Balance dogs are specially trained service dogs that assist individuals who have a disability that interferes with their ability to walk. With the support of a balance dog, a person can more freely interact with their environment and other people. Wearing a specially designed harness, balance dogs support their partners by acting as a counterbalance to assist their partners to walk. These dogs can also provide support in forward motion. In addition to assisting with walking, balance dogs are trained to assist their partner to go up and down stairs, to rise from a chair, and to get up off the floor.
Some of the other tasks a balance dog may be asked to perform may include:
- Finding and retrieving a cordless phone
- Assisting with shopping
- Going under tables and counters and becoming “invisible” in restaurants
- Refraining from picking up or eating items dropped on the floor
- Providing constant, loyal companionship
Balance dogs must have excellent manners, master basic obedience skills (sit, stay, come, down, stand, heel (on the left side), place (on the right side), back, etc.) and go potty on cue. They must also exhibit good social behavior (no aggression, no begging, no undesirable playful activity, etc.). Cues must be obeyed both on and off lead. A balance dog can be trained to respond to voice commands, hand signals and whistles.