The age-old theory, dog’s are humans’ best friends, has been proven to be true!   According to a study completed by Duke University in 1999, Dogs are the only animal that responds with genuine loving interest and engagement to humans at 6 weeks old. What are the differences between a therapy dog, service dog and an emotional support dog and what are they used for?


What is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are dogs who go with their owners to work in settings such as therapy offices, crisis centers, court rooms, hospitals, and nursing homes.  Therapy dogs receive training and provide physical and emotional support to people other than their owners.  Therapy dogs can hold several roles which may vary from giving a young child confidence and support as they read out loud to bringing joy or comfort to people who are testifying against perpetrators or people who need additional emotional support such as those on receiving chemotherapy or living in a nursing home setting. Therapy dogs can travel to many different sites with their owners, or they may have an exclusive role in an office, such as psychotherapy office.Therapy dogs can be trained by anyone willing to work with their dog and help them receive the appropriate certifications.

What is a Service Dog?

A service dog is a dog that is trained to perform tasks to assist and ease their handlers disabilities.  Service dogs are working dogs and have specific training.  The jobs of service dogs vary.  Service dogs can be trained to work with people with complex post traumatic stress disorder, blindness, seizures and autism.  Service dogs have a specific training program depending on the skill set needed for their handlers. 

Typically organizations or non-profits organizations support the training of service dogs, which costs about $25,000 per animal trained. Humans training service dogs typically have experience with dogs and the disability of the humans they are training the dog to serve.  Training for humans wanting to train service dogs includes having over 300 hours of dog training experience within a three-year period. Most service dog trainers have advanced certification  including The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). 

What is an emotional support dog?


An emotional support dog is an emotional support animal (ESA) which supports owners with psychological disadvantages.  Some of the common mental health diagnoses that can be supported by emotional support animals are Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder. To legally be considered an emotional support animal (ESA), emotional support dogs are prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to help their owners with a specific diagnosis.