Seizure-alert dogs are service animals trained to warn their owner about the onset of a seizure. While it’s not entirely known how dogs are able to predict a seizure, it’s believed they can detect a change in scent from their owner. These dogs are trained to paw, whine, or bark at their owner or engage in behaviors such as pacing or circling prior to the seizure. That warning allows the owner to prepare by finding a safe place to prevent a seizure-related injury. There’s also another type of service dog, a seizure-response dog, that performs various tasks after a seizure, including standing next to their owner to break their fall or retrieving an alert device or medication.
Here are 10 dog breeds that are commonly used as seizure-alert dogs.
Seizure-alert dogs often wear special vests or harnesses to identify them as trained service animals. If you see one in public, remember that it’s working. Always ask before approaching or petting the dog.
The dog breeds (and mixes that include these breeds) that make the best seizure-alert dogs tend to be friendly and in tune with their owners. They also must be confident and sociable enough to accompany their owners in various public places. Plus, these dogs should have a strong work ethic and must be highly trainable.
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German shepherds are frequently used as service animals. These strong, intelligent dogs are confident, brave, and steady, and they have long been considered one of the finest all-purpose working animals. German shepherds are able to focus well to complete a variety of commands. Above all, these dogs are fiercely loyal to and in tune with their humans.
Height: 22 to 26 inches
Weight: 60 to 100 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Coarse, medium-length double coat; comes in most colors including black and tan, black and cream, black and red, black and silver, solid black, gray, and sable
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Another intelligent breed, the golden retriever is a trustworthy, loyal dog that’s easy to train. These affectionate dogs want nothing more in life than to please their owner. And they have become go-to service animals because of their ability to adapt to new situations as well as their gentle, sensitive nature.
Height: 23 to 24 inches (male); 21.5 to 22.5 inches (female)
Weight: 65 to 75 pounds (male); 55 to 65 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Medium-length double coat; color ranges from light to dark gold; medium to large stature
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The Samoyed is an extremely smart and social dog with a strong work ethic. Dubbed “smiling sled dogs,” Samoyeds were bred to complete strenuous jobs in the world’s coldest locations. But these agile dogs also have an instinctual drive to translate that work ethic into serving as a reliable companion for those in need, including being trained as a seizure-alert dog.
Height: 21 to 23.5 inches (male); 19 to 21 inches (female)
Weight: 45 to 60 pounds (male); 35 to 50 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Thick undercoat beneath a soft, fluffy, straight outer coat; primarily bright white, though some are more cream or biscuit (extremely light brown)
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An incredibly intelligent workaholic, the border collie has a seemingly endless amount of energy and is considered one of the most agile and robust of all dog breeds. These dogs are very motivated and trainable, and they aren't happy unless they have a job to do. It’s those precise qualities that make them such an unwavering seizure-alert dog.
Height: 18 to 22 inches
Weight: 28 to 48 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Rough or smooth medium-length double coat with a coarse outer coat and a soft undercoat; can be a solid color, bicolor, tricolor, merle, or sableContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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The Irish setter is an even-tempered sporting dog that's incredibly friendly and outgoing. They do well in public and are good with strangers. These dogs also are known to be eager to please their humans, and they respond well to patient, positive training. Consequently, they can develop into dependable seizure-alert dogs.
Height: 25 to 27 inches
Weight: 60 to 70 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Medium-length coat; feathering on ears, chest, legs, and tail; long snout; muscular build
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The highly intelligent and trainable poodle is often recruited as a service dog. Although this breed has developed a stereotype for being spoiled or dainty, poodles actually are quite athletic and can perform a wide variety of tasks. These agile, graceful dogs are people-oriented and tend to be very aware of their owners.
Height: Standard: over 15 inches; miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: 10 inches and under
Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds; miniature: 15 to 18 pounds; toy: 5 to 9 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Curly, dense single coat; may be one of many solid colors, including but not limited to white, black, gray, brown, and apricot
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Labrador retrievers are often seen in various service animal roles, including as seizure-alert dogs. These dogs are known for their intelligence, trainability, and good temperament. They’re quite in tune with their owners and good with strangers in public. And they have the strength to help support a person during a medical event.
Height: 22.5 to 24.5 inches (male); 21.5 to 23.5 inches (female)
Weight: 65 to 80 pounds (male); 55 to 70 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Muscular, square build; short, dense double coat; comes in black, chocolate, or yellow
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Like Irish setters, English setters also tend to make even-tempered, gentle, and affectionate companions. They’re typically adaptable to many different types of situations, and they do well around strangers. Plus, they’re eager to please and excel with positive training. And they like to stick close to their humans, which is an ideal trait for a service animal.
Height: 25 to 27 inches (male); 23 to 25 inches (female)
Weight: 65 to 80 pounds (male); 45 to 55 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Flat, silky, medium-length single coat; feathering on the ears, chest, legs, and tailContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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Gordon setters are typically a bit larger than Irish or English setters, but they feature similar personalities. These dogs are known for being unconditionally loyal companions. They’re affectionate, gentle, and very family-oriented. Plus, they enjoy an active lifestyle. And they respond well to rewards-based training, making them ideal to train as service animals.
Height: 24 to 27 inches (male); 23 to 26 inches (female)
Weight: 55 to 80 pounds (male); 45 to 70 pounds (female)
Physical Characteristics: Shiny, straight, or wavy single coat; longer feathering can be found on the ears, chest, legs, and tail; black and tan in color
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A goldendoodle is a hybrid dog—a mix of a golden retriever and a poodle—that initially was bred to be a guide dog. Like their poodle and golden relatives, these dogs are very smart, athletic, friendly, and loyal. They tend to be extremely affectionate and sociable, including with kids, other pets, and even strangers. And they are highly trainable.
Height: 13 to 26 inches
Weight: 45 to 100 pounds but can weigh as little as 15 to 30 pounds
Physical Characteristics: Shaggy and often curly coat; varying colors including gold, cream, red, black, brown, white, gray, or a combination