What’s the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?

By Thomas A Beitz

Although there are several similarities between a therapy and a service dog, there are far more differences. Both therapy dogs and service dog have had special training, testing and been certified by authorized evaluators. However, the scope and purpose of the training is considerably different.

The therapy dog is trained to serve many different people as well as engage the general public. The service dog has undergone significantly more complex training for the purpose of serving one person which has a disability or handicap.

The therapy dog may visit a hospital, school or nursing home several times per month for the purpose of boosting the emotional wellbeing of those he or she comes in contact with. The service dog is on-duty, serving one human partner most of the time on a daily basis, performing many complicated tasks such as opening a drawer, pressing an elevator button or removing a pair of socks from their partner’s feet.

The therapy dog has been obedience trained and demonstrates calm, obedient social skills so that he or she can engage the general public. The the Service Dog on the other hand has received significantly more training to complete specific tasks based on their human’s disability and needs.

Therapy dogs are permitted to visit most nursing homes, schools, libraries and some hospitals that offer therapy dog services (you’ll need to check with the individual facility). However, the service dog is permitted anywhere a human might go such as a restaurant, store and mass transit assisting his partner in everyday living activities.

Another difference between the two types of dogs is that people are encouraged to interact with the therapy dog because he or she is there to serve the public. However, people should not engage the service dog, distracting him or her from their duties to serve just one person, their partner.

Should you ever decide to take your dog into this type of training, I trust this article helps you understand the potential your dog may have in serving the people around you.

Tom Beitz is the owner of Smart Dog Solutions and can be reached at 628-0651 or found on the web at www.SmartDogSolutions.com.

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