Service Dog Capabilities

All dogs cannot do all things, but with proper dog selection and proper training, service dogs can complete many tasks that improve the quality of life for many physically and psychologically disabled individuals.

The following are categories of tasks that service dogs can be trained to accomplish. A few examples are provided, but the actual list of capabilities is much more extensive than shown.

Retrieval Based Tasks

  • Bring portable phone to any room in the house.
  • Bring in groceries in canvas bags.
  • Pick up dropped items i.e. coins, keys, etc.
  • Bring clothes, shoes, slippers to assist with dressing.
  • Fetch basket with medications.
  • Fetch wheelchair when out of reach.

Carrying Based Tasks

  • Lug a basket of items around the house.
  • Transport items upstairs or downstairs to a specific location.
  • Carry a prearranged object to care-giver as a signal that help is needed.
  • Carry items following a partner using a walker, or other mobility aids.
  • Carry mail or newspaper inside the house.
  • Carry items from the partner to a care-giver or family member in another room.

Deposit Based Tasks

  • Put trash, junk mail into a wastebasket or garbage can.
  • Deposit cans/bottles into recycling bin.
  • Deliver items to closet.
  • Deposit dog toys into designated container.
  • Put prescription bag, mail, other items on counter top.
  • Assist partner to load clothing into top loading washing machine.

Tug Based Tasks

  • Open cupboard doors with attached strap.
  • Open drawers via strap.
  • Open refrigerator door with a strap or suction cup device.
  • Answer doorbell and open front door with strap attached to lever handle.
  • Shut interior home, office doors that open inward.
  • Assist to remove shoes, slippers, sandals.

Nose Nudge Based Tasks

  • Nudge shut cupboard door or drawers.
  • Call 911 on K-9 rescue phone - push the button.
  • Operate button or push plate on electric commercial doors.
  • Turn on light switches.
  • Assist wheelchair user to regain sitting position if slumped over.
  • Return paralyzed foot to the foot board of a wheelchair if it is dislodged.

Pawing Based Tasks

  • Cupboard door - shut it with one paw.
  • Dryer door - shut it with one paw.
  • Refrigerator & freezer door - one forepaw or both.
  • Operate light switch on wall - jump up, paw the switch.
  • Depress floor petal device to turn on appliances or lamp.
  • Close heavy front door, other doors - jump up, use both forepaws.

Bracing Based Tasks

  • Transfer assistance from wheelchair to bed, toilet, bathtub or van seat.
  • Assist to walk step by step, brace between each step.
  • Position self and brace to help partner catch balance after partner rises.
  • Prevent falls by bracing on command.
  • Pull up partner with a strap (tug of war style) from floor to feet on command.
  • Assist partner to turn over in bed.

Harness Based Tasks

  • Assist moving wheelchair on flat surfaces (partner holds onto harness pull strap)
  • Brace, providing counter balance to assist in walking.
  • Transport textbooks, business supplies or other items up to 50 pounds in a wagon.
  • Help ambulatory partner to climb stairs.
  • Brace on command to keep ambulatory partner from stumbling or falling.
  • Pull partner out of seats.

Other Emergency Assistance

  • Bark for help on command.
  • Find the care-giver on command, lead back to partner.
  • Wake partner up if smoke alarm sounds, assist to nearest exit.
  • Put forepaws in lap of wheelchair user, hold that position so partner can access medications, cell phone or other back pack items.