An assistance dog is any dog which helps a person with a disability and includes (but is not limited to) guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service or independence dogs (definitions are adopted from US Americans with Disability Act). A service dog is a dog that has been intensively, though lovingly, trained to meet the individual requirements of a specific human partner with a physical disability involving mobility. They provide all the physical, psychological, and therapeutic support a person with a mobility impairment needs to lead a full, productive, independent life, in much the way a guide dog aids a blind partner. At least three types of primary dog can be trained: Wheelchair Dogs, Walker Dogs, and Quad Dogs, although frequently a dog serves the dual role of Wheelchair and Walker Dog. A Wheelchair Dog has been especially trained to aid persons with limited to full upper body strength, who are confined to a manual wheelchair. They pull their partners up ramps, they stand and brace enabling their partner to change from a wheelchair to another chair, car or bed and in the event that there is a fall from the chair this last manoeuvre will help the person to get back into their wheelchair. They retrieve articles which their masters may drop, and even bring articles as specified by colour. They turn light switches off and on, open heavy doors, pick up and bring a telephone receiver. They perform high counter transactions such as in banks, and carry packages in their especially constructed backpacks. A Walker Dog is trained to assist a partner who has difficulty walking, needing, perhaps, a cane, crutches, or human assistance, because of cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's Disease. They can discard one or both crutches or canes and by leaning on the dog, with the use of a specially designed harness, be assisted up and down stairs, over kerbs, out of chairs, over uneven or rough terrain, and in many cases they enable their partners to walk, not only more correctly, but farther than ever before. These dogs will, of course, perform all other tasks such as retrieving etc. which are done by Wheelchair Dogs. Quad Dogs are trained to assist people who are quadriplegic, having very limited upper body strength. These people must use electric wheelchairs. Quad Dogs help their partners by turning light switches on and off and pressing lift buttons, retrieving dropped articles, opening heavy doors, picking up and bringing telephone receivers, and carrying packages and notebooks in their specially constructed backpacks.
See Case Study - Matt P.
Adapted from web page of Independence Dogs (US)
Page updated 14 December 2001
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 114 6