A mobility assistance dog or mobility service dog is a canine trained to assist.
Their main duty is to assist a person with some kind of mobility issues, such as poor balance, a specific disability, or a non-ambulatory wheelchair user.
Many people of all ages have dog mobility assistance, including children and adults.
As a true man’s best friend, dogs do their best to perform various tasks, next to the unconditional love that they send toward people.
Dogs are known for being people-oriented from their puppy stage. Moreover, keeping people happy and entrained while assisting them is something that makes dogs happy as well.
Dogs love when there is a job to be done. After all, they were created and shaped to assist people with daily tasks over the centuries.
This is why some dogs are great in tracking, while others are great in hunting, while some are perfect companion dogs.
Did you know that dog’s brain has evolved over time? They evolved in a way to understand humans and the world around them better.
Thanks to this evolution dogs mastered the art of body language and what kind of communication works the best with humans.
Assisting humans every day is something that feels normal to dogs, it’s part of their duty.
Now, let’s what kind of duties mobility assistance dogs get to deliver daily.
What Is a Mobility Assistance Dog?
You have seen dogs walking next to people usually wearing vests saying – assistance dog, or some similar sign. This means that those dogs were specially trained to assist people.
It’s common to see these dogs next to a person in a wheelchair, or they could be seen next to the person getting groceries – but is this what these dogs were originally trained to do?
Service dogs are trained canines to perform various tasks for their owners who have some sort of disability.
Their primary usage is to assist people with tasks that people cannot complete on their own, and in that way increase people’s independence.
For example, mobility assistance dogs can pick up items and place them into owners’ hands, open automatic doors, and retrieve objects that are far out the reach.
Some dogs are trained to wear a harness for people who suffer from some kind of balance and strength issues.
Mobility assistance dogs are great companions and amazing supporters to those with a disability because they offer more than just companionship – in a way they are true lifesavers.
They can support people when moving from place to place, and they can help with movement whether it’s by foot or wheelchair. Moreover, these dogs are great when it comes to assisting at home and in public.
As expected, your home should be designed to assist you and accommodate your needs.
Once you complete that you can expect your dog to move around easily, open and close doors, turn lights on and off and runs to people inside the home to get the help you need.
Are mobility assistance dogs all work and no fun? Of course not.
Dogs are sensitive beings who thrive on love affection, and rewards. They need love, affection, regular training, reward-based training sessions, and a lot of praise for being so great mobility assistants.
Make sure that you give your dog a treat and verbal reassurance to encourage him to continue with great work.
Have a few moments daily to share the love with your Fido. Always praise them for their great care.
Who Can Benefit From Mobility Assistance Service Dogs?
Did you know that by law, a mobility service dog can be assigned only to a person who has some sort of disability that is developmental, physical, or psychiatric?
In other words, if you need medical assistance to move from point A to point B you can partner with an assistance dog.
Once you get a mobility assistance dog you should know that both your and your dog have certain rights that are defined by legal regulations.
These rules say that you and your Fido have rights such as transportation, lodging, and access to goods and services without discrimination.
For more information on mobility, and dog requirements check the ADA requirements for service animals.
Did you know that there are over 39 million Americans who live with some sort of physical function? This number refers to both adults and children.
Mobility assistance dogs are often paired with adults and children who have disabilities such as:
- Brain injury
- Impaired balance
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Neurological disorder
Any medical condition that stops you from living independently and stops you from performing daily tasks grants you access to work with a mobility dog.
What if you have prosthetics or assistive devices? You still can have access to a mobility assistance dog. That being said, if you have a wheelchair, scooter, walker, or a cane, you may still benefit tremendously from a mobility assistance dog.
Service dogs aren’t there only for physical support, but for emotional support as well, as the right mental care.
People who need extra support with balancing, standing, or remaining stable while moving around, are people who can benefit a lot from working with an assistance dog.
If you think that mobility assistance dogs are not so frequently seen, just know that around 500,000 service dogs assist children and adults across the States every day – you are not alone in this.
Mobility Assistance Dogs Tasks
When people hear mobility assistance dogs they usually imagine dogs who are there only to help people move from one spot to another one.
Their duties include moving from spot A to spot B, but their tasks are much wider.
Here are some of the most common tasks that mobility assistance dogs provide on a daily level:
- Providing the right support while dressing
- Providing the right support while undressing
- Retrieving a phone
- Hitting elevator buttons
- Pressing any size automatic door openeres
- Retrieving items that are hard to reach
- Turning the lights on and off
- Carryng small objects
- Carryng bags
- To stabilize a person with poor balance
- Load washing machines
- Assist with a transfer in/out of bed
These are some of the tasks that mobility assistance dogs may perform on a daily level.
