Choosing your Dog or Puppy

If you already have a suitable dog and would like to register we require that the dog is no older than 5 years of age. This is due to the amount of time required during the In Training process. An exception may be made for older dogs, but this will be considered on a case-by-case basis, the dog will already have a high level of training and be in good health to be considered. You can register your puppy prior to 12 months, and we will support you during the puppy development stages while you and your dog are In Training Members of PADs.

When it comes to choosing a dog a lot of time and research needs to be carried out well in advance of obtaining the dog. Buying a dog and just assuming it is suitable for assistance work is not advised. Please take your time and research your potential options when choosing your dog or puppy. Cross breeds are also an option, but again, please consider the breeds (if known) that the dog is crossed with. There are lots of character/behaviour variations within the breeds themselves and on top of that every dog is different; but as a rule of thumb, research thoroughly as they will each have their own pros and cons. There is no, one breed fits all, as each handler will require something different from their assistance dog, from task specific behaviours to general demeanour. Some people will get on better with a calmer slower paced assistance dog where others will benefit from a more engaging higher energy dog.

Rescue dogs may also be a possibility dependent upon the dogs temperament. If you are looking for a rescue dog, we strongly recommend you go to a registered UK rehoming/rescue centre. They should be able to assist you with finding the correct temperament and size to suit your needs. Please note that some dogs may not reach the training standard required of an assistance dog. For further information and insight, please refer to our pros and cons section.

There are many stages to training and a dogs learning is influenced by genetics and experience, things can happen along your journey which can either facilitate or hinder training. A good trainer will be able to support you through this. Please see our “Choosing a Trainer Guide” for further information on finding a suitable trainer.

We accept many breeds, however due to health reasons, we do not accept brachycephalic (flat nose breeds) and toy breeds. Please note, dogs that are crossed with a brachycephalic and/or toy breed may not be suitable and all dogs will need to be cleared by a vet as part of the initial registration process.

Kindly note that part of the application will require a vet sign off to confirm the vet deems the dog suitable as per our requirements.

We have to comply with the law and as such, we cannot accept any banned breeds. These are:

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • XL Bully

Things to Consider During the Selection Process

Task Suitability

There are several determining factors in choosing an appropriate assistance dog, task suitability is the first thing you need to consider. Contemplate the tasks or mitigating behaviours you will need your dog to perform dependent upon your medical issues and/or assistance tasks required; certain breeds or sizes may be more suitable than others.

  • Please note, if you suffer from dissociative episodes or any type of issue that will require your dog to block you and/or lead you away to safety you will need a larger, stronger dog (such as a retriever); a smaller dog will not have the strength and/or size to be able to do this. One of the mitigating behaviours will need to be road safety.

If a larger size is not a must in terms of your task requirements and your preference leans towards a larger breed, strongly reflect how practical this would be in a café or when out and about. Deliberate the behaviours you will need your dog to perform and where. For example, if you require your dog to alert you if a stranger is at your door then any size dog could facilitate this. In addition, a large dog may not be suitable for you and your capabilities. In some cases, a bigger, stronger dog may not be appropriate if you have certain medical issues.

Certain longer backed dogs like Dachshunds, although they make excellent emotional support dogs are not a suitable breed for Assistance Dog work. For a dog to become and Assistance Dog they need to be able to accompany their handler wherever they go without needing assistance themselves. Due to their elongated back Dachshunds are prone to IVDD (intervertebral disk disease) which means they have to be carried up and down steps to prevent back injuries. An Assistance Dog needs to be able to complete Public Access behaviours without assistance, this includes use of stairs and escalators. Again, please always do your research and consider the tasks that your dog will have to perform in order to mitigate your disability.

On the other end of the scale, certain giant breeds may not be suitable; for instance, a Great Dane’s life span is approximately 8 to 10 years. This would need to be considered given the time it takes to train basic commands and then on top of that any assistance behaviours you may require. Additionally, a dog of this size would suffer greatly when out and about during the warmer months.

Please note, some smaller shops/premisses may also turn away certain larger size dogs if they are unable to make the reasonable adjustments to accommodate you and your dog.

Size may also impact on your own lifestyle. If you do require a larger stronger dog but have limited living space, consider a large breed that is appropriate for the available living space available.


It is a good idea to try and find a reputable breeder that breeds for temperament as opposed to looks. Although these dogs may look slightly different than the expected breed standard, breeding for temperament is a good way of efficaciously influencing the desired temperament through a process of selection. Temperament is important when choosing an assistance dog; it is beneficial for the dog to be easy going, friendly and amenable in order to support and assist you in a wide variety of environments and circumstances.


Think about your lifestyle and how active you are. For example, if you are a more active person, a working dog (for example, a toller) may be suitable. However, for a person with mobility issues or someone with a more relaxed lifestyle the dog’s energy levels and drive may be too high. Choosing a more active breed and not being able to facilitate the dogs need may lead to the dog and/or owner becoming frustrated perpetuating a breakdown of the dog human bond. In addition, this can become a welfare issue for the dog.


Each individual’s situation is different, so dependent upon your circumstances and mental health requirements, the demands of raising a puppy may be too much for someone without extra family support. The commitment that is required to successfully raise a puppy to give it the best chance to become an assistance dog may be too much pressure. In this case trying to find a suitable older dog may be a better option.


According to the PDSA (2020) you should expect a dog may cost anything up to £30,800 for a lifetime. This cost is a minimum estimate and does not include vet fees or required medication if your dog presents with any medical issues (e.g. health problems, accidental injuries etc). Overall costs are variables depending on the size and breed of you dog. Certain pedigree dogs may be prone to health problems which may add to costs.

Please see the PDSA website for more information here.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing Your Dog or Puppy

(All examples listed are “including but not limited to”)
Is the dog physically able to perform the tasks required?

Are they free from personality or character flaws that may impact their ability to perform the essential assistance tasks?
e.g. over friendliness, overly playful, anxious.

Do they have a high frustration threshold?
e.g. They do not bark immediately and excessively in certain situations.

Do they have a desire to please are they bidable? e.g. They enjoy training and follow commands nicely.

Do they have any genetic or physical issues that may/will impact their ability to perform certain tasks?
e.g. Breeds that have long backs; short legs; inappropriate hip scores.

Are they people centred?
e.g. Some breeds are more independent and less social than others

Are they distracted by excessive drive or energy? e.g. High prey drive; easily over stimulated

Are they loud/reactive/timid when faced with unfamiliar or overwhelming situations?

Please see here for guidance on breeds according to lifestyle and living situation click “characteristics”. The link is a very useful tool, but please bear in mind that the activity levels listed on the link are largely for pet dogs. In many cases an assistance dog would generally be more active due to daily assistance requirements. Please see our “Choosing a Suitable Breeder” section for more information.


Hodgson, S. (2019). Puppies for dummies. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Miklosi, (2015) Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition Oxford: Oxford University Press

Miklosi, A., Turcsán, B. and Kubinyi, E. (2017) ‘Owner perceived differences between mixed- breed and purebred dogs.’ PLOS ONE 12(2) pp. 1-13

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Spadafori, G., 2019. Dogs for dummies. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons.

UK Government (2021) Controlling your dog in public, Crown Copywrite, United Kingdom [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 11 November 2021]