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Is a therapy dog a service dog?

Every dog provides therapeutic benefits to their human companions, but becoming a certified facility therapy dog involves additional training and patience. If you believe your dog might be suitable for a therapy dog program, consider reaching out to a local trainer for a thorough evaluation.


What’s the difference?

So, what sets apart a therapy dog from an emotional support dog or a service dog? It primarily comes down to the level of training and their specific roles:


  1. Emotional Support Dogs: These dogs are primarily focused on providing one-on-one support to reduce a specific person’s anxiety or emotional distress. They offer comfort and companionship, but their training is typically less intensive than that of therapy or service dogs.


  1. Therapy Dogs: Dogs like Morris V. Prout undergo more comprehensive training. They are equipped to assist groups of people and work in various facilities such as funeral homes, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals. Their mission is to provide comfort and emotional support to multiple individuals.


  1. Service Dogs: Service dogs are highly trained to perform specific tasks that aid people with disabilities. These tasks can range from guiding individuals who are visually impaired (similar to seeing-eye dogs) to providing medical support or assisting police and military personnel. Service dogs are dedicated to helping their handlers with essential functions.


As for Morris, when he wears his vest, he understands that it’s time to work. He has been trained to differentiate between work and play, switching from a dedicated helper to a playful two-year-old puppy when the vest comes off. This clear boundary is crucial for maintaining their focus and effectiveness in their respective roles.


Do’s and Don’ts Around Working Dogs


Every dog’s role depends on their training and purpose, and it’s important to respect these distinctions, especially in public spaces.


Service Dogs: When you see a service dog wearing its vest or harness, it’s crucial to recognize that it’s on duty. Service dogs are highly trained to assist individuals with disabilities. Distractions, such as petting, can disrupt their focus. It’s essential to refrain from petting or interacting with a service dog without the owner’s explicit permission. Interfering with their work can potentially jeopardize the safety and well-being of their handler.


Therapy Dogs: In contrast, therapy dogs, like Morris V. Prout, are often present in public places to provide emotional support and comfort. They are trained to be friendly and approachable and they welcome cuddles and interactions. Therapy dogs play a vital role in offering comfort to people in various environments, so feel free to approach them when their handler is present and ask for permission to interact.


Do all dogs have the same public access rights?

Understanding the legal restrictions associated with each classification is equally important:


Service Dogs: Service dogs are granted specific legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States. They are allowed access to most public places, including restaurants, stores, and transportation. It’s essential for businesses and individuals to be aware of these rights and treat service dog teams with respect and accommodation.


Therapy Dogs: Therapy dogs do not have the same access rights as service dogs. We always obtain permission from a facility or organization before bringing Morris for a visit. We also bring along copies of Morris’s training certificate and vaccination records. It’s essential for therapy dog handlers to coordinate their visits and ensure they are following the rules and regulations of each location.


Emotional Support Dogs: Emotional support dogs do not have automatic access to other public places, such as restaurants, stores, or educational institutions. Their access is primarily related to housing and air travel, and it’s essential to follow specific guidelines and requirements.


Recognizing and understanding these legal restrictions helps create a more inclusive and accommodating environment for individuals with disabilities who rely on service dogs. It also ensures that therapy dogs can continue to provide their valuable emotional support in appropriate settings without causing confusion or disruptions. Always remember that responsible pet ownership and respect for these distinctions contribute to a harmonious coexistence of dogs and humans in public spaces.


While all dogs have the potential to offer emotional support, the distinctions lie in the level of training and the specific tasks they are trained to perform. Emotional support dogs provide one-on-one comfort, therapy dogs offer support to groups in various settings, and service dogs are extensively trained to assist people with disabilities in specific ways.


Connect with Morris V. Prout and Prout Funeral Home

To learn more about our full-time Certified Grief Therapy Dog, Morris V. Prout, and the impact he makes here at Prout Funeral Home, give us a call at 973-239-2060. And follow his adventures on Facebook and Instagram @morrisvprout .

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