Their responsibilities may vary and can be adjusted to your needs. As long as you train them the right way possible, dogs won’t mind carrying light bags, or picking up small objects – they love when there is a job to be done.
Typical tasks are a big part of a person’s routine, and dogs are big fans of routine.
Next to these daily tasks, mobility assistance dogs are often trained to help a handler who may have fallen and is trying to get back up into their wheelchair.
Some dogs are so carefully trained, that they help with so delicate tasks such as retrieving medicine.
What Breeds Are Used As Mobility Assistance Dogs?
When it comes to choosing the specific breed for certain tasks, experts often focus on specific features in dogs to get the best breed.
That being said, when it comes to choosing the breed for mobility assistance, experts choose to focus on breeds that love being next to people, breeds that are big people-pleasers, easy to train, have an easy-going temperament, and are strong enough to help people of different size and weight with their poor balance.
Don’t think that assistance duties are easy on the dogs either, as they are only allowed to work between six to eight years.
Once that period expires they must retire. Commonly used breeds as mobility assistance dogs are Labrador Retrievers or Golden Retrievers.
Some other breeds, such as Standard Poodles and Labradoodles – regardless of their intelligence, do not have a high success rate of graduating from service dog training.
How are dogs and humans matched? This decision is entirely up to dogs trainers.
They are the ones who pair the dogs with the right person based on the skill of the dog and the needs of the person, of course.
How Are Mobility Assistance Dogs Trained?
Training dogs to be mobility assistance dogs isn’t something that should be taken lightly.
Training them is a long and serious process that should be conducted by professional dog trainers. There is no fast approach to training these dogs with such a serious mission.
Does one-dog-fits-all? Simply said no. Once you apply to receive an assistance dog, professionals will a determination based on your specific needs which dog to assign to you.
Just like with any dog, training starts at an early age. In fact, training starts as soon as the dog turns eight weeks of age.
This is the perfect period to start training and socialization, as dogs are more than capable to master basic commands at this age.
Once puppies are grown, they are ready to enter the new phase – to do stability work.
The final stage is custom training. This means that dog goes through a phase that is specially designed for you.
In practice, this means that your dog will develop the needed skills to eliminate or handle your disability.
These dogs are not only ready to assist handlers, but they are ready to do that in the most challenging and distracting environments.
They are often put in situations where they have to put extra attention to details and notice even the slightest change in their human.
Mobility assistance dogs are trained to respond directly to you, with a strong ability to independently do various tasks at home.
What Happens To Mobility Assistance Dog When It’s Time To Retire?
As mentioned earlier, the majority of mobility assistance dogs work between six to eight years. Once they reach the peak they are retired.
Most mobility assistance dogs work for an average of eight years. Why do they get retired? Dogs get old fast.
As they get older, it’s most challenging for them to perform certain physical tasks. It is up to handlers to decide if they want to keep the dog as a pet.
Some organizations have already plans for where dogs go after they retire, and in most cases, dogs should be returned to an organization.
Later on, they do their best to find them a forever home.
If you want to know more about what happens with these dogs once they retire, you can check this article and see if you or someone else can help a retired mobility assistance dog.
Is It Expensive To Get A Mobility Assistance Dog?
In most cases, service dogs are trained by non-profit and for-profit organizations.
Some costs will always be involved, no matter which organization you choose finally.
Getting a mobility assistance dog is a serious decision, so make sure that you consider the financial side before you apply for a service dog.
Dog ownership comes with extra costs, including costs for:
- Dog items
- Veterinarian check-ups
- Unplanned expenses
Make sure that you think it through before you get a service dog. You don’t want to create extra confusion when it comes to getting a dog.
The Bottom Line
Dogs are great beings. They are wonderful to train, fun to be around, and they can make the most challenging tasks fast and easy.
Getting a dog is never an easy decision, nor it is something that should be taken lightly.
This is why it’s important to know how many costs you can expect once get a dog.
If you have family members around, it would be great to share responsibility regarding feeding, walking, and veterinarian appointments.
Mobility assistance dogs require the same amount of love, care, and treats as dogs that are full-time pets.
Make sure that you provide enough care, food, and toys to keep them entertained.
Dogs are always motivated by food, so make sure that you provide enough treats to keep them engaged.
After a well-performed task, share a nice pat on the head.