When we talk about service dogs, the top choices are German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Belgian Malinois. These are large and intelligent canines that have been proven to perform well under various commands. But the question is this: can Yorkies be service dogs? In this post, I will discuss this possibility and what you need to know if you’re keen to transform your energetic Fido into a working dog.
Can Yorkies be service dogs
What is a service dog?
Service dogs are working canines. They are trained to perform specific tasks that will help improve a person’s quality of life. They fall into different types, including guide dogs, medical alert dogs, hearing dogs, and so on. Each of these canines undergoes months of training to ensure that they can perform the tasks.
Take note that service dogs are intended to help individuals with disabilities. As defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), disability is any impairment that limits a person’s life activities. This impairment can be mental or physical and must be properly diagnosed by a licensed physician.
However, service dogs should never be mistaken for support dogs. The latter isn’t protected under the ADA and only offers companionship and emotional support. Generally, any dog can be declared an emotional support animal (ESA), even Yorkies. But since they aren’t protected under the ADA, support dogs will not enjoy the same perks as official service dogs.
Moreover, the service dog must perform tasks directly related to the handler’s disabilities. Also, they should never be treated as pets. And once they are placed to a handler, the person isn’t allowed to have other pets at home. This is because other canines can disrupt the training of the service dog.
Requirements to be a service dog
To be a service dog, the canine must be well-mannered at all times. Whether this applies to Yorkies or not, you’ll find out below.
Also, a service dog needs to stay near their handlers all at times. Finally, the canine must show consistency and expertise on the tasks it’s trained for.
Requirements for service dogs may vary per state. It’s important to inquire first, especially if you’re planning to train the pooch on your own. In general, your Yorkie must possess these traits to qualify as a service dog:
- Willingness to please
- Ability to learn and retain information
- Alert but not reactive
- Remaining calm in unfamiliar settings
- Ability to perform tasks repeatedly without losing reliability
Dogs that are good candidates for service work will then be subjected to training. Most of the time, trainers will prefer young puppies so that they can shape them into the perfect service canines.
Can Yorkies be service dogs?
Service work is highly dominated by large breeds. This leads many people to think that the likes of Yorkshire Terriers have no chance of becoming one.
Still, their worries are valid due to the nature of this pooch. The following characteristics of Yorkies could hinder their path to becoming a fully-fledged service dog:
🐶Yorkshire Terriers are small.
Yorkshire Terriers have a maximum height of 9 inches at the shoulder. They also weigh a maximum of 6 lbs. With this small stature, it’s impossible for them to offer physical support to a patient. It’s a job better done by the likes of German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.
However, you shouldn’t underestimate the size of this dog. While they don’t excel in physical support, they could become great alert dogs. I discussed this part in detail in the section below.
🐶Yorkshire Terriers are challenging to train.
Another issue trainers have with Yorkies is they are challenging to train. This breed isn’t the most eager to please, so you have to put in a lot of effort and patience to turn them into functional service canines.
Yorkies are headstrong canines that can have stubborn streaks. And since service dogs shouldn’t be reactive, it’s very rare to see Yorkies in the field.
🐶Yorkshire Terriers are energetic dogs.
This breed is also extremely energetic, which is one reason they are hard to train. They prefer running around and getting their way instead of focusing on training. Extra patience and dedication are needed to each this doggo a trick or two.
In terms of intelligence level, Yorkies aren’t dumb, but they aren’t the smartest either. They are in between, but with consistency, you can transform a Yorkie into a potential service dog.
🐶Yorkshire Terriers are sensitive.
Unlike the docile Golden Retriever and the dedicated German Shepherd, Yorkies are sensitive. They hate being left alone, and they tend to snap even on mild provocations.
As much as Yorkies can be loyal to their handlers, they don’t do well in unfamiliar situations. They aren’t good with kids, and they will become standoffish toward strangers and other dogs. Still, rigorous training and socialization will go a long way for this breed.
🐶Yorkies as medical alert dogs.
Of all the service dog types, Yorkshire Terriers are more likely to excel as medical alert dogs. These canines are trained to detect physiological changes in a person’s body, which could be indicative of impending health consequences.
A good example of medical alert dogs is diabetic alert canines. These dogs are trained to detect the smell of low or high blood sugar levels in a person’s body. Our bodies release unique scents whenever it suffers from sudden dips or increases in blood sugar levels.
