25 Of The Most Valued Tasks Service Dogs Perform For Their Partners

Written by: Dina Fantegrossi

January 25, 2016

Canine Partners for Life provides impeccably trained dogs to people with a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. These talented pooches become much more than just helping hands to the humans they assist; they develop into trusted friends and beloved companions.


In honor of their 25th anniversary,  Canine Partners has released a list of the 25 most useful tasks that they train their amazing service dogs to perform. In order to compile the list, they asked recipients of their dogs (whom they refer to as “partners”) to weigh in on how their service dogs have impacted their lives.


Some of the tasks that made the list may seem simple or arbitrary, but for the people who depend on these dogs, each service improves their quality of life and gives them back some of their independence.

1.Picking up dropped items

Whether the partner is in a wheelchair or suffers from limited mobility, a service dog can quickly retrieve a dropped item preventing stress and possible injuries for their companion.

drop 2.Carrying items from one place to another

Those with physical handicaps may have difficulty carrying things for various reasons including partial paralysis or the need to operate crutches or a wheelchair. This is one of the most fundamental tasks a Canine Partners dog must learn.

carry 3.Undressing partner

Something we all take for granted, dressing or undressing can be extremely difficult for those with certain conditions. Luckily, service dogs are always there to lend their paws and jaws!

tug 4.Opening doors

The pup seen below opens and closes all doors for his partner, allowing him to focus on controlling his wheelchair.

Screenshot (4) 5.Closing doors / unloading washing machine 

For those who must load and unload the washing machine and dryer from a seated position, it can be very frustrating and time consuming. Service dogs are taught to gently retrieve each piece of clothing and place it where their partner directs them.

Screenshot (6) 6.Getting the mail

A trip to the mailbox could be very strenuous and potentially dangerous for some disabled partners. Their dogs happily perform this task for them.

mail 7.Retrieving a variety of items

A love for fetch is a desirable quality in a potential service dog – it comes in very handy when a partner needs an item brought to him or her.

Screenshot (7) 8.Taking shoes and socks off / giving partner confidence 

A difficult physical task is tied for eighth place with an important emotional service. This shows that although the top seven tasks involve physical assistance, the dogs also serve a very important psychological role for their partners.

Screenshot (14) 9.Helping with shopping and giving purse to cashier

High and low shelves pose a challenge for many adults living with disabilities. Their service dogs make shopping easier and even fun.

shop 10. Fetching the phone / emotional support 

Again, a physical task is tied with a psychological one. Retrieving the phone in an emergency is an extremely important service for disabled partners. For those with emotional conditions, simple companionship can drastically improve their lives.

Screenshot (26) 11. Fetching other people and getting help

Some service dogs are called upon to alert their partner of an impending seizure, cardiac episode, etc. They are trained to remain calm, and go for help if necessary.

Screenshot (11) 12. Making partner laugh or smile

Any dog owner would rank this service high on the list of benefits to having a pup in your life. They keep our spirits high which is especially important for those living with physical and mental challenges.

11313531_1590788127870824_191204882_n 13. Putting wheelchair footplate up or down

The dog shown here accompanies his wheelchair bound partner to orchestra practice. He ensures her safety and calmly provides any support she needs.

Screenshot (5) 14. Changing people’s attitude to partner

Many people find it difficult to relate to those with disabilities. They may be afraid to sound ignorant or offend them with questions. Service dogs can help build bridges and break the ice for partners to interact in their communities.

Screenshot (9) 15. Giving partner reason to go out

Depression is an understandable concern for those living with a disability. Having the responsibility of caring for another living thing can be enough to motivate them to keep going everyday.

Screenshot (16) 16. Retrieving card or receipt from ATM / pressing door opening pads at shops / tidying toys away 

Simple little gestures like activating automatic doors or collecting an ATM card from the machine means that the partner can retain that much more of their independence.

ATM 17. Taking items to and from people / loading washing machine 

In an office setting, service dogs can carry memos to other employees and make trips to the recycle bin.

Screenshot (12) 18. Pressing elevator buttons / giving love and affection

During their second year of training, Canine Partner dogs learn to operate a variety of buttons and switches. The love and affection part is something that develops naturally between the partners as their bond strengthens.

Screenshot (20) 19. Offering friendship and companionship

The yellow lab shown here is a companion dog for a young man on the Autism spectrum. She is his constant sidekick and best friend.

Screenshot (25) 20. Bringing food bowl over after eating / making partner feel safe 

For disabled individuals living alone, safety is a big concern. Service dogs are trained to handle a variety of emergencies, and their soothing presence helps provide peace of mind.

Screenshot (10) 21. Picking up crutch and handing to partner

This task is taught early and must be mastered by any potential physical disability service dog.

crutch 22. Getting things out of cabinets/ pushing switches and buttons 

Service dogs are taught how to open and close cabinets, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. They can retrieve items and operate a variety of buttons and switches.

Screenshot (3) 23. Washing routine – putting laundry in basket, taking basket outside, handing clothespins to partner

Depending on the needs of the partner, service dogs can assist with every step of the laundry process.

laundry 24. Helping partner out of bed or chair / making sure partner is never lonely 

For those with mobility troubles, the dogs can actually help nudge their limbs into and out of bed as needed. They spend 24 hours on duty and providing constant companionship.

10706980_903790586300162_1674347322_n 25. Pushing partner’s legs onto the bed / allowing partner time away from carers

Not having to depend on an assistant, nurse or loved one for every single task is a huge benefit to having a service dog. They allow their partners to maintain some level of independence and privacy.

beddog Other services that scored highly with the partners included:

Tugging the duvet off or onfetching the towel when partner is showeringhelping partner stand upundoing shoelaces and strapsclosing the dishwasherhelping to turn partner over in bedtaking mugs and cups to the kitchenunpacking the shoppingpulling letters out of envelopesopening curtains, letting the cat in and outpushing the partner’s arm back onto the armresthanding the bus pass to the drivermoving chairs out of the way in stores and restaurants & lifting up partner’s arm when showering.

To learn more about Canine Partners for Life and see some of these incredible dogs in action, check out the video below.

If you would like to make a donation to their cause, please visit

H/T to Leek News UK

Featured Image via Lehigh Valley Kennel Club


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Written by: Dina Fantegrossi

January 25, 2016

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