The effect of partnering with an assistance dog on self-esteem and social connectedness among persons with disabilities

Date of Completion

January 2007


Health Sciences, Rehabilitation and Therapy|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




The social and therapeutic benefits of pet ownership or simply interacting with a companion animal are well documented. In contrast, limited research exists on the effect of assistance animals on the quality of life for persons with disabilities. The specific aim of this exploratory study was to investigate the effect of partnering with an assistance dog on two sources of well-being: self-esteem and social connectedness. A multi-method design including pre-test/posttest surveys, interviews, and observations was used. The study consisted of 15 adults with cross-disabilities who were applicants to the assistance dog placement program at the National Education for Assistance Dogs Service in Princeton, MA.^ The findings of this study suggest that assistance dogs not only ameliorate functional limitations, but also enhance self-perceptions and relationships with others. An understanding of this effect enables human service workers and health care practitioners to engage more effectively with the disabled population.^