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Old 11-30-2013, 02:12 AM
Morbid Visions Morbid Visions is offline
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Default Help choosing a large breed dog

Hello there, I am looking to add another dog to my family, I have two chihuahuas, they are well behaved other than a bit of barking here and there. I take their care very seriously and will do anything for them. I recently lost my oldest chihuahua, due to a number of conditions he had, this has been very hard on me, I have some personal issues, and he helped me through a great deal of them. It's been a few months since his passing and I still haven't really gotten over it, I thought that I would maybe start looking into getting another dog to help aid the healing process and as well, train to be my service dog.

I have been doing a lot of research the past little while and I have found some breeds that I think would work well with myself and my other animals. Before I list them, I would like to tell you what I would like in a dog, and I'm open to suggestions as well. I'm not dead-set on a pure bred, mixed breeds are wonderful dogs as well.

As I said before, I have two chihuahuas, a male and a female, both are fixed. I also have a cat, he is very docile and doesn't really care about anything. I have two rabbits as well, but they are kept in a cage and when I let them out no other animals are allowed in the room, so that shouldn't matter. I live with three other people in a 5 bedroom house with a good sized, fenced backyard. I do have experience training both small and large dogs, but I would prefer a dog that is fairly easy to train and not too stubborn since, as I said earlier, I would like to train it to be my service dog. I don't really get out as much as I would like to, the chihuahuas can only walk so much before they get tired (and my anxiety keeps me from doing anything else), so I would like an active breed that would do well going for 2-5 hour walks every night. I would prefer it to be on the larger side, anywhere from 75-120 pounds.

I am not really interested in labradors, I know they're the most common as service dogs, but I would prefer a different breed. As far as looks go, I prefer short haired dogs, I don't mind longer fur, but short is preferred. I love dogs with floppy ears and/or wrinkles, I also like the look of stocky dog breeds with wide stances. The following dogs are the ones that I like the appearance and personality of, starting from my favourite.
- American Bulldog
- Bloodhound
- Newfoundland Dog
- Great Dane
- Irish Wolfhound

Thank you for reading my post, sorry for it being so long. Thanks in advance for any replies.
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Old 11-30-2013, 04:26 AM
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Ok, I'm not experienced in service dogs at all, but shouldn't they be a 'go anywhere dog'? I'm not sure any of those breeds will be 'go anywhere' dogs, and not only that, large breeds have shorter lifespans, so as a service dog, you will be having to obtain and train another one up a lot more quickly than a dog with a longer lifespan.

You might want something more portable (or public place friendly!) and longer lived?!
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Old 11-30-2013, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
Ok, I'm not experienced in service dogs at all, but shouldn't they be a 'go anywhere dog'? I'm not sure any of those breeds will be 'go anywhere' dogs, and not only that, large breeds have shorter lifespans, so as a service dog, you will be having to obtain and train another one up a lot more quickly than a dog with a longer lifespan.

You might want something more portable (or public place friendly!) and longer lived?!
When it comes to size, there are no specific regulations (at least none that I am aware of, and I've done tons of research). I prefer larger dogs because they are more helpful for my situation (this is personal preference). As for the lifespan, it is something I have put a lot of thought into, I think in the end, the good outweighs the bad. Golden retrievers are the most common dogs used as service dogs, with an average lifespan of around 10-12 years, you may notice on my list, the top one (more preferred) has the longest lifespan (the same as retrievers), and going lower down the list, the lifespans get shorter. As for mobility, with my anxiety and other "conditions" I can't really go into spaces that are small or have a lot of people, I actually go to incredible measures to stay away from situations as such. So none of that is really an issue, pretty much everything about the size I have taken into account.

I'm more looking for suggestions and/or opinions which dog I have listed would be more suitable for my home and lifestyle, and any suggestions for different breeds are welcomed and appreciated.

Thanks.
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Old 11-30-2013, 07:14 AM
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We have a few people here with service dogs who aren't small by any means, so I am sure they will find their way here and be able to offer some insight into their choices.

