Fact checked

Australian Shepherd Service Dog - Everything You Need To Know

A definitive guide on having an Australian shepherd service dog. Find out what defines a service dog and how this energetic breed fits the criteria.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

Service dogs are an essential part of their handlers' lives. These dogs provide companionship and perform tasks that allow their owners to live rich, whole lives, despite disabilities. In some cases, a service dog's tasks can be life-saving.

Although there are no breed-specific requirements for service dogs, some breeds of dogs have innate tendencies that make them better candidates than others. Australian shepherds have many qualities that make them perfect candidates for service dog training. This in-depth guide will explore what makes a great service dog and why an Australian shepherd can be a perfect choice for some handlers.

The Bottom Line:

  • What are service dogs? Service dogs are trained to assist an owner with specific physical or mental difficulties.
  • Why use Australian shepherds as service dogs? Australian shepherds are intelligent, quick-thinking, strong, good-tempered, and highly trainable.
  • How to get an Australian shepherd service dog? Complete a quick and straightforward assessment so that we can better understand your individual needs for pet service.
  • What's the difference between a service dog vs. ESA? An ESA (emotional support animal) does not receive special training to assist its owner; service dogs receive comprehensive training.

What Are Service Dogs?

Medical alert dogs, mobility assistance dogs, guide dogs, and hearing dogs are all service dogs. These service animals are much more than other dogs and household pets. A working dog undergoes specialized training from an early age to perform specific tasks related to a particular disability.

Why Australian Shepherds Make Great Service Dogs

Because a great service dog fills its handler's unique needs, the perfect breed choice will differ for each situation. Although Australian shepherd grooming can be challenging, Australian shepherds have a set of inborn traits that give them the potential to be helpful to a wide variety of service dog owners.

Unflagging Loyalty

Australian shepherds are friendly animals, but they often reserve their outright affection in human interaction for their owners and other family members. Once they become attached, they are incredibly loyal animals. Because service dog owners rely so heavily on their support animals, a good service dog must remain steadfastly by their side, regardless of the situation. A well-trained Australian shepherd can be relied upon to assist its handler, even in challenging or dangerous scenarios and stressful situations.

Natural Herding Ability

Although many breeds can learn to herd, Aussies come by it naturally and seem to have an ingrained herding instinct. Often, Australian shepherd owners will relate humorous stories about their pet's instinctive herding behavior when talking about their dogs. Their instinct makes the breed particularly well-suited to be a guide dog or seeing-eye dog for the visually impaired or provide physical redirection for handlers experiencing psychological distress.

Moderate Size

Handlers need to rely on their service animal to provide support if they have physical disabilities. A psychiatric service dog should also be the right size to provide deep pressure without physically overwhelming its handler. A good service dog must also accompany its handlers on many modes of transportation. Weighing between 40 and 60 pounds, Australian shepherds are ideal for these tasks.

High Level of Alertness

Bred to be sheepherders and mind and control large herds of animals, Australian shepherds are naturally watchful and alert. Many tasks performed by service dogs demand they be very aware of their handlers' condition. Medical alert dogs must detect physiological changes in their handlers and the onset of mental or emotional distress.

High Intelligence

Australian shepherds are brilliant dogs. One of the breed's drawbacks as household pets is its need for constant mental stimulation. The Australian shepherd service dog can be prone to destructive behavior when bored. Their ability to learn and perform complex tasks gives them an advantage in service dog training.

Australian Shepherd Service Dog

What Tasks Can an Australian Shepherd Perform?

Their natural inclinations and traits make Australian shepherds trainable for various service dog tasks.


Serving as seeing-eye dogs is a natural fit for Australian shepherds. Bred for generations as herding dogs for sheep and cattle, these beautiful dogs make excellent companions for the blind or seeing-impaired.

Medical Alerting

Both their intelligence and loyalty make Australian shepherds excellent at medical alerting. These velcro dogs are known to be almost obsessive about the well-being of their handlers, which makes them highly motivated to learn skills about the care of their owners.

Psychiatric Alerting

People with mental health issues need a service dog with the ability to detect subtle signs of mental and emotional distress. Through specialized training, Australian shepherds can learn to alert their handlers of oncoming panic attacks, spiraling emotions, or dissociative episodes.

Deep Pressure

Deep pressure therapy can help people with PTSD, autism, anxiety attacks, or Alzheimer's disease relax during a panic attack. Moderately-sized assistance dogs such as Australian shepherds are an excellent choice for this task.

Mobility Support

Australian shepherds are big enough to provide mobility and bracing support for a handler of average size. Handlers needing a service dog to support or pull more than 130 pounds should look for a male Aussie at the top of the breed's size range.

How to Get an Australian Shepherd Service Dog

To qualify for a psychiatric service dog of any breed, you will need written notification from a licensed mental health provider stating that a service animal could offer specific services about your disability. Pettable can help.

