many other small dog breeds make wonderful service dogs and companions. These little cuties are easy to train, obedient and intelligent. Best of all, they’re often welcome in public places due to their less intimidating size and delightfully social dispositions.

It’s also worth noting that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not limit the types of dogs that can be service dogs. Theoretically, any dog can be a service dog! That’s why ADA regulations clearly state that individuals with service dogs must be accommodated in public places, no matter what breed their dog. 

Large or small, any dog with the right training can be a service dog, as long as they are always under the control of their owner and don’t pose a threat to anyone else.

The Advantages of Choosing a Small Breed Service Dog

Small dogs are often overlooked as service dogs because many people don’t take them seriously as working animals. Small dogs shouldn’t be underestimated! Small service dog breeds can perform many tasks just as well as their larger counterparts. 

Here’s a deeper look at some of the advantages of choosing a small dog to be your service dog.

Suitable for Apartment and Small Space Living

Small dogs need exercise to stay happy and healthy just like their big cousins, but they can be satisfied with less space. For some apartment dwellers, little dogs simply fit in better than big ones. Many landlords are also more receptive to small dogs over large dogs, which can make finding accommodation much easier if you’re a renter.

Less Expensive to Care For

Choosing a small dog breed to be your service dog means many of your pet expenses will be lower. The cost of food, grooming and even veterinary care is usually less for a small dog when compared to a large breed.

Easier to Transport and Travel With

Small dogs are easier to transport and travel with than large dogs, regardless of whether you drive, fly or take the train.They can stay with you in the airplane cabin and they’re more readily accepted by hotels. Small dogs are also less likely to disrupt or intimidate other passengers or guests.

The Limitations of Small Service Dogs

Due to their smaller stature and limited physical strength, there are some limitations of small service dogs you should be aware of before choosing one for yourself.

May Have Difficulty Performing Some Physical Tasks

If you are looking for a service dog to help you perform certain physical tasks, a small breed might not be the best choice for you. For example, a small dog can’t pull a wheelchair, retrieve large objects or help someone with balance issues the way a larger dog can.

Less Effective as a Personal Protection Dog

In some cases, it can be advantageous to have a small dog that’s less intimidating in social situations. Due to their adorable appearance, small dogs are more likely to attract the attention of children and passers-by, which can be fun if you enjoy socializing.

If you need a service dog that is also a personal protection dog, however, you might be better off with a large breed whose sheer size is often enough to prevent unwanted attention. Large dogs are also sometimes taken more seriously as assistance animals by business owners and management, which is something to keep in mind.

What Tasks Can Small Service Dogs Perform?

Here are some of the important tasks a small service dog can perform.

Hearing Assistance Dogs

Small service dogs can be very effective hearing assistance dogs for the hearing impaired. They can be trained to alert their owners to specific sounds, like the telephone ringing, doorbells, security and fire alarms, a crying baby and much more. They are taught to nudge their owners and lead them to the source of the sound, a task that can be accomplished regardless of size.

Seizure Alert Dogs

A seizure alert dog is taught to alert its handler when it senses that a seizure is imminent. These dogs play a crucial role in the safety of their owners by warning them to take medication or sit down in a safe place before the onset of an episode. These tasks can be performed by a dog of any size that has received the right training.

Tachycardia Episode Alert Dogs

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a heart condition that presents with an abnormally fast heart rate that suddenly slows down. People with this condition can experience chest pain and may even faint because their body fails to pump oxygenated blood effectively. 

A service dog can be trained to warn its handler whenever a change in heart rate or blood pressure occurs. Once again, the advanced warning allows the handler to take medication and get to a safe location before symptoms occur. This task can be performed by a service dog of any size.

Diabetic Alert Dogs

Diabetic alert dogs are taught to detect changes in blood sugar levels and warn their owners. They do this by detecting the scent of certain chemical changes in the handler’s body–something any dog with a great sense of smell can learn. This advanced warning is crucial for the health and safety of the handler.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs and emotional support dogs are trained to perform certain tasks related to the mental and physical health of their handlers. What those tasks are exactly depend on the handler’s needs. 

Sometimes, psychiatric service dogs are taught to perform tasks like deep pressure stimulation, which can calm and comfort someone with autism or other special needs. For someone who experiences severe anxiety and stress in public situations, a psychiatric service dog or emotional support dog of any size can be immensely beneficial.

