Assistance dogs are popular with many families in the SMA Community. They can be trained to help with practical tasks such as:
- Picking up dropped items such as a toy or a remote control
- Opening and closing doors
- Helping with dressing and undressing
- Helping with physiotherapy routines.
This can mean that children are less reliant on others for some day-to-day activities, helping to build independence.
If children are encouraged to play as big a role as possible in their working dog’s care and training, they can also help increase children’s confidence and, as with many dogs, provide loyal and unconditional friendship and company. Dogs are also a great ice breaker and way of meeting and talking to people when out and about. Registered assistance dogs should be allowed to go with their owner into many public places, such as shops, restaurants and to travel on public transport.
There is however a ‘but’, which is that an assistance dog is a serious commitment that needs a lot of thought and planning.
If you’re interested in an assistance dog for your child, there are organisations that can give advice. Some train and provide their own dogs; others provide training for people who already have a pet dog. Each organisation has its own application process and training scheme and can give information and advice about the responsibilities of dog owners as well. More options are available for young disabled people aged 16 years and over. The following are available for children under 16 years:
- Assistance Dogs UK - www.assistancedogs.org.uk
- Dogs for Good (formerly Dogs for the Disabled) - www.dogsforgood.org
Page last reviewed / updated: February 2021
Next review due: February 2022