The classic service dog might be the Labrador, but Boxers excel at a variety of service dog roles.
In fact, Boxers were among the first seeing-eye dogs for the blind in Germany.
Not so long ago there was even a US-based Boxer breeder who specifically bred her dogs to go into service roles.
What Is A Service Dog?
Service dogs are dogs that are specifically trained to perform quite complex tasks for their master or to take a specific action in certain situations.
Seeing eye dogs for the blind were perhaps the original assistance dogs .. but these days there are many others.
Service dogs can:
- open doors and pull wheelchairs for people with mobility issues
- retrieve objects, turn lights on/off, bark for help, go to find another person and bring them back
- alert people with epilepsy to an imminent seizure
- alert deaf people to sounds like alarm clocks, doorbells or knocks, fire alarms or a baby crying
- supervise autistic children and calm them down during meltdowns
- monitor a diabetic’s blood sugar levels (through smell) and signal low blood sugar
- support people with psychiatric disabilities
- work with veterans suffering military-related PTSD
“Assistance dog” is a broad term that includes:
- guide dogs
- hearing dogs, and
- service dogs that are trained to do at least 3 tasks to help someone cope with a disability.
Dogs present for the purposes of protection or comfort do not count as assistance dogs.
“Service dog” refers to all assistance dogs working for people with disabilities other than blindness or deafness.
Service dogs are trained to perform an enormous variety of tasks.
For instance, a service dog paired with a war veteran with PTSD, may:
- wake up their owner from a night terror and turn on the lights
- “block” people in crowds by standing in front of their owner to keep people away
- “pop a corner” by walking ahead and looking left and right to communicate the coast is clear
- sweep the house to reassure the owner there are no intruders
In contrast to service dogs, “therapy dogs” are generally trained to help people other than their owners.
An example of a therapy dog is a dog that visits nursing homes to cheer up the elderly.
There are even therapy dogs that improve the literacy of children, by sitting and listening while kids read to them.
Emotional Support Dogs
“Emotional support dogs” help their owners cope with mental health conditions or emotional disorders, including things like depression and social phobias.
They are different from service dogs because they don’t perform specific trained tasks.
Instead, emotional support dogs achieve their function primarily through simply being a dog and by providing affection and companionship.
If you need your Boxer for emotional support, there are organizations that can give you an official letter confirming that your dog has “Emotional Support Animal” status.
This can be useful with landlords and airlines.
You can also get ID cards, vests, leashes and collars that make it clear your dog is providing emotional support.
Traits That Make A Good Service Dog
Even within a suitable breed, not every individual dog will have the right temperament to be a service dog.
A service dog should be:
- friendly (with both people and animals)
- motivated to work
- easy to train
- clean (lack of drool and excessive shedding)
- people-focused with a tendency to bond strongly with their human
- well behaved
- mid-size (strong but compact)
- confident (neither dominant nor submissive)
- easy to groom
Traits Incompatible With Being A Service Dog
If your Boxer is:
- easily startled
… then he’s probably not well suited to become a service dog.
Where Can Service Dogs Go?
In most places throughout the world, service dogs can go pretty much everywhere with their owners.
They are recognized in the American Disability Act.
This gives them a right to enter public places off limits to pet dogs.
Service dogs can go into restaurants, doctor’s offices .. wherever their owner needs to be.
Emotional Support Dogs and therapy dogs are not covered by the Disability Act and are much more restricted in where they’re allowed to go.
However, an emotional support dog is allowed to live with their owner .. even if a “no pets” policy is in place.
Breeds Suited To Being Service Dogs
The following breeds are tried and tested as service dogs:
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Border Collies
Here is a Boxer training to be a service dog in Florida.
Hearing dogs can be smaller than other types of service dog as they don’t have to pull open doors or support an owner’s weight.
Many people needing hearing dogs actually request small or medium sized dogs.
Hearing dog programs have often trained mixed breeds from shelters, including:
- Terrier mixes
- Poodle crosses
- Cocker Spaniel variants
- Llasa Apso mixes
- Shih Tzu mixes
- Chihuahua mixes
How Do You Train A Boxer To Become A Service Dog?
There are essentially two ways to get a service dog:
- Dogs are can be bred and trained by an organization, or
- An owner can turn their own dog into a service dog with the help of a trainer.
If you’re going the organization route, it’s a good idea to choose an agency that’s accredited with a recognized service dog body, so you know it’s reputable.
Organizations involve an application process and often a waiting list, and they may work with only certain breeds.
When you go through an agency, there may be fees. However, the costs are frequently covered by grants or donors.
Often, people with disabilities can receive a service dog at little to no cost.
You may even be able to access financial assistance to help fund the dog’s care.
Here is a list of organizations that train service dogs, arranged by state.
Can You Train A Pet Boxer To Be A Service Dog?
It takes quite a bit of time and there is a process to follow.
If you want to do this with your Boxer, one way is to go through an organization in your area that is accredited with Assistance Dogs International.
You can find such an organization by searching here.
When you select your location, make sure you check the box that says “Will consider working with an owner and their personal dog”.
Your Boxer should be very well socialized and already know basic obedience commands.
It helps if they have passed the American Kennel Club’s “Canine Good Citizen” test.
How Long Does It Take To Train A Boxer To Be A Service Dog?
Service dog training takes varying amounts of time.
It depends in part on the age of the dog when they start.
An agency-trained service dog usually spends anywhere from 6 months to 2 years learning the skills they’ll need, before they are matched with an owner.
The training typically involves 1 to 2 hours a day of obedience and task work.
Other Jobs Boxers Do
As well as being service dogs, Boxers are used as:
- police dogs
- war dogs
- search and rescue (SAR) dogs
- cadaver dogs
- guard dogs
Highly teachable and sweet-tempered, Boxers are one of the breeds trained as service dogs.
It’s possible to train your Boxer to be your own service dog or you can apply to receive a service dog from an agency that trains them.
Boxers also make great therapy and emotional support dogs and these roles require far less complicated training.
It’s best to contact an accredited agency in your area.
Rest assured, Boxers will be welcome.