Golden Retriever Service Dog

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: December 5, 2023

Golden Retrievers have been among the most popular dog breeds for years. As far as companion dogs, this breed is a huge hit. The Golden Retriever has many amazing qualities and is a top dog breed for a nearly endless list of reasons.

What sets Golden Retrievers apart is their friendly demeanor and gentleness. Goldens are outgoing, trustworthy and eager-to-please pups who do well with pretty much anyone. They’re great family dogs, but are also great working dogs. The Golden Retriever maintains a puppy-like zest for life all throughout adulthood and is very receptive to obedience training, service training, and pretty much any type of training or correction.

Goldies are one of the most common service dog breeds for individuals with disabilities. Their size helps them overcome physical challenges, their temperament makes them a perfect match for their human partners, and their loyalty makes them amazing assistance dogs.

Service dogs must be intelligent, well-focused and friendly, all of which are traits the Golden Retriever possesses. In fact, perhaps the most famous Golden Retriever service dog, Sampson, is a fine example of why Golden Retrievers make excellent service animals. Sampson was trained to work in a lab at the University of Illinois with his owner, Joey Ramp. He even wears his own PPE while he helps his disabled handler do work in his lab.

What are Service Dogs?

golden retriever service dog

The definition of a service dog according to the U.S. Department of Justice as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” On a broader spectrum, a service dog is a trained dog that provides assistance to a person with a disability or impairment. There are many different types of service dogs, which we will discuss later, but all undergo a vigorous training process and are a valued member of society for the assistance they provide to their person.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 gave a more specific definition for service dogs: “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, alerting owners to a panic attack, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties.”

Types of Service Dogs

Service dog: A service dog is the most common type and is the broadest category. A service animal can help with many things, but in this category, it is most often pups offering assistance with physical disabilities or impairments.

  • Guide dogs: These dogs are also known as seeing-eye-dogs and help people with vision loss navigate the world. A guide dog will help their handler avoid obstacles, ensure they step over any holes or curbs, help them cross roads, open doors, etc. They undergo vigorous training and can accomplish dozens of tasks.
  • Hearing dogs: These talented pups assist their deaf handlers in a world of sound. They are trained to help their owners with ensuring they receive vital cues of sounds they cannot hear themselves. These cues include smoke or fire alarms, doorbells, door knocking, phones, alarm clocks, and even the person’s name. They will guide their owner to the sound or to safety, depending on the situation.
  • Medical alert dogs: These service dogs help owners suffering from seizures or epilepsy prepare for an upcoming episode and keep them safe during it. Another type of service dog under this category is a diabetic assistance dog, who helps alert their owner when their blood sugar is low or can seek medical assistance if necessary.
  • Mobility assistance dogs: A mobility assistance dog is a type of service dog that helps humans with spinal injuries, leg injuries, or any injury that makes walking, standing or balancing difficult. These are typically larger breed dogs since they provide balance support for their handler. They help their human stay standing, open doors, retrieve items, etc.

Psychiatric service dog: This special service dog assists people with mental disabilities. They have all the same rights as all the above mentioned service dogs, but undergo specialized service dog training to perform tasks their owner needs assistance with. An example of this could be including medication, or providing comforting touches. These service dogs help with mental health issues rather than mobility issues. Someone who suffers from depression, anxiety attacks, PTSD or other mental disabilities could greatly benefit from a psychiatric service dog.

Click the below video to learn more about psychiatric service dogs. 

Therapy dog: A therapy dog is not a service dog, but instead a loyal pet that helps provide comfort to people in stressful situations. This is often a hospital or nursing home, but can also be schools, natural disaster sites, etc. There are even different types, such as hearing impairment therapy dogs, school therapy dogs, etc. They undergo specialized training, including passing an American Kennel Club Good Citizen test, then visit anyone who could need comfort.

Emotional support animal: An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides emotional support to their owner. They do not undergo any special training, and are not a service animal. Any animal can become an emotional support animal with a doctor’s note, but they do not have the same rights as service dogs or assistance dogs.

Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog: What’s the Difference?

service dog golden retriever

While both emotional support dogs and psychiatric service dogs provide emotional and mental support to their owner, only one is a recognized service animal, and that’s a psychiatric service dog. These dogs undergo specialized training and have federally protected rights, such as the right to accompany their owner anywhere, including businesses, schools, non-pet friendly housing, on airplanes, etc. To get a psychiatric service dog, you must be diagnosed with a disability and prescribed a service dog who undergoes vigorous training to support you.

An emotional support dog only requires a letter of recommendation from a doctor. They are a pet who offers mental and emotional benefits to their owner. They can’t accompany their owners in public places, nor do they have access on flights, in schools, etc. and have no federally protected rights. Dogs and cats are the most common types of ESAs, but any animal has the chance to become an ESA with a doctor’s note.

