There are three primary types of assistance dogs: service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. While all three types of dogs can offer companionship and love, there are some key differences between them in terms of their training, purpose, and the type of assistance they provide. We’ll be looking at the traits of these assistance animals to understand the distinctions between them.
A service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. The disabilities served by service dogs can be physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities. Service dogs are working animals, not pets. The work or tasks performed by a service dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. Service dogs typically wear a vest or harness that identifies them as working animals. This helps people know that the dog is not just a pet and should not be disturbed while it is working.
Service dogs are different from other assistance animals in that they are allowed access to public places that are off-limits to other animals, such as restaurants, stores, buses, and government buildings. This is because their work or tasks directly assist their disabled handlers with everyday activities.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals under the ADA and therefore are not granted the same access rights.
The work or tasks a service dog performs must be directly related to the handler’s disability. For example, a service dog may be trained to help a person who has epilepsy by providing balance and support during seizures or alerting them to an oncoming seizure. Service dogs can also be trained to open doors, pick up dropped items, turn lights off or on, and provide other types of assistance such as reminding their handlers to take medication for PTSD, for example. If you have a service dog, perhaps as a veteran with disabilities, it is worth keeping in mind that you may well also be entitled to further disability benefits – you can see more here if this applies to you.
If you encounter a service dog without their owner, the owner may be in need of help. In the event that their owner is incapacitated, most service dogs are trained to seek out a nearby person and nudge or bark at them. Follow the dog and they may lead you to their owner, and you can identify the situation and call for help if necessary.
Some of the more common service dog breeds bred by dog breeders include:
1. Labrador Retriever
2. Golden Retriever
3. German Shepherd
5. Bernese Mountain Dog
Therapy dogs are pets that have been specially trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other settings. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for their handlers; rather, they undergo training to learn how best to interact with people in order to provide comfort and relieve stress.
Therapy dogs typically visit hospitals and nursing homes on a regular basis with their owners/handlers. They may also visit schools and libraries as part of reading programs designed to help children improve their literacy skills. Therapy dog teams must adhere to strict guidelines regarding vaccinations and health clearances before they can begin visiting facilities. In addition, therapy dog teams must complete a training program that covers topics such as proper handling techniques and how best to interact with different types of people.
Some of the more common therapy dog breeds include:
2. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
5. Shih Tzu
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals (ESAs) provide companionship and emotional support for people with anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental illnesses. Unlike service dogs and therapy dogs which receive specialised training for their roles, ESAs do not require any specific training; however, they must meet certain criteria in order to qualify as an emotional support animal.
In order for an animal to be considered an ESA by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP), the individual must have a documented mental illness that significantly impairs at least one major life activity and requires treatment from an LMHP. The animal must also provide some form of emotional support that alleviates at least one symptom of the individual’s mental illness (e.g., providing comfort during periods of anxiety).