A survey of the impact of owning a service dog on quality of life for individuals with physical and hearing disability: a pilot study

Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2017 Mar 29;15(1):59. doi: 10.1186/s12955-017-0640-x.


Background: Quality of life refers to a person's experienced standard of health, comfort and happiness and is typically measured using subjective self-report scales. Despite increasing scientific interest in the value of dogs to human health and the growing demand for trained service dogs, to date no research has reported how service dogs may affect client perceptions of quality of life.

Method: We compared quality of life scores on the 16 item Flanagan quality of life scale from individuals who owned a trained service dog with those who were eligible to receive a dog, but did not yet have one (waiting list control). Data were analysed separately from two groups; those with a service dog trained for individuals with physical disabilities (with physical service dog: n = 72; waiting for a service dog: n = 24; recruited from Dogs for Good database) and those with a hearing service dog (with hearing service dog = 111; waiting for a service dog = 30; recruited from Hearing Dogs for Deaf People database).

Results: When controlling for age and gender individuals scored higher on total quality of life scores if they owned a service dog or a hearing service dog, but this was only statistically significant for those with a service dog. Both groups (physical service dog and hearing service dog) scored significantly higher on items relating to health, working, learning and independence if they owned a service dog, in comparison to those on the waiting list. Those with a physical service dog also scored significantly higher on items relating to recreational activities (including items relating to reading/listening to music, socialising, creative expression), and those involving social interactions (including items relating to participating in organisations, socialising, relationship with relatives). Additionally, those with a physical service dog scored higher on understanding yourself and material comforts than those on the waiting list control. In contrast, those with a hearing service dog appeared to receive fewer benefits on items relating to social activities.

Conclusions: Owning a service dog can bring significant specific and potentially general benefits to the quality of life of individuals with physical disabilities and hearing impairments. These benefits may have considerable implications for individuals with disabilities, society and the economy by promoting independence, learning and working abilities.

Keywords: Health; Hearing disability; Physical disability; Quality of life; Service dog.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Dogs*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ownership
  • Persons With Hearing Impairments / psychology*
  • Pets*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Recreation / psychology
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult