Bibliography - Assistance Dogs

Collection 2

Are we missing something? Please email Tiamat Warda with article suggestions at [email protected].

8 Guide Dogs

This study aimed at improving our understanding of the ontogenesis of dogs’ attention toward humans. To this aim, dogs’ attention towards their handler while performing a ‘Stay-in-place’ task was analyzed, in condition of increasing difficulty represented by the introduction of distractors. To highlight the role of experience in the absence of deliberate training to look at humans, two population of dogs were tested: dogs who had just completed training as a guide dog (Trained) and dogs who had been living with their visually impaired owner for one year (Working). The main finding was that Trained dogs looked with longer looks at their handler (the trainer; mean ± SE: 2.3 ± 0.4 s) than at an unfamiliar experimenter (1.0 ± 0.2 s; P < 0.05), while Working dogs, looked at their handler (the visually impaired owner; 1.0 ± 0.2 s) with gazes as short as those paid to the experimenter (1.2 ± 0.1 s). Performance of the ‘Stay-in-place’ task was worse in Working than in Trained dogs (χ2 = 4.24 P < 0.05). The different attention pattern is likely to be explained by the relevance that the trainer acquires as a predictive source of signals, in consequence of his/her role in the entire training process; the same relevance is not acquired by visually impaired owners, who are only involved in training at a later stage. It is also possible that working dogs learn that looking at their visually impaired owner is less useful for predicting immediate events, rather than looking elsewhere. The results highlight how dogs’ attention towards humans is shaped by the specific experiences they undergo, even as adults. Our results also imply that changes in training procedures may be necessary in order to prevent decrement in attention towards the owner by guide dogs.

As part of a broader sensory ethnographic exploration of place perception amongst international students who have recently arrived in Manchester (England), I conducted walking interviews with Abbie, who is from Barcelona and has a visual impairment. My work with Abbie and her dog-guide, Labrador Toni, offered me the opportunity to explore the development of emplaced knowledge as embodied, multi-sensory practice. As we walked as a three-in-one corporeal entity we operated as an inter-subjective being, challenging individualizing constructions of the self. During our interviews the importance of inter-corporeal space, the spaces between us, in facilitating our abilities to guide and follow each other was realized. For me as a researcher, this collaboration also afforded a re-prioritization of sensory awareness that feeds into a critique of ocular-centric approaches to research.

Guide dogs for the blind help blind people physically and mentally in their daily lives. Their qualifications are based on health, working performance, and temperament; approximately 70% of failure dogs are disqualified for behavioral reasons. In order to achieve an early prediction of qualification, it would be essential as the first step to identify important temperament traits for guide dogs. Therefore, we administered a questionnaire consisting of 22 temperament items to experienced trainers to assess candidate dogs at Japan Guide Dog Association after three months of training, which was at least three months prior to the final success (qualified as a guide dog) or failure (disqualified for behavioral reasons) judgment. Factor analyses of question items stably extracted three factors with high internal consistency: “Distraction”, “Sensitivity”, and “Docility”. When we compared factor points between success and failure dogs, success dogs showed significantly and consistently lower “Distraction” points and higher “Docility” points. Additionally, “Distraction” point could predict qualification with 80.6% accuracy and detect 28.2% of the failure dogs that had higher “Distraction” point than any success dogs. Of the nine question items not included in the three factors, two items (‘Aggression’ and ‘Animal interest’) were consistently associated with qualification. These results suggest that “Distraction” is stably assessable and has the strongest impact on success or failure judgment, therefore, it would become the first target to establish a behavioral test which may lead to an early prediction of guide dog qualification.

Tests of motor laterality and behavioral reactivity, as well as salivary cortisol concentrations, were examined in this pilot study to identify dogs best suited to guide dog work. Over a 14-month period, lateralization tests were conducted and cortisol concentrations were determined on 3 separate occasions, and temperament testing was performed on 2. Potential guide dogs (N = 43) involved in this study were 5 golden retrievers (4 males, 1 female) and thirty-eight Labrador retrievers (8 black males, fifteen yellow males, 5 black females, and ten yellow females). Results from these tests were then compared with the ultimate success of the dogs in the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT training program. This comparison produced evidence that motor lateralization (particularly the rate at which both paws were used during the Kong Test and the lateralization index during the Tape Test), reactions to an unfamiliar dog, the latency for dogs to drop and rest during an uninterrupted period, and the dog’s color and breed were predictive of ultimate success. This study also identified 14 months of age as a more accurate time to assess dogs for these traits than either 6 months of age or at the age at which they completed their training (ranging from 14 to 20 months of age).

This study examined 60 juvenile Labrador (LR) and golden retrievers (GR) and their puppy raisers (PR) to determine the effect of training (n = 20) and socialization (n = 20) compared with a control group (n = 20). These potential guide dogs were randomly allocated into 3 groups of 20 (2 treatment groups and 1 control). Training sessions ran for 6 weeks (only 5 of which were attended by the dogs), and socialization groups ran for 5 weeks (all of which were attended by the dogs). Training involved teaching a bridge (clicker); basic obedience behaviors including sit, drop, loose-leash walking, and recalls; as well as desensitization to handling, discussions about anxiety and environmental enrichment, and play time. Socialization classes covered the same discursive material, but without the training and bridge components. The control group comprised other pups and their PRs within the guide dog puppy-raising program but who were not given access to these additional classes. Like the dogs in both the treatments, these control dogs also underwent the Guide Dog NSW/ACT program but received no direct intervention through the current study.

The authors hypothesized that training and socialization would improve the success rates of dogs in the guide dog program. However, the treatments did not influence the rate of success nor the likelihood of PRs raising a subsequent pup. The interaction between color and sex had some effect on success rates; yellow female LRs had the greatest chance of success, and female GRs had the lowest chance of success. This difference may warrant further investigation in a broader study to assist in decisions as to which breeds and sexes are most successful in guide dog organizations.

A continuing debate in studies of social development in both humans and other animals is the extent to which early life experiences affect adult behavior. Also unclear are the relative contributions of cognitive skills (“intelligence”) and temperament for successful outcomes. Guide dogs are particularly suited to research on these questions. To succeed as a guide dog, individuals must accomplish complex navigation and decision making without succumbing to distractions and unforeseen obstacles. Faced with these rigorous demands, only ∼70% of dogs that enter training ultimately achieve success. What predicts success as a guide dog? To address these questions, we followed 98 puppies from birth to adulthood. We found that high levels of overall maternal behavior were linked with a higher likelihood of program failure. Furthermore, mothers whose nursing style required greater effort by puppies were more likely to produce successful offspring, whereas mothers whose nursing style required less effort were more likely to produce offspring that failed. In young adults, an inability to solve a multistep task quickly, compounded with high levels of perseveration during the task, was associated with failure. Young adults that were released from the program also appeared more anxious, as indicated by a short latency to vocalize when faced with a novel object task. Our results suggest that both maternal nursing behavior and individual traits of cognition and temperament are associated with guide dog success.

It is often assumed that measures of temperament within individuals are more correlated to one another than to measures of problem solving. However, the exact relationship between temperament and problem-solving tasks remains unclear because large-scale studies have typically focused on each independently. To explore this relationship, we tested 119 prospective adolescent guide dogs on a battery of 11 temperament and problem-solving tasks. We then summarized the data using both confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory principal components analysis. Results of confirmatory analysis revealed that a priori separation of tests as measuring either temperament or problem solving led to weak results, poor model fit, some construct validity, and no predictive validity. In contrast, results of exploratory analysis were best summarized by principal components that mixed temperament and problem-solving traits. These components had both construct and predictive validity (i.e., association with success in the guide dog training program). We conclude that there is complex interplay between tasks of “temperament” and “problem solving” and that the study of both together will be more informative than approaches that consider either in isolation.

We compared the effects of different feeding strategies on hormonal and oxidative stress biomarkers in guide dogs during a specialized training programs.

Eight neutered adult dogs belonging to the Labrador retriever breed were divided during the training work into two homogeneous groups for sex (2 males, 2 females), age (17 months ± 1), initial body weight (26.3 kg ± 1) and BCS (4.5 of 9 ± 0.11), and fed two commercial diets with different concentration of energetic nutrients. One diet was a performance diet (HPF) characterized by low-carbohydrate/ high-protein and fat content (29:39:19 % as-fed) and the other a normal maintenance diet (LPF), characterized by high-carbohydrate/ low-protein and fat content (50:24:12 % as-fed). The trial lasted 84 days. At Days 0, 28, 56 and 84, 180 min before the training work (T0) and immediately after (T1) and after 120 min (T2), blood ACTH (Adrenocorticotrophic hormone), cortisol, d-ROMS (Reactive Oxygen Metabolites- derived compounds) and BAP (Biological Antioxidant Potential) were evaluated studied. Lactate was measured at T0 and T1. The statistical model included the effects of Diet (HPF vs. LPF), time (from Day 0 to Day 84, end of the trial), and exercise (T0, T1 and T2) and their interaction.

ACTH (P=0.002) and cortisol (P=0.013) showed higher values in the HPF than the LPF group; there were no significant differences were observed for lactate. Time showed no significant difference for any hormones or blood lactate. Exercise significantly (P<0.001) influenced ACTH and cortisol concentrations, showing higher values at T1 than T0 and T2, and with lactate higher (P<0.0001) at T1 than T0. Diet did not influence biomarkers of oxidative stress. Time significantly (P<0.05) influence BAP results but not d-ROMs. Exercise had no effect on BAP results, but d-ROMs were higher at T0 than T2 (P=0.001). There was no interaction effect.

The pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response and the oxidative stress indices could represent an objective method to identify optimal dietary protocols for creating a successful guide dog during the early training period.

Evaluating potential guide dogs is crucial for guide dog schools as raising and training is an expensive process. During adolescence, volunteers raise dogs in training away from guide dog schools and expose them to a variety of stimuli and teach them obedience skills. However, no objective data exists about the dog’s behavior and environment during this period, usually lasting several months to a year. We developed an Internet of Things sensor-equipped collar to quantify dogs’ behaviors and environments during this stage. Raisers collect data from the collar using a smartphone app which in turn uploads data to a central processing pipeline. We present an overview of the system and an evaluation showing how we can learn meaningful information about a dog’s environment and physical activities while away from the school for months on end, ideally to help predict which dogs will be successful in training.

Producing successful guide dogs for the visually impaired is a costly process and many dogs do not succeed in training. Identifying and screening successful dogs early is vital for the success of guide dog programs. Volunteer puppy raising is an essential part of training to expose candidate dogs to new stimuli and teach obedience skills away from the school. As there is little objective data about puppies’ experiences with raisers, there is great potential in providing analytical insight during this important developmental period. We present a collar-based sensor system to remotely collect various sensor data to derive higher-level analytics describing behaviors and environments. We interviewed guide dog experts to refine and develop metrics derivable from sensor data. With the collar system, we collected training data and generated machine learning models to capture these metrics in order to remotely provide insight remotely at wide scale insight about puppies raised by volunteers.

A guide dog is a domestic dog (Canis familiaris) that is specifically educated to provide mobility support to a blind or visually impaired owner. Current dog suitability assessments focus on behavioural traits, including: trainability, reactivity or attention to environmental stimuli, low aggressiveness, fearfulness and stress behaviour, energy levels, and attachment behaviour. The aim of this study was to find out which aspects of guide dog behaviour are of key importance to guide dog owners themselves. Sixty-three semi-structured interview surveys were carried out with guide dog owners. Topics included the behaviour of their guide dog both within and outside their working role, and also focused on examples of behaviour which might be considered outside a guide dog owner’s typical expectations. Both positive and negative examples and situations were covered. This allowed for the discovery of new perspectives and emerging themes on living and working with a guide dog. Thematic analysis of the results reveals that a dog’s safe behaviour in the face of traffic was the most important positive aspect of a guide dog’s behaviour and pulling or high tension on the lead and /or harness was the most discussed negative aspect. Other aspects of guide dog behaviour were highlighted as particularly pleasing or disappointing by owners including attentiveness to the task, work, environment and owner; confidence in work and decision making (with confident dogs resulting in confident owners) obedience and control; calmness and locating objectives. The results reveal important areas of behaviour that are not currently considered priorities in guide dog assessments; these key areas were consistency of behaviour, the dog’s maturity and the dog’s behaviour in relation to children. The survey revealed a large range in what owners considered problematic or pleasing behaviours and this highlights the heterogeneity in guide dog owners and the potential multifarious roles of the guide dog. This study contributes to the literature on which behaviour is considered appropriate or inappropriate in dogs and on the nature of human-animal interactions.

Guide dog (GD) mobility is part of the broader field of Orientation and Mobility, but there is a service gap between the numbers of people who have a GD and those who could benefit from GD mobility. There is also a shift in the GD industry from standardized GD services that focus on dog production and capability toward person-centered practice. There is a resulting need to measure the person-centered outcomes of GD mobility training, but to date no appropriate measures have been available. This embedded, mixed methods study with a QUAL/quan priority investigated the benefits of guide dog mobility with clients (n = 51) from Guide Dogs Victoria, Australia using grounded theory methodology, as a foundation for measuring the outcomes of guide dog mobility training. In 2015–2016, semi-structured interviews explored clients’ lifestyle choices, functional vision, orientation and mobility skills, and guide dog mobility. Two new assessment tools were also piloted, comprised of co-rated, behaviorally anchored ordinal scales, with ratings warranted by participants’ comments. The tools were feasible to implement and reduced qualitative information about Orientation and Mobility Outcomes (OMO) and Vision-Related Outcomes in Orientation and Mobility (VROOM) each to a number out of 50, facilitating comparisons. The study found that a guide dog (1) enabled and improved travel, (2) fostered connections, (3) enhanced wellbeing, and (4) empowered clients. The OMO tool captured these benefits, showing content validity as an outcome measure to evaluate GD training programs. The resulting measurement data could be used to review the results of guide dog production, evaluate client readiness, inform matching decisions, customize client–dog training, and measure the person-centered outcomes that ensue from guide dog mobility. The novel functional measurement methodology and VROOM/OMO template provide a model for development of further functional outcome measures, including a GD assessment/matching tool that includes human and GD factors.

This article explores how visually impaired people (VIP) navigate around (a) stationary people and (b) moving people, when guided by the Boston Dynamics’ robotic “dog” and its human operator. By focusing on the micro-spatial dimensions of human mobility while being guided by a mobile robot, the paper argues that the VIP+robodog+operator is in situ emerging as a socio-material assemblage in which agency, perception, and trust gets distributed and that this distribution enables the accomplishment of navigation. The article is based on ethnomethodology and multimodal conversation analysis (EMCA) and a video ethnographic methodology. It contributes to studies in perception, agency, human–robot interaction, space and culture, and distributed co-operative action in socio-material settings.

As part of a collaborative project involving five guide and service dog organizations in the USA (Canine Companions for Independence, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Leader Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye), volunteer puppy raisers provided information about the behavior of the guide and service dogs in their care via a questionnaire (the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire, or C-BARQ©; The surveys were completed online when the puppies were 6 months old and again at 12 months of age. Dogs were tracked through training and those that successfully completed training and were matched with a blind/disabled handler or were selected as breeders were classified as successful while dogs rejected from the program due to behavioral issues were classified as released (dogs rejected for medical reasons were excluded from analysis). A total of 11,997 C-BARQ evaluations for 7696 dogs were analyzed. Generalized linear modeling for each of the five schools revealed that dogs that successfully completed training scored more favorably on 27 out of 36 C-BARQ traits at both 6 and 12 months of age compared to those that were released from the programs. The most predictive trait at both age levels was pulls excessively hard on leash, for which each unit increase in score was associated with a 1.4 increase in the odds of being released from the program. The ability of the C-BARQ to discriminate between dogs that were later successful or released differed across organizations (P = 0.001 and P < 0.0001 for 6- and 12-month surveys, respectively), most likely due to differences in the procedures used when making decisions about whether or not to release dogs. These findings provide convincing evidence that the C-BARQ is able to discriminate between dogs that are behaviorally suited for guide or service work and those that are not and may provide trainers with useful information about potential training or breeding candidates as early as 6 months of age.

Als Teil eines kollaborativen Projekts mit fünf Blindenhund- und Servicehund-Organisationen in den USA (Canine Companions for Independence, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Leader Dogs for the Blind and The Seeing Eye) beantworteten freiwillige Hunde-Erzieher den C-BARQ-Fragebogen über das Verhalten von Blinden- und Servicehunden aus ihrer Obhut. Diese wurden ausgefüllt, als die Hunde sechs Monate und zwölf Monate alt waren. Assistenzhunde, die die Ausbildung abgeschlossen haben und einem Menschen mit Behinderung übergeben wurden oder zur Züchtung ausgewählt wurden, wurden als erfolgreich eingeordnet, während Hunde, die aufgrund von Verhaltensproblemen abgelehnt wurden, als entlassen klassifiziert wurden. Tiere, die aus medizinischen Gründen abgelehnt wurden, wurden in der Studie nicht beachtet. Insgesamt wurden 11997 Evaluationen mit Angaben über 7696 Hunden analysiert. Es ergab sich, dass Hunde, die eine Ausbildung komplett absolviert haben, im Alter von sechs und zwölf Monaten in 27 von 36 Untersuchungsmerkmalen besser abschnitten als Hunde, die aus dem Programm entlassen wurden. Die Fähigkeit, mit dem C-BARQ-Test zwischen später erfolgreichen und später entlassenen Hunden zu unterscheiden, wurde stark von der jeweiligen Organisation beeinflusst, da jede Organisation andere Bewertungskriterien angesetzt hat. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass man mit dem C-BARQ-Test zwischen Hunden, deren Verhalten für die Arbeit als Blinden- oder Servicehund geeignet ist, und Hunden, deren Verhalten nicht für die Arbeit als Blinden- oder Servicehund geeignet ist, unterscheiden kann. Schon im Alter von sechs Monaten können mögliche Übungen vorgeschlagen oder Kandidaten für die Züchtung erkannt werden.

The article compares the guide dog movements in the United States and England, noting that in England there is one school with 7 centers while in the U.S. there are 10 competing schools. In England, twice as high a proportion of blind people use guide dogs.

Diagnosed at Moorfields Eye Hospital at the age of 4 with retinitis pigmentosa and told that I would not see beyond the age of 15, I have been fortunate to reach the age of 35 with some residual peripheral vision. Not many people appreciate that only 18% of people registered blind can see nothing at all. I have never liked the word “blind,” with its negative connotations in everyday terms such as “blind drunk” and “blind ignorance.” In my line of research, even the term “randomised double blind trial” has left me feeling awkward. However, since I have started walking into walls, opening tins of peaches for our rather surprised cat, and putting my two and a half year old daughter in the bath still wearing her socks, I decided it was time to reassess matters.

This study examines the relative importance of a longer than normal 4-month training period, or being passed back from the original training class to join a class in which dogs are at an earlier stage of their training, on the overall probability that a dog entering guide dog training will ultimately graduate as a guide dog. The study group consisted of dogs that were trained at The Seeing Eye guide dog school in the years 2000 through 2005. In total, 2033 Labrador retrievers (LR), golden retrievers (GR), German shepherds (GS) and Labrador retriever/golden retriever crosses (LGX) were included in the study. Of all dogs, 39% had been passed back during their training, and 56% had graduated as guide dogs. In general, females had a lower chance to be passed back than males, except for GS and LGX. Overall, GS had the highest chance to be passed back during their training. LGX had the highest, and GS the lowest, probability for graduating as guide dogs. Dogs that were passed back for behavioral reasons were only half as likely as dogs completing training normally to work as guide dogs, whereas medical reasons and no match reasons for being passed back hardly influenced the chances to become guide dogs. Overall, the current 4-month standard training program at The Seeing Eye seemed mostly successful for LGX and LR, whereas GS and GR had a higher success rate when being passed back, i.e., they were more likely to graduate as guide dogs when they were trained for a longer period than the standard training program.

Manche Hunde werden länger als die normalen vier Monate zum Blindenführhund ausgebildet oder in eine frühere Ausbildungsstufe zurückgereicht. Diese Studie untersucht, welchen Einfluss dies auf die Wahrscheinlichkeit hat, dass Hunde die Ausbildung zum Blindenhund erfolgreich abschließen. Die untersuchte Gruppe bestand aus Hunden, die in der Seeing-Eye-Blindenhund-Schule zwischen 2000 und 2005 ausgebildet wurden. Insgesamt waren 2033 Labrador Retriever (LR), Golden Retriever (GR), Deutsche Schäferhunde (GS) und Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever-Kreuzungen beteiligt. Von allen Hunden wurden 39% in ihrer Ausbildung zurückgestuft und 56% haben die Ausbildung erfolgreich abgeschlossen. Generell hatten weibliche Hunde eine geringere Chance, zurückgestuft zu werden (außer bei GS und LGX). Insgesamt hatten GS die höchste Chance, während ihrer Ausbildung zurückgestuft zu werden. LGX hatten die höchste und GS die geringste Wahrscheinlichkeit, die Ausbildung zum Blindenhund erfolgreich abzuschließen. Hunde, die wegen Verhaltensproblemen zurückgestuft wurden, haben die Ausbildung nur halb so oft erfolgreich abgeschlossen wie Hunde, die normal ausgebildet wurden. Medizinische Gründe oder fehlende, passende Partner haben die Möglichkeit, die Ausbildung erfolgreich abzuschließen, kaum beeinflusst. Insgesamt scheint das viermonatige Ausbildungsprogramm besonders für LGX und LR geeignet zu sein, während GS und GR häufiger erfolgreich waren, wenn sie zurückgestuft wurden. Sie haben die Ausbildung also eher erfolgreich abgeschlossen, wenn sie ein längeres Programm absolviert haben.

The study investigated the affectional bond developed by dogs (Canis familiaris) towards their human companions during the selection process to become guide dogs and compared this bond with that formed by pet dogs with their owners. One hundred and nine dog-owner pairs were tested using a modified version of the Strange Situation Test: custody dogs-puppy walkers (n = 34), apprentice dogs-trainers (n = 26), guide dogs-blind owners (n = 25) and pet dogs-owners (n = 24).

Twenty-six behaviours were scored using a 5 s point sampling method and two vocal behaviours were recorded as bouts. Factor analysis carried out on 24 mutually exclusive behaviours highlighted two different profiles of response. A relaxed reaction characterised by a high play activity was distinctive of custody and apprentice dogs, whereas an anxious reaction characterised by a high degree of proximity seeking behaviours was distinctive of pet dogs. Guide dogs were intermediate between these two extremes, expressing their attachment to the owners but showing a more controlled emotional reaction. This finding suggests that guide dogs can be viewed as “working pets”. Furthermore, the experimental set-up, characterised by the presence of a frightening stimulus, revealed that untrained dogs (pets and custody dogs) were more fearful than trained dogs (guide dogs and apprentice dogs). Finally, differences in temperament emerged between retrievers: Golden retrievers showed a higher level of affection demand while Labrador retrievers were more playful. Overall, these findings show that in spite of separations from previous attachment figures, guide dogs established with their blind owner a rather good and secure affectional bond.

The aim of this study was to analyze the behavioral and physiological reactions of guide dogs in a distressing situation which promotes attachment behaviors towards their blind owners, and to compare such reactions with those of untrained or trainee dogs.

The subjects were 57 adult Labrador and Golden retriever dogs (14 males, 43 females) belonging to four different groups: 19 Custody dogs, 13 Apprentice dogs, 10 Guide dogs and 15 Pet dogs. Dogs were tested using the Strange Situation Test, consisting in seven 3-minute episodes in which the dogs were placed in an unfamiliar environment, introduced to an unfamiliar woman and subjected to separation from their human companion. Tests were video-recorded and behaviors were scored using a 5-second point sampling method. Polar Vantage telemetric system was used to record cardiac activity.

ANOVAs for repeated measures with groups and breeds as independent variables, showed a more anxious reaction in pet dogs, which revealed a high degree of proximity seeking behavior. Cardiac activity increased during episodes characterized by the exclusive presence of the stranger, but this increase was more conspicuous in guide dogs than in custody and apprentice dogs. Golden retrievers showed more behaviors suggesting distress compared to Labrador retrievers.

This study showed that guide dogs, when separated from their blind owner, reveal a controlled behavioral reaction that is however accompanied by a stronger cardiac activation.

Formation of “The Seeing Eye,” a school for guide dogs, has played a vital role in fostering efforts to develop guide dog programs in the United States and throughout the world. This brief review is intended to highlight the historical evolution of guide dogs for the blind and to tell the story of The Seeing Eye.

This Comment is a supplemental feature of the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness October-November 2011 Special Issue on Orientation and Mobility and Professional Preparation: Celebrating 50 Years. This commentary is based on presentations the authors gave at the 2011 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Seattle, Washington, and the 2010 North Central Orientation and Mobility Association (NCOMA) conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

This research aimed to identify the frequency and type of undesirable behaviors observed by guide dog puppy walkers and management strategies used by them during the puppy-walking period. All members of 36 puppy-walking families (N=96), recruited from the National School of Guide Dogs for Blind People in Florence (Italy), completed an 80-item questionnaire. This sampling represented homes caring for 28 Labrador retrievers, 6 Golden retrievers, and 2 German shepherd dogs. Of these dogs, 47.2% (n=17) were males and 52.8% (n=19) females, and 66.7% (n=24) were between 7 and 12 months old. Three categories of undesirable behaviors were recorded. First, behaviors considered inconsequential to the guide dog role were: digging (11.8%, n=11); chewing objects (4.4%, n=4); stealing or begging for food (3.1%, n=3); licking people (5.9%, n=5); getting on furniture (4.4% n=4); defending territory (2.8%, n=2); and coprophagia (5.9%, n=5). Second, the following behaviors considered easily resolvable through training were recorded: lack of recall (8.9%, n=10); pulling on lead (11.8%, n=11); jumping up (28.1%, n=30); barking at other dogs (5.9%, n=5); chewing the leash (1.5%, n=1); and house soiling (5.9% (n=5). Third, these potentially disqualifying behaviors were observed: scavenging (17.7%, n=17); aggressive barking, growling, and biting (10.4%, n=10); and fear of thunderstorms (6.2%, n=6); loud noises (32.3%, n
=31); men (2.1%, n=2); women (3.1%, n=3); and people with unusual clothes (6.2%, n=6). None of the puppies was reported to be fearful of children. Overall, 67.7% (n=66) of respondents recorded at least 1 undesirable behavior. However, only few of them might lead to disqualification. The results suggest that most of the puppies were well socialized to people and not fearful. Puppy walkers could contribute to the early assessment of potential behavioral problems, which are a major cause of disqualifying guide dogs.

Diese Studie hat sich das Ziel gesetzt, die Häufigkeit und Art unerwünschter Verhaltensweisen, die von Blindenhund-Ausführern bei Welpen beobachtet wurden, und ihre Führungsstrategien während des Ausführens zu identifizieren. 96 Teilnehmer aus 36 Familien, die Welpen ausführen und von der nationalen Ausbildungsstätte für Blindenführhunde in Florenz angeworben wurden, beantworteten einen 80-teiligen Fragebogen. Die Probe umfasste Haushalte, die für 28 Labrador Retriever, sechs Golden Retriever und zwei Deutsche Schäferhunde sorgten. 17 Hunde waren männlich, 19 waren weiblich. 66,7% waren zwischen sieben und zwölf Monate alt. Es wurden drei Kategorien von unerwünschten Verhaltensweisen aufgenommen. Zu den für die Rolle als Blindenhund unbedeutenden Verhaltensweisen gehörten: Graben (11,8%), Kauen auf Gegenständen (4,4%), Stehlen von oder Betteln nach Nahrung (3,1%), Ablecken von Menschen (5,9%), Besteigen von Möbeln (4,4%), Verteidigung des Reviers (2,8%) und Koprophagie (5,9%). Die zweite Kategorie beschreibt durch Training leicht lösbare Verhaltensweisen. Beobachtet wurde Mangelndes Lernverhalten (8,9%), Ziehen an der Leine (11,8%), Hochspringen (28,1%), Anbellen anderer Hunde (5,9%), Kauen auf der Leine (1,5%) und Verschmutzen von Häusern (5,9%). In der dritten Kategorie wurden eventuell disqualifizierende Verhaltensweisen beobachtet: Plündern (17,7%), aggressives Bellen, Knurren und Beißen (10,4%), Angst vor Gewitter (6,2%), lauten Geräuschen (32,2%), Männern (2,1%), Frauen (3,1%) und Menschen mit unüblicher Kleidung (6,2%). Angst vor Kindern wurde bei keinem Welpen festgestellt. Insgesamt wurde in 66,7% der Fälle mindestens eine unerwünschte Verhaltensweise beobachtet, allerdings nur wenige, die zu einer Disqualifikation führen könnten. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass die meisten Welpen gut sozialisiert und nicht ängstlich waren. Ausführer von Welpen könnten zur frühen Beurteilung von möglichen Verhaltensproblemen, die wesentlicher Grund für die Disqualifizierung von Welpen als Blindenhund sein können, beitragen.

Although there are some indications that dogs (Canis familiaris) use the eyes of humans as a cue during human–dog interactions, the exact conditions under which this holds true are unclear. Analysing whether the interactive modalities of guide dogs and pet dogs differ when they interact with their blind, and sighted owners, respectively, is one way to tackle this problem; more specifically, it allows examining the effect of the visual status of the owner. The interactive behaviours of dogs were recorded when the dogs were prevented from accessing food that they had previously learned to access. A novel audible behaviour was observed: dogs licked their mouths sonorously. Data analyses showed that the guide dogs performed this behaviour longer and more frequently than the pet dogs; seven of the nine guide dogs and two of the nine pet dogs displayed this behaviour. However, gazing at the container where the food was and gazing at the owner (with or without sonorous mouth licking), gaze alternation between the container and the owner, vocalisation and contact with the owner did not differ between groups. Together, the results suggest that there is no overall distinction between guide and pet dogs in exploratory, learning and motivational behaviours and in their understanding of their owner’s attentional state, i.e. guide dogs do not understand that their owner cannot see (them). However, results show that guide dogs are subject to incidental learning and suggest that they supplemented their way to trigger their owners’ attention with a new distal cue.

Guide dogs are working dogs that follow the verbal instructions of owners with severe visual impairments, leading them through the environment and toward goals such as a subway entrance (“Find the subway” instruction). During this process, guide dogs incidentally familiarize themselves with their environment. As such, they provide a unique animal model for studying wayfinding abilities in the canine species. In the present descriptive study, 23 skilled guide dogs travelled along a path once and were subsequently tested in a navigation task, with a blindfolded guide dog instructor as the handler. Dogs had difficulty reproducing the path (only 30.43% of the dogs succeeded) and returning (homing) along the previously travelled path (43.47% of the dogs succeeded). However, 80% of them successfully took a shortcut, and 86.95% a detour. This is the first description of the wayfinding abilities of dogs after a single discrete exploration of the path (incidental learning) in systematic experimental conditions. Errors, initiatives and success rates showed that dogs were able to keep track of the goal if the path was short, but errors increased with longer paths, suggesting segmented integration of path characteristics process, as demonstrated in humans. Additionally, errors on homing and detouring, both vital wayfinding tasks, were correlated, suggesting an effect of experience. Initiatives taken by the dogs further suggest flexibility of the spatial representation elaborated. Interestingly, we also found that homing was the only task to benefit from severe visual disability and regular exposure to new journeys, suggesting that these two factors influence the most important wayfinding task. This study therefore highlights qualitative and quantitative wayfinding abilities in the dog species, as well as the factors that account for them, after a single path exploration accompanied by natural ongoing motivation. In the wake of the discovery that dogs are sensitive to the magnetic field, our results provide the basis for developing systematic wayfinding tests for guide dogs.

Blindness has previously been associated with impaired quality of life (QOL). Guide dogs may not only support blind people in their independency, but also facilitate social relationships and overall health. This study sought to investigate whether blind people from Austria with a guide dog, when compared with blind people without a guide dog, differ in their QOL, annual medical costs, and attitudes towards the human–guide dog relationship. Participants (n = 36) filled out an online accessible questionnaire that consisted of the World Health Organization (WHO)QOL-BREF and additional self-designed questions. Guide dog ownership was not associated with a better QOL. However, yearly medical cost expenditures were descriptively lower in guide dog owners, who were also more likely to believe that guide dogs can increase their independency and exert positive effects on health. Moreover, guide dog owners more likely considered a guide dog as a family member than non-guide dog owners. Although within the framework of this study, owning a guide dog was not significantly associated with increased QOL, some differences between the groups regarding health beliefs, attitude towards the dog, and relationship with the dog were identified. Accounting for the emerging prevalence of visual impairment, further research into this topic is warranted.

The most important traits causing dogs to be rejected as unsuitable for training as guide-dogs were found to be fearfulness, being too easily distracted, especially by other dogs, and aggressiveness. The guide-dog trainers evaluate these traits and several others using a series of 17 scores. The between-trainer repeatability of these scores varied from 0 to 0.7. Factor analysis of these 17 scores yielded 5 factors, which can be labelled distraction, general performance, sensitivity, fearfulness and fearfulness accompanied by high activity. There were no negative correlations between desirable traits, so it should be possible to obtain an overall improvement in the performance of the dogs. Comparison of dogs from the breeding programme of the Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Australia with dogs donated to the Association as puppies showed that the breeding programme had improved the dogs in the 3 important traits. Also, dogs reared under the supervision of the Association were superior to dogs donated as adults in these 3 traits. Females were more fearful and distracted by scents but less aggressive and distracted by dogs than males. There was significant genetic variation for fearfulness and possibly for dog distraction, suggesting that future selection on these criteria will further improve the standard of the dogs. These 17 scores, which are given early in a dog’s training, have little ability to predict the dog’s final performance on specific tasks but they do correlate with the overall reliability of fully trained dogs.

The correlations between measurements of a variety of responses, including approach, avoidance, nature of contact with the stimulus, tail position and posture, to a large number of stimuli were analysed. In general, the measurements were correlated, indicating a general trait of fearfulness, but some of the correlations were very low. Factor analysis showed that measurements were more likely to be highly correlated if they were based on similar responses, or used similar stimuli, or were made close together in time. In most cases, it was avoidance responses which were most highly correlated with fearfulness as assessed by guide dog trainers. Adult fearfulness could be predicted to some degree from fearfulness at 3 months of age, but the accuracy of the prediction improved with age.

Between 4 weeks and 6 months of age, dogs were subjected to a battery of behavioural tests. The ability of these tests to predict fearfulness, activity and learning ability of the dogs when adult was assessed. Consistent individual differences in fearfulness were apparent at about 8 weeks of age, and the ability to predict adult fearfulness increased with age. The most useful tests involved responses to a strange person, a strange dog, a strange place and certain unusual objects. There appears to be genetic variation between dogs in fearfulness when young, but genetic selection against fearfulness would be more accurate if carried out in adult dogs rather than in young dogs. Consistent individual differences in activity from 4 weeks of age were found, but this behaviour correlated poorly with the activity of the dogs when adult. Puppies responded to fear by inhibiting movement. None of the tests used predicted the dogs’ performance on specific learning tasks.

The visually impaired have been a longstanding and well-recognized user group addressed in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Recently, the study of sighted dog owners and their pets has gained interest in HCI. Despite this, there is a noticeable gap in the field with regards to research on visually impaired owners and their dogs (guide dog teams). This paper presents a study that explores the interactions of guide dog teams revealing a rich, holistic understanding of their everyday lives and needs, across both work and leisure activities. Our findings inform and inspire future research and practices suggesting three opportunity areas: supporting working guide dog teams, enhancing play-interaction through accessible dog toys utilizing sensor technologies, and speculative and exploratory opportunities. This work contributes to the growing research on designing for human-canine teams and motivates future research with guide dog teams.

Although many technological products for the blind have been created in the intelligent and the digital age, guide dogs are irreplaceable options in supporting blind travel, both bodily and psychologically. However, there are nonetheless some drawbacks in the way guide dogs assist in travel. In order to make up for the shortcomings of guide dogs, optimize the travel experience and ensure the safety of blind people, the smart guide dog harness (“E-guide”) based on image recognition technology, communication technology, GIS positioning technology, etc. was designed. In order to ensure that the design of the smart guide dog harness is practicable and implementable, first, 4 user pain points in the process of guide dog-assisted blind travel are obtained through various research methods. 16 basic requirements of guide dogassisted blind travel based on the user pain points is compiled. Afterwards, a two-dimensional questionnaire based on the “Kano Model” was created based on the above 16 travel requirements, and the blind people assessed their satisfaction based on each travel requirement. The results of the questionnaire were statistically and analytically analyzed according to the two-dimensional attribute classification approach based on “Kano Model” to obtain the requirement attribute for each travel requirement. Then, the Better-Worse analysis was used to transform each requirement attribute into a quantitative requirement index, so as to clarify the travel requirements of guide dog-assisted blind travel that need to be satisfied as a priority, and provide guidance and reference for the design and research of smart guide dog harness. Finally, a simulation experiment was conducted with and without the “E-guide” to assist blind people to travel. The travel period and heart rate changes of blind people traveling were tested. The results showed that “E-guide” can effectively improve the physical and mental satisfaction of guide dogs in assisting blind people to travel.

For the dog to become a safe and fluent guide for a vision impaired person it will be necessary for it to employ the cognitive processes of selective attention, pattern recognition, categorisation, discrimination, prediction and the mental representation of knowledge and its translation into action. Above all the guide dog needs to be a confident decision maker and problem solver, capable of operating with purposeful intent within a set of rules.

If the dog is to guide its vision impaired owner safely in town or city, stopping at kerbs, avoiding pedestrians and street furniture, manoeuvring around ladders and helping its owner cross roads safely, it will need to be much more than a well conditioned and unthinking robot!

This e-pub will be of value to dog owners and professional trainers, education and training staff of guide dog schools, students of animal and human cognition, veterinary staff, and anyone who has a curiosity about how the guide dog does its job.

The author discusses three important factors that need to be considered by Orientation & Mobility (O&M) instructors when working with clients that are guide dog users. These include: that the work of a guide dog can be in uenced by the presence of the O&M instructor during training; the signi cance of straight line travel; and the importance of using such O&M techniques as guiding, directional cues and landmarks.

Salivary secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) concentrations of prospective guide dogs for the blind were determined to clarify whether salivary sIgA is useful in evaluating the potential suitability of guide dogs for the blind. Saliva was collected from 73 prospective guide dogs in the kennel on day 1 (the day of separation from volunteer puppy-raisers), 2, 3, 7 and 14 during the estimation period (at about 1 year old). We selected particularly suitable dogs (superior dogs) and unsuitable dogs (inferior dogs) on the basis of the trainers’ estimation. All dogs were divided into two groups, those were acceptable dogs would become the guide dogs and rejected dogs could not become guide dogs. The sIgA concentrations in superior dogs gradually increased from day 1 to 14 and those in inferior dogs remained at low levels. Moreover, the sIgA concentrations on day 14 in the acceptable dogs were significantly higher than those in rejected dogs. The cut-off point of sIgA concentrations on day 14 using an ROC curve was 90 EU/ml, and the specificity of the estimation at this point (70.4%) was higher than that of trainers’ estimation (50%). Moreover, parallel testing using both trainers’ estimation and sIgA estimation, showed that specificity was further improved (79.5%). The present study showed that sIgA concentration was extremely useful in estimating the adaptive ability for guide dogs for the blind.

The aim was to assess glycemia regulation in a blind diabetic patient after getting a guide dog. Glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) results of a blind patient before and after getting the guide dog were retrospectively collected. The paired t-test results yielded a two-tailed P value of 0.0925, a difference considered not statistically significant; the 95% confidence interval of this difference varied from -0.2494 to 1.889. An improvement of glycemia regulation was observed with the guide dog compared to previous glycemia regulation, however, the difference was not statistically significant. The moderate improvement could probably be attributed to the mobility of the blind person having a guide dog. Standard quality of life tests should be included in the evaluation of diabetic blind persons, especially the impact of a guide dog on glycemic control or other chronic complications of diabetes.

Criteria and testing procedures with regard to the suitability of dogs as guide dogs for the blind were developed on the basis of a literature study and own observations. A profile of the guide dog comprising physical characteristics, skillfulness, behaviour, and obedience was drawn up. As a rule, the testing procedures concern health and skills of the dogs. In the skill test some elements of the behavioural and obedience test were included. The final evaluation is based on the results of physical examination and the skill test, unless testing of behaviour and/or obedience appears necessary as well. A method for evaluating the performances of the dogs as objectively as possible is described. Some implications of using and testing guide dogs are discussed.

A young blind adult recounts his experiences in using a dog guide, describing psychological adjustment, trials and joys of being a student at a dog guide training center, bonding with the new dog, and adjusting to home life with a dog guide. Suggestions are offered for the improvement of orientation and mobility training. (JDD)

In spite of the vast amount of literature on pet therapy and dog companionship, limited studies exist on older adults with vision loss and the experience of owning a dog guide. The purpose of this study is to explore the facilitators and barriers of first-time ownership and utilization of a dog guide as experienced by older adults with vision loss.

Data were gathered among seven participants using open-ended semistructured telephone interviews. Participants described their experiences related to owning a dog guide. Using phenomenological analysis, themes were extracted from verbatim transcriptions.

Through constant comparison methods, five themes emerged: increased responsibilities for new dog guide owners, changes in habits and routines, quick human–dog guide bonding, increase in community integration, and enhancement of autonomy through dog guide ownership.

The study results suggest that obtaining a dog guide increased the older adults with vision loss everyday engagement in community activities. The increased confidence in independent mobility may have led participants to engage in activities in unfamiliar environments, thus improving their autonomy, self-esteem, and physical abilities. These changes resulted in increased feelings of independence and freedom for the older adults with vision loss. Participants also revealed positive changes in their daily habits. Due to the increased physical ability and motivation needed to complete activities, making adjustments to owning a dog guide became easier. Furthermore, a human–dog guide bond was prevalent among all seven participants.

Themes extracted provide health practitioners and dog guide organizations insight into how owning dog guides may empower older adults with vision loss.

Individuals with visual impairments lead less active lifestyles than their sighted counterparts. Reduced physical activity in this population can be attributed to a lack of opportunities combined with fewer intervention opportunities, less experience in sport and recreational activities, and decreased perceived motor competence. Furthermore, individuals with visual impairments report lower values in all domains of quality of life when compared with their sighted counterparts. Therefore, it is imperative that opportunities are developed to increase self-determination leading to higher levels of physical activity for individuals with visual impairments. Running is a popular physical activity for active individuals; however, there are many barriers to running for individuals with visual impairments. To increase these opportunities, a school for guide dogs has recently started training guide dogs to run. The purpose of this study was to determine the perspectives of adults with visual impairments on their experiences running with trained running guide dogs. Ten adults who are blind were interviewed on phone by two researchers. Qualitative research questions were validated by two adults who are blind, three specialists in adapted physical education, and one guide dog trainer. Interviews were transcribed, and themes were extracted by three of the authors. The four major themes that emerged from this research study were (1) running guide dogs’ contribution to mental and physical health, (2) independence as a result of running with a guide dog, (3) The dog is key to increased/improved running, and (4) barriers and supporters to running. Our results indicate that there are numerous positive effects that a running guide dog has on the health, independence, and quality of life of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The results indicated that making running guide dogs available could provide increased self-determination for adults who choose to take advantage of this program leading to a healthier lifestyle.

This is the first of a two-part study that examined the effects of a guide dog as an aid to mobility; both parts are published in this issue of the IJOM. The first part demonstrates the perceived effectiveness of the dog on travel performance, and the second part describes changes to travel habits, as well as advantages and disadvantages of guide dog mobility. In this first part of the study, the travel performance of 50 people who were blind or vision impaired was investigated retrospectively when participants used (a) mobility aids other than a guide dog (i.e., before a dog was acquired) and where applicable, a dog they considered to be (b) a satisfactory and (c) an unsatisfactory mobility aid. Results indicated that travel performance was considered significantly better when using a satisfactory dog compared to pre-guide dog mobility or an unsatisfactory dog. Follow-up tests were conducted to determine whether differences in travel ability before a dog was acquired affected travel performance when using a satisfactory dog. Participants were separated into three groups (poor, moderate and good travellers) based on their perceived travel ability pre-dog. Significant differences in travel performance were found between all three groups before a dog was used, but no differences were seen between the groups when using a satisfactory dog. Further tests indicated that travel performance was significantly better for all three levels of traveller when using a satisfactory dog compared to pre-dog mobility, with less accomplished travellers showing the greatest gains. The use of a dog also appeared to alleviate restrictions to travel caused by some non-visual conditions.

The Tellington TTouch method is used to reduce stress and relax animals so they can learn more effectively. It aims to increase an animal’s body awareness and balance by using a combination of techniques that include specific touches, body wraps and leading (movement) exercises. This article discusses the method and its potential role in guide dog training.

Excessive stress impairs learning. The Tellington TTouch method (TTouch) is used to reduce stress and relax animals so they can learn more effectively. It aims at increasing an animal’s body awareness and balance by using a combination of techniques that include specific touches, body wraps, and leading (movement) exercises. This article introduces the TTouch method, its role in sensory enhanced learning, and provides a review of TTouch in the scientific literature and the way this applies to stress in guide dogs. The article concludes with a discussion of the benefits of integrating TTouch in guide dog training.

This article describes the second of a two-part study that examined the effects of a guide dog as an aid to mobility. The first part, which is also published in this issue, showed that dogs were perceived to significantly improve travel performance, irrespective of the participants’ orientation and mobility skills before receiving the dog. The second part of the study describes the changes a dog makes to travel habits. In this second part, the travel habits of 50 people who were blind or vision impaired were examined retrospectively before and after they received a dog. The results indicate that dogs were used more frequently than other mobility aids except when it was more convenient to use a human guide or a long cane, as for example on a very short journey. People travelled independently more often and went further, with greater ease and enjoyment when travelling with a dog. The use of a dog appeared to reduce problems with access and the need to avoid certain journeys. However, dogs also caused difficulties, especially in social situations where they were no/welcomed,and in crowded, cramped or dog-populated environments. More advantages than disadvantages were identified when comparing a dog to other mobility aids.

The success of the partnership between a guide dog handler (or owner) and a guide dog depends upon both the suitability of the dog and the skill of the handler in maintaining the relationship. This qualitative study explored the use of guide dogs from the perspective of those who use them as a prelude to a larger scale, quantitative project assessing the matching process and the outcome of the partnership. The data were collected from a focus group discussion from which eight themes emerged. These included: mobility; adjustment to vision loss; advantages and disadvantages of using a guide dog; the matching process; training with the dog; socialfunction, feelings of friends and family; and the outcome of the relationship. In this article, these themes are described and exemplified with extracts from the focus group discussion. The study fulfilled its purpose as an information gathering exercise to further investigate the relationship between guide dog handlers and their dogs, and has added to a small but growing body of literature on the topic.

Matching a person who is blind or visually impaired with a guide dog is a process of finding the most suitable guide dog available for that individual. Not all guide dog partnerships are successful, and the consequences of an unsuccessful partnership may result in reduced mobility and quality of life for the handler (owner), and are costly in time and resources for guide dog training establishments. This study examined 50 peoples’ partnerships with one or more dogs (118 pairings) to ascertain the outcome of the relationship. Forty-three of the 118 dogs were returned to the guide dog training establishment before reaching retirement age, with the majority (n = 40) being categorized as having dog-related issues. Most (n = 26) of these dogs’ issues were classified as being behavioral in character, including work-related and non-work-related behavior, and 14 were due to physical causes (mainly poor health). Three dogs were returned due to matters relating to the handlers’ behavior. More second dogs were returned than the handlers’ first or third dogs, and dogs that had been previously used as a guide could be rematched successfully. Defining matching success is not clear-cut. Not all dogs that were returned were considered by their handlers to have been mismatched, and not all dogs retained until retirement were thought to have been good matches, suggesting that some handlers were retaining what they considered to be a poorly matched dog. Almost all the handlers who regarded a dog as being mismatched conceded that some aspects of the match were good. For example, a dog deemed mismatched for poor working behavior may have shown good home and/or other social behaviors. The same principle was true for successful matches, where few handlers claimed to have had a perfect dog. It is hoped that these results may help the guide dog industry identify important aspects of the matching process, and/or be used to identify areas where a matching problem exists.

Guide dogs are mobility aids that facilitate independent travel of people who are blind or visually impaired. Additional benefits imparted to the guide dog handler include companionship, and increased: social-function, self-esteem and confidence. Some evidence shows that the end of the guide dog partnership can result in reduced mobility, and may have profound psychosocial effects on the handler due to feelings of bereavement and loss of self-esteem. However, this evidence is limited. This study examined the experiences and feelings of 36 people across New Zealand, who experienced the ending of at least one partnership with a guide dog (77 pairings), to explore issues arising at the end of the partnership and how this may impact on relationships with subsequent dogs. Results indicate that the majority of handlers experienced a reduction in their quality of life due to a decrease in independent mobility followed by the loss of a friend and companion, curtailment of social interactions, and loss of self-esteem/confidence. The end of the partnership affected people in different ways. Most handlers “accepted” the partnership had ended, but some felt guilty or angry with the guide dog school. Most applied for another dog immediately, as the need for mobility was high, while others preferred to wait and a smaller number did not reapply. Feelings at this time also affected the handlers’ relationships with subsequent guide dogs, with over a quarter expressing a negative effect. Retiring a guide dog (for whatever reason) is not only difficult for the handler, but also for the handler’s family, friends, co-workers, and doubtlessly, the dog. The majority of handlers expressed feelings of extreme grief when the partnership ended, whether it was successful or not. Feelings of extreme grief were more common for first than subsequent dogs. The depth of emotion was compared to losing a family member or other loved one, which has been reported in some person and pet relationships. A better understanding of issues surrounding the end of the partnership, including the human-animal bond, will help inform the guide dog industry of how best to support their clients during this time and when transitioning to another dog. Findings may be applied to other service/assistance dog users and the pet owning community.

The degree of acceptance of dog guides at public facilities, which is required by law in Japan, was investigated, and evidence of rejection was found. Japanese people with visual impairments who used dog guides reported higher daily stress levels than did those who did not use dog guides.

Training a guide dog is a long and expensive process which involves experts with years of experience. At Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a large national guide dog school, a factor in the decision for whether a dog is suitable to continue training are numeric scores based on a subjective judgement during observation of the dog as it undergoes formal evaluations. As a step towards a more objective system, we outfitted dogs undergoing these evaluations with a data collection system capable of collecting electrocardiography and other data. Using both a prototype network and an optimized network, we show that electrocardiography data can be used to predict 29 behavioral scores with approximately 92% accuracy over 11 distinct tasks during the evaluation. Additionally, we show that each of the 11 tasks can predict any of the scores, indicating that the most predictive features in the data may be task agnostic.

Fear is the leading cause of guide dog failure. Detecting the nature and causes of these fears as early as possible is the first step in preventing their occurrence. The process of habituation is a fundamental part of fear prevention. In this study, 11 puppies, all five months of age, underwent an emotional reactivity test (ERT) composed of 12 scored items, classified into three categories: unknown person (UP), sound and visual stimuli (SVS), and body sensitivity (BS). Salivary cortisol was also measured. Foster families were asked to complete a questionnaire concerning puppies’ habituation. The physiological data were correlated with UP (r = 0.71) and BS scores (r = 0.67), but not with SVS scores (r = 0.16), suggesting the ability of these dogs to control themselves when faced with the latter stimulus category. Additionally, the more time a puppy spent alone, the more likely it was to be afraid of SVS (p = 0.05). A correlation, albeit moderate, was detected between cortisol and habituation scores (r = 0.48). These results give us interesting avenues to explore, particularly regarding the importance of focusing on early puppy socialization and habituation to improve the numbers of guide dog candidates becoming successful guide dogs.

Purpose: This Australian study piloted a new measure of Orientation and Mobility to better understand the functional mobility of guide dog handlers with low vision or blindness. It is expected that this measure can be used to better match guide dogs to their handlers.

Materials and methods: The new Orientation and Mobility Outcomes tool scores a client in Stable/Familiar and Dynamic/Unfamiliar conditions, also considering Travel-Related Wellbeing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 51 guide dog handlers, during which travel skills were co-rated with an interviewer.

Results: A cluster analysis of the Orientation and Mobility Outcomes data identified four mobility styles: intrepid explorers, social navigators, independent roamers and homebodies. The differences between these clusters had more to do with mental mapping skills than level of vision, and different guide dog characteristics were needed to support the travel styles identified for each cluster.

Conclusions: The results confirm the importance of the Orientation and Mobility Outcomes tool as a sensitive, person-centred measure of the impact of Orientation and Mobility and guide dog training. In particular, the four mobility clusters provide a new perspective on matching guide dogs with clients, also suggesting the need for a more personalised look at the guide dog training process.

  • Implications for Rehabilitation
  • Orientation and Mobility Outcomes data seem precise enough to support and inform the process of matching guide dogs to handlers.

  • Uniform results cannot be expected from guide dog mobility in handlers – age, stage of life, health and spatial cognition impact the competence and travel style of guide dog handlers, whereas vision is less important.

  • Sharing the work of visual interpretation and decision making with a guide dog makes independent travel more possible.

  • Valuable dog characteristics that are specific to handler requirements might be bred or trained from puppy raising onwards, creating a more diverse pool of dogs to draw upon.

Periodic monitoring of the training of prospective guide dogs for the blind was evaluated to determine if the monitoring is useful in gauging the potential suitability of guide dogs. We selected 8 dogs as test dogs on the basis of their medical check and pretraining evaluation. Beginning with day 1 of training, we monitored their progress every 2 weeks for 12 weeks. The evaluation was designed to assess task performance, stress, excitement, and concentration for the task. We set the test course in a residential district, but in an area that was not used for daily training. In some variables, such as tail position, duration of distraction, and effect of the training break, there were some differences between a dog that successfully completed guide training and dogs that did not.

The number of stress reactions was significantly different between successful and unsuccessful dogs. Only 1 dog out of the 8 observed became a guide dog; however, the present study suggests that it is possible to detect some traits in the early stages of training that determine whether or not a dog successfully becomes a guide dog.

Data on dog attacks on Guide Dogs’ stock were reviewed to investigate the characteristics of the attacks. An average of 11.2 attacks occurred each month. Nearly all of the attacks occurred in public areas, 68.4 per cent of victim dogs were qualified guide dogs and 55.5 per cent of victim dogs were working in harness when they were attacked. Guide Dogs’ stock were injured in 43.2 per cent of attacks and veterinary costs for attacks were estimated at £34,514.30. Over 40 per cent of qualified guide dogs’ working ability was affected and >20 per cent of qualified guide dogs required some time off from working after a dog attack. Twenty dogs were permanently withdrawn from the Guide Dogs’ programme as a result of dog attacks, 13 of which were qualified and working with guide dog owners at the time of the withdrawal; this resulted in a financial cost of >£600,000 to the charity. More importantly perhaps, temporary and permanent withdrawals have a significant impact upon the mobility and independence of guide dog owners and in many cases significantly impacted their emotional well-being.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA) wished to evaluate its service to Guide Dog Owners (GDOs) undergoing a transition between guide dog partners. Therefore, a survey was carried out that was designed to gain an understanding of the end of a guide dog partnership from the owner’s point of view.

Participants included 75 GDOs whose previous partnership had ended within the past year. Emotional distress was measured by the Goldberg General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) and a specially constructed Grief Rating Scale (GRS). Among the 59 GDOs who had no other reason for being upset at the time the partnership ended, high distress levels were found in those whose dog had died, been withdrawn from the partnership, or rehomed through GDBA, and low levels in those whose dog retired and continued to live with the owner or was placed in a home of the owner’s choosing. Sixteen GDOs with other adverse events in their lives around the time the partnership ended recorded high levels of distress irrespective of why the dog stopped work or what happened to it thereafter.

Other evidence from the survey questionnaire suggested that the ending of a partnership is especially painful if the dog has had some special significance for the owner; if the partnership ends abruptly; if it is the end of the first partnership; or if there is a poor relationship with GDBA. Emotions experienced at the end of a partnership may be similar to those following the death of a pet, the loss of a close friend or relative, or the loss of sight.

Transitions between guide dog partners are a recurring consequence of guide dog mobility, and support as a partnership ends is beneficial in making a smooth transition. The issues raised in this study are relevant to assistance dog partnerships of all types. Methodological problems in designing a study for a vulnerable population are discussed.

This pilot study aimed at investigating how salivary oxytocin levels are affected by human interaction and isolation in eight guide dogs (six Labrador retrievers and two golden retrievers; four males and four females, 21.87 ± 1.36 months old) just before assignment to the blind person. Each dog engaged, at one-week intervals, in a positive (5 min of affiliative interaction with their trainer) and a negative (5 min of isolation) condition. Saliva samples used for Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA) quantification of salivary oxytocin were collected before and immediately after both experimental conditions. In order to assess potential hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis activation that could have affected oxytocin levels, saliva samples were collected 15 min after both experimental conditions for EIA quantification of salivary cortisol and a behavioral assessment was performed during the negative condition. The results were compared using the Wilcoxon test (p < 0.05). Oxytocin concentrations showed a statistically significant increase after the positive interaction (p = 0.036) and no difference after the negative one (p = 0.779). Moreover, no difference (p = 0.263) was found between the cortisol concentrations after each experimental condition and no signs of distress were observed during the isolation phase. These preliminary findings support the hypothesis that stroking dogs has positive effects on their emotional state independently of hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis activation.

The graduate-level mobility instructor has begun to play a more active role in the dog guide field in recent years. This article outlines the duties and responsibilities of a peripatologist who was a member of the training staff at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc., in Yorktown Heights, New York. Differences between traveling with a cane and with a dog guide, involvement of mobility instructors in the dog guide field and instruction of students with secondary disabilities such as diabetes, hearing loss and mental retardation are discussed.

Guide dogs work for extended periods and are exposed to multiple environmental stimuli that could lead to higher stress compared with companion dogs. Cortisol is the main hormone associated with stress in most mammals. This study included seven guide dogs and seven same-breed dogs that were trained as guide dogs but became companion dogs to compare their salivary cortisol levels before, during, and after a period of social isolation and exposure to a 110-decibel gunshot sound. Each dog was left alone in an empty room for 60 min. After 15 min, the dogs were exposed to the sound. We collected four saliva samples from each dog. The first one was taken 5 min before starting the social isolation period, and the following ones at 15, 30, and 45 min after the test started. A two-way ANOVA was used to compare the group effect and the time effect during isolation and noise exposure. The results showed higher levels of cortisol in the guide dogs compared with the companion dogs throughout the test. No differences were found in time or in the interaction between time and group. This suggests that being a guide dog increases levels of basal cortisol when compared with dogs that live as companion animals and family members.

This subject will be covered in three sections, first, a brief history of how the idea of using trained dogs to help the blind was conceived, then the present-day methods of training guide dogs, and, finally, how the blind person is trained with their guide dog to work together as a team.

This article scrutinises issues around disability and dependent (interdependent) agency, extending these to non-human animals and service dogs, with a sustained reference to the training of guide dogs. It does this through a detailed engagement with the training methodology and philosophy of The Seeing Eye guide dog school in the 1930s, exploring the physical, bodily and instrumental means through which the guide dog partnership, and the identity of the instructor, the guide dog and the guide dog owner, jointly came into being. The novelty of the article lies in how it reconsiders what interdependence meant and means from the perspectives drawing from historical and sociological literature on dog training. In doing so it opens up new ways of thinking about service animals that recognise their historical contingency and the complex processes at work in the creation and development of interdependent agency.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made.

There is considerable research on people with vision impairment (PwVI) in the transport, travel and tourism sectors, which highlights the significance of real‐time information and con‐ sistency in services to accessibility. Based on interviews with guide dog owners in the United King‐ dom, this paper contributes an additional dimension to our understanding of transport accessibility for PwVI by focusing specifically on guide dog owners’ experiences in the travel and tourism sector. A guide dog is more than a mobility tool, but a human–dog partnership that improves the quality of life for PwVI; however, it also introduces constraints related to the dog’s welfare and safety. Fur‐ ther, lack of understanding of guide dog owners’ rights to reasonable accommodation leads to dis‐ crimination through service refusals and challenges to service access. This paper concludes that the limited and inconsistent public knowledge of disability diversity has serious ramifications for transport accessibility and suggests specific industry and legislative interventions in response.

This paper explores the effect of peoples’ association with guide dogs on how they understand and feel about themselves and how they are regarded by those with whom they interact. The concepts of personal, collective, and social identity are used to situate the discussion. Of central importance is the way working with a guide dog shapes public interaction and how owner’ self definitions and social identities are extended by being intimately involved in the owner—dog team.

The present study aimed at evaluating possible behavioural differences between guide dogs living in a kennel and interacting with a trainer and those living in a house and interacting with a blind person and their family, when they are faced with an unsolvable task. Fifty-two Labrador retrievers were tested: 13 Trained Guide dogs at the end of their training programme and 11 Working Guide dogs that had been living with their blind owner for at least 1 year. Two control groups of Labrador retrievers were also tested: 14 Young Untrained dogs of the same age as the Trained Guide and 14 Old Untrained dogs of the same age as the Working Guide dogs. Results showed that the Trained Guide dogs gazed towards the owner or the stranger for less time and with a higher latency and spent more time interacting with the experimental apparatus than the other three groups, which all behaved similarly. None of the groups tested showed preferences in gazing towards the stranger or the owner. Together, the results suggest that at the end of their training programme, guide dogs are less prone to engage in human-directed gazing behaviour and more likely to act independently when facing an unsolvable task. Conversely, guide dogs that have been living with a blind person (and their family) for 1 year behave like pet dogs. These findings indicate that guide dogs’ gazing towards humans is favoured by living in close proximity with people and by interacting with them.

Most guide and service dog organizations would benefit from the development of accurate methods for the early evaluation of canine temperament traits. This paper describes the development and validation of a novel questionnaire method for assessing behavior and temperament in 1-year-old guide dogs. Volunteer puppy-raisers scored a total of 1097 prospective guide dogs on a series of 40 semantic differential-type, behavioral rating scales. Principle components factor analysis of these scores extracted eight stable and interpretable common factors: stranger-directed fear/aggression, non-social fear, energy level, owner-directed aggression, chasing, trainability, attachment, and dog-directed fear/aggression. Three of these eight factors exhibited moderate internal consistency (Cronbach’s α≥0.72), while the reliabilities of the remaining factors were relatively low (Cronbach’s α=0.53–0.61). The eight factors were then validated against the guide dog school’s own criteria for rejecting dogs for behavioral reasons. The results of this analysis confirmed the construct validity of the puppy raisers’ questionnaire assessments of their dogs, and suggested that such methods can provide a useful and accurate means of predicting the suitability of dogs for guiding work. Various modifications to the original questionnaire are proposed in order to enhance its overall reliability.

This article analyses media representations of Lashawn Chan (dog) and Stevens Chan Kum Fai (human), who are considered the first recorded service animal–human team in Malaysia. The article reflects on the pair’s public relationship as an intersectional, multi-framework that is relevant to both disability and animal justice. Following both critical animal and disability studies literature, we read media reports of Lashawn and Stevens’ public encounters. These stories frame the pair as spectacle, threat, and resource. They reveal the influences of cultural and social conventions that utilise guide dogs as advocacy tools, as well as public attitudes towards guide dogs and their users in Malaysian and western contexts. The authors advocate for alternative representations based on interspecies interdependence.

The exploratory study reported in this chapter asked blind people how their lives are with and without guide dogs. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 80 21–71 yr old and older blind people in Germany, 40 of whom had a guide dog. Content analyses revealed that dependence on others, constant nervous strain, social problems, and communication problems are the primary stress factors of blind people. Social support and the support given by a guide dog are some of the coping strategies that are used in regard to these stress factors.
A comparison of the use of mobility canes with the company of a guide dog indicated that those blind people who own a dog clearly prefer the animal, at least in most situations. To a lesser extent, this statement also holds for a comparison of human chaperones with guide dogs. Blind guide dog owners feel more independent with their dogs than they do in the company of a chaperone. Further, these data also indicate that the support provided by the guide dogs to their owners actually surpasses the initial high hopes held by the owners. Finally, both blind owners and nonowners perceive many benefits from a guide dog. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

The purpose of this study was to attempt to find related variables of the canine genome with behavioural traits of dogs maintained and tested in a guide dog facility which provided a relatively uniform environment. The study involved 81 Labrador Retrievers that were being trained as guide dogs. Each dog was taken on walk‐out sessions in which the trainer weekly recorded observations that were related to behavioural traits. The records were subjected to key‐word analysis of 14 behaviour‐related words. A factor analysis on the appearance rate of the 14 key words or phrases resulted in the extraction of six factors that accounted for 67.4% of the variance. Factor 1, referred to as aggressiveness, was significantly related to the success or failure of the dog in qualifying as a guide dog, and was also related to the variable of litter identification. Factor 2, referred to as distraction, was related to the variable of trainer. Factor 3, activity level, was related to the variable of sex, and was significantly related to the polymorphisms of c.471T>C in the solute carrier family 1 (neuronal/epithelial high affinity glutamate transportermember 2 gene and c.216G>A in the catechol‐O‐methyltransferase gene. The involvement of polymorphisms c.471T>C and c.216G>A in behavioural patterns related to activity level is similar to comparable genetic studies in other mammalian species. These results contribute to a greater understanding of the role of these genes in behaviour.

A range of mobility aids are available to assist people living with vision impairment, and of these, guide dog ownership offers them several unique benefits. However, training a dog to be a successful guide dog comes at a high cost (approximately AU$30,000). Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine whether temperament testing and kennel behavior measures could be used by Guide Dog Organizations for the early identification of dogs suitable for guiding work and thus to reduce production costs. Temperament tests (Passive and Noise, Sudden Appearance, and Dog Distraction Tests) and kennel behavior assessments (Activity Level, Salivary Immunoglobulin A Concentration, and Kennel Surveillance) were assessed in potential guide dogs (n = 25-113) at the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Training Centre, Glossodia, New South Wales, Australia. Several significant predictors of guide dog success were identified. The presence of panting (P = 0.029) and licking (P = 0.005) when contrasted with baseline observations in the Dog Distraction Test, significantly reduced the probability of guide dog success. Success was also reduced with the latency for a dog to sit in the third Noise Test (P = 0.028), and when the time spent resting was reduced during the evening period (P = 0.018) in the Kennel Surveillance assessment. This study reports that 4 specific behavioral responses, which may reflect anxiety and restlessness, predict low suitability of dogs for guiding work. Through the identification of early predictors of guide dog success, resources can be more appropriately focused on dogs with a higher probability of success, whereas unsuitable dogs can be rehomed.

The aim of this study was to determine whether objective measures of laterality could be used to identify dogs with a high probability of successfully completing a Guide Dog Training Programme. Three categories of laterality (motor, sensory, and structural), were assessed in 114 dogs entering guide dog training. Significant predictors of success were identified: the direction of laterality (P = 0.028), paw preference category in the ‘Kong’ test (P = 0.043), hindpaw clearance height (P = 0.002), laterality indices for a number of measures in the Sensory Jump test, and chest hair whorl direction (P = 0.050). This is the first study to report a structural marker of canine behaviour. All three categories of laterality may be used to predict the suitability of dogs for guiding work, and by identifying predictors of success, resources can be more efficiently utilised on dogs with greater potential.

This study investigates ontogenetic aspects of attachment behaviour in guide dogs using the Strange Situation Test (SST). Seventeen dogs were tested three times in different periods of the guide dog training program. The first test was carried out when the dogs were 11–15 months old and before entering the training program; the second test took place after 4 months of training; the last test was carried out after more than 1 year of service as guide dogs. Therefore three different human figures were involved in the program: the puppy walker, the trainer and the blind owner. In each test the dogs’ behaviour was video recorded and subsequently scored using a 5-s point sampling method; furthermore heart rate (HR) was recorded both before (HR basal average) and during the SST.

Results of the present study show that when tested for the first time at the age of 11 months, dogs exhibited an intense play activity and a limited discrimination of the attachment figure: during separation from the puppy walker their attention was directed towards the stranger that could offer comfort rather than to the owner’s exit from the room. On the contrary, the same dogs tested when adult, after 1 year of life with the blind owner were specifically interested in regaining contact with their owner despite the presence of another friendly human (the stranger) available for support. The three repetitions of the SST had only a limited impact on dogs behaviour: previous experiences with the room and the procedure of the test did determine a decrease of exploratory behaviour and of puppet fear, but not of the emotional response to separation from the owner. As the heart rate curve was available only for a limited number of dogs cautious conclusions are drawn on cardiac activity: when adult, dogs showed a higher cardiac activation despite a decrement in HR baseline. Overall, the outcome of the present study indicate that a full-fledged attachment is showed when guide dogs reach maturity and that repeated bond breaking is not detrimental to forming attachment later in life.

In the article I present an ethnographic reflection on the process of guide dogs generation, an animal assistive technology developed to facilitate the mobility of the visually impaired person. Focusing especially on the training phase, I try to understand the trajectory of transformations, the unfolding of events and the changes of movement that make certain dogs able to “graduate” as guides. Following a Maussian perspective, the guiding technique is understood here as the result of a certain relationship between movements and things, encompassing tools, human and canine bodies and their displacements in different environments.

There is an apparent discrepancy between the actual number of guide dog owners and the proportion of visually impaired people who might benefit from a guide dog. This research aimed to provide an understanding of the reasons why many visually impaired people have not applied for a guide dog, the range of benefits offered by guide dogs, and how these might vary amongst different populations and under different circumstances. While previous research described a number of psychological and social benefits of assistant animal ownership, consistent with the companion animal literature, it also pointed to the importance of personal and social context on the impact and effectiveness of assistance animals. The study described here involved a telephone survey of over 800 visually impaired people and found that independence, confidence, companionship, increased and changed social interaction, as well as increased mobility, are commonly cited benefits of guide dog ownership. These psychological and social dimensions of owning a guide dog distinguish it from other mobility aids in its capacity to transform the lives of owners. However, as expected, demographic and contextual factors, such as gender, age, level of vision, and domestic circumstances, influence reasons for application and perceived benefits and drawbacks of guide dog ownership. The author argues that, while this research has emphasised the tremendous impact a guide dog can have, providing the most appropriate mobility aid for an individual’s circumstances is the hallmark of effective rehabilitation service provision. The article also suggests ways in which perceived barriers to applying for a guide dog might be reduced.

This study explored the dynamics of guide dog ownership in a South African sample. Six participants (five male and one female) from diverse socio-economic backgrounds were interviewed in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The study was performed to provide a clearer understanding of the guide dog and owner relationship, as well as the influence of the dog on the life of a person with blindness. The study also explored the current state of guide dog ownership in the uniquely South African context. Guide dog ownership seems to be a life-changing experience, with both negative and positive consequences for the owner. Recommendations to service providers in and for the community of persons with disabilities are made in conclusion of the article, as well as suggestions given for future research on a topic of this nature.

Dogs that are trained without dependence on the attentional focus of human beings (experimental group: a guide dog and guide dog candidates) were compared with those trained with the usual level of attentional focus (control group: a service dog, service dog candidates, a search and rescue dog, and pet dogs) to examine whether the ability of a dog to read the attentional focus of a human being was influenced by guide dog training. An experimenter commanded the dogs to sit using several predetermined postures, which included the direction of the experimenter’s head, eyes, and body. The results indicated that there were no statistical differences between the 2 groups. Dogs from both the groups gave a significantly reduced response to commands when the experimenter’s head was not oriented toward them, response to commands was not affected by the direction of the experimenter’s eyes or body. This study suggests that the ability of a dog to read the attentional focus of a human being is not affected by guide dog training.

Hunde, die ohne Abhängigkeit vom Aufmerksamkeitsfokus der Menschen ausgebildet werden (Versuchsgruppe: ein Blindenführhund und Blindenführhund-Kandidaten), wurden mit Hunden verglichen, die mit dem üblichen Niveau des Aufmerksamkeitsfokus ausgebildet werden (Kontrollgruppe: ein Servicehund, Servicehund-Kandidaten, ein Such- und Rettungshund und Haushunde), um zu bestimmen, ob die Fähigkeit von Hunden, den Aufmerksamkeitsfokus von Menschen zu erkennen, von der Ausbildung zum Blindenführhund beeinflusst wird. Ein Experimentator befahl den Hunden mit mehreren vorgegebenen Körperhaltungen (welche die Richtung des Kopfes, der Augen und des Körpers einschlossen) zu sitzen. Die Ergebnisse zeigten, dass es zwischen den zwei Gruppen keine statistischen Unterschiede gab. Hunde beider Gruppen gaben eine signifikant reduzierte Rückmeldung auf Befehle, wenn der Kopf des Experimentators nicht in ihre Richtung gerichtet war. Reaktionen auf Befehle wurden nicht von der Richtung des Körpers oder der Augen des Experimentators beeinflusst. Diese Studie zeigt, dass die Fähigkeit von Hunden, den Aufmerksamkeitszustand von Menschen zu erkennen, nicht durch die Blindenführhund-Ausbildung beeinflusst wird.

The guide dog partnership begins at the point of matching, when careful assessment of a trained guide dog and an understanding of the functional needs and expectations of the prospective owner are considered alongside each other. Guide Dogs UK invest much time and resources to the process of matching a client with a dog in order to fulfil client expectations and create a lasting partnership. This study explores: (1) the meaning and importance of social (non-working) behavior to guide dog owners; (2) how firsthand experience and knowledge shape individual owner expectations for behavior; and (3) how, and in what ways, social behavior impacts the guide dog partnership. The focus group method was used to collect qualitative data from a total of 11 participants. The data were analyzed using a thematic analysis procedure which identified six overarching themes: “social behavior to me means,” internal and external factors influencing social behavior, training and matching, socially desirable and undesirable behaviors, maintaining and managing social behavior, and practical and emotional issues. Findings show that social behavior is as important as guiding skills and mobility for guide dog owners, and behavioral compatibility is held to be crucial in a successful partnership. Participants put an emphasis on consistency of behavior in social settings, while recognizing that a guide dog’s non-working behavior is subject to multifarious internal and external influences. The findings of this study indicate an opportunity for Guide Dogs UK, and similar assistance dog organizations, to observe fully the importance of social behavior and, in response, place even greater emphasis on lifestyle and behavioral compatibility when training dogs and matching them with clients.

9 Assistance Dogs - Medical Alert

Although different studies have shown that diseases such as breast or lung cancer are associated with specific bodily odours, no study has yet tested the possibility that epileptic seizures may be reflected in an olfactory profile, probably because there is a large variety of seizure types. The question is whether a “seizure-odour”, that would be transversal to individuals and types of seizures, exists. This would be a pre requisite for potential anticipation, either by electronic systems (e.g., e-noses) or trained dogs. The aim of the present study therefore was to test whether trained dogs, as demonstrated for cancer or diabetes, may discriminate a general epileptic seizure odor (different from body odours of the same person in other contexts and common to different persons). The results were very clear: all dogs discriminated the seizure odour. The sensitivity and specificity obtained were amongst the highest shown up to now for discrimination of diseases. This constitutes a first proof that, despite the variety of seizures and individual odours, seizures are associated with olfactory characteristics. These results open a large field of research on the odour signature of seizures. Further studies will aim to look at potential applications in terms of anticipation of seizures.

PURPOSE: Gather data on incidence of canine alerting/responding behavior with a defined patient population. Research development and use of purported alerting dogs. METHODS: Review of the literature was performed. A qualitative questionnaire was completed by epilepsy patients. Service dog trainers were identified. RESULTS: Of 63 patients, 29 owned pet dogs. Nine reported their dog responded to seizures, three also were reported to alert to seizure onset. There was no significant evidence of correlation between alerting/responding behavior and the patients’ demographics, health, or attitude/opinion of pets. Seizure-alerting/responding behavior of the dog did not appear to depend on its age, gender or breed. A literature review revealed psychological and practical benefits of service dogs are well documented. Fifteen trainers of seizure-assist dogs were identified and interviewed. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest some dogs have innate ability to alert and/or respond to seizures. Suggests a trend in type of seizure/auras a dog may alert to. Success of these dogs depends largely on the handler’s awareness and response to the dog’s alerting behavior. Warrants further research to aid in the selection of patients who may benefit from seizure-assist dogs, for identification and further training of these dogs and possibly the development of seizure-alerting devices.

Das Ziel dieser Studie war, Daten über das Warnverhalten von Hunden bei einer festgelegten Patientengruppe zu sammeln und die Nutzung von mutmaßlichen Warnhunden zu erforschen. Zu diesem Zweck wurde Literatur untersucht und eine qualitative Umfrage unter Epilepsie-Patienten durchgeführt. Zudem wurden Trainer von Service-Hunden ausfindig gemacht. Von 63 Teilnehmern besaßen 29 Haushunde. Neun Teilnehmer berichteten, dass ihre Hund auf Anfälle reagieren. Drei berichteten, dass ihre Hunde vor dem Einsetzen eines Anfalls warnen. Es konnte kein signifikanter Zusammenhang zwischen dem Warnverhalten des Hundes und dem Alter, Gesundheitszustand oder der Einstellung gegenüber Haustieren des Patienten festgestellt werden. Das Warn- und Reaktionsverhalten von Hunden schien nicht vom Alter, Geschlecht oder der Rasse abzuhängen. Eine Literaturrecherche ergab, dass psychologische und praktische Vorteile von Service-Hunden gut dokumentiert sind. 15 Trainer von Anfall-Assistenzhunden wurden ausfindig gemacht und befragt. Die Befunde weisen darauf hin, dass einige Hunde die angeborene Fähigkeit besitzen, vor Anfällen zu warnen oder auf diese zu reagieren und dass es einen Trend gibt, vor welcher Art von Anfällen Hunde eher warnen. Der Erfolg der Hunde hängt stark zusammen mit der Aufmerksamkeit des Besitzers und wie er auf das Warnverhalten des Hundes reagiert. Es werden weitere Forschungen gewährt, um bei der Auswahl von Patienten, die von Anfall-Assistenzhunden profitieren könnten, zu helfen, um das Finden und Trainieren dieser Hunde zu fördern und möglicherweise Geräte zu entwickeln, die vor Anfällen warnen.

The study was approved by the Human Institutional Review Board and the Animal Care and Use Committee at Legacy Research Institute (Portland, OR). Trained dogs were largely unable to identify skin swabs obtained from hypoglycemic T1D subjects. We chose to test with skin swabs because 1) dogs are well known to respond to scents carried on human skin (1) and 2) the trainers had reported success with this method in training the animals to respond to hypoglycemia. To our knowledge, this is the first controlled study to address whether dogs can detect a hypoglycemic scent, though there are anecdotal and case reports suggesting that dogs can respond to hypoglycemia (2–4). Our results addressed only whether there is a detectable hypoglycemia scent on the skin. In future studies, it may be helpful to include behavioral elements, such as studies in the presence of human companions. It might also be helpful to obtain swabs from the usual human companions of the dogs. We found that trained dogs were unable to correctly identify skin swabs obtained during hypoglycemia in subjects with T1D. Further studies are needed to address the role of other factors that the animals might use, such as behavioral cues.

Noting the human inclination to extend ability by “harvesting” nonhuman animal powers, there are calls for greater equality in the multispecies rendering of services. In this study, medical alert assistance dogs who coexist with chronically ill human individuals illustrate the possibilities of mutualism in symbiotic relationships. The dogs are trained to alert and are used in the scent detection of symptoms of hypo- or hyperglycemia in their human partners so that preventative treatment can be effected and unconsciousness or coma avoided. The canine-human collaborative partnership is based on the dogs’ keen sense of smell and cooperation to attain a reward. The article illustrates a cross-species embodiment of moral interdependence that extends the biomedical armamentarium.

To gain information about their clients’ experiences, SDWR conducted an online survey, which was completed by 36 DAD owners—23 parents of children and 13 adults with type 1 diabetes (means/standard deviations of child/adult age 8.4/3.1 and 36.4/14.1, respectively). Data were deidentified by SDWR then sent to the University of Virginia for analysis, and the study was approved as exempt by the University of Virginia Institutional Review Board. Survey items inquired about the accuracy of DAD alerts, as well as frequency of hypoglycemia, diabetes control, and QoL prior to and since DAD placement.

Introduction: Hypoglycemia (Hypo) is the most common side effect of insulin therapy in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Over time, patients with T1D become unaware of signs and symptoms of Hypo. Hypo unawareness leads to morbidity and mortality. Diabetes alert dogs (DADs) represent a unique way to help patients with Hypo unawareness. Our group has previously presented data in abstract form which demonstrates the sensitivity and specificity of DADS. The purpose of our current study is to expand evaluation of DAD sensitivity and specificity using a method that reduces the possibility of trainer bias.

Methods: We evaluated 6 dogs aging 1–10 years old who had received an average of 6 months of training for Hypo alert using positive training methods. Perspiration samples were collected from patients during Hypo (BG 46–65 mg/dL) and normoglycemia (BG 85–136 mg/dl) and were used in training. These samples were placed in glass vials which were then placed into 7 steel cans (1 Hypo, 2 normal, 4 blank) randomly placed by roll of a dice. The dogs alerted by either sitting in front of, or pushing, the can containing the Hypo sample. Dogs were rewarded for appropriate recognition of the Hypo samples using a food treat via a remote control dispenser. The results were videotaped and statistically evaluated for sensitivity (proportion of lows correctly alerted, ‘‘true positive rate’’) and specificity (proportion of blanks ? normal samples not alerted, ‘‘true negative rate’’) calculated after pooling data across all trials for all dogs.

Results: All DADs displayed statistically significant (p value \0.05) greater sensitivity (min 50.0%–max 87.5%) to detect the Hypo sample than the expected random correct alert of 14%. Specificity ranged from a min of 89.6% to a max of 97.9% (expected rate is not defined in this scenario).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that properly trained DADs can successfully recognize and alert to Hypo in an in vitro setting using smell alone.

Evidence supporting seizure-related behaviors in dogs is emerging. The methods of seizure response dog (SRD) training programs are unstudied. A standardized survey was retrospectively applied to graduates of a large SRD program. Subjective changes in quality of life (QOL) parameters were explored. Data were captured on animal characteristics, training methods, response and alerting behaviors, effects on seizure frequency, and accuracy of epilepsy diagnosis. Twenty-two patients (88%) participated (median age = 34, range = 12–66, 73% female). Most had childhood-onset epilepsy (87%) that was refractory with averages of 36 seizures/month and 4.8 medications failed. All had neurologist-confirmed epilepsy, most being symptomatic partial (64%). SRD behaviors were reliable, including emergency response system activation in 27%. All reported SRD-related QOL improvements (major 82%, moderate 18%) across multiple parameters. Spontaneous alerting behavior developed in 59%. That SRD programs may select genuine epilepsy patients, instill valuable assistance skills, and generate meaningful QOL improvements supports further seizure dog research.

Es entstehen immer mehr Beweise dafür, dass Hunde auf Anfälle von Menschen reagieren. Die Methoden der Ausbildung von Anfalls-Hilfshunden sind unerforscht. Eine standardisierte Umfrage wurde retrospektiv auf Absolventen eines großen Ausbildungsprogramm von Anfalls-Hilfshunden eingesetzt. Subjektive Veränderungen der Parameter, die die Lebensqualität betreffen, wurden untersucht. Es wurden Daten zu Eigenschaften der Tiere, Ausbildungsmethoden, Reaktions- und Warnverhalten, Auswirkungen auf die Häufigkeit der Anfälle und Genauigkeit der Epilepsie-Diagnose gesammelt. 22 Patienten zwischen 12 und 66 Jahren nahmen teil (Durchschnittsalter 34, 73% weiblich). Die meisten hatten seit dem Kindesalter Epilepsie (87%), die mit durchschnittlich 36 Anfällen pro Monat und 4,8 gescheiterten medikamentösen Behandlungen refraktär war. Alle Epilepsie-Erkrankungen waren vom Neurologen bestätigt, die meisten waren symptomatisch partiell (64%). Das Verhalten von Anfalls-Hilfshunden war zuverlässig, zudem wurde in 27% der Fälle das Notfalleinsatzsystem aktiviert. Alle berichteten über Verbesserungen vieler Parameter bezüglich der Lebensqualität durch den Anfalls-Hilfshund (starke Verbesserung 82%, moderate Verbesserung 18%). Spontanes Warnverhalten entwickelte sich in 59% der Fälle. Dass Ausbildungsprogramme für Anfalls-Hilfshunde epilepsiekranken Menschen wertvolle Unterstützung und eine bedeutungsvolle Verbesserung der Lebensqualität bieten können, unterstützt die weitere Forschung über Anfallshunde.


We sought to assess whether a dog can be trained to distinguish obstructive sleep apnea patients from healthy controls based on the olfactory detection of urine.


Urine samples were collected from 23 adult male obstructive sleep apnea patients and from 20 voluntary adult male volunteers. Three dogs were trained through reinforced operant conditioning.


Two of the three dogs correctly detected two thirds of obstructive sleep apnea patients (p < 0.000194 and p < 0.000003, respectively).


We found that dogs can be trained to distinguish obstructive sleep apnea patients from healthy controls based on the smell of urine. Potentially, dogs could be utilized to identify novel biomarkers or possibly screen for obstructive sleep apnea.


Seizure unpredictability plays a major role in disability and decreased quality of life in people with epilepsy. Dogs have been used to assist people with disabilities and have shown promise in detecting seizures. There have been reports of trained seizure-alerting dogs (SADs) successfully detecting when a seizure is occurring or indicating imminent seizures, allowing patients to take preventative measures. Untrained pet dogs have also shown the ability to detect seizures and provide comfort and protection during and after seizures. Dogs’ exceptional olfactory abilities and sensitivity to human cues could contribute to their seizure-detection capabilities. This has been supported by studies in which dogs have distinguished between epileptic seizure and non-seizure sweat samples, probably though the detection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). However, the existing literature has limitations, with a lack of well-controlled, prospective studies and inconsistencies in reported timings of alerting behaviours. More research is needed to standardize reporting and validate the results. Advances in VOC profiling could aid in distinguishing seizure types and developing rapid and unbiased seizure detection methods. In conclusion, using dogs in epilepsy management shows considerable promise, but further research is needed to fully validate their effectiveness and potential as valuable companions for people with epilepsy.


The unpredictability of epileptic seizures is considered an important threat to the quality of life of a person with epilepsy. Currently, however, there are no tools for seizure prediction that can be applied to the domestic setting. Although the information about seizure-alert dogs – dogs that display changes in behavior before a seizure that are interpreted by the owner as an alert – is mostly anecdotal; living with an alerting dog (AD) has been reported to improve quality of life of the owner by reducing the stress originating from the unpredictability of epileptic seizures and, sometimes, diminishing the seizure frequency.

Aim of the study

The aim of the study was to investigate, at an international level, the behaviors displayed by trained and untrained dogs that are able to anticipate seizures and to identify patient- and dog-related factors associated with the presence or absence of alerting behavior.


An online questionnaire for dog owners with seizures was designed. Information about the participants (demographics, seizure type, presence of preictal symptoms) and their dogs (demographics, behavior around the time of seizures) was collected. In addition, two validated scales were included to measure the human–dog relationship (Monash Dog–Owner Relationship scale (MDORS)) and five different traits of the dogs’ personality (Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire refined (MCPQ-R)).


Two hundred and twenty-seven responses of people experiencing seizures were received from six participant countries: 132 from people with dogs that had started alerting spontaneously, 10 from owners of trained AD, and the rest from owners of dogs that did not display any alerting behavior (nonalerting dog (NAD)). Individuals’ gender, age, or seizure type did not predict the presence of alerting behavior in their dogs. People who indicated that they experience preictal symptoms were more likely to have a spontaneously AD. The owner–dog bond was significantly higher with ADs compared with NADs, and ADs scored significantly higher than NADs in the personality traits “Amicability”, “Motivation”, and “Training focus”.


This study collected a large group of dog owners with seizures reporting behavioral changes in their dogs before their seizures occurred. This was associated with the presence of preictal symptoms. The seizure-alerting behavior of the dog may have a positive influence on the bond between the owner and the dog.

This article examines the social experiences of Service Dog handlers using survey data from adult US Service Dog handlers (N = 482). The main research question examined is how disability visibility impacts the experiences of Service Dog-related discrimination. Analysis reveals that half of all Service Dog handlers report experiencing discrimination but those with invisible disabilities report experiencing significantly more discrimination. For those with invisible disabilities, the decision to use a Service Dog prevents them from ‘passing’ while at the same time opening them up to increased skepticism about the legitimacy of their disability.

One of the life threatening complications of diabetes is hypoglycaemia. It is a common complication, with times of greatest risk being before meals and during the night. Symptoms usually develop when the blood glucose level falls below 3.5 mmol/l. Many patients with long-standing diabetes report loss of warning symptoms. Prevention of such hypoglycaemic attacks is highly desirable. Recently a dog’s ability to detect hypoglycaemia in diabetic patients has been recorded. This is the first recorded case of hypoglycaemia in a non-diabetic patient being detected by a dog and also we believe it to be the first report of hypoglycaemia being detected by a dog in this country (Ireland).

Aims: Patients with diabetes increasingly have questions about diabetes alert dogs. This study evaluated perceptions about dogs trained professionally or otherwise to detect glucose levels. Methods: A link to a survey about glucose detecting dogs was announced on diabetes websites. Results: 135 persons responded, with 63 answering about their child with diabetes. Most respondents obtained their dog from a professional trainer (n=54) or trained it themselves(n=51). Owners of self and professionally-trained dogs were very positive about dogs’ abilities to alert them to low and high glucose levels, while owners of dogs that learned entirely on their own (n=15) reported lower frequencies of alerts and more missed hypo-glycemic episodes, p<.01. Regardless of how dogs learned, perceptions about managing diabetes were improved during periods of dog ownership relative to times without, p<.001. Self-reported rates of diabetes-related hospitalizations, assistance from others for treating hypoglycemia, and accidents or near accidents while driving reduced during periods of dog ownership compared to periods without dogs, ps<.01. Conclusions: These data suggest potential effectiveness of and high satisfaction with glucose-detecting dogs. Clinicians can use these results to address pros and cons of dog ownership with patients who inquire about them.

Patienten mit Diabetes haben immer häufiger Fragen zu Diabetes-Warnhunden. Diese Studie bewertet die Erkenntnisse über Hunde, die professionell oder anderweitig ausgebildet wurden, um Glukose-Werte zu bestimmen. Auf Diabetes-Internetseiten wurde ein Link zu einer Umfrage über Glukose erkennende Hunde geteilt. 135 Personen nahmen teil, 63 davon hatten ein Kind mit Diabetes. Die meisten Teilnehmer erhielten ihren Hund von einem professionellen Ausbilder (54) oder bildeten ihn selber aus (51). Besitzer von selbst oder professionell ausgebildeten Hunden waren sehr positiv gegenüber der Fähigkeit der Hunde, sie vor hohen oder niedrigen Glukose-Werten zu warnen, während Besitzer von Hunden, die dies ganz allein gelernt haben (15), über eine geringere Häufigkeit von Warnungen und mehr verpasste hypoglykämische Episoden berichteten. Unabhängig von der Art der Ausbildung der Hunde verbesserte sich die Wahrnehmung über die Bewältigung von Diabetes, während Patienten einen Hund besaßen. Im Vergleich zu Perioden ohne Hund reduzierten sich die selbstberichtete Anzahl der durch Diabetes hervorgerufenen Krankenhausaufenthalte, die Unterstützung anderer zur Behandlung von Hypoglykämie und Unfälle oder Beinaheunfälle während des Autofahrens, wenn die Teilnehmer einen Hund hatten. Diese Daten deuten auf eine mögliche Effektivität von und eine hohe Zufriedenheit mit Hunden, die Glukose-Werte erkennen können, hin. Mediziner können diese Ergebnisse nutzen, um Vor- und Nachteile von Diabetes-Warnhunden mit Patienten zu besprechen, die sich danach erkundigen.

Epilepsy or the occurrence of epileptic seizures, is one of the world’s most well-known neurological disorders affecting millions of people. Seizures mostly occur due to non-coordinated electrical discharges in the human brain and may cause damage, including collapse and loss of consciousness. If the onset of a seizure can be forecast then the subject can be placed into a safe environment or position so that self-injury as a result of a collapse can be minimised. However there are no definitive methods to predict seizures in an everyday, uncontrolled environment. Previous studies have shown that pet dogs have the ability to detect the onset of an epileptic seizure by scenting the characteristic volatile organic compounds exuded through the skin by a subject prior a seizure occurring and there are cases where assistance dogs, trained to scent the onset of a seizure, can signal this to their owner/trainer. In this work we identify how we can automatically detect the signalling behaviours of trained assistance dogs and use this to alert their owner. Using data from an accelerometer worn on the collar of a dog we describe how we gathered movement data from 11 trained dogs for a total of 107 days as they exhibited signalling behaviour on command. We present the machine learning techniques used to accurately detect signalling from routine dog behaviour. This work is a step towards automatic alerting of the likely onset of an epileptic seizure from the signalling behaviour of a trained assistance dog.

This paper explores the intersection of assistance dog welfare and intelligent systems with a technological intervention in the form of an emergency canine alert system. We make the case that assistance dog welfare can be affected by the welfare of their human handlers, and examine the need for a canine alert system that enables the dog to take control over a potentially distressing situation thus improving assistance dog welfare. We focus on one specific subset of assistance dogs, the Diabetes Alert Dog, who are trained to warn their diabetic handlers of dangerously low or high blood sugar levels.

Purpose: To qualitatively describe and compare the expectations and experiences of living with a mobility or medical service dog among those with a physical disability or chronic condition.

Materials and methods: A total of 64 participants living with a service dog and 27 on the waitlist to receive a service dog participated in a cross-sectional open-ended survey. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify themes and sub-themes.

Results: A total of 101 codes were summarized into themes of Physical Benefits, Psychosocial Benefits, and Drawbacks to having a service dog. Psychosocial benefits included the human–animal relationship as well as emotional, quality of life, and social benefits. Drawbacks included service dog care, public access and education, lifestyle adjustments, and dog behaviour. While participants on the waitlist were more likely to anticipate physical benefits of having a service dog, those with a service dog largely described psychosocial benefits. Findings also suggest that some drawbacks, such as public discrimination, may be unanticipated by the waitlist.

Conclusions: A comparison of expectations and experiences of service dog ownership highlights both the positive and negative aspects of the service dog–owner relationship and identifies potential aspects of having a service dog that may be unanticipated or overestimated by those on the waitlist.

  • Implications for Rehabilitation
  • When asked about helpful and important aspects of having a service dog, 98% of service dog owners described the psychosocial benefits of their dog’s assistance and companionship.

  • The human–animal relationship was the most discussed psychosocial benefit from both current owners as well as those on the waitlist, demonstrating the unique strength of the service dog–owner bond in this population.

  • Those on the waitlist to receive a service dog did not anticipate as many drawbacks as current owners described. In particular, difficulties with public access and education as well as dog behaviour were commonly experienced, but not expected, drawbacks to service dog ownership.

  • Findings identify aspects of having a service dog that may be unanticipated or overestimated by those on the waitlist, providing rehabilitation professionals with a basis for preparing those who may be considering incorporating a service dog into their lives.

Objective: To quantify Diabetes Alert Dog (DAD) performance by using owner-independent measures.

Research Design and Methods: Eight owners of accredited DADs used a FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System (FGMS). Concurrent Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) footage was collected for between 5 and 14 days in each owner’s home or workplace. The footage was blind-coded for dogs’ alerting behaviors. The sensitivity, False Positive Rate and Positive Predictive Values (PPV) of dogs’ alerts to out-of-range (OOR) episodes were calculated. Ratings for 11 attributes describing participant’s lifestyle and compliance (taken from each dog’s instructor) and the percentage of DAD alerts responded to by the owner as per training protocol (taken from CCTV footage) were assessed for association with dog performance.

Results: Dogs alerted more often when their owners’ glucose levels were outside vs. inside target range (hypoglycaemic 2.80-fold, p = 0.001; hyperglycaemic 2.29-fold, p = 0.005). Sensitivity to hypoglycaemic episodes ranged from 33.3 to 91.7%, the mean was 55.9%. Mean PPV for OOR episodes was 69.7%. Sensitivity and PPV were associated with aspects of the dog and owner’s behavior, and the owner’s adherence to training protocol.

Conclusions: Owner-independent methods support that some dogs alert to hypo- and hyperglycaemic events accurately, but performance varies between dogs. We find that DAD performance is affected by traits and behaviors of both the dog and owner. Combined with existing research showing the perceived psychosocial value and reduced critical health care needs of DAD users, this study supports the value of a DAD as part of a diabetes care plan. It also highlights the importance of ongoing training and continued monitoring to ensure optimal performance.

Background: Epilepsy is associated with a high disease burden, impacting the lives of people with epilepsy and their caregivers and family. Persons with medically refractory epilepsy experience the greatest burden, suffering from profound physical, psychological, and social consequences. Anecdotal evidence suggests these persons may benefit from a seizure dog. As the training of a seizure dog is a substantial investment, their accessibility is limited in the absence of collective reimbursement as is seen in the Netherlands. Despite sustained interest in seizure dogs, scientific knowledge on their benefits and costs remains scarce. To substantiate reimbursement decisions stronger evidence is required. The EPISODE study aims to provide this evidence by evaluating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of seizure dogs in adults with medically refractory epilepsy.

Methods: The study is designed as a stepped wedge randomized controlled trial that compares the use of seizure dogs in addition to usual care, with usual care alone. The study includes adults with epilepsy for whom current treatment options failed to achieve seizure freedom. Seizure frequency of participants should be at least two seizures per week, and the seizures should be associated with a high risk of injury or dysfunction. During the 3 year follow-up period, participants receive a seizure dog in a randomized order. Outcome measures are taken at multiple time points both before and after receiving the seizure dog. Seizure frequency is the primary outcome of the study and will be recorded continuously using a seizure diary. Questionnaires measuring seizure severity, quality of life, well-being, resource use, productivity, social participation, and caregiver burden will be completed at baseline and every 3 months thereafter. The study is designed to include a minimum of 25 participants.

Discussion: This protocol describes the first randomized controlled trial on seizure dogs. The study will provide comprehensive data on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of seizure dogs in adults with medically refractory epilepsy. Broader benefits of seizure dogs for persons with epilepsy and their caregivers are taken into account, as well as the welfare of the dogs. The findings of the study can be used to inform decision-makers on the reimbursement of seizure dogs.

We have previously reported that dogs can be trained to recognize specific changes preceding an epileptic seizure in humans. Such dogs can provide an overt signal that acts as a useful warning to the human. Early observations suggested that seizure frequency might also be reduced. We report a prospective study of 10 consecutive referrals to our Seizure Alert Dogs ®service of people with tonic–clonic seizures. Seizure frequency was monitored over a 48 week period including 12 weeks baseline after entry, a 12 week training period, and 24 weeks follow up. Comparing baseline seizure frequency to the last 12 weeks of follow up, there was a 43% mean reduction in seizure frequency ( P= 0.002). Nine out of /10 subjects showed a 34% or greater reduction, 4 /10 showed a 50% or greater reduction, and only one showed no improvement. Although a significant drop in seizure frequency was seen during the first 4 weeks of training ( P= 0.0078) a further drop occurred between the first and last 4 week period of training (P = 0.038) and this final improvement was maintained for the whole 24 week follow up.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some dogs may be able to sense the onset of seizures and other medical conditions in humans, although this has never been explored scientifically. There is, however, evidence that dogs can be specially trained to recognize specific changes preceding a seizure and give an overt signal enabling the dog to warn his/her owner. The introduction of the use of dogs to detect and accurately predict the onset of a seizure, giving sufficient time for a person to take control of the situation will have a dramatic impact on quality of life. Support Dogs, a registered charity which trains dogs to assist disabled people, has successfully trained several ‘Seizure-alert dogs’. As training progressed, the dogs were able to provide overt signals to their owners within time periods varying from 15 to 45 minutes prior to a seizure occurring. Each dog had an accurate prediction time and, in each case, the owner’s seizure frequency was reduced.


Domestic dogs are trained to a wide variety of roles including an increasing number of medical assistance tasks. Glycaemia alert dogs are reported to greatly improve the quality of life of owners living with Type 1 diabetes. Research into their value is currently sparse, on small numbers of dogs and provides conflicting results. In this study we assess the reliability of a large number of trained glycaemic alert dogs at responding to hypo- and hyper-glycaemic (referred to as out-of-range, OOR) episodes, and explore factors associated with variations in their performance.


Routine owner records were used to assess the sensitivity and specificity of each of 27 dogs, trained by a single UK charity during almost 4000 out-of-range episodes. Sensitivity and positive predictive values are compared to demographic factors and instructors’ ratings of the dog, owner and partnership.


Dogs varied in their performance, with median sensitivity to out-of-range episodes at 70% (25th percentile = 50, 75th percentile = 95). To hypoglycaemic episodes the median sensitivity was 83% (66–94%) while to hyperglyaemic episodes it was 67% (17–91%). The median positive predictive value (PPV) was 81% (68–94%), i.e. on average 81% of alerts occurred when glucose levels were out of target range. For four dogs, PPV was 100%. Individual characteristics of the dog, the partnership and the household were significantly associated with performance (e.g., whether the dog was previously a pet, when it was trained, whether its partner was an adult or child).


The large sample shows that the individual performance of dogs is variable, but overall their sensitivity and specificity to OOR episodes are better than previous studies suggest. Results show that optimal performance of glycaemic alert dogs depends not only on good initial and ongoing training, but also careful selection of dogs for the conditions in which they will be working.

Previous studies have suggested that some pet dogs respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemic state. Here, we show that trained glycaemia alert dogs placed with clients living with diabetes afford significant improvements to owner well-being. We investigated whether trained dogs reliably respond to their owners’ hypoglycaemic state, and whether owners experience facilitated tightened glycaemic control, and wider psychosocial benefits. Since obtaining their dog, all seventeen clients studied reported positive effects including reduced paramedic call outs, decreased unconscious episodes and improved independence. Owner-recorded data showed that dogs alerted their owners, with significant, though variable, accuracy at times of low and high blood sugar. Eight out of the ten dogs (for which owners provided adequate records) responded consistently more often when their owner’s blood sugars were reported to be outside, than within, target range. Comparison of nine clients’ routine records showed significant overall change after obtaining their dogs, with seven clients recording a significantly higher proportion of routine tests within target range after obtaining a dog. HbA1C showed a small, non significant reduction after dog allocation. Based on owner-reported data we have shown, for the first time, that trained detection dogs perform above chance level. This study points to the potential value of alert dogs, for increasing glycaemic control, client independence and consequent quality of life and even reducing the costs of long-term health care.

10 Assistance Dogs - Mobility

This study aims to verify whether individuals with physical impairments and ambulatory disabilities perform functional mobility tests faster using an assistance dog for mobility (ADMob). Thirty-four individuals with various physical impairments and functional disabilities performed at least one of the four functional mobility tests within their natural environment during an in-home assessment. Participants randomly performed the 10-meter walk test, the timed up-and-go (TUG) test, and the stair ascent and descent tests with and without an ADMob during an in-home assessment. The main outcome measure was the time needed to complete all tests with and without an ADMob. When using an ADMob, many participants (≥70.4%) were faster when performing the 10-meter walk test (15.7 ± 8.5s vs. 19.1 ± 11.2s), TUG test (23.6 ± 14.2s vs. 27.3 ± 16.5s), and stair ascent test (18.6 ± 13.5s vs. 22.4 ± 17.5s) compared to doing the tests without an ADMob. As for the stair descent test, the use of the ADMob had no significant effect on performance (20.7 ± 15.9s vs. 24.0 ± 17.1s). When using an ADMob, the majority of individuals with physical impairments and functional disabilities significantly improved their performance (i.e., reduced their time) during the 10-meter walk test, the TUG test and the stair ascent test.

OBJECTIVE. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of partnerships between people with disabilities and service dogs on functional performance and social interaction.

METHOD. A single-subject, alternating treatment design was used. The participants were 3 women with mobility challenges who owned service dogs. For each participant, time and perceived amount of effort for two tasks were measured for functional performance. Interaction and satisfaction levels were measured for social interactions.

RESULTS. Primary findings were that service dog partnerships decreased performance time for four of the six tasks, decreased effort for five of the six tasks, increased social interactions for 2 of the participants, and increased levels of satisfaction with social interactions for all participants.

CONCLUSION. For adult women with mobility challenges, service dog partnerships may contribute to energy conservation through decreased time and effort required to complete some tasks and may increase social interactions.

Able-bodied people often exhibit behaviors that show them to be socially uncomfortable upon encountering a physically disabled stranger. These behaviors include less eye contact, gaze avoidance, greater personal distance, and briefer social interactions. This study examined whether persons in wheelchairs with service dogs receive more frequent social acknowledgement from able-bodied strangers than people in wheelchairs without dogs receive. Behaviors of passersby were recorded by an observer who followed a person in a wheelchair at a distance of 15 to 30 feet. Observations were made in public areas amid pedestrian traffic, areas such as shopping malls and a college campus. The behaviors of passersby to the person in a wheelchair, with or without a service dog, were recorded, including smiles, conversation, touch, gaze aversion, path avoidance, or no response. Results indicated that both smiles and conversations from passersby increased significantly when the dogs were present. These findings suggest that the benefits of service dogs for their owners extend beyond working tasks to include enhanced opportunities for social exchange. The service dogs substantially reduced the tendency of able-bodied people to ignore or avoid the disabled person.


To compare the mechanical and muscular efforts generated in the non-dominant upper limb (U/L) when ascending a ramp with and without the use of a mobility assistance dog (ADMob) in a manual wheelchair user with a spinal cord injury.


The participant ascended a ramp at natural speed using his personal wheelchair with (three trials) and without (three trials) his ADMob. Movement parameters of the wheelchair, head, trunk, and non-dominant U/L (i.e. hand, forearm, and arm segments) were recorded with a motion analysis system. The orthogonal force components applied on the hand rims by the U/Ls were computed with instrumented wheels. Muscular activity data of the clavicular fibers of the pectoralis major, the anterior fibers of the deltoid, the long head of the biceps brachii, and the long head of the triceps brachii were collected at the non-dominant U/L.


During uphill propulsion with the ADMob, the total and tangential forces applied at the non-dominant handrim, along with the rate of rise of force, were reduced while mechanical efficiency was improved compared to uphill propulsion without the ADMob. Similarly, the resultant net joint movements (wrist, elbow, and shoulder) and the relative muscular demands (biceps, triceps, anterior deltoid, pectoralis major) decreased during uphill propulsion with an ADMob versus without an ADMob.


Propelling uphill with the assistance of an ADMob reduces U/L efforts and improves efficiency compared to propelling uphill without its assistance in a manual wheelchair user with a spinal cord injury.

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.

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.

The impact of assistance dogs on an individual’s life is multifaceted. The occupational therapist must identify how assistance dogs enhance occupational performance and influence an individual’s life. This study aims to deepen our understanding about the benefits and challenges of assistance dogs for individuals with mobility challenges.


The qualitative data analysis included codes and theme identification. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive analysis, including mean, standard deviation, and Cronbach’s alpha (score reliability).


Results indicate that the job of the assistance dog is comprehensive and complex. Assistance dogs support independence, provide hope through occupations, assist with general and client-specific needs, and provide companionship. The use of occupational therapy outcome tools to assess the benefits of service dogs adds to the body of literature.


A service dog enhances occupational performance at home, work, school, and community. This unique study aims to deepen the understanding of the benefits and challenges of assistance dogs as an occupational therapy intervention for individuals with mobility challenges.

Purpose: Mobility Dogs® trains dogs to work with people with physical disabilities to increase independence, confidence, self-esteem and participation. Mobility Dogs® seeks to critically evaluate and improve its services as it grows. This study aimed to identify and implement a standardised outcome measure into practice at Mobility Dogs®. Method: Based on the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research and guided by a steering group of key stakeholders, a three-phase approach was developed to identify and assess an outcome measure. The steering group highlighted the organisation’s specific needs, selected participation as the assessment domain and identified core utility requirements of the measure. A comprehensive review of evidence was undertaken to identify and rank potential measures according to the specified needs.

Results: Of the seven participation outcome measures that met inclusion criteria, the three highest ranked measures were critically evaluated by the steering group to determine suitability against the organisation’s needs. The Impact on Participation and Autonomy (IPA) was selected for implementation into practice at Mobility Dogs®. Conclusion: Use of the IPA is an important first step for Mobility Dogs® to test the benefits of trained service dogs. This process could be replicated by other service dog organisations to identify outcome measures to assess their own services.

Service dogs help persons with mobility impairments by retrieving items and performing other tasks. Hearing dogs alert persons with hearing impairments to environmental sounds. We conducted a pre-post, wait list-controlled pilot study to assess the impact of the dogs on the lives of recipients. Participants were recruited through two assistance dog training organizations and completed an initial questionnaire packet. The Experimental group completed another packet 6 months after receiving a dog. The Control group completed a second packet 6 months after the initial data collection. On average, dog recipients were very satisfied with their assistance dogs. Both service and hearing dog recipients reduced their dependence on other persons. Service dog recipients reduced hours of paid assistance. No other significant change occurred in various standardized outcome measures. Assistance dogs had a major positive impact on the lives of recipients. More appropriate measurement instruments are needed to capture the impact of these dogs.

Servicehunde helfen Menschen mit Mobilitätseinschränkungen, indem sie Gegenstände herbeibringen und andere Aufgaben ausführen. Signalhunde warnen Menschen mit Hörschäden vor Umweltgeräuschen. Eine Pilotstudie wurde zur Beurteilung der Auswirkungen von Hunden auf das Leben ihrer Besitzer durchgeführt. Die Teilnehmer wurden über zwei Ausbildungsorganisationen für Assistenzhunde rekrutiert und beantworteten ein ursprüngliches Fragebogen-Paket. Die Mitglieder der Versuchsgruppe beantworteten sechs Monate nach der Entgegennahme eines Hundes weitere Fragen. Die Kontrollgruppe beantwortete ein zweites Fragebogen-Paket sechs Monate nach der Erhebung mit dem ursprünglichen Paket. Durchschnittlich waren die Hunde-Empfänger sehr zufrieden mit ihren Assistenzhunden. Empfänger von sowohl Service- als auch Signalhunden reduzierten ihre Abhängigkeit von anderen Personen. Empfänger von Servicehunden reduzierten die Stunden bezahlter Assistenz. Es ergaben sich keine anderen Veränderungen in verschiedenen standardisierten Ergebnismessungen. Assistenzhunde hatten einen bedeutend positiven Einfluss auf das Leben der Empfänger. Es werden geeignetere Messinstrumente benötigt, um den Einfluss dieser Hunde zu erfassen.

The objective of this study was to assess the effects of dog walking on gait and mobility in people with Parkinson disease (PD). This single-group, single-session, observational pilot study included nineteen participants with PD in Hoehn and Yahr stages II (n = 9) and III (n = 10). Primary measures were a gait analysis and the Timed Up and Go (TUG). Three trials of two conditions (walking with and without a dog) were completed. Walking with a dog resulted in slower gait velocity (mean difference = 0.11 m/s, p = 0.003, d = 0.77), shorter step length (left: mean difference = 7.11 cm, p = 0.000; right: mean difference = 3.05, p = 0.01), and stride length (left: mean difference = 7.52, p = 0.003; right: mean difference = 8.74, p = 0.001). The base of support was more narrowed (Z = −2.13, p = 0.03), with increased double limb stance time (left: Z = −2.89, p = 0.004; right: Z = −2.59, p = 0.01). Walking with a dog caused slower TUG times (mean difference = −1.67, p = 0.000) and increased number of steps (Z = −3.73, p = 0.000). No significant change shown in step time (left: mean difference = −0.001, p = 0.81; right: mean difference = 0.002, p = 0.77) or cadence (Z = −1.67, p = 0.10). In conclusion, there was an overall decline of gait parameters in people with PD when walking with a dog.

Purpose: To qualitatively describe and compare the expectations and experiences of living with a mobility or medical service dog among those with a physical disability or chronic condition.

Materials and methods: A total of 64 participants living with a service dog and 27 on the waitlist to receive a service dog participated in a cross-sectional open-ended survey. Qualitative content analysis was used to identify themes and sub-themes.

Results: A total of 101 codes were summarized into themes of Physical Benefits, Psychosocial Benefits, and Drawbacks to having a service dog. Psychosocial benefits included the human–animal relationship as well as emotional, quality of life, and social benefits. Drawbacks included service dog care, public access and education, lifestyle adjustments, and dog behaviour. While participants on the waitlist were more likely to anticipate physical benefits of having a service dog, those with a service dog largely described psychosocial benefits. Findings also suggest that some drawbacks, such as public discrimination, may be unanticipated by the waitlist.

Conclusions: A comparison of expectations and experiences of service dog ownership highlights both the positive and negative aspects of the service dog–owner relationship and identifies potential aspects of having a service dog that may be unanticipated or overestimated by those on the waitlist.

  • Implications for Rehabilitation
  • When asked about helpful and important aspects of having a service dog, 98% of service dog owners described the psychosocial benefits of their dog’s assistance and companionship.

  • The human–animal relationship was the most discussed psychosocial benefit from both current owners as well as those on the waitlist, demonstrating the unique strength of the service dog–owner bond in this population.

  • Those on the waitlist to receive a service dog did not anticipate as many drawbacks as current owners described. In particular, difficulties with public access and education as well as dog behaviour were commonly experienced, but not expected, drawbacks to service dog ownership.

  • Findings identify aspects of having a service dog that may be unanticipated or overestimated by those on the waitlist, providing rehabilitation professionals with a basis for preparing those who may be considering incorporating a service dog into their lives.

Service dogs for people with mobility impairments and hearing ear dogs for persons with hearing impairments have grown in popularity because the important practical tasks these dogs perform enhance the independence of their owners. Little is known about the psychosocial impact of service dog ownership, however. The results of a survey of 24 owners and seven trainers on the psychosocial benefits and liabilities of service dog ownership are presented and the implications for social work practice are discussed.

11 Assistance Dogs - Hearing disability

The Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations (FIDO) project in the Animal Interaction Lab at Georgia Tech aims to facilitate communication between working dogs and their handlers. Here, the authors discuss their research on testing a working dog’s ability to perform distinct tasks in response to vibrations at different points on their body.

The organization Hearing Dogs for Deaf People provides assistance dogs that alert their deaf or hard-of-hearing recipients to key sounds, thus increasing their independence and also providing companionship. Fifty-one recipients took part in a longitudinal study to monitor the dogs’ working performance over time and to examine the social and psychological effects of having a Hearing Dog. The Profile of Mood State (POMS) questionnaire and the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) were used together with a Hearing Dog Questionnaire (HDQ) specifically developed for this study. There were a number of significant differences in measures of well-being between the period prior to placing the Hearing Dog and the period after placement, but there were no comparable differences during the year-long waiting period prior to placement of the dog. Recipients reported significant reductions in hearing-related problems such as response to environmental sounds; significant reductions in measures of tension, anxiety, and depression; and significant improvements in social involvement and independence. The longitudinal nature of this study supports evidence that these improvements persist for some time after the placement of a dog, with significant differences being reported, in many cases, up to 18 months after acquiring a dog.


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.


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).


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.


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.

Emotional aspects of owning hearing dogs were explored in 38 hearing-dog owners and a control group of 23 prospective owners. Both groups listed companionship and hearing assistance as pleasant reasons for owning such dogs. Having a dog and personal independence were reasons mentioned only by prospective owners. Both groups mentioned travel complications as unpleasant problems. Owners referred to dogs’ behavior problems significantly more often than did prospective owners who appeared to have unrealistic expectations that dog ownership would be problem-free.

The relationships between hearing dog ownership and the owners’ levels of loneliness, changes in social interactions with people, and life stress were studied retrospectively by questionnaire in a sample of 38 hearing dog owners and a control group of 15 prospective owners. The hearing dogs fulfilled the owners’ primary expectation of alerting them to sounds. A sense of security, their second highest concern, was also addressed. Owners felt safer when they were alone with their hearing dog than before obtaining one. Companionship was the third-rated reason for acquiring the dog and owners reported being significantly less lonely after receiving a hearing dog (P < 0.01). Most owners and prospective owners described a role of the hearing dog as changing interactions within the family. Owners also felt that the dogs changed their interactions with the hearing community and neighbors, whereas few prospective owners foresaw this effect of the dog (P < 0.01). Apparently stemming from the disability being more obvious, owners also scored lower on a life stress score than prospective owners (P < 0.02).

The purpose of this thesis is to explore human-animal work and interspecies relationships within organizational settings. Previous research in the field of organization studies has been highly anthropocentric, overlooking the valuable roles of animals and their agency in diverse organizational contexts, such as in assistance, security, entertainment, tourism, and healthcare. Despite the growing interest in Human-Animal Studies, our understanding of the social constructs and power dynamics governing interactions between humans and animals within organizations remains limited. Therefore, this study aims to fill the gap and contribute to the new, emerging field of Animal Organization Studies by focusing on a new animal occupation group, pain alert dogs.

The theoretical foundation of this study draws from the interdisciplinary fields of Human-Animal Studies and Animal Organization Studies. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the “more-than-human” phenomenon, the research follows a qualitative research design of multispecies ethnography supported by semi-structured interviews. Data collection took place in April 2023 through observations and interviews involving three dog-human pairs and two pain alert dog trainers. The analysis of data is based on inductive analysis.

The findings shed light on the prominent agency possessed by pain alert dogs in their roles. As trusted individuals, pain alert dogs react and inform their human handlers of increasing pain levels and upcoming pain attacks. With the dogs’ input to care work, humans suffering from chronic pain have found more balance in their lives and control of their pain situation. The findings show that the concept of pain alert work is a mix of animals’ voluntary work for humans and mandated work by humans, where the line between working time and leisure is blurred. The pain alert work is made possible by a strong bond between the dog and the human. Future research should ponder the ethical questions of our relations to animals and continue to further examine non-human workers and their place in organizations.

This study aimed to explore perceptions and experiences about how owning a hearing dog can influence the functioning and the autonomy of people with hearing loss. Three adults participated in a semi-structured interview. The interviews were video recorded, transcribed, and coded. A procedure combining qualitative content analysis and interpretative phenomenological analysis was used. The study shows how specific aspects of hearing dogs are associated with increased autonomy and sense of security among owners. The attentive dog-owner pairing, the outstanding training and the companion role of the hearing dog are the main elements supporting the high satisfaction related by all the participants. In regard of the location context (Quebec, Canada), ongoing challenges for owners are reflected in the lack of visibility of this rehabilitation means and its poor recognition from the society, resulting in the constant burden to explain the dog’s work to others. For adults with hearing loss, the hearing dog is a relevant way of offering both the benefits of functional assistance and the psychosocial support of a pet. The association between owning a hearing dog and improved overall well-being suggests that this form of rehabilitation should be considered as a pertinent option by hearing health professionals.


Individuals with severe disability often require personal assistance and help from informal caregivers, in addition to conventional health care. The utilization of assistance dogs may decrease the need for health and social care and increase the independence of these individuals. Service and hearing dogs are trained to assist specific individuals and can be specialized to meet individual needs. The aim of this study was to describe and explore potential consequences for health-related quality of life, well-being and activity level, of having a certified service or hearing dog.


A longitudinal interventional study with a pre-post design was conducted. At inclusion, all participants in the study had a regular (untrained) companion dog. Data were collected before training of the dog started and three months after certification of the dog. Health-related quality of life was assessed with EQ-5D-3L, EQ-VAS and RAND-36. Well-being was measured with WHO-5 and self-esteem with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. In addition, questions were asked about physical activity and time spent away from home and on social activities. Subgroups were analyzed for physical service and diabetes alert dogs.


Fifty-five owner-and-dog pairs completed the study (30 physical service dogs, 20 diabetes alert dogs, 2 epilepsy alert dogs, and 3 hearing dogs). Initially, study participants reported low health-related quality of life compared with the general population. At follow-up, health-related quality of life measured with the EQ-VAS, well-being and level of physical activity had improved significantly. In the subgroup analysis, physical service dog owners had lower health-related quality of life than diabetes alert dog owners. The improvement from baseline to follow-up measured with EQ-5D statistically differed between the subgroups.


The target population for service and hearing dogs has an overall low health-related quality of life. Our study indicates that having a certified service or hearing dog may have positive impact on health-related quality of life, well-being and activity level. Service and hearing dogs are a potentially important “wagging tail aid” for this vulnerable population, able to alleviate strain, increase independence, and decrease the risk of social isolation.

This article examines the social experiences of Service Dog handlers using survey data from adult US Service Dog handlers (N = 482). The main research question examined is how disability visibility impacts the experiences of Service Dog-related discrimination. Analysis reveals that half of all Service Dog handlers report experiencing discrimination but those with invisible disabilities report experiencing significantly more discrimination. For those with invisible disabilities, the decision to use a Service Dog prevents them from ‘passing’ while at the same time opening them up to increased skepticism about the legitimacy of their disability.

The use of dogs to help people with disabilities has been known for a long time. Assistance dogs carry out a variety of practical tasks for disabled people with appropriate and targeted training, including assisting deaf persons or people with profound hearing loss. The benefits of assistance dogs for persons with hearing impairment (hearing dogs) include a) improved ability to carry out daily tasks through the codified reporting of sounds proper of everyday life and/or of dangerous situations and b) psychosocial aspects such as companionship and sense of protection. The benefits derived from the use of assistance dogs for persons with hearing impairment are less studied compared to those of assistance dogs employed for other disabilities. Moreover, the role of hearing dogs may appear rather controversial considering technological advances in the field of surgical or prosthetic rehabilitation for people with hearing impairment. This article aims to review features and training of hearing dogs, the effect of their employment and legislative aspects for their owners.


In this chapter, Reeve and Wilson provide a thorough review and discussion of medical alert dogs: dogs that alert people to physiological changes. The authors first orient the reader with a discussion of the terminology surrounding, and the regulation of, medical alert dogs. Next, they discuss how odours emanating from the body signal physiological change, and how the canine olfactory system is well suited to perceive these odours. The chapter then includes a review of empirical studies examining dogs’ ability to detect odours associated with physiological change and how medical alert dogs impact their owners’ health and well-being. The authors explore the current training and selection of medical alert dogs and, finally, present a discussion of medical technology and the future of medical alert dogs.

Background People with hearing loss, particularly those who lose their hearing in adulthood, are at increased risk of social isolation, mental health difficulties, unemployment, loss of independence, risk of accidents, and impaired quality of life. In the United Kingdom (UK), a single third sector organisation provides hearing dogs, a specific type of assistance dog trained to provide sound support to people with hearing loss. These dogs may also deliver numerous psychosocial benefits to recipients. This has not previously been fully investigated. Objective To evaluate the impact of a hearing dog partnership on the lives of individuals with severe or profound hearing loss. Methods and Analysis A two-arm, randomised controlled trial conducted within the UK, with 162 hearing dog applicants, aged 18 years and over. Participants will be randomised 1:1 using a matched-pairs design to receive a hearing dog sooner than usual (intervention arm – Arm B) or to receive a hearing dog within the usual timeframe (comparator arm – Arm A). In the effectiveness analysis, the primary outcome is a comparison of mental wellbeing six-months after Arm B have received a hearing dog (Arm A: not yet received hearing dog), measured using the Short Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale. Secondary outcome measures include the PHQ-9, GAD-7 and WSAS. An economic evaluation will assess cost-effectiveness including health-related quality-adjusted life years using the EQ-5D-5L and social-care-related-quality-adjusted life-years. Participants will be followed up for up to two years. A nested qualitative study will investigate the impacts of having a hearing dog and how these impacts come about. Results The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research’s School for Social Care Research. Recruitment commenced in March 2017 and is now complete. 165 participants were randomised. Data collection will continue until January 2020. Results will be published in peer-reviewed journals and at conferences. A summary of the findings will be made available to participants. Ethical approval was received from the University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work Research Ethics Committee (reference SPSW/S/17/1). Conclusions The findings from this study will provide, for the first time, strong and reliable evidence on the impact of having a hearing dog on people’s lives in terms of their quality of life, well-being and mental health. Trial registration The trial has been retrospectively registered International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) 36452009;

Service dogs for people with mobility impairments and hearing ear dogs for persons with hearing impairments have grown in popularity because the important practical tasks these dogs perform enhance the independence of their owners. Little is known about the psychosocial impact of service dog ownership, however. The results of a survey of 24 owners and seven trainers on the psychosocial benefits and liabilities of service dog ownership are presented and the implications for social work practice are discussed.


Background and Objectives

The aim of this study was to evaluate whether people living with severe medically refractory epilepsy (PSRE) benefit from a seizure dog.


An individual-level stepped-wedge randomized controlled trial was conducted. The study was conducted in the Netherlands among adults with daily to weekly seizures. All participants were included simultaneously (on June 1, 2019) while receiving usual care. Then, during the 36-month follow-up, they received a seizure dog in a randomized sequence. Participants kept a seizure diary and completed 3-monthly surveys. Seizure frequency was the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes included seizure-free days, seizure severity, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and well-being. Data were analyzed using generalized linear mixed modeling (GLMM). The models assumed a delayed intervention effect, starting when the seizure dog reached an advanced stage of training. Effects were calculated as changes per 28-day period with the intervention.


Data were collected from 25 participants, of whom 20 crossed over to the intervention condition. The median follow-up was 19 months with usual care and 12 months with the intervention. On average, participants experienced 115 (SD 164) seizures per 28-day period in the usual care condition and 73 (SD 131) seizures in the intervention condition. Seven participants achieved a reduction of 50% or more at the end of follow-up. GLMM indicated a 3.1% decrease in seizure frequency for each consecutive 28-day period with the intervention (0.969, 95% CI 0.960–0.977). Furthermore, an increase in the number of seizure-free days was observed (1.012, 95% CI 1.009, 1.015), but no effect on seizure severity measured with the NHS3. Generic HRQoL scores improved, as reflected in the decrease in EQ-5D-5L utility decrement (0.975, 95% CI 0.954–0.997). Smaller improvements were observed on overall self-rated HRQoL, epilepsy-specific HRQoL, and well-being, measured with the EQ VAS, QOLIE-31-P, and ICECAP-A, respectively.


Seizure dogs reduce seizure frequency, increase the number of seizure-free days, and improve the quality of life of PSRE. The magnitude of the effect on generic HRQoL indicates that seizure dogs benefit PSRE beyond the impact on seizure frequency alone. Early discontinuation of seizure dog partnerships suggests that this intervention is not suitable for all PSRE and requires further study.

12 Assistance Dogs - PTSD

Background: This study explored the dynamics of veteran/service dog partnerships by gathering the perspectives of veterans with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury.

Methods: Exploratory qualitative methods (focus groups and individual interviews) were used to investigate veteran/service dog relationships related to community involvement, family and friend relationships, self-care, work, and leisure. Nine male veterans, Paws, and Stripes program graduates participated. Data were audio recorded and transcribed by two research team members who used qualitative analytic software to manage and code the data. The full research team discussed themes and reached consensus on the themes that emerged from analysis.

Results: Five themes emerged about the perceived benefit of veteran/service dog relationship: Secluded but Seeking Society (moving from isolation to reconnection); Opening Opportunities (navigating daily life); Bridging the Gap (facilitating social opportunities); and Reclaiming Life (transforming sense of worth and purpose). An overarching theme, Calming Catalyst, connected the other four themes.

Conclusions: Veterans in this study reported that their goal was to reclaim and develop key aspects of their lives and they perceived service dogs as a support in their transition from isolation to reintegration. This study found that service dogs supported the veterans to meet their goal.

  • Implications for rehabilitation
  • There are a significant number of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and/or traumatic brain injury who are facing life challenges including self-care, securing work, participating in leisure activities, and integrating into the community.

  • Service dogs are an emerging intervention used to assist veterans with reintegration into civilian life.

  • There is a need for professionals to be aware of potential benefits of service dog/veteran partnerships.

  • Based on our findings, veterans could benefit from being paired with a service dog to facilitate their successful return to community life.

Service dogs (SDs) are gaining attention for their benefits on the mental health of military veterans, especially related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, little is known about veterans’ experiences with SDs in relation to recovery from substance use harms. In fact, the role of animals in human recovery from substance use harms is nearly unexplored. To address this gap, we examined if and how SDs support veterans in recovery, including any potential challenges they may face. We adopted a descriptive, qualitative, patient-oriented design and conducted 16 semi-structured interviews with Canadian veterans living with PTSD, who had a SD, and who identified as in or seeking recovery. We applied the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) four dimensions supporting a life in recovery to our analysis (community, home, health, purpose) and explored how these dimensions pertain to the veteran–SD relationship. We found that all veterans perceived their SDs as an important support, impacting all four of SAMHSA’s dimensions of recovery through a sense of connection. Veterans described a mutual bond with their SDs and that they helped them build social capital with other humans in their community. Veterans also highlighted that their SDs helped them feel safer and more comfortable in public spaces, which encouraged them to get out of their homes more regularly. SDs enabled veterans to manage their substance use by promoting physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing and by offering meaning in veterans’ lives. However, veterans described challenges related to SD regulation and legislation, which hindered their ability to participate in meaningful daily activities and contributed to a sense of disconnection. Overall, veterans in our study described numerous ways in which their SDs supported a life in recovery from substance use harms. However, our findings suggest that improved public education and policy are necessary to legitimize SDs and ensure that the benefits of these animals are fully recognized.

As the human–animal bond is increasingly recognized as therapeutic, the role of animals, most frequently canines, grows. A contemporary pairing of animals and humans can be found inside prisons. While the dogs trained by inmates are most frequently adopted out to the community, today dogs are being trained to assist veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as part of a grass roots effort to fulfill the mental health needs of veterans. The growing number of veterans with PTSD and concomitant issues including addiction, unemployment, homelessness, and crime, makes the mental healthcare issues of veterans a social problem. The civilian-led effort to provide veterans with dogs is a continuation of the public’s involvement with the proliferation of prison-based animal programs. While this next generation of animal programs has overwhelming community support, it also suffers from similar limitations as its predecessors. With no universal agreement as to the training methods or level of skills needed by the dogs, their efficacy at lessening the symptoms of veterans’ PTSD remains largely unknown.

Assistance dogs for people with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) support their handlers by performing tasks that are supposed to mitigate the effects of their mental disability. This study examined the Quality of Life (QoL) of PTSD-assistance dogs’ handlers in Austria and Germany using a qualitative online questionnaire based on the Capability Approach. To correspondingly explore whether the involved assistance dogs experience distress triggered by their daily schedules, we measured their salivary cortisol values. These were compared to the cortisol levels of companion dogs without special tasks, as well as diabetic-signal dogs that have a similar workload. Our results showed that people suffering from PTSD-symptoms can improve their QoL with the aid of their assistance dog. However, being accompanied by an assistance dog creates new social barriers. Surprisingly, we found significantly lower salivary cortisol levels in PTSD-assistance dogs compared to the control groups. We conclude that a positive relationship between PTSD-assistance dogs and their handlers can reduce stress on both sides, and that training well tuned to the requirements of an assistance dog can prevent stress in their daily lives.

This chapter first reviews the research-based information about the benefits of pets, especially for the most vulnerable people, and then addresses the practical implementation of this expanding research. The positive psychosocial effects of human/animal relationships engage interest, arising from firsthand experiences with pet animals and scientific curiosity, as well as the practical questions concerning how best to include pets as an adjunct for treatment for an autistic child or a paraplegic veteran, or to enhance the quality of life of an elderly person in an assisted-living facility. Despite the ever-growing research literature on the psychosocial effects of animals, a significant gap remains between that knowledge base and implementing it into treatment or support services for psychosocially vulnerable people. This chapter suggests that to enjoy the positive effects, a relationship with an animal should be individually tailored to the psychosocial characteristics of the person. Epidemiological studies of entire communities identify subcultures where certain individual circumstances, neighborhoods, geographical features, or special situations are associated with beneficial or adverse health parameters. Employing epidemiological methods with statistical representation of the entire community offers a view of the context, including the community’s affluence, geography, age, gender, and ethnicity of pet-owning participants. The new development will spearhead the creation and availability of curricular resources and enhance the number of people prepared to provide leadership in the area of human/animal interaction, bringing research into practice.

The aim of this pilot study was to evaluate the effectiveness of two specialized Australian PTSD assistance dog programs in reducing PTSD and mental health symptoms over a one-year period. A total of 44 participants who were partnered with an assistance dog were analysed. Using an intent to treat analysis, compared to the baseline measures, all mental health outcomes exhibited statistically significant reductions in scores at the 3-month follow-up, and persisted at the 6-month, and 12-month follow-up. When comparing baseline to 3-month follow-up the effect size (Cohen’s d) was strongest for stress (d = 0.993), followed by PTSD (d = 0.892), anxiety (d = 0.837). Analyses among those who also completed the waitlist-baseline assessment (n = 23) showed slight reductions in stress and depression prior to receiving their dog (whilst waiting for their dog). However, larger reductions were yielded across all mental health measures when comparing waitlist-baseline to 3-month follow-up.

There are over 18.8 million veterans of the United States of America’s Armed Forces. After military service veterans may find it difficult transitioning back to civilian life. Veterans reintegrating may experience physical and psychological challenges related to their military service. For many, a successful role change takes considerable time and determination. In order to ease their transition, veterans are using the assistance of service dogs to aid in symptom management and assist with positive reintegration into civilian life. Service dogs are highly trained animals that help individuals perform life tasks to assist with physical and psychological challenges. The purpose of this qualitative study was to give voice to the experiential viewpoints of veterans who utilize service dogs. Guided by the theoretically informed method of interpretation— interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA)—the researchers uncovered the veterans’ perspectives, which provided meaningful insight into their lives with a service dog. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with veterans (n = 21) who utilized a service dog. The interviews lasted approximately one hour and were video or audio recorded. The most salient themes that emerged from the interviews were grouped into four superordinate themes: Procurement, psychosocial functioning, value, and detriments. Results suggest that service dogs improved veterans’ physical and psychological health, provided a coping resource and a form of social support, and supported sustaining their independence. Veterans’ right to privacy and the public’s lack of knowledge and understanding of legal accommodation requirements via the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were perceptible. Implications for policy, practice, and research, are discussed.

Introduction: Psychiatric service dogs are increasingly being sought out by military veterans as a complementary intervention for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After receiving a service dog, many veterans continue training their service dog at home. Our objective was to explore the associations between training methods, PTSD severity, service dog behavior, and the veteran-service dog bond in a population of military veterans with PTSD.

Methods: Post-9/11 military veterans with PTSD who had received a psychiatric service dog were recruited from a national service dog provider. A total of 111 veterans (M = 40.1 ± 8.3 years, 80% male) participated in an online survey regarding frequency of training methods, PTSD symptom severity, service dog behavior, and the human-animal bond. Service dogs were predominately Labrador Retriever purebreds or mixes of various breeds (66% male) and mostly obtained from shelters or rescues (58%). Training methods were divided into five categories: positive reinforcement (e.g., physical praise), negative punishment (e.g., ignoring the dog), positive punishment (e.g., verbal correction), dominance (e.g., alpha roll), and bond-based (e.g., co-sleeping). Data were analyzed using general linear models.

Results: Veterans self-reported using all five categories of training methods at least once a month. More frequent use of positive punishment was associated with less closeness with their service dog (p = 0.02), more fear (p = 0.003), less eye contact (p < 0.0001), and less trainability (p = 0.04). More frequent use of positive reinforcement was associated with higher closeness to their service dog (p = 0.002) and perceived increased attachment behavior (p = 0.002) and playfulness (p = 0.002). More frequent use of bond-based methods was associated with higher closeness to their service dog (p = 0.02). PTSD severity was not significantly associated with reported dog behavior, temperament, or veteran-service dog closeness.

Conclusion: Military veterans with PTSD service dogs reported using many training methods that were associated with different outcomes. In general, the reported use of positive reinforcement or bond-based training methods were associated with reporting more positive outcomes while the reported use of positive punishment was associated with reporting more negative outcomes. Educating service dog organizations and recipients about the impacts of training methods could be beneficial for service dog efficacy and welfare.

Objective: Psychiatric service dog placements may benefit psychosocial functioning for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), however, these effects have never been examined directly in daily life. This nonrandomized longitudinal clinical trial quantified the efficacy of psychiatric service dogs for daily psychosocial functioning among N = 168 veterans with PTSD using ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Method: EMA data were collected twice daily for 2 weeks at each assessment period (0 and 3 months), totaling 9,408 survey responses (2 Assessments × 14 Days × 2 Prompts × 168 Participants). Results: At follow-up, regression analysis identified associations between service dog placement and better perceived social interaction quality (β = 0.42, p < .05), better affect (negative affect: β = −2.64, p < .001; positive affect: β = 2.44, p < .001), and lower odds of panic attacks (OR = 0.68, p < .05). Social participation results were mixed: placements were associated with greater activity participation (β = 3.21, p < .001) but lower odds of being away from home (OR = 0.77, p < .05), indicating possible support for anecdotes that public stigma is an obstacle to community participation. Conclusions: Results further revealed that the service dog’s trained tasks may be particularly important for social functioning outcomes, and the service dog’s presence for emotional functioning outcomes. Findings highlight a need for education surrounding service dog etiquette and reveal potential mechanisms underlying psychiatric service dog placements. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved)


Psychiatric assistance dogs for military veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) currently make up over 19% of assistance dog partnerships globally. We conducted a systematic review of the literature relating to these partnerships, with specific aims to (1) summarize their characteristics, (2) evaluate the quality of existing evidence, and (3) summarize outcomes. A total of 432 records were independently screened (Cohen’s kappa = 0.90). Of these, 41 articles (29 peer-reviewed publications and 12 unpublished dissertations) met inclusion criteria. Data extraction was conducted to address the research aims, including a meta-analysis (quantitative outcomes) and meta-synthesis (qualitative outcomes). All peer-reviewed publications on the topic of psychiatric assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD were published within the last five years. The majority of included articles were quantitative (53%), 41% were qualitative, and 6% employed mixed methods. Mean methodological rigor scores were 80% for peer reviewed articles and 71% for dissertations, where higher scores represent more rigorous methodology. Quantitative articles reported significant improvements in the domains of PTSD severity, mental health, and social health. Impacts on physical health and global quality of life appear inconclusive. Meta-analysis (9 articles) revealed that partnership with an assistance dog had a clinically meaningful, significant, and large effect on PTSD severity scores (g = −1.129; p<0.0001). Qualitative meta-synthesis identified two third order constructs: (1) Impact on the individual: mental & physical health and (2) Impact beyond the individual: building relationships & connection. This synthesis of increasingly prevalent research on assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD provides support for the impact of this complementary and integrative health intervention on PTSD symptom severity, and signs of meaningful improvements in adjacent domains including mental and social health. Gaps between quantitative and qualitative findings, along with the need to report greater demographic detail, highlight key opportunities for future research.

Approximately 300,000 Post-9/11 veterans are identified as having post-traumatic stress disorder in this country but it’s estimated that only 1 in 3 asks for help. For those who do, different kinds of therapy can help to manage the after effects of trauma. As Veteran Voices reporter and Wright State student veteran Allison Loy has found, many veterans find comfort and support from pets.

When studying the roles and experiences of a service dog team, it is imperative that the animal-human bond be considered in this process. As the demand and acknowledgement of service dogs for mental health and veterans with PTSD continues to grow, it is important that academic research be conducted in order to not only maximize the benefits to the human and reduce the attitudinal and systemic barriers faced by the service dog team, but also to ensure the well-being of the service dog themselves. This major research paper will show that although individuals who share their lives with service dogs experience many mental health benefits as a result of their partnership, they have to face various attitudinal and systemic barriers in exchange for that benefit. The objectives of the study were to: engage with four persons who share their lives with service dogs in order to discuss and reflect upon the mental health impact of the animal-human bond, to engage significant others view of the mental health impact of service dogs, to explore systemic and attitudinal barriers faced by persons with service dogs, to generate and disseminate current knowledge regarding the mental health benefits of human-animal bonding in general and service dogs and human companions more specifically, and lastly to influence national service dog acceptance and policy. Through conducting a literature review as well as a qualitative phenomenological study, which interviewed human companions who share their lives with service dogs and their significant others, five themes regarding the animal-human bond and mental health were uncovered: that the journey to obtaining a service dog is a lengthy and sometimes complex process; that overall having a service dog for mental health difficulties or PTSD can be a positive experience; that the bond of the dog and human in the service dog Running head: AT BOTH ENDS OF THE LEASH 2 team is quite strong, that there are indeed mental health benefits to being partnered with a service dog; and lastly in order to receive the benefits of having a service dog the teams must face some attitudinal and systemic barriers in exchange. The paper ends with a discussion on the areas of recommendations regarding service dog research and policy in Canada.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have corrosive impacts on family relationships and individual functioning. Emerging evidence has shown that psychiatric service dogs may be an effective complementary treatment for military veterans with PTSD, benefiting veterans’ mental and social health. However, few studies have examined the effects of psychiatric service dogs on the family members of veterans, specifically their partners. Mixed-methods data from 60 veteran-partner dyads examined individual and relationship functioning among partners of veterans paired with a service dog (service dog group; n = 37) and those awaiting placement (waitlist group; n = 23). While there were no statistically significant differences across groups, the effect sizes for group differences suggested that partners in the service dog group (relative to those on the waitlist) may experience higher levels of resilience and companionship, and lower levels of anger, social isolation, and work impairment. A topical survey of partner qualitative data within the service dog group indicated that service dogs provided more benefits than challenges. Partners reported improvements in veteran functioning, family relationships, and partners’ quality of life. Results, although preliminary, suggest that psychiatric service dogs may provide modest positive experiences for some veteran family systems.


  • Though service dogs may improve wellbeing for veterans with posttraumatic disorder, families of veterans may not experience those same benefits. Researchers and clinicians should consider how to best prepare veteran families for integrating service dogs into their homes.

  • Though posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) service dogs are trained specifically for veterans, recent studies have demonstrated that their impact may go beyond veterans themselves (McCall, Rodriguez, Wadsworth, Meis, & O’Haire, 2020; Nieforth, Craig, Behmer, MacDermid Wadsworth, & O’Haire, 2021). PTSD service dogs may provide both benefits and challenges for veteran families.

