A Helping Paw for Parkinson’s


A Helping Paw for Parkinson’s

If you’ve ever spoken to someone with a service dog, it’s easy to see that these animals change lives. For a veteran returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, the canine “battle buddy” is there to shine a light on his or her darkest hours. For a child with epilepsy, the family can rest easy, knowing that there is always someone there to lend a helping paw. If you are living with Parkinson’s, a service dog could be a transformative feature in your story.

How a Service Dog Could Make Your Life Easier

Service dogs are specifically trained to perform tasks to assist individuals living with physical challenges, including people with Parkinson’s. Service dogs help to improve their human companion’s independence and well-being, and studies show that the dogs provide a variety of benefits, including:

Encouraging Regular Exercise.

Research continues to highlight the benefits of regular physical exercise for people with Parkinson’s. Service dogs can both encourage and enable more regular exercise.

Reducing Loneliness.

Service dogs provide more than help; they provide companionship. The mere presence of a service dog can increase social interaction, as people come up to meet the dog and its guardian.

Daily Help.

For people with Parkinson’s, service dogs can be trained to perform a variety of helpful tasks, ranging from daily assistance with routine activities to specialized support. Service dogs can help with:

  • Enhancing your balance while walking or using stairs, reducing fear and risk of falls
  • Mitigating freezing by nudging a leg or gently pulling on a leash
  • Providing support while getting in and out of chairs or getting up after a fall
  • Retrieving and carrying objects, such as medication bottles or a dropped phone
  • Assisting in dressing and undressing by fetching clothes or gently tugging off socks
  • Opening doors and turning lights on or off
  • Retrieving adaptive equipment or pulling a wheelchair
  • Seeking help, pushing Lifeline call button or dialing 911 speed dial

Parkinson’s New Zealand interviewed two American women with Parkinson’s to learn how they interact with and rely on their service dogs’ support daily. Watch the short video to see how these furry companions can improve mobility, restore confidence and foster greater independence.

Things to Keep in Mind When Considering a Service Dog

 If you’re interested in getting a service dog to help with Parkinson’s, there are a number of important things to consider.

Check Out Organizations in Your Area

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is a coalition of nonprofit assistance dog organizations that meet the highest level of standards in training, care, education and advocacy for assistance dogs. The ‘Programs Search’ feature helps you to locate organizations nearest to you. Take advantage of the opportunity to reach out and learn more about this exciting option on your journey to living well with Parkinson’s.

If you or someone you know has a service dog for Parkinson’s, what advice would you or they give to others considering a service dog?

14 Comments on “A Helping Paw for Parkinson’s

    • chipper cromley

      February 20, 2017 at 1:46 pm Reply

      I have been living with Parkinson’s (officially) since 2012 (unofficially several years earlier) and find that Tai-chi classes are great exercise. The classes and exercises have helped to improve my balance and flexibility. I believe that I am able to recover my balance quickly to prevent a fall. I feel more positive about my life when I have finished a class. My teacher’s philosophy is “Don’t fall down” Don’t get hurt” and tai chi helps me achieve this goal.

      • Ally Ley

        February 20, 2017 at 4:04 pm Reply

        Thanks for sharing, Chipper!

    • Linda Morgan

      February 20, 2017 at 2:17 pm Reply

      I’ve been waiting for ‘my’ Service Dog since May of 2015 and only recently saw it. She is a brown and white standard poodle and she’ll be finished training in June. If you THINK you want one, apply now. I began looking in 2013 immediately after seeing Carolyn/Selma Renee/SirThomas at WPC.

      • Ally Ley

        February 20, 2017 at 4:02 pm Reply

        Great advice, Linda! Thanks for sharing. We’ll be eager to hear more about your experience once you receive your dog!

    • michael palumbo

      February 20, 2017 at 3:33 pm Reply

      I have Marko my yellow lab. Marko helps me with all of the above things. He also opens doors and closes them. He pushes the button to open the handicapped doors and calls the elevator.
      Marko helps with my freezing and balance. Pulls my socks off and gets my shoes for me. Picks up things that I drop like my keys or my cane. He was with me at the PAN forum and went through the halls of congress with me.

      • Ally Ley

        February 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm Reply

        Thanks for sharing, Michael! It’s wonderful to hear all the ways Marko helps you live well.

      • michael palumbo

        February 21, 2017 at 10:53 am Reply

        in Florida there is New Horizons that is a charity organization. Also there is Classic Service Dog Network. There is a cost with them but is reasonable compaired to other places that train dogs.

        • Scout Hill

          February 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm

          Michael, thank you for sharing your advice!

    • Tom Walter

      February 20, 2017 at 4:38 pm Reply

      Emily is my Golden Retriever who helps me walk 2 miles a day, prior to her arrival I had to wait for family to assist me in case of a fall.

      Thankfully DBS has helped with freezing, but I still need my friend to help with balance.

      Teamwork I & Teamwork II a Dog Training Manual for people with Disabilities by Nordensson & Kelley are recommended.

      • Scout Hill

        February 21, 2017 at 10:31 am Reply

        Thank you for sharing, Tom. We love hearing stories about how Emily helps you live well.

    • Bonnie Kramer

      February 20, 2017 at 7:35 pm Reply

      I am the lucky partner to a 6 year old yellow Lab assistance dog, Ely. He and I have been a working team for 4 years. In addition to all the regular assistance dogs tasks he knows, he improved the length of my stride so I no longer take those little Parkinson’s shuffle steps. Prior to getting Ely, I raised 10 assistance dog puppies. These dogs are life changers!

      • Scout Hill

        February 21, 2017 at 10:27 am Reply

        Thank you for sharing, Bonnie! It is wonderful to hear about how Ely has made an improvement in your life.

    • Judy Kandel

      February 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm Reply

      I have a great girl canine for my partner, I obtained her from Canine Partners for Life in 2012. I used a walker until I obtained Tia during team training, at that time I placed my walker in the office area, and picked it up the day I returned home more than 3 weeks later. Tia became my walker dog, and I no longer needed my walker. Tia was of extra help to me during a summer when I had both of my hands operated on. She was able to open my drawers, doors, cabinets, and did more carrying for me. She is able to do all the tasks that most people with disabilities need done for them, but my main issue is balance. Since I have been with Tia, I have had improved brain function, have been able to meet the people in my neighborhood (with my walker I was not able to get out into my neighborhood) We enjoy long walks in nature, and have traveled by train, plane, bus, rapid transit, and a number of trips by car. She is a great traveler no matter the mode of travel we are using. I love Tia and she loves me, and everyone that sees us together will attest to that. We went to Yellowstone National Park and she was great the entire trip. The animals were no issue with her, even though I got very close to them. I walked all about Washington DC, and seen all the monuments with Tia and my sister, Tia just trotted right along the whole time in the rain at that. She is a great partner in every way possible, as well as a great traveler. I am blessed to have my great girl, who happens to have been a rescue canine, donated to Canine Partners for Life, that is a mix of Blue Tick Coonhound, Dachshund, Field Lab, Bassett, and Red Bone, as reported on her DNA test done by my vet. She also gave me the ability to go and visit Independence Hall, and the Liberty Bell making the trip to Philadelphia PA by ourselves from Canonsburg, Pa which is all the way on the opposite side of the state. We are a happy and joyful pair of travelers. Written by Tia’s mom, Judy

      • Scout Hill

        February 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm Reply

        Judy, thank you for sharing this with us! We love hearing stories like yours and the positive impact Tia has made in your life.

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