Objective. The purpose of this study was to describe, qualitatively, the use of service dogs by persons with physical disabilities and the meaning of this experience.
Method. Five service dog owners were observed and interviewed on multiple occasions through an ethnographic approach.
Results. Identified themes were increased community participation, “closer than family,” increased social contact, personal skill development, having fun, responsibility, adjustment, challenges, independence, “someone to watch over me,” and “ feel like an able-bodied person.”
Conclusion. Service dogs are used to enhance independence in occupational performance areas and contribute to improvements in psychosocial functioning. Given these benefits, service dogs could be viewed as a form of assistive technology that occupational therapists may want to consider as an alternative to traditional devices for some clients.