Understand the Difference between Service and Therapy Dogs

Here's what you need to know about service and therapy dogs in the public space.

Therapy dogs and service dogs may seem very similar, but in reality, the two types of dogs have very different purposes. There's also a difference in where and when each type of dog is allowed when it comes to public spaces. Here's what you need to know about service and therapy dogs in the public space.

Service Dogs

When you see dogs in public with a 'service dog' vest on, know that you're looking at a dog that has undergone rigorous and intensive training in order to provide physical and emotional support to a person with a specific illness or disability. These dogs may assist people who are visually impaired, suffer from PTSD or severe anxiety, seizures, autism, or one of many more illnesses or injuries that impairs the person's ability to function independently.

Service dogs undergo intensive training and must pass the Assistance Dogs International Public Access Test. This test determines whether the dog is able to be an appropriate and unobtrusive 'helper' in public places. If you see one of these dogs, please resist the urge to pet them! This could potentially distract them from their job, which could prevent them from helping their human in a medical or emotional emergency. There are several different breeds of dog that are suited for this role, and most require anywhere from 1 to 5 years of training before they're ready to work.

Therapy dogs

Therapy dogs are 'volunteers' who often work in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and even disaster areas. They provide emotional support and generally provide furry friendliness to those around them. These dogs are usually willing and able to be petted, but ask their handler first. Any breed can be a therapy dog, they don't need to be registered or certified by any special organization (unlike service dogs).

Emotional Support dogs

A third type of 'working' dog is the emotional support animal. These are animals (any animal, not just dogs) which are prescribed by a mental health professional to a person who needs emotional support with conditions such as anxiety, stress, or severe phobias. These animals are not required to be allowed in all public areas. Travelling with them requires documentation from the prescribing mental health professional proving their necessity.

For more information about the different types of service and support dogs, visit Bark Busters and speak with a knowledgeable trainer today. To speak with a trainer, call 1-866-418-4584 or type in your postal code on the main page to find the trainer nearest you.