Service Dogs for Power Wheelchair Users
By Alison Chancellor
Friday, March 1st, 2019
When you use a power wheelchair, electric wheelchair, or manual wheelchair, working with a service dog can help to make your life a lot easier. Service dogs undergo extensive training to complete basic to complex commands as well as provide companionship for their handlers.
My service dog, Tyler, is a black Labrador retriever, trained by Duo Dogs, formerly Support Dogs Inc., in the St. Louis, Missouri, area. She is my second service dog, also known as a successor. I received Tyler in 2012 and I don’t know what I’d do without her.
Let’s discuss just some of the tasks that your service dog can help you with if you use a wheelchair.
Retrieving Items Dropped on the Floor
When you have difficulty standing or walking, bending over to pick up your phone, mail, purse, or something else you have dropped on the floor can seem impossible. Fortunately, your service dog is prepared and anxious to complete this task for you. Your dog will pick up the item in his or her mouth and deliver it straight to your lap. For example, when I do my laundry, Tyler can pick clothes up off the floor.
Carrying Items Purchased at the Store
You have the legal right to bring your service dog into any store. When I am out with Tyler, she hands my credit card to the cashier when I am ready to pay for my items. If your items are in a plastic bag, some service dogs can carry the bag home for you.
A Service Dog Can Open and Close Doors
A service dog is trained to open and close doors for those who are physically unable to do so. Tyler opens doors with a door hook and bumps drawers closed with her nose. If I am out in public places, Tyler can push buttons for me, such as in an elevator.
How to Walk Your Dog While Using a Wheelchair
With an appropriately sized leash and proper training, service dogs can safely walk alongside people who use wheelchairs. A four-foot leash is typically good for this purpose. It allows the dog a bit of room to sniff things on the path while not getting too far away from you. Shorter leashes are also less likely to get stuck anywhere on your body or your service dog’s body.
You will want to loop the handle of your dog’s leash around your wrist for a tight grip. However, you will need to consider a hands-free leash if you have limited dexterity in your hands. This type of leash is a waist wrap that goes over your shoulder and clips to a belt loop on your pants. This will allow you to keep your dog’s leash firmly in your hand even if you have little to no control over your hand movements.
When I walk Tyler, she walks on the heel side, or my left side, because I am left handed. I walk Tyler using a shorter 4-foot to 5-foot lead with knots in it, so she knows her boundaries and to avoid any potential accidents.
If you use a wheelchair, a service dog can bring a greater level of independence to your life. Plus, not only does Tyler help me in my daily life, she is the best companion there is.
About Alison: Alison Chancellor is a consumer advocate for Quantum Rehab®. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she cheers on her beloved St. Louis Blues at hockey games. Click here to learn more about Alison.