Sign In

Service Dogs Heal

July 13, 2020

Chronic conditions and disabilities can be challenging.

People who have a mental/physical disability or a chronic condition that results in functional impairment or limitations to their daily activities and social participation may need assistance with a variety of daily tasks.

One way such assistance might be provided is through the use of service dogs.

Service dogs used in the current investigation were purebred or crosses between Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers. These dogs functioned as either mobility assistance dogs, seizure response dogs, or diabetic alert dogs:

Mobility service dogs assist people with chronic conditions and physical disabilities by performing behaviors such as opening/closing the door, turning on the light, and retrieving out-of-reach or dropped items.

Seizure response service dogs help individuals with epilepsy and seizure conditions. When a seizure occurs, these dogs stay with the individual and provide comfort—or, in case of an emergency, call for help.

Diabetic alert dogs are trained to help those with type 1 diabetes. These dogs can alert their handlers to dangerous changes in the person’s blood sugar, obtain medications for them, and call for help. For the present study, participants were recruited from the database of a national provider of service dogs. The main inclusion criteria included being accepted by the program (i.e., no fear of dogs, no dog allergies, and no family member with a criminal history of animal abuse or other violent crime), and having received service dogs or being on the wait-list.

The results of the analysis did not show a statistical association between having a service dog and improvement of anger, social companionship, or sleep quality. However, compared to those on the wait-list, people with a service dog had better psychosocial health. Even after statistically controlling for demographics, pet dog ownership, and disability variables, a significant association remained between owning a service dog and “higher overall psychosocial health including higher emotional, social, and work/school functioning.” The biggest impact of a service dog in the lives of people with physical disabilities and chronic conditions was in school and/or work—where it improved engagement, interactions, and overall functioning. These benefits are important because physical disabilities and other conditions cause impairment and dysfunction that affect people’s quality of life in multiple ways. These conditions often limit individuals’ lives and restrict their opportunities, especially in social and work domains. The present study suggests service dogs might help in all these domains. As the authors note, “Health care providers should recognize that in addition to the functional benefits service dogs are trained to provide, they can also provide their handlers with psychosocial benefits from their assistance and companionship.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more