During training, Yorkies will be exposed to samples of this scent. They will then be trained to detect the difference between a person’s scent with a high or low blood sugar level and a normal one.
Such a process takes in-depth and expert training. Most of the time, the resources in producing a medical alert dog are only accessible through professional training. Also, the dogs will undergo various tests to ensure high accuracy rates.
While small, Yorkies can bark and nudge their handlers to alert them. They can also retrieve or bring small items to warn the handler of their compromised health.
The cost of service dogs
The reality is that service dogs aren’t cheap. Whether it’s a Yorkie or a bigger breed, the cost of training will set you back for up to $50,000. On average, service dogs can be acquired for as low as $10,000 to $20,000.
So how come service dogs are expensive? The following are the reasons why:
- Food and vet care. Over the course of training, the dog will be fed high-quality food. They will also receive topnotch vet care to ensure that they are in shape for the job. The cost of these basic needs will add up in a span of months or years of training.
- Professional training. Training a dog for service work is much different than teaching it simple tricks. Studying to become a service dog trainer costs a lot, so trainers will expectedly charge a high fee.
- It takes time. Service dog training can’t be done in weeks. Most of the time, it will be around 1 to 2 years. Trainers prefer puppies so that they can start with a clean slate. Unfortunately, this means they will have to wait for the pooch to grow and learn the tasks holistically and gradually.
- Supplies. Just like any dog, future service canines need a comfy bed, collar, leash, vest, and so on. All these costs will be added to the overall price tag of a service dog. In general, these costs would take up to $200 a year.
- Pet insurance. Service dogs are insured in the event of health emergencies. This will be added to the cost of a service dog once they are ready to be placed into their handler.
The good news is that many non-profit organizations and foundations provide financial assistance to those who are in need of a service canine.
Added things you need to know
Yorkies can be a candidate for service work, but there’s no guarantee that your current pooch will pass. You can inquire on a service dog organization about the possibility of enrolling your Yorkie in their training program.
Aside from that, you have to prove that your home is suitable for a service dog. Most organizations will guide handlers on the changes needed to be done.
Here are other things to keep in mind:
- You’ll never be alone. Also, having a service dog means you’ll never be alone. The pooch is trained to follow you around wherever you go, even in the bathroom.
- It’s not going to be easy. As much as service dogs are highly trained, it won’t be a walk in the park to keep them. You also have to put in the work of keeping the pooch healthy.
- Continuous training is needed. Service dogs are smart, but they can still lose some degree of acuity over the years. This is why continual training must be done to keep their skill in check.
- You’ll be monitored. The organization that placed the service dog to you will continuously monitor the welfare of the pooch. This ensures that the doggo is being taken care of and that it’s performing the job well. Expect them to communicate with you in a regular manner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do service dogs have to be trained?
A: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require dogs to be professionally trained. Pet owners can train the dogs themselves and have them certified later on. However, the doggo must pass a rigorous exam to guarantee its efficacy for the job. Also, service canines like medical alert dogs require special training, which can only be given by professionals.
Q: Can a teacup dog be a service dog?
A: Teacup dogs are rarely a choice for service work. They are so small and can get hurt easily. However, they can be suitable for medical alert purposes, though trainers may not always consider very small dogs. Take note that aside from detecting medical emergencies, the dog should be physically able to warn you through nudging, pawing, and so on.
Q: Can you ask if a dog is a service dog?
A: It’s legal to ask the handler if their animal is a service dog. However, establishments and individuals are prohibited from asking for document proof under the ADA. This is to prevent discrimination and as part of medical confidentiality. Most importantly, a person isn’t allowed to force the handler to disclose what the service dog is for.
Q: Do service dogs have to pass a test?
A: In order to be certified, service dogs need to pass a test. There’s a pass or no pass threshold for this part as each dog has varying capabilities. Such testing is necessary to keep the standards and ensure that the pooch is ready for its life as a working dog.
Q: Can I train my own service dog?
A: Technically, you’re allowed to train your own service dog. However, if you don’t have the knowledge or skill for this process, it’s best to let professionals handle it for you. Just know that the cost of service dog training doesn’t come cheap. Still, it will ensure that the canine is well-prepared for the tasks it’s subjected to do.
Can Yorkies be service dogs? While they can be challenging to train, Yorkshire Terriers can be good candidates as medical alert dogs. However, rigorous training is needed to achieve the level of accuracy and reliability needed for the job. It’s always best to inquire to a legitimate service dog organization to acquire a well-trained canine.