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Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs in 2023? + Surprising Benefits You Need to Know

Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs

Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs? If you’re thinking of getting a service dog but are concerned about their size, you’re not alone. Many people wonder whether small dogs can be service dogs. The good news is that size doesn’t necessarily determine whether a dog can be a service dog or not. While larger dogs may be better suited for certain tasks, small dogs can also be trained to perform a variety of tasks to assist their handlers.

In this article, we’ll explore the world of small service dogs and what tasks they can perform.

Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs?

Service dogs, or “assistance dogs” are animals that help people with disabilities. They can perform essential tasks that improve their owners’ quality of life. Usually, large dog breeds are the ones often associated with service work. But can small dogs be service dogs as well?

Small dogs are also qualified to be service dogs. They can also be trained to complete specific tasks that help disabled people with their needs. However, not all small dogs are suitable for service work.

Suppose you decide to get a small dog as a service dog. Of course, you should know their limitations, like temperament, size, and abilities. Still, despite these factors, small dogs can be good service dogs when trained.

The Benefits of Having Small Service Dogs

Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs

Here’s why having small dogs as service dogs can be fruitful:

They’re Easy to Carry

Small service dogs are a good choice for people who need to travel, as they’re easy to transport. They’re more accepted by people in public transport, restaurants, and housing facilities as well.

They Can Access Limited Spaces

Thanks to their size, small service dogs are trainable to pick up things within closed spaces. Their nimble nature comes in handy if you drop your belongings under your bed, tables, or couches.

Small Service Dogs Are Low-Maintenance

Small service dogs are a practical option if you only have limited resources. Their food intake and equipment are easier on the wallet than their bigger counterparts.

They Can Also Sense Health Signals

Small service dogs are also trainable to alert for medical conditions. For example, they can sense anxiety, panic attacks, and PTSD. They respond to these dangers by pawing or nudging their owners.

Also, service dogs can be trained to “smell” when your blood sugar is low by detecting chemical changes in your body, reducing the risk of hypoglycemia.

They Are Skilled in Performing a Variety of Tasks

Small service dogs can assist their owners no matter what their sizes are. These tasks include retrieving, pulling a wheelchair, and helping with balance.

They’re also good at navigating to lead those with visual or hearing impairments.

Flaws or Limitations of Small Service Dogs

Can Small Dogs Be Service Dogs

Here is where small dogs are inferior to bigger ones:

Their Mobility Help Has Limitations

Due to their size, some small service dogs aren’t trainable for ambulatory purposes. In addition, they may only perform light pressure therapy because of their body build.

Their ability to retrieve is also limited to small-weighted objects.

They’re Hard to See in Public Places

Most of the time, it’s worrisome to give your small service dog some tasks outside. Smaller dogs can be difficult to see.

It’s uncommon for smaller dogs to be bumped, kicked, or even stepped on by mistake.

They Have Low Endurance

Smaller dogs walk many more steps to get things done compared to larger dogs. This makes them tired quickly.
Unfortunately, this limits their ability to provide consistent help to their handler. Small dogs also catch cold faster and are more liable to dental diseases than bigger ones.

Trainers and Gears for Small Service Dogs Are Rare

Small dogs aren’t usually trained to be service dogs, unlike larger dog breeds.

So, finding a trainer that can teach your small dog won’t be easy. Also, shops don’t always have available dog service gear for their tiny sizes.

What Are the Best Small Breed Service Dogs?

All dogs can be trained to do certain tasks, which is why saying there’s one particular breed for the task is a stretch. However, some small dogs have proven more successful as service dogs than others.

Here are some of them:


Although small, chihuahuas are intelligent and are trainable to be service dogs. But aside from the usual tasks they can perform, they’re also a good option as a Diabetic Alert Dog or DAD.

DADs can detect changes in a diabetic person’s blood sugar levels and alert them before it gets worse.


These cuddly little furballs can alert their handlers who have PTSD by pawing or nudging. They can also help mobility by guiding owners around obstacles and retrieving objects.

