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So I’ve been looking into getting a service dog for a number of psychiatric issues. My preferred breed is GSD, but I’ve heard they perceive the handler’s anxiety as a sign of danger in the environment.
I like this breed mostly because people, and especially children tend to think that they’re “scary and bad” dogs. So they avoid the handler and dog. If I were to have a lab or golden, people would be more inclined to distract the dog.
Is there a chance that a GSD could remain calm in response to the handler’s anxiety? Could I train it out of the dog?
 

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So I’ve been looking into getting a service dog for a number of psychiatric issues. My preferred breed is GSD, but I’ve heard they perceive the handler’s anxiety as a sign of danger in the environment.
I like this breed mostly because people, and especially children tend to think that they’re “scary and bad” dogs. So they avoid the handler and dog. If I were to have a lab or golden, people would be more inclined to distract the dog.
Is there a chance that a GSD could remain calm in response to the handler’s anxiety? Could I train it out of the dog?
Are you saying you think people being intimidated by your dog would be better for your anxiety? if so, this is totally counter productive in the long run.

I spent 10 years partnered with a GSD service dog and now I'm working a lab. I don't find that much difference in the amount of people who try to pet the dog or distract the dog. If anything fewer people bother my lab than they did my GSD simply because I've now been partnered with a SD so long I have evolved a lot in the way I handle the public. How you handle it as the human is the deciding factor. My lab is super super people friendly and he has had no problem understanding that work is not the time to socialize. He is certainly more interested in schmoozing people than any shepherd I've ever had but that has not been a barrier to him being a good worker.

I intercepted plenty of charging children who were running at my GSD yelling "doggie!"

Yes there are GSD who can do this type of work but in my experience they are rare. Dogs of any breed who can work very well as service dogs are rare, but you are going to be more likely to find a lab or a golden who can do it than a shepherd. Partly because those breeds are more popular with many more service dog organizations and there are just more reputable breeders out there of labs and goldens breeding specifically for that. Many fewer shepherd breeders trying to produce service dog worthy dogs, and some who say they are are not truly good breeders and their dogs are not truly suited for it.

People aren't dumb. Lots of people think they want service dogs and so "breeders" are marketing for it...even with dogs who are totally unsuited.
 

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I live with combat-related PTSD. I generally have two emotional settings: totally calm and red alert with very little in between. Winifred is basically my dog. I play with her all the time, I feed her, I sleep with her...we're pals already, and I've only had her since May. She is SUPER tuned into my emotional states. It's amazing. She knows when I'm not well and she won't leave my side, but she doesn't get anxious herself unless I turn the anxiety on her, which I am careful to never do. She picks up on that very quickly when other family members do it and it makes her crazy.



Personally, I could not have asked for a better anxiety service animal than my Winifred. I am training her very carefully, though, and she seems to be naturally a pretty low-drive GSD. Like I said, though, GSDs need a lot of training and attention. A LOT. They are super mouthy and love to push boundaries. If that's going to create more anxiety that gets focused on the dog, then maybe a GSD isn't a good idea. Oh, and if you're hoping people will avoid you because you have a vicious-looking German Shepherd, forget it. GSDs are adorable puppies and beautiful dogs, and they attract attention. Too bad I didn't have Winifred 25 years ago when I was single. ;)
 

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Is there a chance that a GSD could remain calm in response to the handler’s anxiety? Could I train it out of the dog?[/QUOTE]

This particular piece of it is really the dog's temperament. If the dog is shook up by your anxiety, basically, no, that dog can't be a service dog.

The dog who can work well for anxiety is a dog who remains totally even keel despite whatever is happening with the human.

Of my dogs, hands down the lab is better in that department. The shepherds are empaths for lack of a better word, the lab is just a happy goofball no matter what else is going on. It doesn't make him less trainable to respond to issues like that, in fact it makes him more trainable for that because he isn't impacted negatively by a person's emotions.

Interestingly, the lab doesn't make me feel safe at all---he's useless as a protector, but he's actually great for anxiety. I thought it would be obnoxious to live with a such a goofy dog but let me tell you, he is funny as all get out and the shepherds are so much more serious! I have been super pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy him and pleasantly surprised to find out that a cheerful, funny, friendly-to-all, eternally happy and goofy dog is actually a GREAT antidote to anxiety, even better than a serious, ready-to-work and save the day and defend with my life german shepherd. If that makes any sense. I never would have thought I'd say that. But here we are. He's hysterical, I love him to death. I also love my shepherds to death and this one will probably be my one and only lab.
 

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I would suggest that you look into a Shiloh Shepherd. They are a GSD mix bred for a calmer temperament. I had one that was very mellow. However, they may be hard to get.
 

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Are you wanting the service dog to help you avoid social situations? And to alert you to upcoming anxiety attacks?

I have a GSD, not a service dog though. She alerts me long before an anxiety attacks comes, so I am able to take my meds and lessen the attack. She is so in tune with me, she knows every mood and intuits what my needs are. She will lay on my feet and whine, a whine she doesn’t use for anything else except an oncoming attack. If my emotional battery is dead, she knows when to give me space. On walks, she doesn’t respond to my anxiety, and I assume it’s because I’m always anxious, but she can definitely sense when it’s my normal anxiety, or when it’s upped due to environment, and she reacts accordingly. She’s always on alert on our walks, and I keep a bright red vest with “do not approach,” and “bite dog,” one her chest and sides of her vest. That, along with alertness of her, keeps people away. Not making eye contact but being fully aware of my environment helps too.

She is a senior now, and sadly, I’m preparing myself for her loss, and we don’t get to walk as much as we used to, but she’s still perfectly happy being inside with me.

You’ll get that connection with a GSD that you won’t get with another breed. If you want an actual service dog, I’d do some more research and agree with the above posters about breeds, but if you’re just looking for a companion that is intuitive to your needs, and helps you maintain a bubble around yourself when you are out and about, then a GSD would be a great breed for you.

I know nothing about service dogs, I’m just speaking from personal experience with the breed, and my own inner demons I battle with. I wish you luck, and keep us updated as to what works for you, it would be so helpful to others dealing with the same questions!
 

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So I’ve been looking into getting a service dog for a number of psychiatric issues. My preferred breed is GSD, but I’ve heard they perceive the handler’s anxiety as a sign of danger in the environment.
I like this breed mostly because people, and especially children tend to think that they’re “scary and bad” dogs. So they avoid the handler and dog. If I were to have a lab or golden, people would be more inclined to distract the dog.
Is there a chance that a GSD could remain calm in response to the handler’s anxiety? Could I train it out of the dog?
If you are looking for a GSD that will work well for anxiety issues my suggestion would be to have a trainer look at some rescues for a dog with the proper temperament. I'm saying this based on the nature of the breed. I successfully placed three of my rescues as service dogs for similar issues. With a young adult what you see is what you get. And a pet breed rescue may be a bit less "shepherdy" then a breeder pup.
 
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