Here’s Why You Should Consider Getting a Dog

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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I’m notorious for attempting to convince everyone in my life to get a dog. I love the furry animals, but I often travel or am in places that aren’t particularly dog-friendly. So my latest mission is to convince my dad to get a dog.

Could having a well-trained dog, such as a service dog or an emotional support dog, benefit someone who has Parkinson’s disease? 

Parkinson’s disease and dogs

For someone with Parkinson’s disease, service dogs have been shown to help their owner with challenges like maintaining balance. About 38 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease fall at least once a year, so balance might be one of the disease’s bigger threats. The right service dog could assist its owner in maintaining balance and alerting someone if the owner falls. 

Dogs also can help with freezing episodes by nudging or encouraging their owner to move forward.

While it might not seem intuitive to add another living being to your household, service dogs are trained to perform tasks that their owners might be unable to perform. When properly trained, dogs can turn off the lights, open doors, and carry small items. 

Additionally, many Parkinson’s patients experience depression and anxiety. Dogs can have a positive influence on some of these symptoms. Having a dog around your home can help to combat feelings of isolation while increasing overall health and well-being.

But what type of dog is best for you?

Service dogs

Service dogs are seen as an extension of their human. They are trained to perform tasks that their owner might be unable to perform. 

What you need to know about service dogs:

  • Service dogs can go anywhere their humans go.
  • They aren’t legally obliged to wear a vest, patch, or other identification.
  • They don’t need to be professionally trained to be considered service dogs.
  • Hotels and landlords can’t charge you additional fees for having a service dog.
  • Service dogs come in any shape or breed.

If you’re a dog lover, you might find it useful to know that service dogs don’t always have to be on duty. Sometimes they’re allowed to kick back and be their puppy selves. 

Emotional support dogs

Emotional support dogs essentially are a legal step down from service dogs. They’re intended as therapeutic animals, not to help you perform tasks. You won’t have as much legal flexibility with a support dog as you would with a service dog. For instance, national parks in the U.S. aren’t pet friendly. But because service dogs are seen as an extension of their humans, they are legally allowed. Emotional support dogs wouldn’t be. 

While finding housing, landlords are allowed to ask if you have a disability and if your dog assists with your disability. They’re required to allow you to live with your emotional support dog or another animal regardless of their stance on pet ownership. 


I know that dog ownership involves many important factors. They can be expensive. You want them to have a good, active life and a nice yard. Sometimes, the thought of a young dog can feel overwhelming because they require so much attention. 

But adding a reliable companion to your life might make a bigger difference than you realize. (Hi, Dad. Get a dog!) Not only do dogs have a grounding effect on their loved ones, they’re also capable of offering a tremendous amount of support in terms of the tasks they can perform. 

Do you have a service or emotional support dog? What benefits have you encountered? Please share in the comments below.


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Mike Bell avatar

Mike Bell

I have taken on a Cockapoo - she gives me purpose, company and no excuses for getting out. It is a challenge, she us only 6 months old, and I do worry if I have taken on too much as I live alone. But the benefits are huge. Balance with this disease is everything!!

John Gartling avatar

John Gartling

Four years ago, our family adopted Valkyrie an Australian Cattle dog and she has been a God send to me. While I have not tried to get her "service dog" status, she goes just about everywhere we go. Last year we walked over 2500 miles and raised over $16,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Similar to the author of this article, I encourage people to adopt a dog as the physical and mental benefits are well worth it.

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

Mary Beth Skylis

Over 2500 miles sounds like a long-trail, John. Did you hike the PCT?

Roy Roberts avatar

Roy Roberts

My son gave us an 11 year old Mini Schnauzer, which I was against, but my wife was all for! I’m so glad we adopted the little guy. He is great encouragement to get me up and going every morning, as he needs his walk. We are out again every evening. Not only have we met many neighbors, but a few also have Parkinson’s, or loved ones with it. We are able to share information while the doggies play. As far as the emotional support, this dog loves my left-hand tremor! He doesn’t care that my petting is a tremor. He’s happy that I am petting him. The unconditional love from our new/older dog brings me happiness and who doesn’t love to come home to a quivering, tail wagging ball of excitement!

H Justis avatar

H Justis

We adopted a 2 year old chocolate lab and worked with a trainer once a week for a couple of months. We got a mobility harness and taught him how to walk by my side and support me when I need him. He can brace to help me get up off the ground, helps me walk up hills, gently tugs when I freeze; picks things up that I drop; pulls the laundry out of the dryer and puts it in the laundry basket, and because I am also a diabetic as well as a Parkie, he can get my medicine bag from the kitchen counter and bring it to me, no matter where I am in the house. When I am feeling depressed or anxious; he will lay on my lap. When having a “storm” he sits by my side and comforts me. He is a great companion and I wouldn’t do without him. We have taught him mostly on our own, just with the trainer help at first. The trainer taught us how to train our dog using lots of treats and praise. My dog has a natural connection with me and seems to just know what to do. If I am standing and am wobbly he leans against me so he can support me. He is amazing.

Sharon avatar


My father has Parkinson’s how do I find a service dog for him? He falls a lot i think a dog would be very helpful.

Malcolm avatar


Getting the right breed is so important. I had a young German Wirehaired Pointer when PD came on. They are a high energy, long duration, quick recharge breed, not the characteristics suitable for someone with pd.Gladly he is happily rehomed in an appropriate environment.

I have been looking for a new dog for a while. An older Labrador would be great, I have already had two chocolate labs and they are wonderful dogs but the chances of getting one in rescue are low. The breed that I am concentrating on is the Greyhound. They are large enough to be steadying on walks but are low energy so can live with shorter walks if necessary. They are also very affectionate and friendly. I don't know if they are as trainable as a labrador but that is not my main reason for getting one. Of course all dogs vary from individual to individual but there are a lot of retired greyhounds looking for a good home.

Susan REYNOLDS avatar


Am considering buying a dog for my husband , who has Parkinson's. He needs the company and incentives to walk everyday. We live in a very warm climate, so need to consider that . We have had 4 German Shepherds , but need to downsize! Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.


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