Honestly, I've seen just about any breed or mix with aptitude to do emotional support work for veterans. GSDs don't have a lock on it. There are many "medium brown dog" shelter mixes ("Heinz 57" mix) that have done phenomenal work because they happen to have the right temperament -- Companions for Heroes has some stories about lives saved (suicides prevented) by a few of those little everything-mixes. What matters is the bomb-proof temperament, the bond to the person, and sense of purpose. No breed has a lock on that.
Some GSDs are great at this kind of work, but others honestly aren't. When I'm looking for a dog for a veteran with PTSD in partnership with a placement organization, maybe 1 in 10 dogs that come through rescue is suitable. In fact, some of the dogs that have had well-known pedigrees behind them after owners/breeders died have tested lousy in their aptitude. All you have to do here is look through the threads about highly reactive, anxious, sharp, high prey-drive, edgy dogs to know that some GSDs just don't have the temperament -- and some may end up dangerously over-protective and ultra-reactive to environment trying to protect the owner from imaginary monsters that are everywhere. That's why we look for bomb-proof, handler-focused but also non-reactive, go-anywhere dogs. The candidates are extremely clear-headed, so if a forklift at Home Depot drops a pallet nearby, they don't freak out even though their human may be on the ground in a panic attack. There's just a special something the ones who are meant to do serious emotional support work have. One I can think of ended up becoming a seizure alert dog all on her own after placement -- not the reason she was placed, but she figured out that it was needed because she was so in tune with her job of looking out for her adopter. I've done some GREAT placements that I'm very proud of, but they've always been with guys willing to wait and trust that the right dog will come along. Not every GSD is the right dog for that work, and I really don't want to perpetuate that view among "the public" looking for a dog that they just need "a Shepherd" (I've had some really hard conversations with impatient guys who believed that, unfortunately, and thought they could just pick any Shepherd and succeed).
Last edited by Magwart; 05-28-2019 at 11:49 AM.