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Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Dog vs. Therapy Dog

We know that our furry best friends are helpful - they're simply the best! Many people out there have service dogs, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs. All of these types of dogs require a special license that qualifies them under each category. However, the service these two dogs do is different. Here are some key differences between service animals, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs.

What do they do?

To begin with, the definitions for each type of dog is different. 

service dog serves as a physical assistant for somebody with a disability. The Americans with Disabilities says that a service dog must be 1) helping someone who has a life-limiting disability, 2) trained and can respond to their owner by completing work or tasks, and 3) able to maintain composure in public/not lead to any disruption. 

An emotional support dog provides emotional support to somebody to give them emotional relief from their disability. While they can provide emotional support, they aren't trained to do so.

therapy dog is a dog who has been trained to provide emotional, therapeutic support to people who are not their owner. 

Who are they for?

service dog is for somebody who requires extra help. Disabilities that service dogs often help people who are:

  • Blind
  • Deaf
  • Epileptic
  • Paralyzed
  • Diabetic
  • Suffering from PTSD

An emotional therapy dog is for somebody who needs companionship from a dog because they have:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Other mental illnesses
  • High stress levels
  • Physical health problems

therapy dog can have any owner, likely an owner that doesn't need their therapy. They often go into locations like:

  • Schools 
  • Special needs programs
  • Hospitals
  • Army bases

Where can they go?

service dog can go anywhere that their owner goes. This is because the owner is physically reliant upon their dog for various reasons, and it is a danger to them if they cannot have their service dog with them.

An emotional support dog can only go where dogs are allowed. This is because while emotional support dogs do help their owners, they are not deemed a physical necessity and don't have the same training as service dogs. Therefore, they are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, emotional support animals are allowed in all housing as well as on flights.

therapy dog, like an emotional support animal, can typically only go where dogs are allowed. This is because is not reliant upon them physically or emotionally. However, therapy dogs are always allowed in the locations that they are performing "service" in, like hospitals and schools, as long as there is an agreement between the owner and the establishment.

There are so many types of furry best friends out there, hopefully this helps clear things up! 


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Jenna Gomes

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Jenna Gomes