Today it is increasingly common to hear the terms service dog, therapy dog and support dog or emotional support dog. When I was little, the only service dogs I knew were guide dogs that help blind people, but today, there are so many types of dogs that help people that it is worth knowing what each one does and learning to distinguish what privileges each one has.
Service dogs are those that are trained to do a specific task. That is, they help a person with some kind of disability or problem, either physical or mental, to do something they could not do alone and make their life easier. This category includes guide dogs, dogs that pull wheelchairs, dogs that help deaf owners and alert them to sound, dogs that can open doors, cold or even pick up things that fall on the floor for people in wheelchairs or with some kind of motor problem, and medical alert dogs that can detect when their owners are about to have some kind of discomfort or seizure.
Also on this list are psychiatric service dogs that are trained to help owners who are suffering from anxiety attacks or post-traumatic stress syndrome (very common among soldiers who have returned from war or people who have suffered a traumatic event in their lives). These dogs not only provide companionship, love, loyalty, and peace, but are trained to alert their owners if something is causing them fear or anxiety. For example, these dogs are trained to be able to divert or stop their owners if they are about to enter a situation that is dangerous to them.
Service dogs are not a comfort to these people, they are what they need to survive. In addition, the law protects the rights of the owners and the dogs and they are allowed to go wherever their owners go because they are what allows them to integrate into society without being in danger.
These dogs have a job and are not pets. They are animals that have a purpose and if they do not do their job properly, their owners can have a very bad time or even be in danger. Any place that does not allow access to dogs should make an exception for these dogs. If you own an establishment, make a difference and let them in and treat them with respect because they are working.
It is the owner's responsibility to keep them properly identified, clean and on a leash or harness so they are not mistaken for pets.
Therapy dogs are those who are trained to work in institutions such as schools, nursing homes and hospitals to help people emotionally.
The most important thing for a therapy dog is that it has a sweet, relaxed personality and that it is very well-behaved and sociable with both people and other animals.
These dogs should be able to interact with many people at once, while a service dog is trained to only respond to its owner.
A therapy dog, on the other hand, does not need to be with its owner at all times so even though it has a job, its job does not involve accompanying you everywhere and so if somewhere they do not accept dogs, they do not have to make an exception for yours. Unless of course this place is the hospital, school or nursing home where you are going to work.
Support dogs or emotional support
This is a relatively new classification and refers to those dogs that provide emotional support to their owners. This means that they help their owners with fears, insecurities, stress, depression or any other type of psychological condition.
The difference with psychiatric service dogs is that these dogs are not properly trained to do anything for their owners, they only help with their presence which gives the owners security, confidence and peace.
Since these dogs are not trained and do not perform any tasks for their owners, they are not considered service dogs and do not enjoy the same privileges. Although there are some airlines that do allow their dogs to fly with their owners because they help them if they are afraid or anxious to fly, many others do not and are not required by law to do so.
If you have an emotional service dog, it is your responsibility as an owner to train and socialize it to prevent it from being thrown to other dogs or people or to have it bark all the time while you are with it.