The Impact of Service Dogs on Engagement in Occupation among Females with Mobility Impairments: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Jun 16;14(6):649. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14060649.


It is becoming more common for people with disabilities to procure service dogs as a form of assistive technology (AT). However, there is little qualitative research examining the impact of service dogs on engagement in valued daily activities (occupations) among persons with mobility impairments. This study used a qualitative descriptive methodology to learn about the experiences of four female service dog owners with mobility impairments, with a focus on the impact of service dog use on the performance of daily occupations and participation in social activities, and their experiences utilizing a service dog as a form of AT. Data analysis indicated that each participant's service dog made a significant impact on their everyday lives and their ability to independently perform everyday activities; however, there are also unique challenges associated with service dog ownership that must be considered when evaluating benefits of service dog partnership. Overall, the positive outcomes reported by participants indicate that service dogs can be considered a beneficial, adaptable form of AT for some persons with mobility impairments.

Keywords: activities of daily living; assistive technology; mobility dogs; occupational therapy; service dogs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animal Assisted Therapy*
  • Animals
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Michigan
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobility Limitation*
  • Occupations* / statistics & numerical data
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self-Help Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Behavior*