When it comes to service dogs, there are many great benefits of training Labrador Retrievers. Along with Golden Retrievers and Poodles, Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds trained for service work. In fact, when it comes to pet ownership, Labrador Retrievers have been the single most popular pet dog breed for the last three decades… and for good reason!
Labrador Retrievers Are One of the Smartest Dog Breeds.
Along with Gold Retrievers and Poodles, Labrador Retrievers are considered one of the smartest dog breeds. While many people likely consider a Labrador’s large, block-shaped head to be primarily an aesthetic feature, the size and shape of the breed’s head actually allows for increased brain size!
Project 2 Heal begins nurturing our Labrador Retriever puppies at only the second day of life, utilizing proven development methods to enrich a puppy’s still-forming neural pathways.
Through processes known as Early Neurological Stimulation and Early Scent Introduction, our puppies are introduced to novel stimuli like new smells, motions, and tactile signals to help kickstart a puppy’s nervous systems and brain development.
Early introduction to these novel stimuli allow a puppy to develop a tolerance to these types of new experiences and as an older dog, react to new experiences with curiosity rather than fear.
(Which bring us to our second point…)
Temperament of Golden Retrievers vs. Labrador Retrievers.
Listen, we’re not here to put down any breeds… everyone loves a Golden Retriever! (We’re just a little biased.) Golden Retrievers are a beautiful breed of smart dogs, as are Labradors. But when it comes to service dog training, Golden Retrievers typically don’t show the same type of outward confidence as Labradors.
For instance, if a new person walked into a house for the first time, Golden Retrievers are more likely to survey the situation from afar. Labradors on the other hand will happily investigate a new person or experience.
This type of confidence really is a major factor in service work, because when a service dog is working with a person in public, the dog needs to be able to face new experiences while remaining focused on its work. (Fear or hesitation in new scenarios simply will not make for a successful service dog.)
Labrador Retrievers Are Incredibly Trainable.
Labrador Retrievers have an incredible eagerness to please their owner, meaning they readily take to service dog training and learning new commands. Historically, Labrador Retrievers were bred as a gentleman’s hunting dog, meant to wait by its owner’s side until it was time to retrieve game like duck or pheasant. A Labrador Retriever’s capacity to actively perform commands or happily sit by its owner’s side for long periods of time make them a well balanced breed to train for service work.
In contrast, breeds like German Shepherds and Bernese Mountain Dogs were originally bred to herd sheep or cattle, as well as protect these animals from predators. While these breeds certainly excelled as working dogs in these scenarios, they weren’t bred for their aptitude for working with people.
Low Maintenance & Water-Repellant Coat.
Along with the many benefits of their outstanding temperament, Labrador Retrievers also benefit from being a short-haired dog breed. In fact, a Labrador’s short coat is water-repellant, allowing them to easily wick away water and mud. While these factors may not seem like a big deal on the surface, a Labrador’s ability to quickly dry and clean themselves means less maintenance for the person they’re serving—often a person with physical disabilities.
While we certainly don’t wish to speak poorly about any breed—we are dog lovers after all!— long-haired breeds like Golden Retrievers or Bernese Mountain Dogs simply require a higher level of maintenance. The same could be said about Poodles—while they are hypoallergenic, they need to be groomed regularly. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but it is an added cost of owning a Poodle. For a disabled individual in need of a service dog, these additional costs may not be feasible.
Friendly & Familiar Appearance.
The ubiquity of Labrador Retrievers as the most popular dog breed in the United States makes them a very approachable breed. While many veterans or adults with disabilities seeking service dogs have likely discovered their fondness for canines earlier in life, a child with special needs may have less experience with dogs.
Children could be especially intimidated by larger breeds like German Shepherds or Great Danes—although of course, many of these dogs turn out to be sweethearts! But given that these dogs were originally bred to work as protection dogs, it makes sense that they could be intimidating.
Join Our Community & Learn More.
In addition to our mission of increasing the availability of service dog to veterans, children with special needs, and adults with disabilities, Project 2 Heal strives to educate people about the increasing need for quality, ready-to-learn Labrador Retriever puppies for service dog training.
Most service dog training organizations have no breeding program, typically leaving no choice but to train dogs take from shelters. Unfortunately, an average of only 1 out of 12 shelter dogs becomes a successful service dog. This inefficiency leads to costs ranging from $25,000— $40,000 and waiting periods of up to 4 years. (For a veteran with PTSD at risk of suicide, this is far too long.)
Project 2 Heal aims to bridge this gap through the expert husbandry and nurturing of world class Labrador Retriever puppies, purpose-bred and donated to service dog training organizations across the country. Since 2011, we’ve bred and nurtured more than 500 puppies and between 65%—75% are successful in service dog training.
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