Having a well-trained dog can be one of the biggest pleasures in life. But being the caretaker of a good pooch is much different than having a working pup. Here’s how man’s (people’s) best friend stacks up.

Service Dogs are the Ph.D.’s of the canine world. These vested pooches are partners for persons with an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) qualifying disability. They are individually trained to perform tasks and specific jobs to assist their handlers’ disabilities. These specialized dogs help their humans grasp the safety and independence from which their health challenge would otherwise limit them. Their education takes about two years before graduating as a highly qualified companion. These schooled dogs are allowed in restaurants, grocery stores, hotels and other public places. Additionally, laws such as the DOT’s Air Carrier Access Act, DOJ/HUD Fair Housing Act, and Federal Rehabilitation Act protect the rights of disabled persons to be accompanied with their service animal in circumstances in which the ADA may not be applicable.

Therapy Dogs also receive training but have a much different job function from Service Dogs. These companions are taught to be affectionate, exhibit excellent manners, possess a stable temperament, and have a friendly, easy-going personality. Unlike Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs are encouraged to socialize with other people. They provide emotional support to other folks besides their human coach. Our four-legged friends visit places such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. These kind canines are also helping with such things as, building confidence in learning disabled children to read out loud, to actively participating in physical rehabilitation sessions. These mutts may be nurtured by anyone, but must meet the standards set by a particular organization to be certified and actively work. Despite their credentials, they do not have the same position or legal designation as Service Dogs. They are insured but are not permitted in the same places as their highly educated kin.

Emotional Support Dogs are pets with no specialized training. Their primary roles are to provide their human mates with emotional comfort. An animals’ wonderful gift of unconditional love and affection can often be the best prescription for those with varying levels of mental illness. These fur friends are legally different from common pets in two ways. They must be permitted in no-pets housing if the dwelling is covered by the FHA and currently, airlines must allow them to fly in the cabin.

No matter the ‘educational’ level of your pooch, studies have shown, merely petting your animal will benefit the health of both of you. May you have a paw-rrific day!

(Some of the information provided in this blog post: Therapy Dogs vs. Service Dogs | Humane Society)

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