Known as man’s best friend, the dog has proven to be an indispensable companion.
Sarah Ballard’s dogs are just that, but they also have a necessary job of saving lives.
Ballard owns Dog Training Elite in Denver. She trains dogs to be service animals.
“For years we’ve kind of been selective about which dog does which thing and I think we as people fall into stereotypes very quickly,” Ballard said.
Stereotypes aren’t the best way to find a dog to do a certain job, according to Ballard.
“This is about breaking down barriers and stereotypes for service dog clients, for people in our community who truly need the support of a dog to help them access everyday life in a meaningful way” , she said.
Ballard says breed has little to do with a dog’s ability or behavior.
“The relationship between the person and the dog is the most important thing for them to be able to provide the services and the comfort that the dogs are intended for,” she said.
This relationship, along with specific motivations and traits, is something Brett Titus looks for when training dogs to become K9s.
“There are specific breeds that tend to have better drives and traits than others, but none of them, there’s no breed that can be lumped together, you know, German Shepherds . All German Shepherds are protective. All German Shepherds should be police dogs, so not true,” he said.
With a career spanning nearly 30 years in law enforcement, much of it spent working with K9s, he’s an expert on what to look for.
“In the policing world, the military world, there was this big misconception that the meaner the dog the better,” Titus said. “We’ve seen that with breed-specific things as well. So it’s not true.”
Titus compares choosing dogs for a specific job to choosing a basketball player to be in the NBA.
“I can dribble a basketball, I can shoot three-pointers and get it done once in a while, but I don’t belong in the NBA,” he said.
Titus’ point is supported by research. A recent study found that many popular stereotypes about dog behavior aren’t supported by science.