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What’s the Difference Between Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs?

Therapy dogs are paid or voluteer pooches; family pets that work with their owner part-time with organizations. Therapy dogs can help people who have survived a trauma to comfort them and reduce stress and anxiety. Service dogs are highly trained, specially trained dogs that help people with disabilities by doing particular work or tasks related to the person’s disability.

Service dogs and therapy dogs are not the same things. Service dogs are often a carefully selected breed that has possibly been tested for temperament and other desirable characteristics, paired with a person with a disability, often go through very specific training, and aid people with a large variety of every day or specific tasks.

Service dogs are working animals , not pets. Therapy dogs are pets that enjoy visiting a variety of different locations and meeting a large amount of different folks.

service dogs and therapy dogs
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Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge”

What Are Therapy Dogs?

Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are often there to provide comfort, emotional support, and affection in places such as schools, hospitals, and medical centers, nursing homes, prisons, and other places.

They are usually someone’s pet that go to these various places to visit, add joy, and reduce anxiety. These dogs sometimes visit children with learning difficulties or disabilities. Therapy dogs also visit people experiencing or suffering from the lasting effects of accidents, stress, crimes, natural disasters, or extreme situations.

Check out our other article on Training a Therapy Dog.

Important Differences

Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are protected in the United States by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act); but therapy dogs are not. This means public areas or public institutions may prohibit or limit access to a therapy dog. Service dogs are allowed to go anywhere the public can go, with their handler of course. There are a few exceptions. Training for therapy dogs varies, but it is a lot less rigorous than that of service dogs.

Check out our full article on the federal (U.S.) ADA Service Dog laws that are the same for each state to learn more about public access with service dogs.

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Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

Critical Differences Between Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs

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