Difference Between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog


Deciding between a therapy dog or service dog can be difficult. Knowing the difference between these two is key to making an informed decision. Learn how to identify which type of assistance animal would suit your needs and what each one can offer in terms of support and benefits.

The differences between a therapy dog and service dog

A therapy dog is any dog that’s been trained to provide comfort, emotional support, and companionship to those in need. They are typically not needed for specific tasks or activities and can offer love and friendship with their presence alone. On the other hand, a service dog is specially trained to perform tasks for someone living with a disability or another condition. These tasks are usually related to physical needs such as helping someone stand up from a seated position, opening doors, retrieving objects, etc.

How to recognize which type of dog is best for your needs

To find out which type of dog would best suit your needs, you must consider all the factors involved. Ask yourself questions such as: Do I need a trained task or simply emotional support? Am I looking for a formal service or comfort animal? Does my condition require constant assistance and attention? The answers to these questions will help you recognize which type of dog is best for your needs. Write down the answers so that you can compare and contrast both therapy and service dogs, before deciding on which one is right for you.

Requirements for owning a therapy dog or service dog

There are different requirements for owning either a therapy or service dog, depending on the type and level of assistance you need. If you’re looking for an emotional support animal, the only prerequisite is proof from your doctor that you have a diagnosed condition that requires therapeutic support from an animal. For a formal service dog, however, there are significantly stricter requirements in place as these animals must undergo extensive training to perform specific tasks related to their owner’s disability.

Types of behaviors that can be trained with therapy dogs and service dogs

Therapy dogs typically help to provide companionship and emotional support to people with a variety of physical and mental health conditions. These animals can be trained to perform basic commands, like sit, stay, or come, and may also be taught to assist their owners with everyday tasks like picking up items off the floor. Service dogs, on the other hand, require much more intensive training as they need to be able to perform specific tasks related to their owner’s disability in a safe and effective manner. This could include retrieving items from high shelves so a person with limited mobility can access them without having to strain themselves.

Effectiveness of Service dogs in posttraumatic stress disorder

Service dogs have been increasingly used to help people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cope with their symptoms. In order to study the effects of service dog training on PTSD, a study was conducted in a Veterans Affairs residential treatment program. The study followed 54 veterans over a span of 2-6 weeks, during which time their levels of positive and negative affect were measured throughout the day and various physiological markers were recorded. Results showed that when participants were accompanied by service dogs, there was decreased levels of negative affect and increased levels of positive affect, which diminished over time. Additionally, only negative affect appeared to be influenced by length of residential treatment while positive affect appeared to be impacted by physiological markers such as heart rate and activity. These findings further support the notion that service dogs can serve as an effective complement or alternative therapy for people living with PTSD.