a young Labrador training to be an NZ guide dog

4 Best Breeds for Assistance and Guide Dogs


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Every day in NZ, guide dogs and assistance dogs help humans live better lives. They fearlessly and generously devote themselves to being our ears, eyes, hands and more and ask for nothing in return.

Some breeds are exceptionally skilled at being guide dogs and assistance dogs. Over time we’ve come to know and love them for their ability to improve our lives. So much so, that humans breed these particular dogs for these specific roles.

Read on to discover some of the breeds that rank highly for this important role.

Read our purebred dogs make the best guide dogs in NZ today. But first we’ll answer an important question.

What do assistance and guide dogs in NZ do?

In NZ and around the world, guide dogs and assistance dogs help people with disabilities. They’re highly trained to perform specific functions and spend years in training. Once they’re ready, guide dogs must first pass an accreditation test before they’re allowed to get their public access rights.

If a guide dog in NZ passes their test, they’ll be able to go nearly everywhere with their human to help them as they go. They’re allowed on public transport, in restaurants, and also on airlines and in supermarkets.

This way, an assistance dog can help a person using a wheelchair, for example, at any time by performing complex tasks on their behalf. Read our disability assist dog interview with Merenia Donne, founder of Kotuku Foundation Assistance Animals Aotearoa (KFAAA) on training these marvellous pups.

a guide dog helps their human through the NZ surroundings

A guide dog is just one type of assistance dog

Assistance dogs in NZ are trained to help people with physical and mental disabilities, such as PTSD, autism, paralysis, deafness blindness and more. They’re special dogs that can perform incredible tasks when we can’t.

They can help their humans by pressing buttons on lifts, washing machines, remote controls, opening and closing doors, navigating their surroundings and much more. They can even be trained to recognize the onset of an anxiety attack and help calm their human down before it gets worse.

In NZ and across the world, guide dogs – dogs who help people with significant eyesight issues – are the most well-known assistance dogs. However, they’re just one of several types of assistance dogs.

Read more about the complex and incredible ways amazing assistance dogs (which are also known as service dogs) help their humans live better lives.

What makes a great assistance dog or guide dog in NZ?

Dogs that are highly trainable, calm and can perform well under pressure make the best assistance dogs. They need to have top intelligence levels and be attentive to the needs of humans.

Some breeds display these qualities in large quantities but even after years of training not every puppy will go on to become a fully-fledged assistance dog. That said, let’s see which purebred dogs make the best assistance or guide dogs across NZ.

Best breeds for assistance or guide dogs

Any dog with the right qualities can become an assistance dog, but there are some firm favourites in terms of breed. We’ve outlined the most popular breeds for assistance and guide dogs both in NZ and the world.

Here they are…

Labrador Retrievers are the no.1 assistance dogs in NZ

1. Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever is a favourite companion animal breed and considered the best breed for guide dogs in NZ! Coincidence? Maybe, or maybe not. It’s no accident that the good-natured, calm and helpful attitude of this pooch ticks all the qualities needed for an excellent assistance dog.

If you’re a Lab parent (or parent-to-be), you’ll love this story of two Kiwi Labrador puppies that survived some dangerous situations.

A pet parent hugs her Golden Retriever

2. Golden Retriever

Another retriever that makes the top dogs list is the Golden Retriever. Like the Lab, the Golden is good at picking up things in its maw very gently so it can do things humans usually do with their hands.

If you rely on a Golden Retriever and use a wheelchair for example and you drop your wallet somewhere busy, your pooch will quickly retrieve and return it to you. Read our Golden Retriever profile for this pup’s history, health and more.

German Shepherd training

3. German Shepherd

Despite their reputation for being aggressive, well-trained and socialised German Shepherds have immaculate manners and make fantastic service dogs. In fact, the first guide dog ever was a German Shepherd!

This dog breed has a super duper IQ and a great work ethic. It’s also famed for having an unfaltering loyalty to its peeps. Once you have a German Shepherd, you have a protector for life.

Read our profile on the German Shepherd for more fun facts on its history, health and personality. Then be sure to also read about more inspiring assistance dogs.

Poodles can be good service dogs and are considered hypoallergenic

4. Poodle

The Poodle doesn’t just have style it has serious skills. The standard large-sized poodle makes a devoted assistance dog and is big and strong enough to perform mobility tasks. A bonus of the poodle is its coat, which is actually hair instead of fur and can cause fewer allergies.

That’s great for anyone who gets the sneeze and itch factor around pets and assistance dogs. For some reason the Poodle doesn’t just cause less allergens, it’s also good at smelling allergens so it can protect people who suffer from serious allergies! Wowser, what a dog.

If you’re looking for a (relatively) hypoallergenic pet, another option is the Maltese dog. We’ve also rounded up a list of hypoallergenic cats.

Be sure to check out our piece on Easy Pets for People with Limited Mobility, which is all about the right companion or emotional support animal for those living with disability.

Protecting your dog like it protects you

Humans and dogs have been teammates for thousands of years because dogs literally make our lives better – even before service dogs existed.

Dogs are loyal, loving and live to protect us, physically and emotionally. That’s just one reason why giving your dog protection is a great way to say thank you. And it’s easy with a pet insurance plan from PD Insurance.

You get several months of FREE dog insurance when you first buy a policy. Your pet’s plan will help cover medical health care bills that otherwise could cost you thousands. Pet insurance can also help cover the costs if your pet damages someone else’s property (or them).

Find out now how affordable pet care cover can be – click below.

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