Partners of veterans diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at risk of a variety of challenges, and it is unknown whether psychiatric service dogs are disruptive to their sleep or provide similar benefits that are seen in the limited literature on veterans. As part of a larger clinical trial examining the efficacy of psychiatric service dogs for veterans with PTSD and their families, this study focused on sleep patterns of veterans’ partners (n = 88), incorporating both subjective (clinically validated self-report surveys) and objective sleep measures (actigraphy). Linear regression was used to analyze differences in relation to group (intervention versus control) at follow-up, controlling for baseline score. Results revealed no significant differences between groups for both the subjective surveys (p = 0.15; p = 0.75) and the objective actigraphy measures (p = 0.06–0.98). This suggests that psychiatric service dogs are not disruptive, nor do they provide any benefits to partner sleep. Partners had sleep patterns on par with national norms at baseline and remained at such levels at follow up. Ultimately, using both subjective and objective measures, we found no impact of psychiatric service dogs on the sleep of veterans’ partners.
Recent literature suggests that service dogs may be a valuable complementary intervention option for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military veterans due to the potential influence on stress response dysregulation. The aim of this short-term longitudinal study was to quantify the impact of service dogs in US military veterans with PTSD with particular attention to the cortisol awakening response. A sub aim of the study was to empirically evaluate the physiological effects of PTSD service dogs on veteran partners. We conducted a clinical trial (ID: NCT03245814) that assessed the cortisol awakening response for 245 participants at baseline and 3 months follow-up across an intervention group (service dog: veterans n = 88, partners n = 46) and control group (usual care: n = 73, partners n = 38). A total of N = 161 veterans and N = 84 partners collected whole saliva samples via a passive drool collection immediately upon waking, 30 min after waking, and 45 min after waking on three consecutive weekdays at baseline and again at follow-up. Mixed model repeated measures (MMRM) with a fixed effect of the intervention group (service dog or control) were utilized. Covariates considered for the model included time of awakening, sleep duration, sleep efficiency, prior day experiences (measured via ecological momentary assessment), traumatic brain injury, age, gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, smoking status, alcohol use, physical health, and body mass index. A total of 3951 salivary samples were collected (veterans: 2613, partners: 1338). MMRM results demonstrated that veterans with a service dog had a statistically significant higher cortisol awakening response, including the area under the curve with respect to both increase (AUCi, β = 1.46, p = 0.046) and absolute increase (AINC, β = 0.05, p = 0.035). Results were not statistically significant for partners. Findings suggest that veterans with service dogs have a higher, less blunted CAR in comparison to veterans receiving usual care alone. In veterans with a blunted morning cortisol response, service dog placement could help boost their morning cortisol response.

Psychiatric service dogs are an emerging complementary treatment for military members and veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet despite anecdotal accounts of their value, there is a lack of empirical research on their efficacy. The current proof-of-concept study assessed the effects of this practice. Method: A nonrandomized efficacy trial was conducted with 141 post-9/11 military members and veterans with PTSD to compare usual care alone (n = 66) with usual care plus a trained service dog (n = 75). The primary outcome was longitudinal change on The PTSD Checklist (PCL; Weathers, Litz, Herman, Huska, & Keane, 1993), including data points from a cross-sectional assessment and a longitudinal record review. Secondary outcomes included cross-sectional differences in depression, quality of life, and social and work functioning. Results: Mixed-model analyses revealed clinically significant reductions in PTSD symptoms from baseline following the receipt of a service dog, but not while receiving usual care alone. Though clinically meaningful, average reductions were not below the diagnostic cutoff on the PCL. Regression analyses revealed significant differences with medium to large effect sizes among those with service dogs compared with those on the waitlist, including lower depression, higher quality of life, and higher social functioning. There were no differences in employment status, but there was lower absenteeism because of health among those who were employed. Conclusion: The addition of trained service dogs to usual care may confer clinically meaningful improvements in PTSD symptomology for military members and veterans with PTSD, though it does not appear to be associated with a loss of diagnosis.

This dissertation looked at the impact of receiving and training a service dog on combat veterans with PTSD using Robert Stake’s collective case study model. Interviews were conducted with fifteen combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD participating in a 14 week program for receiving and training their own service dog. The goal of the study was to explore the veterans’ experience of the training program, as well as determine any effect on their PTSD symptoms. The data obtained through this research study may enhance the field of psychology by providing an alternative treatment modality for PTSD which may be more acceptable to veterans than other, more traditional treatments. This study concluded the training and receipt of a service dog demonstrated effective results for diminishing PTSD symptoms, and may be an alternative solution for those who may not be comfortable seeking help in a more traditional manner. This form of treatment may also serve as a gateway to enable veterans to participate more successfully in other evidence-based treatment modalities as their symptoms of PTSD lessen.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a pervasive disorder among both current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members. Studies have shown current psychological and pharmacological treatments for PTSD are suboptimal in veterans, with high dropout rates and poor adherence to treatment protocols. Therefore, evaluating complementary interventions, such as assistance dogs, is needed for veterans who may not receive the ultimate benefit from traditional therapies. The present longitudinal mixed-method study examined the effectiveness of Operation K9 assistance dogs among sixteen veterans with PTSD, specifically, their effects on suicidality, PTSD, depression, and anxiety from baseline to 12 months post-matching. Self-reported measures were completed prior to receiving their dog (baseline) and at three time points (3, 6, and 12 months) following matching. The Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 was used to assess the severity of every PTSD case. Veterans participated in a semi-structured interview 3 months post-matching. Whilst there was a reduction in the proportion of veterans reporting any suicidality, there was no significant change in the probability of veterans reporting suicidality between time points. There was a significant effect of time on PTSD, depression, and anxiety symptoms. Three major themes emerged from qualitative data analysis: life changer, constant companion, and social engagement. Qualitative data suggest assistance dogs can have a positive impact on important areas of daily life and support veterans in achieving some of the prerequisites for health, including access to services, transport, education, employment, and development of new and diverse social and community connections. Connections were key in improving health and wellbeing. This study exemplifies the power of human–animal relationships and adds emphasis to the need to take these seriously and create supportive healthy environments for veterans with PTSD. Our findings could be used to inform public health policy and service delivery, in line with the Ottawa Charter action areas and indicate that for veterans with PTSD, assistance dogs may be a feasible adjunct intervention.

Approximately 1 in 5 returning service members from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (Tanielian & Jaycox, 2008), and 22 percent of veterans suffering from PTSD also report symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Mental health disorders such as PTSD have been shown to reduce the overall self-perceived quality of life in Vietnam veterans (Hansson, 2002). The effectiveness of using animals in therapeutic settings for mental health disorders has proven to be successful, specifically demonstrated to be therapeutic and beneficial in treating disorders such as anxiety and PTSD (Chandler, 2005). It is unclear whether veterans who own a pet would report fewer symptoms of PTSD and SAD and perceive a higher quality of life than veterans who do not own a pet. This study examined the relationship between companion dog ownership on veteran mental health and perceived quality of life. Seventy nine veterans (58 male, 21 female) were recruited from Facebook’s veterans groups who completed an online survey gathering information on dog ownership, symptoms of PTSD and SAD, perceived quality of life, and several demographics. No significant relationships were observed between these variables after conducting Pearson’s r correlational analyses. However, a significant correlation was found between veterans who have an “indifferent” view of pet dogs and levels of SAD. Implications of the findings are discussed in how to design future studies that research the relationship between the human-animal bond and mental health disorders in returning service members.

This qualitative research was conducted to add to the body of knowledge that supports the benefits of service dogs (SDs), as a tertiary treatment modality, to veterans with post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
This grounded theory research design utilized open‐ended, semi‐structured interviews with veterans (n = 10) who were using SDs as a treatment modality for PTSD and/or TBI. Transcripts were analyzed using NVivo qualitative software until data saturation was achieved.
Results from the data analysis identified 4 major themes with concurrent subthemes. The most prominent themes were functional status, impact of a SD, recognition of symptoms of PTSD and/or TBI by the SD, and barriers and challenges to the acquisition of a SD. Participants reported that the SD increased socialization and was a positive adjunct to treatment modalities for PTSD and/or TBI.
Our study highlights the benefits of using a SD as a tertiary treatment for PTSD and/or TBI in veterans. Veterans in our study articulated the benefits of using a SD as a tertiary treatment option, and the need to make this a standard treatment option for all veterans who suffer from PTSD and/or TBI.

There is a long history of service dog usage to assist people with physical disabilities (e. g., dogs for the blind, deaf, and disabled). In comparison, however, relatively little empirical research has been conducted into the use of service or emotional support dogs for people with psychiatric disabilities (e. g., PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia). Given this research shortfall, the present study sought to provide insights into the post-war dog ownership experiences of contemporary veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan fields of engagement, particularly in relation to the differences adopted dogs have made to the veterans’ readjustment back into society. In this regard, reporters’ media accounts of the experiences of veterans with PTSD and the general public’s social media response comments were subjected to a triangulated three-phase content analysis to explore the role dogs seemingly play in helping contemporary veterans to readjust to civilian life. The core theme to emerge from the study was one of: “‘Nudging them back to reality’: Toward a growing public acceptance of the role dogs fulfill in ameliorating contemporary veterans’ PTSD symptoms.” In light of the difficulties of interpreting the accounts of veterans through the filter of media coverage and social commentary, this core finding may prove to provide insights into how contemporary veterans diagnosed with PTSD utilize the assistance of dogs to help deal with their fundamental human needs for safety, affiliation, and succourance. Finally, the difficulties associated with dogs as therapeutic agents are discussed.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the most commonly occurring disabilities among the Veteran population, as 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans have a diagnosis of PTSD. This disorder is associated with work-related difficulties, being that PTSD is linked to exacerbated rates of unemployment and missed work days. The use of service dogs for Veterans with PTSD may improve workplace success by the dog’s performance of tasks specific to de-escalation of the handler’s PTSD symptomology, providing a structured schedule to aid in military-to-civilian transition and transition to life with a disability, and fostering of a friendly, supportive workplace environment. Limitations of current knowledge of service dog benefits and areas for future research will be discussed.

The therapeutic application of human–animal interaction has gained interest recently. One form this interest takes is the use of service dogs as complementary treatment for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many reports on the positive effect of PTSD Service Dogs (PSDs) on veterans exist, though most are indirect, anecdotal, or based on self-perceived welfare by veterans. They therefore only give a partial insight into PSD effect. To gain a more complete understanding of whether PSDs can be considered an effective complementary treatment for PTSD, a scoping literature review was performed on available studies of PSDs. The key search words were ‘dog’, ’canine’, ‘veteran’, and ‘PTSD’. This yielded 126 articles, of which 19 matched the inclusion criteria (six empirical studies). Recurrent themes in included articles were identified for discussion of methodology and/or results. It was found that results from most included studies were either applicable to human–animal interaction in general or other types of service animals. They therefore did not represent PSDs specifically. Studies which did discuss PSDs specifically only studied welfare experience in veterans, but used different methodologies. This lead us to conclude there is currently no undisputed empirical evidence that PSDs are an effective complementary treatment for veterans with PTSD other than reports on positive welfare experience. Additionally, the lack of development standardization and knowledge regarding welfare of PSDs creates risks for both human and animal welfare. It is therefore recommended that a study on the effect of PSDs be expanded to include evaluation methods besides self-perceived welfare of assisted humans. Future studies could include evaluations regarding human stress response and functioning, ideally conducted according to validated scientific methodologies using objective measurement techniques to identify the added value and mechanisms of using PSDs to assist treatment of PTSD in humans.

Tori Stitt has dedicated most of her adult life to the armed services. After attending college on a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship, she was commissioned as a naval officer and accepted a position working on a guided-missile destroyer [1]. Due to the familiarity she developed in working with the sophisticated electronic equipment, she was recruited to join an army battalion in Iraq, where her technical skills would be used to remotely detect or jam roadside bombs. Although Tori was excited about the opportunity to be so close to combat, her experiences left her traumatized. Amidst the chaotic episodes of exploding bombs, enemy fire, and tense bomb-search patrols, Lieutenant Stitt found herself frozen with terror and confusion, and, within in a few months, toughened and exhausted. While in Iraq, Tori began having nightmares and problems sleeping, withdrawing from others socially, and, soon, drinking to cope with her psychological issues. Upon returning to the United States when her tour of duty was over, her drinking intensified and her mental anguish grew so great that she began contemplating suicide.

Treatment for her substance abuse and for her posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) helped Lieutenant Stitt to regain some semblance of control over her life, but she continued to struggle with nightmares, flashbacks, and social isolation. In search of another outlet to help her cope with her ongoing problems, she sought relief through a tried-and-true resource: a dog. This was not simply any dog, however; this was a trained service dog, a golden retriever named Devon that Tori procured from a local service dog organization for $3,000. Devon has been immensely beneficial for Tori, who notes, “It doesn’t matter what bad things are going on, I can pet Devon, give him a hug, and they turn around 180 degrees.” When Tori is nervous or anxious, Devon stands close to her or places his paw in her lap. Should she thrash about in her sleep because of a nightmare, Devon wakes her up by licking her face. And because he is a dog, Tori has to take Devon for walks, which forces her to leave her home and, on occasion, interact with people.

Hundreds of thousands of veterans who have served in the most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning from their tours of duty with myriad physical and mental injuries that have reawakened the public’s consciousness of the long-term consequences that combat can have [2]. Whether the injury sustained is from shrapnel, a roadside bomb, or witnessing carnage, the pain and suffering of servicewomen and men is real and, for many, chronic. But the relief available is not necessarily the same for all veterans, particularly when it comes to the rehabilitative care offered by service dogs. Veterans who return home with physical impairments that hamper their mobility have the opportunity to obtain service dog benefits (which include financial assistance with veterinary expenses, the costs for obtaining and training a dog, and the costs of equipment required for the dog to perform its tasks) covered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Yet for those veterans whose injuries are psychological in nature, no service canine benefits are bestowed by the VA. I will discuss just how and why this inequality exists in federal law and the actions being taken both within the federal government and outside of the political arena to address it.


This study examined needs related to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), assistance by service dogs, and feasibility of data collection among veterans receiving service dogs.


Questionnaires assessed PTSD-related needs and services performed or expected to be performed by service dogs among 78 veterans who had or were on a wait list for a service dog (average age, 42; women, 31%). Analyses compared pre-post characteristics among 22 veterans who received a service dog as part of the study (91% follow-up; average follow-up=3.37±2.57 months).


Veterans reported that the most important services performed were licking or nudging veterans to help them “stay present,” preventing panic, and putting space between veterans and strangers. High follow-up rates and improvements in outcomes with moderate to large effect sizes among recipients of study-provided dogs suggest further study is warranted.


Service dogs may be feasible supports for veterans with PTSD; randomized clinical trials are needed to assess effectiveness.

Objective: Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are increasingly seeking service dogs to help them manage trauma-related symptoms, yet literature describing service dog use in this population is scant. The goal of this study was to document the benefits and challenges experienced by veterans with service dogs trained to assist with PTSD-related needs. Method: Participants were veterans (N = 41) with service dogs, and their caregivers (n = 8), recruited through community-based service dog training agencies. We conducted in-depth interviews and observed training sessions as part of a larger study, and used thematic analysis to characterize data. Results: Veterans reported that service dogs reduced hypervigilance by alerting and creating boundaries, and disrupted nightmares, improving sleep quality and duration. Dogs also helped veterans turn their attention away from invasive trauma-related thoughts. Additional reported benefits included improved emotional connections with others, increased community participation and physical activity, and reduced suicidal impulses and medication use. Demands of training, adjustment to life with a service dog, and delayed benefits were challenging for many veterans and caregivers. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Veterans report that service dogs help reduce PTSD symptoms and facilitate recovery and realization of meaningful goals. Service dogs may be a reasonable option for veterans who are reluctant to pursue or persist with traditional evidence-based treatments. Additional rigorous research on the effectiveness of service dogs for this population is warranted. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)

In response to the critical need for adjunctive treatments for soldiers with refractory forms of mental injury — primarily posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — the US military is developing complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) techniques, including animal-assisted intervention (AAI).1,2

CAM modalities include therapies such as yoga, meditation, and creative art therapies, shown to have an effect on the mind’s capacity to regulate the brain and body’s response to social and environmental challenges by reducing stress and enhancing the immune function through the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin by the brain.

Olff et al3 suggest PTSD symptom treatment would be improved by increasing endogenous levels of oxytocin through optimizing of social support. Studies show that dogs can provide such an optimization of social support and that positive interactions with dogs may offer a safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive way to increase endogenous levels of oxytocin and other important anti-stress agents in humans.

Valerie, a golden retriever, demonstrates her ability to connect with a sailor at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence. Image courtesy of Rick Yount, MS, LSW.

Oxytocin is a well-established modulator of a pro-social, anti-stress brain network with the potential to modulate symptoms of PTSD such as: anxiety, including fear response and hyperarousal; interpersonal difficulties/social isolation; physical pain; and sleep disturbances. Human oxytocin research has shown that oxytocin can increase our sense of trust, empathy, and optimism and even increase our response to hypnosis. In rodents, central administration of oxytocin enhanced acupuncture’s analgesic effects. Studies also suggest that oxytocin is a central mediator of the placebo effect.4–7

Several studies show that friendly, social interaction with dogs increases blood and urine levels of oxytocin in humans.8–12 These human-dog, contact-induced effects gain particular significance in light of a recent brain imaging study which showed that peripheral increases in oxytocin correspond with concurrent activation of the oxytocin brain centers that control the human stress response.13

Oxytocin neurons originate in the hypothalamus and connect to the major brain centers that control behavior and emotion. Oxytocin modulates the hypothalmic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), the locus coeruleus, the central amygdala (CeA) and other arousal centers of the central nervous system to attenuate stress-induced neuroendocrine activity. Oxytocin receptor-expressing neural circuits in the CeA connect to the medial prefrontal cortex to suppress neurons that produce the freezing reaction to fear, while promoting risk assessment and exploratory response to frightening stimulus.

Oxytocin has also been shown to modulate the serotonin system and reduce levels of cytokines, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol. All of these brain systems and neurochemical responses have shown to be functionally important in PTSD.14–21

With respect to pain and sleep disturbances, oxytocin has been shown to modulate pain in humans and has been shown to impact sleep patterns in animal studies.22–24 Oxytocin has also been shown to be a powerful antioxidant that can bolster the immune system and protect against sepsis.25,26

One dose of oxytocin given to war veterans with PTSD demonstrated decreased physiologic responding to provoked combat memories.27 Oxytocin in humans, has been shown to enhance the processing of positive social information compared to negative information, increase a sense of trust in others, reverse the effect of aversive conditioning of social stimuli, enhance the buffering effect of social support on stress responsiveness, and reduce the stress response in people with a history of early trauma.28

This same pro-social/anti-stress response has also been observed in service members with PTSD who train service dogs. As we will demonstrate, shaping the behaviors of service dogs requires the focused nurturing social attention towards dogs that has been shown to naturally increase oxytocin blood levels in humans.

There are many potential…

13 Assistance Dogs - Autism

Autism is a developmental disorder characterised by changes in social, communication, and behavioural performance. Assistance dogs can support children with autism to engage in everyday occupations. Despite more children being partnered with assistance dogs, there is limited research regarding the impact of assistance dogs on the occupational engagement of children with autism and their families, and further research is needed to fully understand the impact of this type of support within the Australian context.
To explore caregiver‐reported experiences of an assistance dog on the occupational engagement of children with autism and their families.
Using a qualitative approach, semi‐structured interviews were undertaken with six caregivers of seven children with autism, who each had an assistance dog. Interviews ranged from 45 to 60 minutes in duration. Data were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed. Trustworthiness was maximised through independent recruitment, research team discussions, member checking, and a researcher reflective journal.
Three themes were identified: participation in everyday occupations prior to and after partnering with an assistance dog, increased engagement in everyday occupations, and impact of the assistance dog on the family unit. Assistance dogs were reported to progress children from community ‘isolation’ to ‘freedom’. Participants reported the dog increased children’s capacities through positively influencing completion of routines, increasing independence, and improving therapy engagement. Assistance dogs were viewed as supporting the whole family’s occupational engagement. Some challenges were identified with the introduction of the assistance dog to the family unit, and with animal maintenance costs and time demands, public access rights, and limited government funding.
This research identifies benefits and challenges for children who partner with autism assistance dogs. It provides insights to inform assistance animal referral, assessment, and support of assistance dogs in Australia for children with autism and occupational therapists working with them.

OBJECTIVES: Anecdotal reports suggest that elopement behavior in children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) increases risk of injury or death and places a major burden on families. This study assessed parent-reported elopement occurrence and associated factors among children with ASDs.

METHODS: Information on elopement frequency, associated characteristics, and consequences was collected via an online questionnaire. The study sample included 1218 children with ASD and 1076 of their siblings without ASD. The association among family sociodemographic and child clinical characteristics and time to first elopement was estimated by using a Cox proportional hazards model.

RESULTS: Forty-nine percent (n = 598) of survey respondents reported their child with an ASD had attempted to elope at least once after age 4 years; 26% (n = 316) were missing long enough to cause concern. Of those who went missing, 24% were in danger of drowning and 65% were in danger of traffic injury. Elopement risk was associated with autism severity, increasing, on average, 9% for every 10-point increase in Social Responsiveness Scale T score (relative risk 1.09, 95% confidence interval: 1.02, 1.16). Unaffected siblings had significantly lower rates of elopement across all ages compared with children with ASD.

CONCLUSIONS: Nearly half of children with ASD were reported to engage in elopement behavior, with a substantial number at risk for bodily harm. These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue, and to train child care professionals, educators, and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.

Autism assistance dogs (AADs) increase safety for children with autism and their families. Autism assistance dogs can also decrease familial stress and the isolation which families may experience due to fear for their child’s safety and judgement from others within the community. Currently there is a paucity of literature on parents’ experiences of AADs. Therefore, this study aimed to develop a rich understanding of parents’ experiences of owning an AAD. A mixed methods design was utilised, with a qualitative descriptive design and the use of occupational mapping. Eight families were recruited through an Australian AAD programme and participated in semi-structured in-depth interviews throughout 2017. The interviews were analysed thematically. Mobility in the community before and after introduction of the dog was measured using occupational mapping. Families plotted on Google Map printouts the places they frequented before and after placement of their dog. Five major themes emerged from the analysis of the interviews: freedom through restraint; expanding our world; a calming/sensory tool (AAD); “at the end of the day they’re dogs”; and, friendship and personal growth. The occupational maps demonstrated a median increase of 8.5 more places and 20.50 km further travelled from home after having the dog for over a year. Families with an AAD experienced an expanded world for the child and their family. Families experienced freedom in the places they could go, decreased isolation due to the safety which the dog provides. Occupational mapping supported the qualitative data, showing increased mobility and decreased isolation of the family. The paradox of freedom through restraint is a new and key finding which requires further exploration. The results provide support for funding and increased awareness of AAD programmes. Future longitudinal comparative studies are needed to explore the long-term impact of AADs on the child and family.

Objective While there is an emerging literature on the usefulness of assistance dogs for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there is a dearth of quantitative data on the value of assistance dog interventions for the family unit and family functioning. Using previously validated scales and scales developed specifically for this study, we measured parents’/guardians’ perceptions of how having an assistance dog affects: (1) child safety from environmental dangers, (2) public reception of ASD and (3) levels of caregiver strain and sense of competence. We also obtained open-ended response data from parents/guardians on benefits and constraints of having an assistance dog.

Setting This study was based in the primary care setting, within the context of a specific accredited assistance dog centre in Ireland.

Participants A total of 134 parents/guardians with an assistance dog, and 87 parents of children on the waiting list were surveyed.

Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcome measures were scores on environmental hazards and public reception scales. The secondary outcome measures were scores on caregiver strain and competence scales.

Results Parents/guardians of children who have ASD and an assistance dog rate their child as significantly safer from environmental dangers (p<0.001), perceive that the public act more respectfully and responsibly towards their child (p<0.001) and feel more competent about managing their child (p=0.023) compared with parents on the waiting list. There was a concentration of positive feeling towards assistance dog interventions with particular focus on safety and comfort for children, and a sense of freedom from family restrictions associated with ASD. The amount of dedication and commitment required to care for a dog were viewed as the primary constraints.

Conclusions Our findings indicate that parents perceive that assistance dog interventions can be a valuable intervention for families with children who have ASD.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial.