Toy Poodles

Toy Poodles are brilliant breeds and are trainable in guiding, retrieving, and alerting tasks. They can also sense seizure attacks and provide physical contact or pressure.

Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkies are loyal and affectionate dogs. They can provide comfort and emotional support to their handlers.
They can recognize diabetic blood sugar fluctuations and epileptic convulsions. For people with particular psychological conditions, this breed is especially beneficial.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

“The Comfort Spaniels” are gentle lap dogs known for their quiet demeanor. These traits make good service dogs for owners suffering from anxiety or panic attacks.

What Is the Smallest Service Dog?

Cupcake the chihuahua currently holds the World’s Smallest Service Dog title.

She was awarded the Guinness Book of Records in 2013 because of her size of only 6.26 inches. Cupcake usually visits hospitals and nursing homes to serve as a certified therapist.

What Is the Best Small Service Dog for People With PTSD?

There’s no “best” small service dog for PTSD. But, the dog breeds listed in this article are trainable to aid their PTSD-affected owners.

You may seek specialized training for your service dogs if you want them to assist with PTSD owners as well.

Can Service Dogs Cuddle?

Service dogs can also engage in cuddling or be affectionate outside of working hours. Handlers and their service dogs could share a bond. It helps strengthen the relationship between them.

But it’s important to note that service dogs are working animals. Their primary focus is to perform specific tasks to assist a disabled person. So, they should stay focused on their duties.

Even small service dogs must undergo extensive training. Dog trainers ensure that they can handle the job demands of their handlers. We must avoid engaging them in behaviors that may interfere with their ability to do tasks.

Can tiny dogs be therapy dogs?

Yep, even tiny dogs can work as therapists. The American Kennel Club states that therapy dogs can be any breed and size. Chihuahuas, Maltese, Pugs, and Yorkshire Terriers are just a few of the little dog breeds that make excellent therapy dogs. Both small and large service dogs can perform their jobs well. Not all little dogs, though, may be appropriate for therapy work, so it’s vital to keep in mind that each dog should be assessed on an individual basis based on temperament and behavior.

Can a small dog do mobility?

Little canines can be taught to perform mobility activities, yes. Smaller breed dogs can swiftly collect dropped goods, navigate through crowds in an emergency, and hop on chairs and tables to retrieve items for their handler. Those with physical limitations like cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy can benefit from the help of mobility assistance dogs. The largest advantage from a full support dog wheelchair will be experienced by canines with weakening or partial paralysis in their front and hind limbs. It is crucial to keep in mind that dogs that will be pulling wheelchairs, carts, or wagons must weigh at least 65 to 70 pounds and have an athletic build.

What service dog is best for anxiety?

Numerous dog breeds are suitable for use as assistance dogs for anxiety. Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Labrador retrievers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Border Collies, and Great Pyrenees are a few of the top breeds. But, it’s crucial to keep in mind that every dog has a unique personality and temperament, so it’s crucial to pick a dog that is a suitable match for the anxious person. Also, it’s crucial to engage with a trustworthy trainer who can teach the dog tricks that will be beneficial for the anxious person.

What tasks can a small service dog perform?

Small service dogs can help their handlers in a variety of ways. Detecting seizures or tachycardia episodes, warning their handler of changes in blood sugar levels, and alerting them to sounds like doorbells or alarms are some common tasks. Small service animals can assist with mental health by performing duties like grounding, stopping self-harming habits, and offering deep pressure therapy.

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Elisa Steffes

Elisa Steffes

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An emotional support animal, or ESA, is an animal companion that provides comfort and support to someone suffering from a mental or emotional disability such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or a phobia. Emotional support animals and their owners have certain protections under federal and state laws. Landlords, Co-Ops, HOAs, and other housing providers must allow tenants to live with their ESAs free of charge, even if the building has a policy banning pets.

To have a valid emotional support animal, you must be in possession of a recommendation letter from a licensed health care professional (sometimes also referred to as a “licensed mental health professional” or “LMHP”). The ESA letter will establish that you have a disability and that an emotional support animal alleviates symptoms of that disability. Under federal law, this is the only legitimate way to qualify an animal companion as an emotional support animal.

