Medical Equipment Etiquette
As a therapy dog team, you and your dog will meet many people with special needs. There are some common rules of etiquette in how you interact with a person in a wheelchair:
- The wheelchair is part of the person’s body image. Respect this.
- Do not talk down to or over a person in a wheelchair. Rather, sit down or crouch so you are at eye level when talking, especially if you plan to visit for longer than a few minutes.
- Do not lean on a person’s wheelchair.
- Speak directly to the person in the wheelchair, not to a person nearby or pushing the wheelchair.
- Recognize that people in wheelchairs have varying capacities. Some can walk short distances while others rely entirely on their wheelchair.
- For safety reasons, ask the person to lock their wheelchair’s brakes.
- Do not allow your dog around behind the wheelchair. Wheelchair users often have a bag on the back carrying their equipment, including colostomy bags or their own food supplies.
- Take a cautious approach around wheelchairs for the safety of your dog: Tails and paws can easily get trapped.
Interacting with medical equipment
We will introduce your dog to each of the pieces of medical equipment, and how they will be used in the test.
- Wheelchair: the handler and dog approach the wheelchair from a distance of about 5 feet. The handler leads the dog up to the wheelchair and encourages the dog to interact with the evaluator. The evaluator gently pets the dog and bumps the dog with the wheelchair.
o Handler should ask the wheelchair user if they might approach.
o Handler should ask the wheelchair user to please apply his/her brakes.
o Handler should keep his dog in front or at the side of the wheelchair, and not allow the dog to go behind.
- Crutches: With the dog seated at the handler’s side, the evaluator approaches with the crutches, as if disabled. The evaluator pats the dog roughly on the head and body, and bumps the dog gently with the crutch.
o Handler should not allow the dog to weave in between the crutches and the evaluator, nor circle behind them.
- Walker: While the dog is seated at the handler’s side, the evaluator approaches noisily with the walker. The evaluator pats the dog on the head and body and bumps the dog gently with the walker.
o Handler should not allow the dog to weave in between the walker and the evaluator, nor circle behind them.
Cane/Awkward Stranger: The dog is seated at the handler’s side. The evaluator approaches with the cane moving erratically with hunched posture, while speaking in an odd voice. The evaluator pats the dog on the head and body and bumps the dog gently with the cane.
o Handler should not allow the dog to weave in between the cane and the evaluator, nor circle behind them.