A Preliminary Study of the Impact of Service Dogs on People with Physical Disabilities: Activities of Daily Living, Social Connectedness, Employment, and Quality of Life
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Special Education, Rehabilitation, Counseling
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The use of service dogs as a holistic intervention for individuals with physical disabilities has increased in the past few decades. There is a relatively new body of research that demonstrates that service dogs positively impact their handlers’ independence in completing activities of daily living, social connectedness, employment and quality of life because of the human-canine bond. To date, however, only a handful of empirical studies exist that demonstrate the positive impact of service dogs in the lives of individuals with physical disabilities. The existing studies often focus on just a subset of the physical disability population (e.g., autism spectrum disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.). There is a clear need for additional research to address the gaps in the literature and contribute to the empirical evidence for the use of service dogs as a holistic intervention for individuals with physical disabilities. The aim of the current study was to examine the impacts service dogs have on individuals with diverse physical disabilities regarding their activities of daily living, social connection, employment and quality of life. To examine these constructs, a cross-sectional survey research design for quantitative descriptive research was utilized. The results of this study have implications for future research and contribute to the growing literature surrounding the holistic benefits of service dogs for individuals with disabilities.