I have to say, with my very limited knowledge of service dogs (most gleaned from people here) bloodhounds and Newfies would worry me just from a cleanliness standpoint. My understanding is that those with service dogs are very respectful about keeping their dogs clean so as not to cause issues for people in public spaces. The huge strings of drool I've seen newfies throw around might not be considered charming by everyone! I would think bloodhounds would be the same, although I haven't spent any time around an adult one. I'm a dog person, and I'd still be more than a little bothered by a dog swinging drool around in a store or restaurant.

My cousin has a Great Dane service dog for serious mobility issues, and while I don't know them well enough to know how she came to have that breed, my understanding is that he performed his job quite admirably during her wedding that my parents attended. I would think that when you get into needed a dog to actually support some weight, there comes a point where you do have to sacrifice lifespan to get the size needed.
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Old 11-30-2013, 07:45 AM
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As has come up multiple times before, a good pet dog is going to be a very different kettle of fish than a good SD, and the way to go about finding them is very different. with a pet youre gonna look at a breed and then refine your choice from there. for a Service Animal, you really cant nitpick over breed and you need a very specific animal with a very specific personality and intelligence and demeanor. Giant breeds make very BAD service dogs because by the time you factor in training and proofing, and then needing to retire the dog due to old age, you only get 1-3 years of "working life" from your dog. What are you going to do when your Giant breed SD has to retire? Own 5 giant breeds at once, of varying ages, so you can just cycle them out every 2 years? That, in and of itself, is beyond a full time job. for a SD, somethign smaller and longer lived would be a good choice for you, like a golden or collie, and as for a pet-- anything will do, provided you seek low prey drive and low energy levels
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Old 11-30-2013, 08:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frostfell View Post
As has come up multiple times before, a good pet dog is going to be a very different kettle of fish than a good SD, and the way to go about finding them is very different. with a pet youre gonna look at a breed and then refine your choice from there. for a Service Animal, you really cant nitpick over breed and you need a very specific animal with a very specific personality and intelligence and demeanor. Giant breeds make very BAD service dogs because by the time you factor in training and proofing, and then needing to retire the dog due to old age, you only get 1-3 years of "working life" from your dog. What are you going to do when your Giant breed SD has to retire? Own 5 giant breeds at once, of varying ages, so you can just cycle them out every 2 years? That, in and of itself, is beyond a full time job. for a SD, somethign smaller and longer lived would be a good choice for you, like a golden or collie, and as for a pet-- anything will do, provided you seek low prey drive and low energy levels


Your hypothetical Irish wolfhound has a lifespan of 6-7 years, it's going to die after working for only 2-3 years. Potentially much younger than that. Sadly, most Irish wolfhounds I've known died of catastrophic illness before their 4th birthdays of causes including heart failure, osteosarcoma, and spleenic torsion. If you want one as a companion however, go for it!

If you're hoping for a service dog prospect, sit down and make a list of specific tasks you want your service dog to be trained to perform. That will give you a starting point in selecting a dog. For example, you wouldn't choose a toy poodle if you need someone to pull your wheelchair, but if you need seizure alert/response, a smaller more portable dog would be perfect.

That said, I have a borzoi service dog. As a breed, they are pretty darn healthy and are one of the longest lived giants. I've known many who were healthy and mobile up until they died at age 14, and one who made it to 15. 12-14 isn't uncommon if you are careful to go with lines that have good longevity.

They're also extremely flexible and fold for easy under-bed storage. What Dizzy meant isn't "go anywhere" as in a legal sense, but a practical sense. Can your dog fit on the floor in the bulkhead seating on a commercial aircraft?
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Old 11-30-2013, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Morbid Visions View Post
- American Bulldog
- Bloodhound
- Newfoundland Dog
- Great Dane
- Irish Wolfhound

Thank you for reading my post, sorry for it being so long. Thanks in advance for any replies.
Of the breeds you listed, I would nix the newfoundland, great dane, and Irish wolfhounds purely for health/longevity problems. Joint problems are *very* common in those breeds, and even if your dog happens to live 10 years and has the best temperament in the world it will be useless for any kind of mobility support if its hips/knees/elbows go bad.

