Research on Service Dogs
Fifteen years ago Karen Allen and Jim Blascovich conducted a study that included but didn’t focus on some MS patients. The authors recruited 48 people, randomly assigning half to receive service dogs immediately and half to a waiting list to receive the service dogs 13 months into the study. They found that the people with the service dogs showed substantial improvement in self esteem, internal locus of control and psychological well being within six months of partnering with the dogs. Socially, all the participants showed improvements in community integration. They were absent from school and work less frequently and there were dramatic decreases in the number of paid and unpaid assistance hours.
The Allen and Blascovich study was conducted in 1996, and published in the Journal of the America Medical Association.
A qualitative study was conducted by Mary Michelle Camp and published in the online magazine Working Dogs and in The Journal of Occupational Therapy in 2001.
Ms. Camp interviewed people with service dogs, asking qualitative questions like “Tell me about owning a service dog” and observed them as they trained and worked with the dogs. She found that the participants used their dogs to assist in tasks including, but not limited to, bracing them as they got up, opening doors, turning lights on and off, bringing them the phone or remote, placing clothes in the laundry, and retrieving dropped items. All the participants described an increase in participation in social activities since partnering with their service dogs. The dog could pull the wheel chair or encourage the participant to go outside. They also told about companionship, independence, increased self-esteem, security, more social contact and skill development. They felt that people saw them again and believed the dog to be a “bridge between them and the rest of society.” They had close social relationships with their dogs and had just plain fun.