Complete Our Assessment

Our simple health assessment will help us direct you to the kind of help you need. Let us know your support needs and whether you need verification of a service animal for housing or travel purposes.

Consult With a Therapist

You only need to fill in our privacy notice and consent forms for Pettable to match you with a licensed provider to suit your needs. Your health provider will assess your mental health and determine if you need a service dog for mental disabilities.

Get a Psychiatric Service Letter

If your clinician agrees that a psychiatric service animal can help you, your PSD letter could be available within 24 hours of your first visit.

Should your PSD letter not be effective for your purposes, Pettable will give a refund of 100% of your payment.

Australian Shepherd Service Dog

Can I Train My Own Australian Shepherd To Be a Service Dog?

Yes. There are no regulations or American Kennel Club guidelines that state that a professional service dog trainer must train a service dog or an ESA. However, given the importance and complexity of what a service dog must learn, you may find it challenging to train your dog.

Where Can I Adopt an Australian Shepherd Service Dog?

An established service dog program will typically utilize breeds such as golden retrievers and labradors or other dogs raised from puppies. You can adopt a young Aussie from a local rescue dogs shelter and then train it yourself or with a family member, or have a professional, qualified trainer do the job.

What Disabilities Qualify for an Australian Shepherd Service Dog?

What qualifies as a disability under the law is determined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA gives an expansive definition of what a disability is. It states that a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits any major life activities. Pettable offers a simple quiz to help you determine if you qualify for a psychiatric service dog.

What's the Difference Between Psychiatric Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Dogs?

A trainer teaches a psychiatric service animal to complete tasks that directly assist with a disability. These dogs often begin training as a puppy and could train for as much as two years.

A psychiatric service animal is different from an emotional support dog or even a therapy dog. Both offer comfort and emotional support but do not perform tasks that provide direct assistance for a disability. However, the lack of direct assistance does not diminish the importance of an emotional support animal.

Australian Shepherd Service Dog

Frequently Asked Questions About Australian Shepherd Service Dogs

How Much Does an Australian Shepherd Service Dog Cost?

Some organizations help specific disabled populations to attain service dogs at little cost. If no such organization exists for your disability, you will find that getting a service dog of any breed could be pretty expensive. Some estimates place the cost of professional training as high as $25,000 over the puppy's first two years of life.

How To Catch a Fake Australian Shepherd Service Dog?

Unfortunately, pet lovers sometimes misrepresent their pets as specifically trained service dogs to take them places where a regular pet or emotional support dog is not typically allowed. While many service dog handlers have their dogs certified to avoid suspicion, service dog certification is not required. Handlers often utilize a service dog vest to prove their animal's identity.

The ADA only allows two questions to determine if a service dog is needed. People can ask if the dog is necessary for a disability and what task it does that assists with a disability.

Can You Get an Australian Shepherd Service Dog for Anxiety?

A professional trainer can train an Australian shepherd to perform tasks targeted to assist with anxiety. You will need a licensed professional to issue a statement that you have anxiety and that a service dog can assist you with your disability. Pettable's PSD letter process can help you acquire the documentation you require for psychiatric service dogs or emotional support dogs.

Can Any Dog Be a Service Dog?

Yes. The ADA places no breed restrictions on animals to become service dogs. Depending on your disability, many different breeds of dogs may be good service dogs for you.

Do Australian Shepherd Service Dogs Have To Be on a Leash?

The ADA states that service dogs must be harnessed or leashed in public places. There are a few exceptions to this dictate. If your disability makes a harness challenging, or if a leash interferes with your dog completing necessary tasks, you can ignore this requirement.

Does Insurance Cover Australian Shepherd Service Dogs?

Neither private insurance nor Medicaid cover a service dog's purchase, service training, or upkeep. However, you may be able to claim these expenses on your taxes at the end of the year.

How To Get a Psychiatric Service Dog?

To get a psychiatric service dog, you will need a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that a service animal can be of assistance to you. Pettable's PSD letter process can help you move forward.

How Long Does It Take To Train Australian Shepherd Service Dogs?

Length of training will depend on the complexity of the skills needed and the age and breed of the individual dog. Professional trainers typically begin working with a potential service dog as young as six weeks old. The assistant dog will learn basic obedience training and pass a public access test before moving on with further training. The process could take up to two years. Intelligent therapy dogs, such as Australian shepherds, may complete training quicker.

Are Australian Shepherd Service Dogs Allowed Everywhere?

Your full-sized or miniature Australian shepherd service dog should be allowed in all public spaces and anywhere you go, including food service areas and hospitals. The ADA allows only one concrete exception, and that is if the animal poses a threat to health or safety. Successful service dog training should make such incidences rare.

How To Get an Australian Shepherd Service Dog for PTSD?

There are no special requirements for getting an Australian shepherd service dog to help with post-traumatic stress disorder. To qualify for a service dog instead of an emotional support animal, you will need a licensed mental health professional to diagnose your disability and state that a psychiatric service dog can positively impact your well-being.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.