Small Breed Service Dogs


Aiko the papillon

For many people with disabilities, a small breed service dog may be the best option.

Our Founder and CEO, Karen Shirk, started her journey with a 125lb. Black German Shepherd by her side. Ben did mobility work and was the reason Karen was able to find her place in the world. However, when Ben was called to cross the Rainbow Bridge, Karen wanted a service dog that would make traveling easier. Her answer came in a 10lb. named Piper who was able to alert her to exacerbations of Myasthenia Gravis, allowing her to take medication and avoid hospitalization.

There are many reasons why a person may decide a smaller dog is better for them. One such reason could be living arrangements; many people live in apartments where space is an issue. A smaller dog takes up less space, and can be trained to use an indoor potty like a cat, or use a space provided on a balcony that has been adapted to keep the small dog from falling off.

There are many other reasons, including but not limited to:

  • A preference for smaller dogs
  • Living arrangements
  • Lack of strength to handle a larger dog
  • Ease of travel
  • It can cost less to own a small breed dog. Vet visits often cost less and medication is cheaper. (However, it is important to note that a small breed dog needs their teeth cleaned more frequently than a large breed dog.)
  • It costs less to feed a small breed dog

Small breed dogs are just as capable of performing specific task trained skills as a larger service dog and the only reason size is needed is if the skill demands such. For example, a small breed dog could not do balance work.

At 4 Paws we have a wonderful small breed option! We use papillons as service dogs; in fact we use them almost exclusively in our Diabetic Alert Program as they seem to have been created to do medical alert!

What can 4 Paws train a papillon to do?

  • Diabetic Alert
  • Seizure Alert (When the child does not have issues that would make it unsafe to place a small dog with them for example a child with autistic like behaviors who may not understand gentle)
  • Medical Alert
  • Hearing Ear work
  • Some mobility skills such as retrieving smaller items or pushing an elevator button from the lap of their partner
  • Tracking
  • Alzheimer's assistance (dog handled by primary caregiver)
  • PTSD Alert