Due to their small stature, Toy Poodles will not make effective guide or physical assistance dogs. Too small to retrieve they could also potentially pose a tripping hazard. However, their intuitive nature means that they can be and are used as alert, therapy, and/or mental health support dogs.
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What are the Different Types of Service Dogs?
Not content with just making dogs our best friends, in some cases we make them earn their keep by training them to assist someone who has a disability or impairment. There are a whole host of duties that dogs can be trained to perform. Here we will look at some of the main ones.
Perhaps the first type of service dog that springs to mind for most people. Dogs have been assisting mankind for centuries. However, it was following the First World War that formal training of dogs to aid blinded soldiers began.
Still a lifeline for many people with visual impairment there is estimated to be in excess of 20,000 active guide dogs in service around the world at any one time.
Just as dogs can be trained to aid the visually impaired, they can also learn commands and cues tailored to those with hearing loss. They can alert their owners to dangers such as smoke alarms or more day-to-day occurrences such as doorbells.
Physical Assistance Dogs
For individuals who live with physical disabilities or restrictions that impact their ability to do normal day-to-day activities, physical assistance dogs can be a vital part of their support network.
For those with difficulties moving around, reaching, or bending, an assistance dog can be trained to retrieve items, open doors, assist in household chores, and even help with removing socks and shoes!
Many people experience subtle physiological or behavioral changes in the time preceding a seizure that may be imperceptible to people around them. A dog’s super-sensitive sniffer and ability to detect subtle changes can allow some pooches to be trained to warn their handler that a seizure is imminent.
This can give them vital minutes to get into a safe position. Dogs can also be trained to protect the person while they seize, by positioning themselves to cushion their head or even dragging them from harm’s way.
Blood Sugar Monitoring/Diabetic Alert Dogs
The dogs’ amazing sense of smell actively allows them to smell blood sugar changes in their handlers. This means they can be taught to warn someone if their sugars are dropping or conversely are too high. They can alert and this allows the person to take medication or food to avert the risk of a medical emergency.
Allergy Detection Dogs
Some people experience allergies so severe that even tiny amounts of the substance they are allergic to could cause them serious harm or even death. An allergy detection dog can greatly improve individuals’ confidence and quality of life by being trained to detect even the tiniest amounts.
Autism Support Dogs
Some people with autism can find certain situations or environments easily overwhelming. A support dog can be trained to provide consistent support and help make individuals feel confident.
In the event their handler becomes overwhelmed a support dog can be trained to provide deep pressure and protective techniques to help the person feel safe.
Mental Health Support Dogs
For those with more severe mental health issues who may experience extreme anxiety or feel unsafe, a mental health support dog can provide emotional support and practical assistance.
They can be trained to position themselves in front of their handler and provide a reminder that they are not alone to help them feel safe in frightening situations.
While all the other service dogs listed above are generally trained to live and work only with one handler, therapy dogs are trained to help a variety of people in different settings such as hospitals, care homes, and schools.
A therapy dog’s job is to provide comfort and companionship to people who may be feeling alone, going through a difficult time, or facing health challenges. Spending time with animals and petting them has been proven to help with lowering stress levels.
What Makes a Good Service Dog?
A good service dog needs to have a reasonable level of intelligence in order to learn the skills needed to perform their duties. This has to be combined with an even temperament. Dogs that are too energetic or antsy may be unpredictable and a good service dog has to be consistent.
While in theory, any dog has the potential to be trained as a service dog, some practical breed characteristics can be more desirable. For example, if you are going to put the effort into training a service dog, you generally want them to be a reasonably healthy breed with a longer life expectancy. Things like being low shedding can be helpful for handlers who may need other people to help clean up their homes.
Do Poodles have the Right Temperament to be Therapy Dogs?
A well-bred Poodle has bags of potential to become a top-class therapy dog. They have the energy, smarts, and stamina to stand up to the rigorous training. In terms of moving in and out of various settings, the Poodle has a natural curiosity that can mean they will adapt quickly. Naturally alert as a breed, they are very attentive to the actions of the humans around them.
Are Poodles (of any size) Known for Working in Service or Being Therapy Dogs?
While lots of people instinctively think Labrador or Golden Retrievers when they think guide dog, there is in fact an established history of utilizing the Poodle. This was primarily brought about due to some individuals with visual impairment having, or living with someone who has dog hair allergies.
The low shedding nature of the Poodle makes them ideal in these situations.
For guide dog duties it is primarily the Standard Poodle that is used. Standard Poodles have also earned their place as reliable seizure and diabetic alert dogs. Their large size can also help them physically support their handlers to the ground and provide protection while they recover.
The Miniature and Toy Poodle have displayed an affinity for emotional support and therapy dogs. Their smaller stature makes it easy for them to be transported and assist in a variety of settings where other larger dogs may not be able to go.
A smaller therapy dog can also easily sit in the lap or on the bed of individuals who may not be able to stretch to reach a larger dog.
Will Their Toy Size Prevent Poodles from Being Service Dogs?
A Toy Poodle is unlikely to be able to provide significant physical assistance duties. While a Standard Poodle may have no difficulty in bringing their owner a bottle of water or collecting their shoes, a Toy Poodle would very likely be smaller than the very items they were trying to retrieve.
The small stature of a Toy Poodle also makes it unlikely that they would be able to perform guide dog duties as they would not be instantly visible to others and would be located far from their handler’s hand, potentially becoming a trip hazard, while mobilizing.
Are There any Current Toy Poodle Service/Therapy Dogs?
Popping “Toy Poodle Therapy Dog” into any one of the popular social media sites will yield a plethora of pages dedicated to tiny little Poodles determined to spread joy and comfort. Some of my favorites include:
- A Toy Poodle who is dyed bright pink and regularly attends a local sick children’s hospital to (quite literally) brighten their days.
- A Toy Poodle that has a whole array of costumes that he wears to attend a local school where children read to him to build their confidence.
- A Toy Poodle who is trained to lie on the bed and lap of bed-bound hospice patients to provide comfort and company
There are also accounts dedicated to Toy Poodles who provide all sorts of medical alerts, from migraine to low blood sugars.
Can I Train my Toy Poodle to be my Service Dog?
If you have a disability and have a Toy Poodle, you may wish to consider training them to support you. It is important to remember that although true service dogs are allowed to accompany their handlers into areas that do not typically allow dogs, the rules about what proof is required and in fact when a dog qualifies as a service dog can vary wildly from state to state and country to country.
If you are unable to secure and train a dog yourself there are a number of organizations worldwide that actively supply and train dogs. Just remember the criteria are usually strict for those who are eligible and waiting lists tend to be long.
Something else to bear in mind, if your Toy Poodle is going to take on working duties is the importance of still building in “downtime” for them not to be working but just have a good time, play and exercise. You wouldn’t work 24/7 so we cannot expect our service or therapy animals to do the same.