This is where having a purebred from health tested lines stacks the odds in your favor, because a service dog must have both a sound mind and a sound body in order to function as a working animal.

If you like goldens, and the wiry coat of the Irish wolfhound I urge you to look into gordon setters and spinone italiano. Both breeds have that super duper sweet golden retriever type demeanor combined with very high intelligence. Most dogs of both breeds that I've met would have been great SD prospects. They're also very healthy and long lived breeds, and are decently large.

A borzoi could *possibly* work. Some borzois have too strong of a prey drive and can't live with toy dogs, but many do live peacefully with them. The org that Strider came from scours the greyhound rescues for good prospects. Most dogs aren't suitable, but they did recently train and place one grey and he's doing fantastic at his job. Greyhounds typically live a long time too.

What breeds are you experienced with aside from the chihuahuas, and what is your training experience? Do you plan to involve a private trainer or have a mentor?
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Old 11-30-2013, 08:44 PM
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Argh, sorry I keep bombarding this thread. It's hard to think of everything in one post.

Something else to keep in mind is breed specific legislation. Service dogs, unfortunately, are not exempt from legislation prohibiting certain breeds. Most notable are the bully breeds. There have been some really tragic cases where SD and handler teams traveled through an area where the dog's breed was banned, and the dog was confiscate and destroyed before the handler had a chance to stop the process. An American bulldog has the potential to be an incredible SD provided you find the right individual dog (they can have joint issues, and temperament issues are common since they are popular with backyard breeders). I'd be really concerned about getting caught in the BSL at some point and losing my dog, or exacerbating my anxiety by having to deal with it and nasty comments from bully haters while I was trying to go about my business with my dog.

That said, if you are careful about where you get your dog, the health of the lines, evaluate a lot of puppies to find one with the right temperament, etc. a boxer could be a good compromise because they usually do not fall under the same BSL as american bull dogs and other pitty lookalikes.
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Old 12-01-2013, 06:13 AM
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You’ve gotten good advice already I’m just going to second a lot of what’s already been said.

I have a great dane and an am-bull sized dog, and while the smaller dog is still very much a big dog, he is FAR more “portable” than the great dane. For example, next weekend, the smaller dog gets to go to a seminar simply because I’m sharing a ride with someone, and you can’t fit two large crates in one minivan - hell, I can’t fit ONE dane sized crate in the minivan. Any kind of public transportation, crowds, etc., Danes are just not going to be very convenient that way. So, there’s that.

Bloodhounds... I LOVE the breed, but a) they tend to be very stinky. All those skin folds help them “grab” smells to be able to track them for long distances, and skin grabbing smells = stinky dog. It may be that pet-bred bloodhounds aren’t as bad, but the working ones I know all smell very strong.
Speaking of tracking a smell for long distances.... That’s a far cry from a handler-centered job that is a service dog. And while I’m all about “off” breeds being able to do things they weren’t bred for, it still bears mentioning that there is only so far you can pound a square peg in to a round hole.

Of the breeds you listed, danes can be total velcro dogs, and depending on the breeder, you could end up with a dog who lives in to his teens, but you’d have to do a LOT of breeder research and talk to a lot of puppy buyers from that breeder.
Am-bulls are also IME very handler oriented dogs, very trainable with the right approach. But the point about BSL is a good one, and those bully dogs all get lumped in together.

Honestly, if breed is not an issue, it may be worth networking with local rescues and shelters, especially those who do thorough intake evaluations. We recently got a dog in who would make someone an awesome sport dog. Sometimes those dogs come in and you just *know* they’ll be great at a certain job. Of course you have the potential health issues, but it is an avenue worth exploring IMO.
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Old 12-13-2013, 11:53 PM
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Leonbergers!.
Stunning,gentle,active,loving!.
Owned 3 boys and would own another one,in a heartbeat as it is still my heart breed!.

Also love the Borzoi,BMD and Landseer.
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