Which Dog is Which?
3 Aug

Which Dog is Which?


Many people see the phrases “assistance dogs”, ‘therapy dogs” and “service dogs” as interchangeable. Yes, they are examples of dogs doing amazing things to help humans, but that is where the similarities end. For this week, International Assistance Dog Week, we’re going to talk about the differences between all these categories.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are often the most publicized. These are the dogs visiting sick children in hospitals and elderly people in assisted living homes. They are the focus of many uplifting YouTube videos. Their training is very different from that of service dogs. Therapy animals provide psychological benefits to people other than their handlers. Sure, having a therapy dog is awesome, but the pup’s main focus is helping those they visit.

Therapy dogs go through extensive training, but not every dog can be a therapy animal. It really depends on the temperament of the dog. The dog should be friendly, well-socialized and, most importantly, love being around people. My parents used to have two dogs: an elderly golden retriever and a goldendoodle puppy. They adopted the doodle with the hopes of having her be a therapy dog. However, she was very skittish and took a while to warm up to people. The golden, on the other hand, loved all people and was happiest when she was getting pet. This distinction is important because, although the puppy would probably have been able to be certified as a therapy dog, she would not have enjoyed the experience.

Assistance Dogs

Therapy dogs are often mistaken for assistance dogs. Assistance dogs tend to work one-on-one with someone who is, well, in need of assistance. There are plenty different types of assistance dogs, who have intense training for their specific tasks. Some dogs are seizure dogs, who help warn their owners of impending seizures and respond to seizures. There are also dogs trained to help those with PTSD to cope when having flashbacks.

Co-founder of Paws and Stripes trains a shelter dog to help soldiers with PTSD.

Co-founder of Paws and Stripes trains a shelter dog to help soldiers with PTSD.

There are also some more well known types of assistance dogs.

  • Guide Dogs
    • Guide dogs occasionally lead sightseeing tours around cities.   They spend most of their time work with people with visual impairments, leading them where they need to go and helping them avoid unsafe surroundings.
  • Hearing Dogs
    • Hearing dogs work with the deaf, making their owners conscious of everyday sounds and provide increased awareness of their surroundings. It takes four to six months of hard training (with toys and affection) for these dogs to be ready to work.

Emotional Support Dogs

I know this is a rather long article, but bear with me. This is the last stop. Emotional support dogs, a category of emotional support animals, are a rather new group. These dogs don’t have to be trained, but do an important job. They provide people with emotional problems support and comfort. This bond reduces the effects disabling psychiatric ailments, providing a positive immune boost or decreasing healing time.They aren’t allowed in quite as many places as assistance dogs, but can live essentially anywhere. They are protected by federal laws regarding housing.

Each one of these dogs does amazing work. Please consider donating to 1FUR1 service dog program and be part of the efforts helping U.S. veterans suffering from PTSD adjust to civilian life.  Donate and be the one to make a difference!

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