It is very important to recognize the difference between these two types of dogs. Service dogs wear vests to set themselves apart, as they have a very important job and should be recognized as working dogs. Pretending a dog is a service dog is actually illegal in 20+ states and is very damaging to service dogs’ reputations. It makes life for people with disabilities much harder, and poses a challenge to service dog owners, making the conditions of service dogs worse.

Why Golden Retrievers?

So why Golden Retrievers? To summarize, Golden Retrievers make excellent companion animals, but also great assistance animals, because of their size, temperament, friendliness, and intelligence. They’re one of the most popular service dog breeds for many reasons and have been around for centuries, always providing different kinds of assistance.

Golden Retrievers on average weigh about 55 to 75 pounds and stand between 22 and 24 inches tall, making them a medium to large sized dog by the public. They have multiple color variations, but all fall under the golden category: cream, dark golden, light golden, etc. Their average life expectancy is 10-12 years.

A Golden Retriever has a stockier build, but is still agile and beautiful. Their fur falls at a beautiful length, making them true stunners. They are considering a sporting dog, and as the name retriever implies, have a tendency to retrieve items and things, much like their sister breed, the Labrador Retriever. Unlike a lab coat though, the Golden Retriever’s fut is on the longer side and not quite as water repellent. But energy level wise, the two are very similar. Goldens are loved for their permanent puppy attitude and their general zest for life and ability to remain calm and friendly in all circumstances.

Goldens are extremely trusting and loyal. They love everyone and thrive when they’re learning and doing tasks. They aim to please, making them great mobility assistance dogs and service dogs. Golden Retrievers do well in public, are easy to train, have a lovely personality and make a great best friend.

Golden Retrievers as Service Dogs

Golden Retrievers were first bred by the first Lord Tweedmouth, who developed the breed in the Scottish Highlands during the reign of Queen Victoria. He was on a mission to find the best gundog to use at his estate. Over 50 years, he bred different variations of dogs in search of the best breed possible. Through this breeding, the Golden Retriever was created to fetch waterfowl from hunts, hence the name retriever. By 1908, they were in dog shows and making their way into America.

Goldens are obviously gorgeous, and it’s clear they have an excellent temperament, but what makes them good service dogs? First off, their size gives them an advantage to help people with physical needs, such as balance support, opening doors, etc.

Size isn’t the only great thing about this breed though. It’s their ability to adapt to everything around them. They exude a quiet confidence and a general love for life. They strive to provide help for human needs, and do well in a breeding program, which makes it great for ethical breeding needed for healthy service dogs for an adult candidate.

How to Get a Golden Retriever Service Dog

golden retriever as service dog

Are you interested in having a Golden Retriever service dog? Good news, Golden Retrievers are very commonly bred for this sole purpose. They begin training as a puppy and are trained to be excellent service companions.

First, you’ll want to make sure you are able to receive a service dog. Service dogs are only given to people with disabilities that hinder their quality of life. For a psychiatric service dog, you must consult with a licensed mental health professional. This is the only legitimate way to acquire a service dog. For physical disabilities, you must consult with a doctor in your area.

If they recommend a service dog, the next step is finding a service dog for you. Look at rescues in your local area to see if they have any Golden Retrievers or Golden mixes available, or you can purchase a Golden from a breeder or service dog organization. If you adopt one or purchase one from a breeder, you will want to work with a service dog trainer or service dog program training to make sure your pooch becomes the best assistance dog possible.

Look for reputable breeders that stick to the breeds’ standards. This is the best way to ensure you get a Golden Retriever that is healthy and has all the characteristics we love about the popular breed. What makes Golden Retrievers great service dogs is their amazing personality, so we don’t want to sacrifice some of those things for a cheaper price.


Now you see why Golden Retrievers are such a beloved breed, not only as pets, but also as service animals. Their gorgeous coat and all-star personality make them an easy candidate to become service dogs.

Are you looking for a psychiatric service dog?

Here at CertaPet, we can help. CertaPet is an online telehealth platform that improves access to mental health care in the U.S. with a focus on providing services to individuals who are seeking animal assisted interventions as part of their treatment plan.

We are currently coordinating with dog trainers who specialize in the service animal space and who will soon work in tandem with our network of licensed mental health professionals to make the process of getting and training a psychiatric service dog affordable, convenient, and hassle-free. We’ll have more information available soon about our Psychiatric Service Dog Training options. In the meantime, you can take our FREE pre-screening below to see if you qualify for a PSD!


Why do Golden Retrievers make such great service dogs?

Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent, friendly, loyal, obedient, driven and much more, making them a great service dog.

How do I get a psychiatric service dog?

First, you must consult with a mental health professional to see if you qualify. If you are diagnosed with a mental disability, you will begin your search for a dog and begin training

What can a Golden Retriever service dog do for me?

This breed is very versatile! They can be trained to do anything: calm anxiety attacks, fetch medicine, work as a seeing eye dog, alert to seizures, and much more.

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