Service, Emotional Support and Therapy Dogs

Things to Know About Service, Emotional Support and Therapy Dogs

therapy dog

More than just companions, dogs are amazing creatures that can offer emotional support and assistance to those who need it most.

But there’s a difference between service dogs, emotional support dogs and therapy dogs and the roles that they play. Here’s everything you need to know about man’s undisputed best friend.

Service dogs

As the name suggests, a service dog has been specifically trained to help those with disabilities This might be someone with hearing impairments, mobility issues, or visual impairment for, instance.

The animal must perform a specific task, such as providing a vet services like waking them from a nightmare induced by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or helping someone with a compulsive behavior to recognize and stop the behavior. Contrary to popular belief, no documentation is required to prove that an animal is a service animal, so there is no way to vet services that an animal may provide. The Americans With Disabilities Act says that disabled people must be allowed to bring their service animal to many more places than just the veterinarian; service animals are allowed wherever the public is allowed, including places where animals would normally be forbidden, unless their presence poses a threat to the health or safety of others.

There are more than 100,000 service dogs professionally trained in America, helping a whole host of people through rehabilitation and day-to-day activities.

Emotional support dogs

The term "emotional support animal" was originally used to indicate an animal that provides needed comfort or support to someone with a mental health issue. The need for such an animal should be documented and prescribed by a medical professional.

Dogs are known to be intuitive and caring towards their owners. As such, many people suffering from anxieties have been found to benefit from emotional support pets; namely dogs.

From social phobias to panic attacks, the calming nature and therapeutic benefits of a trained emotional support dog can bring much comfort to its owners.

Famously Selena Gomez owns six dogs, which she uses for emotional support. Actor Bradley Cooper is also a huge advocate of emotional support dogs, known for his Chow/Retriever mix-bred dog - Charlotte, who he travels everywhere with.

Actor Ryan Gosling also has a 16-year-old dog called George, who he takes everywhere with him to help on a personal level.

As you can see, any breed and any size dog can become an emotional support dog. They do not require specialized training, but must be able to fulfill their owners emotional needs.

Emotional support dogs are often used in flight, when anxiety sufferers benefit from their calming nature the most. Although not all airlines and countries permit the use of dogs in a cabin, some that do include: American Airlines, Delta and Jetblue, among others airlines. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as booking a separate ticket for your canine – the right paperwork and documentation needs to be raised in the first instance.

In order to qualify for an emotional support animal, read these guidelines from the official ESA registration of America.

Therapy Dogs

A therapy dog is an animal used to provide comfort and affection to those people who want or need it. For instance, therapy dogs have been used in hospitals, nursing homes, and hospice facilities to help cheer up patients, and they have also been used in schools to give students working on their literacy skills a non-judgmental audience if they have difficulty reading aloud to their peers with confidence. Therapy dogs are granted no special access to public areas with their owners under any federal laws. They have been recognized and in use since the '70s, when a nurse discovered the emotional benefits that they could bring.

Pet Partners is a long-standing organization that champions the use of therapy dogs for those with emotional needs. This includes veterans with PTSD, to seniors living with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They can even be used to help students with literacy challenges and those with intellectual challenges as well.

Golden retrievers and Labradors are commonly found in this field, although any dog with a calm temperament and sociable side can be trained.

It’s important to note that therapy dogs are not trained to assist in certain situations and do not qualify as service dogs.