Tasks: Service Dogs

The following are general tasks for service dogs. This list may not be fully inclusive as each individual's needs may differ.


  • Bring portable phone to any room in house;
  • Bring in groceries - up to ten canvas bags;
  • Unload suitable grocery items from canvas sacks;
  • Fetch a beverage from a refrigerator or cupboard;
  • Fetch food bowl(s);
  • Pick up dropped items like coins, keys etc., in any location;
  • Bring clothes, shoes, or slippers laid out to assist with dressing;
  • Unload towels, other items from dryer;
  • Retrieve purse from hall, desk, dresser or back of van;
  • Assist to tidy house or yard - pickup, carry, deposit designated items;
  • Fetch basket with medication and/or beverage from cupboard;
  • Seek & find teamwork - direct the dog with hand signals, vocal cues to: retrieve an unfamiliar object out of partner's reach, locate TV remote control, select one of several VCR tapes atop TV cabinet, other surfaces;
  • Remove VCR tape from machine after eject button pushed;
  • Use target stick to retrieve an indicated item off shelves in stores retrieve one pair of shoes from a dozen in closet;
  • Use laser pointer to target an item to be retrieved;
  • Drag Cane from its customary location to another room;
  • Pick up and return cane if falls off back of wheelchair;
  • Pickup or fetch Canadian crutches from customary location;
  • Drag walker back to partner;
  • Fetch wheelchair when out of reach;

CARRYING BASED TASKS (non retrieval)

  • Move bucket from one location to another, indoors & outdoors;
  • Lug a basket of items around the house;
  • Transport items downstairs or upstairs to a specific location;
  • Carry item(s) from the partner to a care-giver or family member in another room;
  • Send the dog to obtain food or other item from a care-giver and return with it;
  • Dog carries a prearranged object to care-giver as a signal help is needed;
  • Carry items following a partner using a walker, other mobility aids;
  • Pay for purchases at high counters;
  • Transfer merchandise in bag from a clerk to a wheelchair user's lap;
  • Carry mail or newspaper into the house;


  • Put trash, junk mail into a wastebasket or garbage can;
  • Deposit empty soda pop can or plastic bottle into recycling bin;
  • Assist partner to load clothing into top loading washing machine;
  • Dirty food bowl [dog's] - put into kitchen sink;
  • Put silverware, non breakable dishes, plastic glasses in sink;
  • Deliver items to "closet" [use a floor marker to indicate drop location];
  • Deposit dog toys into designated container;
  • Put prescription bag, mail, other items on counter top.


  • Open cupboard doors with attached strap;
  • Open drawers via strap;
  • Open refrigerator door with a strap or suction cup device;
  • Open interior doors via a strap with device to turn knob
  • Answer doorbell and open front door with strap attached to lever handle;
  • Open or close sliding glass door with a strap or other tug devices;
  • Shut restroom door that opens outward via a leash tied to doorknob;
  • Close stall door that opens outward in restroom by delivering end of the leash to partner;
  • Shut interior home, office doors that open outward;
  • Shut motel room exterior door that opens inward;
  • Assist to remove shoes, slippers, sandals;
  • Tug socks off without biting down on foot;
  • Remove slacks, sweater, coat;
  • Drag heavy coat, other items to closet;
  • Drag laundry basket through house with a strap;
  • Drag bedding to the washing machine;
  • Wrestle duffle bag or other objects from the van into the house;
  • Pull a drapery cord to open or close drapes;
  • Assist to close motel room drapes by tugging on edge near bottom of drape, backing up;
  • Operate rope device that lifts blanket and sheet or re-covers disabled person when he or she becomes too hot or cold;
  • Alternatively, take edge of a blanket and move backwards, tugging to remove it or assist someone to pull the blanket up to their chin if cold.


