Volume 50 Number 3, 2013
Pages 341 — 350
Abstract — Service dogs help people with mobility impairments. They are trained to perform a variety of tasks, such as opening doors, retrieving the telephone, picking up objects, and pulling manual wheelchairs (MWCs). More specifically, using the traction provided by the service dog has physical benefits because MWC users can operate their MWCs with less effort. The objective of this study was to document the effect of a service dog on MWC mobility and user shoulder pain, social participation, and quality of life. Eleven MWC users with spinal cord injury were assessed before and after training with a service dog and 7 mo later. Based on a standardized protocol, all study participants learned how to use the service dog safely and how to move around efficiently in different environments and under different conditions. Results showed that using a service dog increased the distance covered by the MWC users and also significantly decreased shoulder pain and intensity of effort. Using the service dog also produced slight but significant improvements in MWC user skills and social participation and may indicate a trend for improvement in quality of life. More extensive research is needed to precisely identify the effect of service dogs on the long-term management of MWC use.
Key words: assistive device, manual wheelchair, mobility, quality of life, rehabilitation, service dog, shoulder pain, social participation, spinal cord injury, wheelchair skills.
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Last Reviewed or Updated Thursday, May 30, 2013 12:15 PM