What are Service and Therapy Dogs?
Service dogs are dogs trained to be of assistance to those with disabilities. They are trained to handle specific needs of their handlers. They are also called assist dogs, support dogs, or helper dogs, depending on where you live.
Service dogs serve as eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf, legs and hands to those with mobility impairment. Besides seemingly replacing a missing sense, they also have a general positive effect on their owners.
Service dogs are not limited to the disabled. There are service dogs that assist the police with fighting crime. They have to undergo years of training before they can qualify to work with the police force. Some are trained to sniff out drugs and criminals. Some serve as search and rescue dogs. They help to locate missing people after natural disasters; tracking, trailing, air and water scents are part of the training received by service dogs.
There are different breeds of dogs used by the police. Here are some of the most common:
• The German Shepherd
• Belgian Shepherd
• Dutch Shepherds
• Doberman Pinscher
The Americans with Disabilities Act
People with disabilities are allowed to take their service dogs with them to public places like grocery stores, hotels, and restaurants. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers those with disabilities. It is illegal not to allow disabled persons into public places with their service dogs.
The ADA protects handlers of service dogs because of the disability they experience. The dog is allowed access based on the rights of his handler.
In most states, disabled persons with service dogs are not required to pay extra charges for their dogs when they visit restaurants, are on a plane, or when renting an apartment.
In Colorado, for example, people with disabilities who have service dogs are exempted from local and state licensing charges that might apply if the dog was not specifically trained as a service dog.
Note that before a person can legally qualify to have a service dog, he must have a disability that to a reasonable degree, limits him from performing major daily activities by himself. His service dog is thus trained to perform the activities that his handler cannot perform on his own.
Any breed of dog, of any age and sex can be trained to perform the needs of his handler.
Types of service dogs
• Migraine alert dogs
• Guide dogs
• Mobility aid dogs
• Wheelchair assist dogs
• Seizure response dogs
• Narcolepsy response dogs
• PTSD service dogs
• Severe allergy alert dogs
Therapy dogs are dogs used to aid treatment of some medical conditions. They assist patients to recover quicker and live more satisfying lives. They are very affectionate and comforting. They shower their patients with so much love that they have an amazing therapeutic effect on them.
Therapy dogs help stroke victims, depressed or stressed individuals as well as shy persons to get better and overcome health challenges.
Therapy dogs provide physiological and psychological therapy.
They are trained to handle sudden loud or strange noises, are not unnecessarily frightened by mechanical mobility aids, are not unnecessarily suspicious, very comfortable in unfamiliar areas, and get along well with people of all ages.
Golden retrievers and Labradors are commonly used as therapy dogs because of their good nature. They are loving with good temperament, friendly, ready to learn, ready to please, ready to cuddle and comfort, relate well with anyone, and their joyful exuberance is contagious and capable of lifting the spirits of those who are weighed down. This is unlike service dogs who are trained to navigate around obstacles, locate objects, pick dropped items, open and close doors, alert handlers to sounds, maybe a doorbell or alarm, indicate changes in terrain while working, provide balance, etc.
Some therapy dogs help juvenile offenders learn to be more responsible. They learn to socialize and interact with rescued homeless dogs.
Differences between Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs
Some people use both phrases, service dogs and therapy dogs, interchangeably. This is wrong because they have a number of clear differences.
Service dogs are specially trained to perform a major task that their handlers can’t perform. It is also known as a one-man dog. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, can provide the same degree of comfort to different individuals.
The ADA doesn’t cover therapy dogs as it does service dogs. So, therapy dogs will most likely not be allowed access to some places service dogs can enter. This is because the act covers handlers of service dogs but not therapy dogs (especially as they do not have specific handlers).
Therapy dogs are also trained to socialize, so they associate with a variety of individuals, unlike service dogs. You find therapy dogs in schools, rehab centers, retirement homes, and nursing homes. They are like “hype” dogs. They make you believe that you can do what you think you can’t do and walk you till you achieve your goal.
Therapy dogs can also help kids with reading issues. They listen attentively and are nonjudgmental. This helps these kids make admirable progress.
In schools, therapy dogs help students de-stress. Before midterm exams and final exams, students are allowed to pet and relax with therapy dogs to aid overall academic performance. This also differentiates service dogs from therapy dogs. Service dogs are not for petting as this could make them not function as they should.
It’s incredible just how much dogs can do when trained. You can have your personal dog trained to be your service dog or can give your dog out to be trained to help others in case you can’t handle them.