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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Professionally- And self-trained service dogs: Benefits and challenges for partners with disabilities

  • Author(s): Yamamoto, M
  • Hart, LA
  • et al.

Copyright © 2019 Yamamoto and Hart. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. It has been widely reported that service dogs offer benefits to their human partners, however, it is unclear whether the expanding methods of training and roles of service dogs for their partners with various disabilities also provide similar benefits. This study aimed to investigate the self-reported experience of service dog partners to understand whether three different factors influence the benefits and drawbacks associated with partnering with a service dog: (1) different methods of training service dogs; (2) different severities of human partners' disabilities; (3) different roles of service dogs. Partners of service dogs were recruited to the web survey through service dog facilities and networking groups. Answers from 19 men and 147 women participants (91.8% living in the U.S.) were analyzed in this study. Participants experienced the expected benefits of service dogs, including increased independence, social relationships, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, and decreased anxiety, stress, and loneliness. However, the perceived benefits, concerns, and burdens differed depending on the partners' disabilities and the training history of the dogs. When first living with their service dogs, people who had self-trained their service dogs experienced more burdens than those living with professionally trained service dogs. No major reduction in expenses for assistance after acquiring a dog was reported. Personalized team training based on each person's disabilities and situation is required to optimize the benefits and minimize the burdens and concerns of living with service dogs.

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