Have you ever wondered what a therapy dog is? You have heard the name of it and you’ve seen them around from time to time, but what are they and how are they different from Emotional Support Animals (emotional support dogs) or Service animals (service dogs)? Well, they’re mainly dogs that are supposed to be referred to as Therapy Animals but are called Therapy Dogs because dogs are usually good at performing the tasks needed to be considered therapy animals.
What Therapy Dogs Are
According to Disabled World, a therapy dog by definition is, “a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as disaster areas. Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. A therapy dog’s primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it and to enjoy that contact”.
What Therapy Dogs Aren’t
First of all, therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are dogs who are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability. An example of a service dog is a dog who guides an owner who is blind, or a dog who assists someone who has a physical disability. Service dogs stay with their person and have special access privileges in public places such as on planes, restaurants, etc. Therapy dogs, don’t have the same special access as service dogs.
Also, it is unethical to try and make a therapy dog pass off as a service dog for purposes such as flying on a plane or being admitted to a restaurant.
Therapy dogs are also not Emotional Support Animals. ESAs don’t need any training and can be just like an ordinary pet. But they need to behave themselves in public and not harm anyone or anything nearby.
Note: We at Emotional Pet Support DO NOT prescribe any documentation for Therapy Dogs/Therapy Animals.