The integration of a service dog can have numerous benefits for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, although integration takes place within a family, little is known about the dynamics of these benefits on the family microsystem. Thus, the aim of our study was to propose a more systemic perspective, not only by investigating the benefits of SD integration, but also by exploring the relationships between improvements in children with ASD, parents’ well-being, parenting strategies and the quality of the child-dog relationship. Twenty parent-child with ASD dyads were followed before, as well as 3 and 6 months after service dog integration. At each stage, parents completed an online survey which included: the Autism Behavior Inventory (ABI-S), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y), the Parenting Stress Index Short Version (PSI-SF), the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS) and the Parenting Styles and Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ). First, repeated measure one-way ANOVAs revealed that both children’s ASD symptoms and parents’ anxiety decreased significantly after service dog integration. Additionally, Spearman correlations revealed that the more ASD symptoms decreased, the more parent’s anxiety and parenting stress also decreased. Second, the quality of the child-dog relationship appeared to contribute to those benefits on both children’s ASD symptoms and parents’ well-being. Interestingly, parenting strategies seemed to adapt according to these benefits and to the quality of the child-dog relationship. Through a more systemic perspective, this study highlighted that the integration of a service dog involved reciprocal and dynamic effects for children with ASD and their parents, and shed new light on the processes that may underlie the effects of a service dog for children with ASD.

Scientific literature exploring the value of assistance dogs to children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is rapidly emerging. However, there is comparably less literature reporting the effects of pet (as opposed to assistance) dogs to these children. In particular, there are no known validated scales which assess how children may alter their behaviours in the presence of the dog, to evaluate the efficacy of pet dogs to these families. Additionally, given the highly individualised nature of ASD it is likely that some children and families gain more benefits from dog ownership than others, yet no research has reported the effect of individual differences. This pilot study reports the development of a 28-item scale based on the perceived impact of a pet dog on a child with autism by parents (Lincoln Autism Pet Dog Impact Scale — LAPDIS). The scale is comprised of three mathematically derived factors: Adaptability, Social Skills and Conflict Management. We assessed how individual differences (aspects) may be associated with scores on these three factors. Family Aspects and Dog Aspects were not significantly associated with ratings on the three factors, but Child Aspects (including: contact with horses, child age, disability level and language abilities) were related to impact of the dog on all factors. Training Aspects were related to scores on Social Skills (formal training with children with ASD and dogs and attendance at PAWS workshops run by Dogs for Good). These results suggest that individual differences associated with the child and the training approach may be important considerations for a positive impact from dog ownership on families with children with ASD. Differences in family features and the dog may not be so important, but may be worthy of further investigations given the early stage of development in this field.

Die Menge der wissenschaftlichen Literatur zur Erforschung des Nutzens von Assistenzhunden für Kinder mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen steigt rapide. Dennoch gibt es vergleichsweise wenig Literatur über die Auswirkungen von Haushunden (als Gegensatz zu Assistenzhunden) auf diese Kinder. Insbesondere gibt es keine überprüften Skalen, die beurteilen, wie sich das Verhalten von Kindern in der Anwesenheit eines Hundes verändert, um die Wirksamkeit von Haushunden in diesen Familien zu untersuchen. Zudem ist es aufgrund des stark individuellen Charakters von Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen wahrscheinlich, dass manche Kinder und Familien mehr Vorteile vom Hundebesitz erfahren als andere, bisher wurde aber in keiner Studie über individuelle Unterschiede berichtet. Diese Pilotstudie berichtet über die Entwicklung einer Skala mit 28 Punkten, die auf dem von den Eltern wahrgenommenen Einfluss eines Haustiers auf ein Kind mit Autismus basiert (Lincoln Autism Pet Dog Impact Scale — LAPDIS). Die Skala setzt sich aus drei mathematisch hergeleiteten Faktoren zusammen: Anpassungsfähigkeit, soziale Fähigkeiten und Konfliktmanagement. Es wurde beurteilt, wie die individuellen Unterschiede (Aspekte) mit den Werten dieser drei Faktoren zusammenhängen könnten. Familien-Aspekte und Hunde-Aspekte waren nicht signifikant mit den Bewertungen der drei Faktoren verbunden, aber Kinder-Aspekte (einschließlich: Kontakt mit Pferden, Alter, Grad der Behinderung und Sprachfähigkeiten) waren mit dem Einfluss des Hundes auf alle Faktoren verbunden. Ausbildungsaspekte waren mit Werten der sozialen Fähigkeiten verbunden (formales Training mit Kindern mit Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen und Hunden und Teilnahme an einem Workshop). Die Ergebnisse deuten darauf hin, dass individuelle Unterschiede, die mit dem Kind und dem Ausbildungsansatz in Verbindung stehen, wichtige Berücksichtigungen für einen positiven Einfluss des Hunde-Besitzes auf Familien mit Kindern, die unter Autismus-Spektrum-Störungen leiden, sein könnten. Unterschiede bei Familien-Merkmalen oder Hunden könnten nicht so wichtig sein. Da sich die Entwicklung dieses Feldes allerdings noch in der Frühphase befindet, sind weitere Untersuchungen angemessen.


Assistance and companion dogs have numerous positive effects for family of autistic children, such as supporting their rehabilitation and improving their quality of life. To date, very few studies have compared the effects of both types of dogs. This comparison, considering the limited access to assistance dogs, could be helpful for families wanting to adopt a dog.


An explanatory sequential design with a mixed-method approach was used. First, 85 parents (nassistance dogs = 57; ncompanion dogs = 28) of children aged between 3 and 17 years old (M = 10.73, SD = 3.67) completed an online questionnaire including sociodemographic questions and the Treatment Acceptability Rating Form-Revised (TARF-R). Then, 17 of these participants (nassistance dogs = 14; ncompanion dogs = 3) completed a semi-structured interview.


The quantitative data analyses showed that parents with assistance dogs were significantly more satisfied: t (83) = −2.12, p = .037, d = 0.49. Significant associations between some sociodemographic variables (e.g., number of children, comorbid condition, reasons for acquiring a dog) and acceptability/satisfaction (TARF-R total scores) were found. The qualitative analysis revealed that families with both dog types observed positive effects.


In brief, having an assistance dog constitutes a significant added value; nevertheless, both types of dogs are appreciated.


Service dog placements for autistic children are growing in popularity, yet findings to date are mixed. Moreover, no study to date has examined these placements through the lens of a recognized theoretical model. The purpose of this study is twofold: to explore experiences reported by caretakers of autistic children involved in a service dog program, and to contextualize findings within an established theoretical framework.


A total of n = 50 caretakers of autistic children (n = 38 with and n = 12 without a service dog) were recruited through the national non-profit service dog provider Canine Companions. Participants completed an online survey through Qualtrics which asked open-ended questions about their experiences, both negative and positive.


Constant comparative analysis identified two high level themes, nested within a family systems approach framework: (1) Enhancing social functioning of the family system unit and (2) Fostering stability and strength within family system subunits. These themes interacted holistically to foster and reinforce family system resilience. Placements led to greater social inclusion for children and their families, acted as a highly individualized intervention, and decreased experiences of judgement and stigma. Perceived as members of the family, service dogs may coregulate with the autistic child and family members and can be a source of joyful connection within the family.


Results highlighted the service dog’s influence on the entire family (beyond the autistic child). Implications for service dog organizations suggest it may be helpful to account for family-wide impacts throughout the placement process. High standards on the part of provider organizations may minimize negatives, optimizing outcomes for both humans and canines. Ultimately, findings enrich our understanding of service dog interventions for autistic children.

Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have parenting styles that differ from parents of typically developing children. Integration of a service dog (SD) at home has been demonstrated as having multiple effects within families of children with ASD. Our aims were to investigate if (a) specific parenting styles can be identified during parents’ interactions with their child with ASD using ethological methods, and (b) integration of a SD have an effect on these styles.
Behavioural coding was performed on videos recorded at home by 20 parents of 6-12-years old children with ASD before SD integration. Parents were asked to record themselves and their child while making a puzzle. 14 parents performed a second similar recording 3-6 months after SD integration. Data were analysed using Principal Component Analysis, Hierarchical Cluster Analysis and non-parametric tests.
Three parenting styles emerged: Parents Involved in the Task (PIT), Parents Relaxed in the Interaction (PRI), and Parents Disengaged from the Interaction (PDI). PIT were characterised as more controlling and verbally focused on the activity. PRI were less controlling and talk about things other than the activity. The same applied to PDI, except that they were less warm in their interactions. Analysis performed after SD integration revealed that these groups also diverged in the evolution of certain behaviours.
This study is the first to demonstrate that behavioural observations can highlight different parenting styles in caregivers of children with ASD, and that the integration of a SD has effects on these styles, with variation according to parents’ style prior to SD integration. Indeed, a decrease in activity control behaviours was observed in parents with an initial profile characterize by higher expression of such behaviours (i.e., PIT), while an increase of those behaviours was observed in parents initially with an initial profile characterize by a weaker expression of such behaviours (i.e., PRI). Interestingly, the last profile characterized by less engagement in the interaction and activity (i.e., PDI) did not seem to show significant changes.
Service dogs are an increasingly popular complementary intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. However, despite increasing demand, there remains a lack of empirical research on their potential benefits. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of service dogs on children with autism and their caregivers.
A total of N = 75 families of children with autism were recruited from a non-profit service dog provider in the US, including n = 39 families previously placed with a service dog and n = 36 families engaging in usual care while on the waitlist. Caregivers completed an online survey containing both self- and proxy-report standardized measures of child, caregiver, and family functioning. Linear regressions modeled the relationship between service dog presence and survey outcomes, controlling for relevant child and caregiver covariates.
Results indicated that having a service dog was associated with significantly better child sleep behaviors, including better sleep initiation and duration and less sleep anxiety/co-sleeping with medium effect sizes. However, service dog presence was not significantly related to child withdrawal, negative emotionality, emotional self-control, hyperactivity, irritability, and lethargy with small effect sizes. For caregivers, having a service dog was not significantly related to standardized measures of caregiver strain, sleep disturbance, depression, or the impact of the child’s condition on family functioning with small effect sizes. Supplemental matched case-control analyses confirmed these findings.
In conclusion, service dogs were found to positively impact sleep behaviors among children with autism, but may not uniformly relate to other areas of child and caregiver wellbeing. Prospective longitudinal designs, larger sample sizes able to detect small effects, and studies that measure sleep using objective methods are needed to build on these findings.
Assistance dogs are highly trained animals to support individuals with disabilities and medical conditions. Evidence suggests the support provided by an assistance dog can extend beyond physical assistance to therapeutic and communicative domains. However, there is limited research exploring the lived experience of assistance dog placements in the United Kingdom (UK) over an extended period of time. This longitudinal service evaluation was designed to evaluate the placement of assistance dogs, trained by the charity Dogs for Good, with adults and children with autism or a physical disability in the UK. Goals and expectations of being matched with an assistance dog prior to placement, and perceptions of how these dogs have impacted the quality of life of adults and children with autism and/or a physical disability and their families were assessed. Service users who had applied for an assistance dog via the Dogs for Good charity (n= 307) were contacted and invited to complete questionnaires at five different time points (pre-dog placement, and 6-, 12-, 24-, and 36-months post dog-placement). Repeated-measures ANOVAs were conducted to determine if there were significant changes to quality of life over time. Mean quality of life scores improved significantly for all service users. Responses to free-text questions were thematically analysed, and three main themes were identified from the free-text responses: goals and expectations for assistance dog pre-placement (eg, enhancing independence, physical functioning and wellbeing), the positive impact of the assistance dog post-placement (eg, promoting independence, development of the human-animal bond, improving wider family dynamics, and reducing stigma), and satisfaction with the service. The findings complement and extend previous insights into the impact of assistance dogs on people with autism or a physical disability. They also highlight some challenges associated with the placement of assistance dogs and indicate the need to consider the development of further targeted support strategies.
Introduction: In the United States, one out of every 36 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age eight (CDC, 2020). For parents with a child with ASD, their child’s safety and wellbeing can be a daily concern. An autism assistance dog (AAD), like those trained by Can Do Canines, can greatly improve the quality of life of the entire family. However, this type of assistance dog is limited due to many factors, leading Can Do Canines, and many other assistance dog training organizations, to have substantial waitlists for families wishing to receive an AAD.
Purpose: The purpose of this doctoral capstone project was to develop an educational module on a family-based training program that would allow families to access an online training portal with videos to help them train their own family dogs to become AADs for their children. An educational module was needed to clarify the differences between a trained autism assistance dog provided by Can Do Canines and a family trained assist dog, and to improve accessibility to the benefits that assistance dogs provide to children with ASD.
Approach: A backward design approach was utilized for this project because the educational module about the program could not be created if there was no program outline to base the module off of. Interviews were conducted with a United Kingdom-based assistance dog program, Dogs for Good, who launched a similar family-based training program, in order to determine the most successful layout and pre-education needed to make Can Do Canine’s family-based training program successful.
Outcomes: This program was evaluated with a focus group to provide qualitative feedback on the first drafts of all deliverables, and from a final survey delivered to all focus group members once final edits to deliverables had been made to provide qualitative and quantitative feedback. Focus group feedback largely centered around the need for more clarity on the differences between a trained assistance dog and a family-trained dog, that the order of use of the deliverables made sense, and the graphics were clear and understandable. Final survey feedback reflected similar results for clarity of graphics, helpfulness of supplemental deliverables for the program, and helpfulness of having two versions of the education module to address various learning styles. Once the Can Do Canines staff is able to develop the online portal, the pilot program can be launched.
The objective of this synthesis research was to explore representations of autism and human-animal interactions (HAI) in the health sciences literature and the implications for autistic children and their families.
Guided by critical interpretive synthesis methods proposed by Dixon-Woods et al. (2006), we synthesized and examined how autism and HAI were described in the health sciences literature and explored assumptions and goals underlying HAI as an intervention.
Across 47 reviewed articles, animals were represented as therapeutic objects whose purpose from a biomedical perspective was to address “problematic” behaviours and “deficits” in social functioning and development. HAI was employed as a therapy to address improvements in these problematic behaviours in the majority of studies. Relational and social aspects of HAI were present but not explicitly discussed. An alternative perspective proposed by Olga Solomon positioned autistic sociality as one form of diverse human socialities that can be embraced, rather than held problematic and in need of being normalized.
Implications for HAI in rehabilitation include recognizing the multiple purposes of animals in a child’s life, not only the therapeutic goal of normalizing functioning.

Children with Autism Syndrome Disorders (ASDs) exhibit social, communicative, and behavioral deficits. We know that human interaction with dogs, which is thought to serve as a social catalyst, results in a decrease of cortisol levels in healthy adults. Introducing service dogs to children with ASD is an attractive idea that has received growing attention in recent decades. However, no study has measured the physiological impact of service dogs on these children. Therefore, the goal of our study was to assess the effects of service dogs on the basal salivary cortisol secretion of children with ASD. We measured the salivary cortisol levels of 42 children with ASD in three experimental conditions; prior to and during the introduction of a service dog to their family, and after a short period during which the dog was removed from their family. We compared average cortisol levels and Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) before and during the introduction of the dog to the family and after its withdrawal. We found that the introduction of service dogs translated into a statistically significant diminished CAR. Before the introduction of service dogs, we measured a 58% increase in morning cortisol after awakening, which diminished to 10% when service dogs were present. The increase in morning cortisol jumped back to 48% once the dogs were removed from the families (p < 0.05). However, service dogs did not have an effect on the children’s average diurnal cortisol levels. These results show that the CAR of children with ASD is sensitive to the presence of service dogs, which lends support to the potential behavioral benefits of service dogs for children with autism.

14 Assistance Dogs - others


There is increasing recognition of the therapeutic function pets can play in relation to mental health. However, there has been no systematic review of the evidence related to the comprehensive role of companion animals and how pets might contribute to the work associated with managing a long-term mental health condition. The aim of this study was to explore the extent, nature and quality of the evidence implicating the role and utility of pet ownership for people living with a mental health condition.


A systematic search for studies exploring the role of companion animals in the management of mental health conditions was undertaken by searching 9 databases and undertaking a scoping review of grey literature from the earliest record until March 2017. To be eligible for inclusion, studies had to be published in English and report on primary data related to the relationship between domestic animal ownership and the management of diagnosable mental health conditions. Synthesis of qualitative and quantitative data was undertaken in parallel using a narrative synthesis informed by an illness work theoretical framework.


A total of 17 studies were included in the review. Quantitative evidence relating to the benefits of pet ownership was mixed with included studies demonstrating positive, negative and neutral impacts of pet ownership. Qualitative studies illuminated the intensiveness of connectivity people with companion animals reported, and the multi-faceted ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis. The negative aspects of pet ownership were also highlighted, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact that losing a pet has.


This review suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem.

Background: With increasing frequency, service dogs are being placed with children with developmental disabilities (DDs). Occupational therapists and other professionals have advocated for the therapeutic use of service dog partnerships to facilitate greater independence and quality of life. There are no studies that examine service dog intervention with adolescents.

Method: This study focused on the effects of partnerships between service dogs and three participant dyads, each including an adolescent with DDs and a parent. A single-subject, alternating treatment design was used to compare the effects of two conditions (service dog present or not present). The effects were examined for adolescents’ anxiety behaviors during transitions and during grocery store shopping, for social interactions during grocery store shopping, and for parents’ reported levels of stress.

Results: Findings were that service dog partnerships reduced the presence of anxiety behaviors during transitions for one of the three adolescents; reduced the presence of anxiety behaviors during grocery store visits for two of the three adolescents; increased social interactions for all three of the participant dyads; and had no meaningful impact on self-reported parental stress level.

Conclusion: For adolescents with DDs, professionals may want to consider service dog partnerships to decrease anxiety behaviors and increase social interactions in the community.

This chapter first reviews the research-based information about the benefits of pets, especially for the most vulnerable people, and then addresses the practical implementation of this expanding research. The positive psychosocial effects of human/animal relationships engage interest, arising from firsthand experiences with pet animals and scientific curiosity, as well as the practical questions concerning how best to include pets as an adjunct for treatment for an autistic child or a paraplegic veteran, or to enhance the quality of life of an elderly person in an assisted-living facility. Despite the ever-growing research literature on the psychosocial effects of animals, a significant gap remains between that knowledge base and implementing it into treatment or support services for psychosocially vulnerable people. This chapter suggests that to enjoy the positive effects, a relationship with an animal should be individually tailored to the psychosocial characteristics of the person. Epidemiological studies of entire communities identify subcultures where certain individual circumstances, neighborhoods, geographical features, or special situations are associated with beneficial or adverse health parameters. Employing epidemiological methods with statistical representation of the entire community offers a view of the context, including the community’s affluence, geography, age, gender, and ethnicity of pet-owning participants. The new development will spearhead the creation and availability of curricular resources and enhance the number of people prepared to provide leadership in the area of human/animal interaction, bringing research into practice.

There is growing evidence for trained assistance dogs promoting the health, wellbeing, and quality of life of people in a variety of circumstances, including for those with dementia. Little is known about people with younger (early)-onset dementia (YOD) and family carers. As part of a larger study involving 14 people with YOD matched with trained assistance dogs over a two-year period, we report analyses of interviews with 10 family carers conducted on multiple occasions investigating their experience with an assistance dog. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and subjected to inductive thematic analysis. They told a range of experiences; the good and the challenging. Findings fell into three areas: the human–animal bond; relationship dynamics; and responsibility for caring. Concerns were raised with respect to the resources required of carers together with the financial resources needed to support an assistance dog. The study concludes that trained assistance dogs can play an important role promoting the health and wellbeing of both people with YOD and of their family carers. However, support needs to be in place as the circumstances of the family member with YOD changes and the role of the assistance dog as part of the family also changes. Practical (financial) support of a scheme such as the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) could be important to sustaining such support.

Service dogs are sanctioned by the Americans with Disabilities Act as having protected rights allowing them to assist owners with disabilities. These dogs are appearing with increasing frequency in healthcare settings, and it is important for healthcare providers to understand the rules and regulations given to service animals and owners. We discuss processes that transpired when a service dog was brought into a psychodynamic psychotherapy group. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the unintended consequences of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2010 as it concerns service dogs and the impact on the group process. Problems resulting from the introduction of service dogs into therapy groups should be anticipated and explicitly discussed in the course of the group’s transactions.

Patients with Tourette syndrome have difficulty maintaining a good quality of life because of motor or vocal tics. Therefore, a review of current and novel interventions is needed to help clinicians and patients when choosing the best interventions for the patient’s specific situation. This case study looks at the effects of a service animal on the impairment level and quality of life of a patient with Tourette syndrome. In this case, evidence-based practice includes patient perspectives, clinical expertise and a literature search. The methods used in this case study include quantitative clinician rating scales, qualitative observation and patient reporting. The patient has reported fewer vocal tics when the service dog is within the patient’s vicinity and the patient can cue her kinaesthetically. In this case, there are very clear benefits to using a service dog in the treatment of Tourette syndrome.

The goal of the present study was to examine how canine assistance may support family caregivers and persons with dementia and to document and compare two modalities of home care support. An exploratory comparative case study research design was conducted. Three cases correspond of dyads of a caregiver, a person with mild to moderate dementia, and either a neuro service dog (NSD), a companion dog or no dog. Hypotheses are formulated to capture differences between cases. Recruitment was done in a service dog organisation, through Canadian Alzheimer associations and in records of a hospital. Data were collected through 45–60 minutes telephone interviews that included completion of the Caregiver’s Burden Scale and sociodemographic questions. We used an inductive approach with qualitative data. There were five caregivers (mean age 54.8 years) who had an NSD, 28 caregivers (63.6 years) who had a companion dog, and 23 caregivers (63.8 years) without dog. In the category of roles and usages of the dog, ‘Socialisation’ and ‘Help with a sense of direction’ were the most addressed roles for dyads with the NSD. For dyads with companion dog and without dog, ‘Engagement-and-meaning of life’ as well as ‘Physical activity with the dog’ were the most discussed roles. The ‘Sleep or wake up’ role was the least discussed role across three cases. In the other categories, they were seven advantages and 10 inconvenients that were mentioned for canine assistance. For home care support, the presence of NSD has more positive impacts on both the person with dementia and their caregiver compared to the presence of a companion dog; the presence of a NSD results in the person with dementia accessing more indoor and outdoor public sites than with a companion dog; and dyads with a dog are informally socially engaged more frequently than those with no dog.

Emerging human/animal interaction therapies and applications call for re-definition in the field of assistance animals and a re-examination of previous conceptualization of use, terminology, training guidelines and formal designations. This chapter explores the participation of specialized assistance, service and support animals in their application to social, emotional, and psychiatric issues. There are three types of assistance applications as identified by organizations such as Assistance Dog International. They include: guide dogs for the blind and individuals with seeing impairments, hearing dogs for the deaf and individuals with hearing impairments, and service dogs specially trained for persons with other recognized disabilities. Studies show that simply interacting with animals, and interacting with dogs in particular, has a strongly ameliorative effect on people with a range of psychiatric disorders, increasing evidence that despite differing designations, all assistance dogs convey psychosocial benefits. The most striking issue in exploring the role of psychiatric service dogs is the profound and positive change in refractory symptoms expression, decreased medication usage, and restored functionality of the handler. The future for the application and utilization of psychiatric service animals continues to evolve.

Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) and emotional support animals (ESAs) play important roles for people with mental disabilities and their use is increasing dramatically in the US. However, there is little research on the effects of these newer types of working animals compared to the traditional service dogs, such as guide dogs, hearing dogs, and mobility service dogs. In addition, the increased use of inadequately trained service dogs and ESAs makes it difficult for people to simply appreciate the benefits of these animals and even people with disabilities who are accompanied by appropriate animals can be questioned and viewed with doubt. Although there are challenges and more research needs to be conducted on PSDs and ESAs, the reported benefits of companion animals, especially for vulnerable people, extend to PSDs and ESAs. Some studies on PSDs and traditional service dogs (SDs) have shown that both having dogs trained to perform tasks and providing them public access increase the benefits experienced by people living with such dogs. The US laws for people with disabilities that provide access to people with their animals to alleviate mental symptoms are revolutionary in the world. By providing guidance, mental health professionals can play a central role in improving the lives of people who are highly likely to benefit from these animals.