Mobility Dogs

Mobility dogs are specialized service dogs trained to assist individuals with physical disabilities that affect their mobility. These dogs play a vital role in aiding wheelchair users by performing tasks such as retrieving dropped items, turning light switches on and off, handling transactions in stores (by placing their front paws on the checkout counter and giving the clerk their handler’s card or wallet), and helping with the opening and closing of doors. They also provide crucial assistance in transferring between a wheelchair and other seating.

For individuals who are ambulatory but have mobility impairments, mobility dogs support stability and balance while walking. Wearing a specially designed harness, these dogs serve as a counterbalance to prevent falls. They assist with many tasks similar to those for wheelchair users, including retrieving items, opening and closing doors, removing clothing, bringing mobility aids like canes or walkers, and even helping with laundry tasks. The specific tasks a mobility dog performs are tailored to the unique needs of each person.

Mobility dogs are trained to support a variety of disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Fibromyalgia, and others. They can also cater to multiple disabilities simultaneously, for instance, aiding someone who requires mobility support and is also blind or deaf.

The selection of mobility dogs is based on their temperament, willingness to work (biddability), and their drive to perform tasks. Their physical build and the health of their bones and joints are also critical factors, considering the physical demands of their role. Training a mobility dog typically takes 18-24 months. Importantly, training with a mobility-type harness is only initiated after a dog’s growth plates have fully developed, as confirmed by veterinary x-ray, to avoid any risk of injury from the weight of the harness and the balance work.

Given these extensive training requirements and the need for physical maturity in the dogs, the waiting lists and training times for mobility dogs tend to be longer compared to other types of service dogs. This extended training period ensures that the dogs are fully prepared and physically capable of providing the necessary support to their handlers, effectively enhancing their independence and quality of life.

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