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Understanding the Differences Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Dogs



As a dog trainer, I have had the privilege of working with various types of dogs, each serving a unique purpose in the lives of their owners. Recently, I have had a surge in inquiries regarding service and therapy dog training.


I wanted to take a minute to discuss the differences between service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs, highlighting the important roles they play in enhancing the well-being of humans.


Service dogs are specially trained to assist individuals with disabilities and perform specific tasks to aid their handlers. These dogs undergo rigorous training to provide support and perform tasks that help their handlers with daily activities. Service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and are allowed to accompany their handlers in public places.


When working towards your service dog training goals, I follow the Public Access guidelines (Thank You 010420 ( This gives us an idea of where your dog is at skill-wise and what we need to work on.  


Key Differences:

1. Purpose: Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to assist individuals with disabilities, such as guiding the visually impaired, alerting them to seizures, or providing mobility assistance.

2. Legal Rights: Service dogs have legal protection under the ADA, allowing them to accompany their handlers in public places and access areas where pets are typically not allowed.


Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort, affection, and emotional support to individuals in various settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and disaster areas. Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are not individually trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability. Instead, they offer emotional support to those in need.


Key Differences:

1. Setting: Therapy dogs work in various settings to provide emotional support to multiple individuals, rather than focusing on one specific handler.

2. Training: Therapy dogs undergo training to develop good manners, social skills, and empathy to interact with a diverse range of people in different environments.


If you are interested in learning more about my favorite Therapy Dog Organization, I recommend you check out Pet Partners of CNY. More information on how to get involved can be found here:


Emotional support dogs provide therapeutic benefits to individuals with mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. These dogs offer comfort, companionship, and a sense of security to their owners, helping them cope with emotional challenges.


Key Differences:

1. Support Role: Emotional support dogs provide comfort and companionship to individuals with mental health conditions but are not trained to perform specific tasks like service dogs.

2. Housing and Travel Rights: Emotional support dogs are protected under the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, allowing them to live in housing with no-pet policies and accompany their owners on flights.


All dogs (Service, Therapy, and Emotional Support) require solid foundation skills like loose leash walking, recall, stay, polite greetings, no aggression towards humans or other animals, and impulse control. This is the first step, and we would be happy to help set you up for success!


Reach out today to us to get started!

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