How dogs help those with hidden disabilities

The theme for the 2020 International Day of People with Disabilities is “Not all disabilities are visible”. This is particularly close to my heart as I have a hidden disability and have personally benefited from the company of dogs, especially through more challenging times. Although my Rheumatoid Arthritis is mostly under control now, I still greatly appreciate my furry sofa companion on those days when fatigue hits.

Let’s have a quick look into some of the roles dogs play in supporting those with hidden disabilities.

Medical Alert Dogs

Charities such as Medical Detection Dogs harness the power of a dog’s incredible sense of smell to help those living with medical conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes to live more independently. The dogs are taught to recognise the change in a person’s smell when their blood sugar levels move outside of a normal range and alert the individual of the danger before it becomes life threatening.

Guide Dogs

Perhaps the most well known of the assistance dog charities, Guide Dogs partners specially trained dogs with people who are blind or partially sighted. These remarkable dogs can give someone with sight loss their independence by helping them to navigate the world safely, including judging heights so they do not hit their head, finding doorways and stopping at kerbs.

Community Dogs

Unlike the other dogs mentioned, community dogs live with their handler rather than being placed in the home with the person they are supporting. Community dogs, such as those trained by Dogs for Good, are used as part of a structured programme helping people work towards specific goals. They can help a variety of people such as those with anxiety, people who find social interactions challenging and those who want to form better exercise habits.

Autism Support Dogs

Dogs for Autism is a charity which matches specially trained dogs to children and adults with autism. The dogs begin their lives living with a professional trainer who will take the dog to visit the person they have been partnered with, allowing them to develop a relationship. Once training is complete the dog moves in permanently, of course with the continued support of the charity. These dogs can help those with autism with companionship, giving them the confidence to engage with the world and help to create healthy sleep patterns.
Drag to resize

These are just some of the roles that dogs carry out to help those with hidden disabilities, but of course we know that they can bring support, joy and love to anyone who takes the time to befriend them.
Created with