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There is often confusion between Assistance Dogs vs. Therapy Dogs. I’m embarrassed to say that me…your resident expert has gotten them confused in the recent past. In addition you have many other designations including Service Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and Guide Dogs. It can all get a little confusing if you don’t have the exact definition handy. That’s why this article was spawned, to help clarify the differences between these dogs.
What Is An Assistance Dog?
As defined by Wikipedia – “An assistance dog is a dog trained to help a person with a disability in daily life. Many are trained by a specific organization, while others are trained by their handler (sometimes with the help of a professional trainer)”
These are the three types of assistance dogs:
- Guide Dog – A guide dogs is trained to assist the blind or visually impaired.
- Service Dog – ADI Website Definition – ” Service Dogs assist disabled people by retrieving objects that are out of their reach, by pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking for alert, finding another person, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance and many other individual tasks as needed by a disabled person.”
- Hearing Dog or Signal Dogs – Hearing or Signal Dogs are trained to assist the deaf or hard of hearing.
What Is A Therapy Dog
As defined by Wikipedia – “Therapy Dog refers to a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, mental institutions, schools, and stressful situations such as disaster areas.”
What Rights Do These Dogs Have?
Therapy Dogs are not Assistance Dogs. Assistance dogs are used to assist humans and are allowed in most public areas. Assistance Dogs are legally protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. However, Therapy Dogs do not provide direct assistance to humans and are not mentioned in the Americans with Disabilities Act. An institution may invite or prohibit a therapy dog from entering their facilities and usually have rigorous requirements for therapy dogs who are allowed to enter.
Stetson The Guide Dog Puppy In Training
Stetson is my Guide Dogs of America puppy in training. My hope is that Stetson will pass all of his training and be partnered with a blind or vision impaired person as a full fledged guide dog. However, if he does not make it as a guide dog my plan is to certify him as a Therapy dog. I’ve already taken my first step in preparation by working on Stetson’s training and passing the Canine Good Citizen Test. Either way, whether Stetson becomes a Guide Dog, a Therapy Dog, or just a pet I’ll be proud of him.
So to sum up Guide, Service, and Hearing dogs are types of Assistance Dogs and are trained to help people with a disability in daily life. A Therapy dog provides affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, etc. Assistance Dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and can go most places the public can go. Therapy Dogs are not protected by any federal laws and must be invited in order to enter an institution.
Hopefully this article helps clarify the difference between Assistance Dogs and Therapy Dogs.
Do you currently own an Assistance or Therapy Dog? Please tell me about your experiences in the comments area.
Top Picks For Our Puppies
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack - Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Best Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.