US Service Animals - What is A Therapy Dog? How Are They Different From An ESA

Dec 24, 2018 By USSA

Therapy Dog

There seem to be so many different variations of specialized animals these days and it can make it hard to keep track of which one is classified as what. For example, therapy dogs, emotional support dogs, and service dogs are considered one in the same sometimes, but they are all very different.

When you think of a therapy dog you should think of animals that are trained to bring out the best in people. Therapy dog’s main roles are to provide comfort and affection. They most commonly make appearances in hospitals, nursing homes, or schools. Those in nursing homes may not receive that level of affection that they would hope for. Often times those in nursing homes have very few visitors and that is where a therapy dog comes in.

These animals are not specially trained to complete tasks for people like service animals, but they are trained to brighten lives with their cuddles.

How a Dog Becomes a Therapy Dog

Any breed of dog can become a therapy dog. The only requirement is that the dog is friendly and can be trained to take direction and provide comfort. A dog cannot begin his or her career as a therapy dog until they reach the age of 1.

There are not special circumstances for therapy dogs to make appearances. In places that animals are not permitted, your therapy dog is also not allowed. This is a different aspect from emotional support animals and service animals because they are typically allowed in most public places free of charge. There really aren’t any special treatments designated for therapy dogs. If a hotel doesn’t allow animals, yours isn’t allowed. Same thing goes for housing and airlines.

ESA vs Therapy Dog

The biggest difference between an emotional support animal and a therapy dog is that an ESA is declared to be beneficial to an individual by a medical professional. Emotional support animals are typically utilized for those with mental health conditions or anxiety disorders.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that a well-behaved and well-mannered dog who thoroughly enjoys being around other people can become a therapy dog. If you are unsure if your dog qualifies there are certain institutions that you can take your dog to be evaluated. These evaluations usually just include checking your dog’s demeanor, handling skills, and manners. If successful, your dog can be on its way to providing endless cheer to those in need.

It is amazing the impact a simple animal interaction can make on someone’s well-being and mental health. Cuddles of any kind go a long way and the love and affection of a well-trained animal is priceless.