What are mobility and physical assistance service dogs?

For this description, the word, “mobility,” refers to an individual’s ability to navigate his or her surroundings. A “mobility dog” refers to a service dog who is trained to physically assist an individual whose disability affects his or her ability to get around, independently.

Mobility dogs are some of the most recognizable types of service dogs because the jobs they are performing are readily apparent to others. While working in public, it is generally easy to observe what the dog is doing. These dogs are generally in the medium to large size range, although, in some cases, they may even be in the size range classified as, “giant.” A dog who will be performing such a high degree of physical work must be of an appropriate size and must be structurally sound enough to perform such a job. However, this does not mean small dogs can’t assist with other forms of physical assistance work.

People with disabilities which necessitate the use of a wheelchair can benefit from some of the help that a mobility dog may be able to offer. In these cases, the service dog may assist the handler by pulling a wheelchair or helping a handler transfer into and out from a wheelchair. Other jobs mobility dogs may have, involve helping their handlers walk, preventing them from falling, or helping their handlers up from a fall.

Mobility dogs can assist people with disabilities, who struggle with impaired balance. These service dogs may help by bracing to provide steady support. They also can be trained to use their natural inclination to resist physical pressure, to provide counterbalance assistance. This can prevent the handler from losing balance or can protect the handler from the effects of losing further balance.

Other Types of Physical Assistance

Retrieval Work

As simple as it may seem, a service dog who retrieves items for his handler can make a world of difference! An inability to reach everyday items can be extremely limiting. Service dogs can be trained to retrieve a wide variety of objects, in various manners, including, but not limited to:

  • Dropped items: keys, a wallet, a cell phone, a credit card, a coin, etc.
  • A ringing phone
  • Medication
  • A drink out of the refrigerator
  • Identifying items by name, finding them and retrieving them

More Assistive Tasks

  • Opening and closing doors, drawers, cabinets, etc
  • Helping with chores, like laundry and making beds
  • Pushing buttons, like handicap buttons to open doors, elevator buttons, crosswalk buttons
  • Assisting with transactions at check-out counters
  • Carrying items, like shopping bags
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