What are Mobility Service Dogs?
Mobility service dogs are specially trained canines that provide support and assistance to individuals with mobility limitations or disabilities. Whereas regular service dogs are trained to perform tasks on a broader scope that cater to various disabilities and tasks unique to the needs of their handlers, mobility service dogs specialize in providing support to individuals who struggle with balance, stability, and psychological and emotional challenges related to their mobility limitations. These dogs focus on tasks that directly increase an individual’s mobility and physical independence by providing support, helping individuals perform daily responsibilities, decreasing stress, and enhancing social interactions just to name a few.
Mobility service dogs undergo specific training to learn how to perform the essential tasks that directly assist the handler’s mobility needs. They must exhibit the ability to perform mobility tasks on command, consistently, and without hesitation. Mobility service dogs need to remain calm, focused, and responsive. They must demonstrate excellent behavior and temperament under various environments and situations. In addition, these dogs are trained to behave appropriately in public spaces and to be well-socialized and comfortable around people and other animals.
Having a mobility service dog at one’s side can be crucial for individuals with mobility impairments. The stability and support of a mobility dog reduces the risk of injury due to falls, allows for a greater sense of autonomy to navigate one’s environment more independently, and provides peace of mind for family members and caretakers. In addition, because mobility service dogs are legally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States, individuals with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by their mobility service dogs in most public places and other areas where pets are typically prohibited.
Specific requirements for classifying a dog as a mobility service dog can vary based on the training program, organization, and the laws and regulations within a state or region. The process of qualifying as a mobility service dog is multi-faceted and involves assessments, training evaluations, and documentation. Organizations, such as UDS, and trainers specializing in service dog training can guide individuals through the process to ensure that both the dog and the handler meet the necessary requirements.
Tasks Mobility Service Dogs Can Help With
Mobility service dogs can be an invaluable support system for individuals with mobility impairments such as those who use wheelchairs, walkers, or have difficulty with balance and movement. These trained dogs are an anchor of counterbalance support for their handlers. In addition, they offer a variety of physical tasks such as:
- Providing stability and balance to support individuals while walking, climbing stairs, or getting up from a seated position;
- Helping their handlers maintain balance and stability while using public transportation;
- Picking up dropped items (i.e. keys, phone, glasses) and retrieving them for their handler;
- Opening and closing doors to assist individuals in wheelchairs or mobility aids;
- Assisting with removing socks, shoes, jackets, and other clothing items;
- Pulling wheelchairs in a controlled manner;
- Bringing a phone or medical device in cases of emergency.
Mobility service dogs can enhance the independence of individuals with mobility impairments by being a capable, supportive, and attentive support system. They provide their handler with greater peace of mind to move about their environment more safely and securely.
Psychological and Emotional Impact of Mobility Service Dogs
Individuals with mobility challenges can feel a sense of isolation, insecurity, lack of independence or purpose, and more. A well-trained mobility service dog can have palliative as well as an ongoing positive psychological and emotional impact on their handlers that include:
- Greater independence when they can perform daily tasks and activities they might have struggled with on their own;
- Increased sense of responsibility and purpose when they are capable of caring for and training their constant companion;
- Enhanced confidence and reduced anxiety in navigating their environment with a reliable partner to assist them;
- Reduced isolation when a mobility service dog is a gateway to social outings and increased social interactions;
- Emotional support when a bond between dog and handler is formed to help alleviate feelings of stress, depression, and anxiety;
- Empowerment in being able to better manage their disability with the support and assistance of a mobility service dog, potentially leading to a more positive outlook;
- Having the calm, soothing presence that can help reduce stress levels, especially in situations that might otherwise be challenging or overwhelming;
- Improved overall mental health outcomes with the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms and episodes.
Qualifications for Getting a Mobility Service Dog
Getting a mobility service dog involves several steps, and the qualification process can vary depending on the organization or training program, as well as the federal and state laws that oversee the ADA regulations. Some general qualifications and steps include:
- The handler must have documented medical condition(s) that significantly affects one’s mobility and independence;
- A medical professional’s evaluation and recommendation;
- Having the cognitive, physical, and emotional capability to care and manage a dog (i.e. feeding, grooming, exercising, etc.);
- Financial ability to provide the costs for the dog itself: ongoing training and expenses, veterinary care, equipment, and so forth;
- Willingness to participate in training sessions with the mobility service dog to learn how to handle and work with them to reinforce the tasks the dog has been trained to perform;
- Demonstrating that the tasks the dog is trained to perform are necessary to lessen the impact of your mobility limitations has in your daily life.
UDS Supports and Guides You in Every Step of the Service Mobility Dog Process
It’s important to research and connect with a reputable mobility service dog training organization, such as UDS, to help guide you through the process. UDS experts will assess your needs and do a consultation. UDS provides plenty of resources with information and support in learning how to properly care for and train your mobility service dog.
The benefits of having a well-trained mobility service dog can be life-changing and help you reclaim your independence. Contact UDS to learn more.
Let’s Get Started…
Fill out the contact form to get in touch with UDS. If you need immediate assistance, feel free to call us at (888) 837-4235.
Located in Lancaster, PA, UDS services counties surrounding the South Central PA area. A full map of counties can be found here.