Therapy Dogs and Companions

Therapy dogs and pets aren’t technically service dogs, but they can still provide important care that shouldn’t be overlooked. A good therapy dog or companion animal can help to reduce stress or depression, calm anxiety, and improve social skills or self confidence. Many of the small service dogs listed below will also make wonderful therapy dogs and companions.

7 Small Breed Service Dogs to Consider

There’s no question that big dog breeds like the Labrador Retriever, Goldendoodle and Great Dane make wonderful service dogs and companions–but the dog breeds listed below can perform many of the same tasks. Plus, they come in a smaller, easier-to-manage package!

No matter which dog breed you choose, it’s important to work with a responsible breeder who is aware of your individual needs. The team at Mawoo is here to offer advice and support throughout every step of the process, from choosing the right puppy to making the transition as smooth as possible for you and your new furry assistant. 

Let’s explore the best small breed service dogs.

1. Toy Poodle

The Toy Poodle is one of the smartest and most trainable small dog breeds. This breed possesses many qualities that make it ideal as a service dog and companion. Not only are Poodles sweet-natured and charming, but these curly-coated cuties are also very social.

Poodles have a reputation for being hypoallergenic because they shed very little, which makes them tidier and easier on guests’ sensitive histamines. They enjoy a good romp in the yard just as much as cuddles on the couch, so they’re adaptable to most living environments and lifestyles.

2. Pug

A Pug will offer you an abundance of love and admiration for choosing it as your service dog! These little guys are very silly and outgoing, often described as the clowns of the dog world. They bond easily with their owners, are very smart and make wonderful companions for people of all ages.

Pugs are a low-maintenance breed. A few minutes with the brush each week will keep shedding to a minimum. Other than that, regular nail trims, ear cleaning and the occasional bath are all they really need. 

3. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is an affectionate and devoted companion that also makes a wonderful service dog. This breed is very friendly with people, including children, but sometimes it can be a bit prickly around dogs it doesn’t know.

Corgis have the heart of a big dog in a small dog’s body. These dogs are very intelligent and easy to train for physical tasks thanks to their stockier build. A fully grown Corgi weighs in at 30 pounds or more and requires frequent brushing to keep shedding under control.

4. Pomeranian

If you want a service dog that will stay by your side at all times, lavishing you with love and happily accompanying you wherever you go, consider a Pomeranian. These dogs are very smart and easy to train, making them well suited to many tasks.

Providing plenty of positive social interaction when your Pomeranian is young will help to overcome the nervousness and distrust of strangers that unsocialized Pomeranians sometimes experience. These little dogs are high energy, but due to their small stature and short legs, one or two short walks every day can satisfy their need for exercise.

5. Bichon Frise

The Bichon Frise is a happy-go-lucky and playful little dog that is sure to bring a smile to your face every day. They are loyal to their owners but also likely to greet everyone they meet with great big puppy eyes and a wagging tail.

This breed is known for its high intelligence and eagerness to learn, making it an ideal breed to train as a service dog. However, they do require regular brushing and grooming to keep their elaborate, curly coats matt and tangle-free. They do not shed much, on the other hand, so they can be a great choice for someone with allergies.

6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are perfect for those who want a calm service dog who will sit in their lap all day. This breed is sturdy and full of life, but also smart and reliable. Cavaliers are excellent companions who love everyone they meet, humans and dogs alike.

This breed is a great choice for first-time dog owners because it is easy to train and eager to please. Minimal grooming will keep its beautiful coat in tip-top shape and a daily walk through the neighbourhood will keep this breed healthy and happy.

7. Havanese

If you are on the hunt for a service dog that is full of energy but also loving and gentle, consider a Havanese. This breed is happiest when it’s by its owner’s side, so it’s a great choice for those who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression.

The Havanese makes a wonderful companion or service dog for anyone who needs constant support. They are smart, highly trainable and usually very well behaved in public places. Regular grooming is a must, as well as a daily walk or two to burn off some of that extra energy. 

Final Thoughts

As you can see, one size does not fit all when it comes to choosing the best service dog for you! 

Choosing one of the smallest service dogs has many benefits, as well as a few limitations, that should be factored into your decision-making process. 

For many people with special needs, the very presence of a fluffy little companion can do wonders. Our Puppy Match Quiz can help you narrow down your options based on your individual needs, personality, and lifestyle. 


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