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Understanding the difference Between ESA, Therapy, and Service Dogs



A man snuggling his black dog.
Knowing the difference between the ESA, Therapy, and Service Dogs.

There are important differences between ESAs, Therapy Dogs, and Service Dogs. In this blog post, we are discussing the differences briefly to empower you as a dog owner and trainer. The differences are emotional support animals provide comfort and companionship to their owners. Therapy dogs are trained and certified to provide emotional support and comfort to people in therapeutic settings. Service dogs are specially trained to assist people with physical disabilities. Service dogs often provide physical support, such as pulling a wheelchair or helping with balance. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, provide emotional support and comfort. ESAs, on the other hand, provide companionship and emotional support.


Service dogs are specifically trained to assist individuals with disabilities in carrying out daily tasks that they may have difficulty performing on their own. These tasks can include opening doors, retrieving items, alerting to sounds or dangers, and even providing physical support or balance. Service dogs undergo extensive training to ensure that they can perform these tasks reliably and safely.


On the other hand, emotional support animals (ESAs) provide comfort and emotional support to individuals with disabilities. They do not require any specific training, but they are chosen based on their ability to provide calming and therapeutic benefits to their owners. ESAs can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions by simply being present and providing companionship.


Therapy dogs, on the other hand, work with their handlers to provide support and comfort to others through Animal-Assisted Activities or Animal-Assisted Therapy. These dogs are typically taken to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other settings where they interact with individuals in need. Therapy dogs are trained to be calm, gentle, and well-behaved, allowing others to pet, cuddle, and hold them. Their presence can have a positive impact on people's mood, reduce stress, and even help with socialization and communication skills.


While both ESAs and therapy dogs provide therapeutic benefits, the key difference is that therapy dogs provide their services to multiple people, beyond just their owners. They work with their handlers to bring comfort and joy to a wide range of individuals in various settings. On the other hand, an ESA is solely focused on providing support and emotional well-being to its owner.


A service dog walking on a retractable leash
Service Dog at work

In summary, service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, ESAs provide emotional support and comfort to their owners, and therapy dogs work with their handlers to provide therapeutic benefits to others through Animal-Assisted Activities or Animal-Assisted Therapy. Each of these roles plays a crucial part in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities and promoting overall well-being.

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