Top Mobility Assistance Dog Breeds
An estimated 3.6 million people over the age of 15 in the US use a wheelchair to assist with mobility and an additional 11.6 million use a device such as walkers, crutches, and canes to get around, according to DisabledWorld.com.
Our friend, the dog, has always been with us to help tend to our needs and he has certainly been of great assistance in his role as a Service Dog. In this role, the Mobility Assistance Dog increases the independence of a person who uses a wheelchair, has trouble standing, or walking. Let’s check out what he’s doing and which breeds are excelling at it.
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We’ll get to the top breeds in a moment, but first let’s look at the Mobility Assistance Dog and how he is lending a paw, helping his companions gain independence.
An Assistance Dog helps someone with a disability complete essential tasks helping to increase independence and improve a quality of life.
The Mobility Assistance Dog performs a variety of tasks for his human partner, like bumping the button on automatic doors, retrieving dropped items, and retrieving out-of-reach objects, such as a ringing phone.
For the dog that will be placed with someone in a wheelchair, the animal can assist with pulling the chair up a ramp, if necessary. Other dogs may serve as a brace for people who are ambulatory but suffer from balance and strength issues. With a properly retrofitted home, a mobility assistance dog can tug open doors, close them again, turn lights on and off, and summon help by finding another person in the house.
In public, the mobility assistance dog is an invaluable helper, quietly serving his partner with tasks that would be difficult or impossible to do on their own, according to Service Dogs for America, a non-profit whose mission is to facilitate specialized training, education, and to ensure the placement of service dogs to individuals with special needs.
So, what are we looking for in a Service Dog for those with mobility disabilities?
According to My Assistance Dog, Inc., There is no dog breed that cannot be trained and used as an assistance dog, but some breeds are better suited to service work than others. That’s not due to any shortcomings on the part of less commonly used breeds; it’s simply that certain temperaments, traits, and physiques make it easier for a dog to learn and perform the variety of tasks of a service dog.
Physically, the mobility assistance dog requires adequate size, strength and stamina to perform the specific duties his human partner need him for. These may include feats like carrying around hefty objects, providing support for stability, or pulling a wheelchair.
He needs to be highly trainable, as a person depends on him to reliably perform all his tasks—some of which can be life-saving. This requires a good deal of intelligence and obedience, but also an innate curiosity and strong desire to be mentally stimulated and solve problems.
The Mobility Assistance Dog must be consistently well behaved in all sorts of public situations and environments, especially considering that many disabled people aren’t able to physically restrain a canine companion.
So with that, let’s get on to the Top Mobility Service Dog Breeds.
The Golden Retriever is said to have an innate intuition of the needs of his handler. The Golden is also highly intelligent and easy to train for a wide variety of commands and tasks, he is particularly obedient, he enjoys having a job and completing challenges, and he doesn’t have a strong dominant or submissive streak. He is also noted for getting along well with children and other animals.
He has the size and strength to provide a person with physical support and to pick up and carry heftier objects—a function he was specifically bred for to retrieve game for hunters. He is active without being overly energetic, and affectionate and loyal.
The Labrador Retriever is active but not hyperactive, with enough energy, stamina, and interest in moving about to perform lots of tasks and accompany his partner everywhere. He sticks close and remains loyal, but doesn’t tend toward aggression or have the protective instinct of many other breeds that can make it risky to take them into public, populated areas. In fact, they are friendly with everyone, including strangers, children, and other animals.
Labrador retrievers are also highly trainable, with the smarts and the curiosity to do a wide variety of things. They respond obediently to commands without being too submissive.
As we’ve noted in our other service dog videos, many Service Dog Schools are turning to a Labrador-Golden Mix as their preferred breed, combining the numerous traits that make both of these dogs highly effective Service Dogs.
The German Shepherd Dog possess a keen intellect and reliable obedience, as well as an enthusiasm for meeting challenges, all of which makes him highly trainable for a variety of jobs. He has a strong work ethic and enough energy and stamina to accomplish all his tasks. The German Shepherd’s large size also means strength and the ability to provide physical support.
There is, however, one key obstacle in using the German shepherd as an assistance dog. Although he possesses a superior intelligence to the breeds above, he has a strong protective instinct. This can easily lead to distraction and aggression in public. Individual dogs of this breed need to be successfully trained to overcome this aspect of their temperament, and it is best that they partner with people who are able to maintain strong authority and restrain them if necessary.
Don’t be fooled by the poodle’s stylish good looks. He is among the most intelligent and most obedient dogs to be found. This, combined with his curiosity and eagerness to please, makes him easy to train and dependable. These qualities make the breed popular today they’re valued for assistance work.
The Poodle appreciates mental challenges and lots of physical activity, both of which often come with assistance work, and he has an innate love of retrieving. He’s also adaptable to different environments, allowing him to stay focused and alert at home and in all sorts of public situations. The Poodle is friendly but not overly enthusiastic or stimulated around unknown people or animals, remaining well behaved and attentive to their responsibilities outside the home.
Also, he doesn’t like being left alone for prolonged periods, thriving with frequent interaction. So, not only can his handler benefit from the companionship of a standard poodle, but this dog mutually benefits from a person relying heavily on him.
While he doesn’t have the size or strength of the other dogs on this list, the English Springer Spaniel has a strong work ethic, the energy to carry out tasks, and the self-control to stay calm and focused. This includes around strangers, kids, and other animals; although the breed has a protective streak, he is friendly and people-oriented enough that this trait isn’t likely to cause problems in public.
The English Springer Spaniels is highly intelligent, eager to meet challenges, and obedient. Add in his enthusiasm for pleasing loved ones and his go-getter attitude, and it’s no wonder the breed can work so well for certain types of service dogs.
Additionally, he readily adapts to different situations, environments, and demands. This is a valued characteristic in a dog that must accompany a disabled individual to different places and perform a variety of duties wherever he goes. He may not have the size to stabilize an adult, but for a child or for a handler that doesn’t require him to perform those tasks, this lovely breed is a great fit.
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