  • Cupboard door or drawers - nudge shut
  • Dryer door - hard nudge
  • Stove drawer - push it shut
  • Dishwasher door - put muzzle under open door, flip to shut
  • Refrigerator & freezer door - close with nudge
  • Call 911 on K-9 rescue phone - push the button
  • Operate button or push plate on electric commercial doors
  • Turn on light switches
  • Push floor pedal device to turn on lamp
  • Turn on metal based lamps with touch-lamp device installed - nudge base
  • Assist wheelchair user to regain sitting position if slumped over
  • Help put paralyzed arm back onto the armrest of wheelchair
  • Return paralyzed foot to the foot board of a wheelchair if it is dislodged

PAWING BASED TASKS (some dogs prefer it to nose nudge)

  1. Cupboard door - shut it with one paw
  2. Dryer door - shut it with one paw
  3. Refrigerator & freezer door - one forepaw or both
  4. Call 911 on K-9 rescue phone - hit button with one paw
  5. Operate light switch on wall - jump up, paw the switch
  6. Depress floor pedal device to turn on appliance(s) or lamp
  7. Jump up to paw elevator button [steady dog if he tries it on slippery tile floor]
  8. Operate push plate on electric commercial doors
  9. Close heavy front door, other doors - jump up, use both forepaws


  • Transfer assistance from wheelchair to bed, toilet, bathtub or van seat - hold Stand Stay position, then brace on command, enabling partner to keep their balance during transfer.
  • Assist to walk step by step, brace between each step, from wheelchair to nearby seat.
  • Position self and brace to help partner catch balance after partner rises from a couch or other seats in a home or public setting.
  • Prevent fall by bracing on command if the partner needs help recovering balance.
  • Steady partner getting in or out of the bathtub.
  • Assist partner to turn over in bed; have appropriate backup plan.
  • Pull up partner with a strap [tug of war style] from floor to feet on command, then brace till partner catches balance.

HARNESS BASED TASKS - Mobility Assistance

  • (Only appropriate for large sturdy adult dogs with sound joints, proper training).
  • Assist moving wheelchair on flat [partner holds onto harness pull strap] avoiding obstacles.
  • Work cooperatively with partner to get the wheelchair up a curb cut or mild incline; handler does as much of the work as possible, never asking the dog to attempt an incline unaided.
  • Haul open heavy door, holding it ajar using six foot lead attached to back of harness, other end of lead attached to door handle or to a suction cup device on a glass door.
  • Tow ambulatory partner up inclines [harness with rigid handle or pull strap may be used].
  • Brace on command to prevent ambulatory partner from stumbling [rigid handle].
  • Help ambulatory partner to climb stairs, pulling then bracing on each step [rigid handle or harness with pull strap may be used to assist partner to mount a step or catch balance].
  • Pull partner out of aisle seat on plane, then brace until partner catches balance [harness with a rigid handle and a pull strap, or pull strap only].
  • Brace, counter balance work too, assisting ambulatory partner to walk; the partner pushes down on the rigid handle as if it were a cane, after giving warning command, when needed.
  • Help ambulatory partner to walk short distance, brace between each step [rigid handle].
  • Transport textbooks, business supplies or other items up to 50 lbs in a wagon or collapsible cart, weight limit depends on dog's size, physical fitness, type of cart, kind of terrain.
  • Backpacking - customary weight limit is 15% of the dog's total body weight;10% if a dog performing another task, such as wheelchair pulling in addition to backpacking; total weight includes harness (average 3 - 4 lbs.). Load must be evenly distributed to prevent chafing.


  • Bark for help on command
  • Find the care-giver on command, lead back to location of disabled partner.
  • Put forepaws in lap of wheelchair user, hold that upright position so wheelchair user can access medication or cell phone or other items in the backpack.
  • Wake up partner if smoke alarm goes off, assist to nearest exit


  • Operate push button device to call 911, an ambulance service or another person to help in a crisis; let emergency personnel into home and lead to partner's location.
  • Fetch insulin kit, respiratory assist device or medication from customary place during a medical crisis.
  • Lie down on partner's chest to produce a cough, enabling patient to breath, when suction machine and/or care-giver unavailable.

Service Dog Supplies

Source: IAADP