A valid ESA letter is the only documentation you need in order to qualify an emotional support animal. Landlords cannot ask for a certificate, registration, license or ID, or insist that your ESA wear a vest. These items do not confer any legal status on emotional support animals. Some ESA owners use such items as tools to signal that their animal companion is an ESA, but they are not mandatory and do not function in lieu of an ESA letter as valid forms of proof for an ESA. There is also no need to register your ESA in a database or registry.

No, ESAs do not have an automatic legal right to be in grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels that prohibit animals. ESA owners have the legal right to be accompanied by their animal companion in their home pursuant to the Fair Housing Act. Only ADA service animals trained to perform tasks (such as seeing-eye dogs for the blind) have public access rights in places like grocery stores and restaurants. Some establishments such as hotels are not obligated by law to accommodate ESAs but will do so anyway as a courtesy. It is best to check with the hotel or other businesses to see if they have a policy regarding emotional support animals.

No, ESAs are not a scam. Regrettably, there is a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding on the internet when it comes to emotional support animals that puts an undeserved cloud over legitimate ESA owners and service companies. Contrary to some myths, there is a developed regulatory framework surrounding emotional support animals in the United States. ESAs are protected by federal laws and government agencies which enforce those laws. There are specific legal requirements that ESA owners must adhere to in order to obtain accommodation under law for their animal companion. Legitimate owners of emotional support animals must have documentation in the form of a recommendation letter from a licensed healthcare provider. Housing providers have the right to demand an ESA letter from the tenant before accommodating an ESA request.

There are also many legitimate emotional support animal services online such as You should proceed with caution with any website that promises that their certification, registration, license or ID will immediately qualify your pet as an emotional support animal. Websites that are not scams will instead connect you to a healthcare professional who is licensed for your state. That professional will conduct an independent assessment of whether an ESA is right for you and issue an ESA letter only if they determine that you qualify. Legitimate ESA companies online cannot guarantee to instantly qualify an emotional support animal, since that determination must come from an independent licensed professional after evaluating the client.


A psychiatric service dog (or PSD) is a type of service dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks relating to a handler’s mental, emotional or learning disability. Psychiatric service dogs have the same rights as other types of service dogs which assist handlers with physical disabilities. Service dogs have special access rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act. They are allowed to accompany their owners in the home, on-flights and in places where members of the public are generally allowed to go.

A psychiatric service dog is not the same thing as an ESA. The primary difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support animal is that a PSD must be fully trained to perform tasks relating to a disability. A PSD in training does not yet qualify as a service dog. In contrast, ESAs are not required to have any specialized training. ESAs primarily provide comfort to their owners just through their presence and companionship. An ESA also requires a letter of recommendation from a licensed healthcare professional.

PSDs and ESAs also differ in terms of their access rights. ESAs have the right to live with their owners free of charge (even in buildings that prohibit pets) under federal Fair Housing laws and various state laws. PSDs have greater access rights under the ADA and ACAA – they can board flights as well as places generally open to the public like stores.

The other major difference between ESAs and PSDs is that an ESA can be a wide range of animals but a psychiatric service animal can only be a dog.

In order to qualify for a PSD, the handler must have a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. That can include things like depression, anxiety, PTSD, phobias, learning disorders and autism. A licensed healthcare professional is best suited to determine whether you have a qualifying condition.

Under new rules that went into effect in January of 2021, PSDs can board the cabin free of charge as long as the handler submits the Department of Transportation’s Service Animal Transportation Form prior to boarding the flight. The form requires the handler to self-certify that their animal is a trained psychiatric service dog. It also requires information regarding the dog’s trainer (which can be the handler) and veterinarian. Only the handler is required to sign the form.

The ADA allows for service animals to be trained by the handler or through a professional. If the handler is confident and capable of training their psychiatric service dog, they are allowed to do so. It is not necessary to use any organization or professional trainer, although those alternatives may be useful for owners who are not experienced in training dogs.