Mobility dogs are a a type of service dog individually trained to assist persons with physical impairments that effect mobility. These dogs aid wheelchair users by helping to retrieve dropped items, turning light switches on/off, paying for items at the store (by putting their front paws on the checkout counter and handing the clerk their handler's card or wallet), opening/closing doors, transferring to and from the wheelchair and a myriad of other tasks.
For ambulatory persons with mobility impairments, mobility dogs help with stability and balance while walking. These dogs wear a special harness that helps them act as a counterbalance for their partner while he/she is walking to prevent a fall. These dogs also assist their partners with many of the same tasks as those used for wheelchair users, such as retrieval, door opening/closing, tugging off clothing, bringing a cane/walker, tugging a laundry basket, and many others. Each dog's set of tasks can be customized for the person's individual needs.
Mobility dogs can be trained for a wide range of disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Fibromyalgia, and many others. Multiple disabilities can also be accommodated, such as when a person needs the support of a mobility dog, but is also blind or deaf and needs additional tasks accordingly.
Mobility dogs are selected for their temperament, biddability, and work drive. The build of their body and soundness of their bones/joints is also very important. It takes 18-24 months to train a mobility dog, and training in a mobility-type harness cannot begin until after the dog's growth plates have closed (confirmed by a vet via x-ray) due to risk of injury to the dog if the weight of the harness and the balance work is done before that time. Due to this, wait lists/training times for mobility dogs tend to be longer than for other types of service dogs."
article written by community member Sheenar