Mobility and medical alert service dogs are an assistive technology for individuals with disabilities or chronic conditions. Informal caregivers of individuals with disabilities are subject to physical and emotional stress due to their responsibilities. Understanding how service dogs, an increasingly common assistive technology, may add to or subtract from caregiver stress is crucial for promoting caregiver well-being. The purpose of this study was to analyze caregiver accounts to understand their perspective on benefits and challenges they face with mobility and medical alert service dogs.
Open ended survey responses from 117 caregivers of service dog recipients ( = 72 with a service dog,  = 45 on the waitlist) were analysed through a conventional content analysis.
Four major themes were found regarding caregiver and service dog: Family Benefits, Caregiver Benefits, Assistance Through Service Dog’s Training, and Drawbacks.
Findings suggest that benefits and challenges of mobility and medical service dogs extend beyond the service dog recipient, affecting the caregiver and other family members as well. Future studies should further explore this interaction to determine the best way to support caregivers of individuals with disabilities.IMPLICATIONS FOR REHABILITATIONMobility and medical alert service dogs are increasingly partnered with individuals with disabilities or chronic diseases as an assistive technology but few studies have focussed on the experience of the caregivers of service dog recipients. Caregivers of individuals with disabilities or chronic diseases may be subject to both psychological and physiological stressors as a result of their caregiver duties.Results found that caregivers perceive both benefits to themselves and to their families in terms building a bond with the animal that helps to reduce worry and offers emotional support. The most commonly mentioned drawbacks include general maintenance of the service dog, grooming needs and travel restrictions.This research is important in order to offer appropriate support to caregivers of individuals with disabilities.