What Is The Difference Between Service Dog And Therapy Dog

Ivar on lap for stress therapy

What is the difference between service dog and therapy dog? There are also working dogs, and emotional support animals and they all play a different role and have different legal rights and obligation for each. What do service dogs help with? Let’s look at them and obviously, how my buddy Ivar qualifies 😉

What Is A Service Dog?

According to Legalline.ca:

Federal legislation only recognizes dogs as a service animal. According to the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR) in Canada, a service dog is one that:

  • has been individually trained by an organization or person specializing in service dog training; and
  • performs a task to assist a person with a disability with a need related to their disability.

While provincial definitions of the term “service animal” vary slightly, they generally feature the same elements. It is important to distinguish that service animals are not considered pets.

What do service dogs help with? Service Dogs can help in many different spheres and with many disabilities. They can be trained to do pretty much anything but here are the most common ones:

  • Guide dogs for blind people
  • Autism assistance dogs are trained to help those on the autism spectrum to distinguish important sensory signals, such as a smoke alarm, from other sensory input. They may also alert their handler to repetitive behaviors or over stimulation.
  • Psychiatric dogs to prevent, assist and calm during episodes
  • Service dogs help people with mobility issues
  • Hearing dogs alert deaf people if the sound they hear concerns the owner (phone, knock on door…)
  • Some dogs are trained to recognize seizures stand over their owner during a seizure or will for help

One very important training to our family is the one for Diabetic patients. Our beautiful daughter Lexee suffers from Type 1 diabetes and nowadays with intradermic sensors it is less of a worry but a service dog could have helped her detect hypoglycemia.

What Is A Therapy Dog?

A therapy dog is more of a partner in an intervention with people suffering from dementia, language learning disabilities, anxiety or any behavioral problems. As a veteran and father of 4, I strongly believe in the power of dogs to calm people and help them through hardship because I have seen what our Ivar can do for our family and he’s not even trained to do so. I think Boston Terriers are just naturals 😉 (I know I’m biased lol )

They will also be used for people with physical disabilities as many need the psychological support and therapy dogs are great for that purpose. Most of the time, therapy dogs will help people other than their owner. Obviously the owner will benefit too since dogs don’t punch a time card when they’re done being there for someone 😉

Here in Canada, therapy dogs can work in many environments such as retirement homes, psychological clinics, local health centers, youth centers, schools, private homes and many more. A less known environment is a zoo therapy center or farm. In this article I focus on dogs but zoo therapy is getting more popular every day and centers are now opening. Here in Quebec, we can thank my life-long friend Audrey Desrosiers from Au Bout Du Museau for the amazing work she has done to promote zoo therapy. It goes without saying that she and her team know a whole lot more than I do on the subject so if you want to go into more details, I invite you to reach out and don’t you worry, she speaks English very well 🙂

Therapy Dog Certification And Training

From what I read, in Canada there is no official training rule and it is mostly managed by province so I will not dive into this matter as it is too wide. I know you can get your dog registered as an emotional support animal (ESA) to allow you to travel with your dog but no travel company is required to accept it. Training itself vary depending on the trainer so if you want to train your dog to be a therapy dog, I invite you to set your goals first and then interview trainers and find one that suits your needs and DO NOT SETTLE! When you plan to work with your 4 legged partner to help people in pain you must not neglect the quality because your work will impact someone else’s life, not just yours. You should also check the various laws and by-laws of your region for any special requirement.

Where Can I Find A Therapy Dog?

As anything else these days you can find everything on Google but I have done some research for you to save you time and effort. I hope it will help you.

  1. Obviously, my first choice is Au Bout Du Museau as I know the founder. She might not be in your area, but I know she will definitely help you, she is a very unselfish person 🙂
  2. Therapeutic Paws Of Canada seem to offer a good program as well and it is volunteer based.
  3. Companion Paws Canada
  4. Last but really not least as I didn’t know they offered such a program is St-Johns’s Ambulance.

A Dog For Everyone

Everyone should have a dog. Let me rephrase this. Everyone should have access to a dog for times of struggle, grief, anxiety, sickness or any emotional distress. Lucky me, I can afford to own a dog and care for him. He really gives me back everyday. Our family has benefited so much since he’s in our life! With four daughters aged between 10 and 26, he’s been busy dealing with our stress!

The other night, one of our girls who’s been bullied at school in the past year had a panic attack. She didn’t want to go to school on her first day. It was her first attack and hopefully last one. I am an army trained paramedic who has suffered from these as well so I took matter into hands but couldn’t get through to her. My wife sat on the bathroom floor with her to try to get her to breath with no results. We gazed into each others eyes in despair. Suddenly it hit me. I ran downstairs and called Ivar to the rescue. He swooped in the bathroom, started licking her face and laid down on her lap. Within a minute, he had accomplished more than us in 20! After that episode, I realized our dog could probably qualify as a therapy dog but for now, he has his private practice at home.

This event is what inspired this article. Just writing these few last lines got me emotional and I think I need my little Paw Partner right now 😉 If you or anyone you know could benefit from a therapy dog (or any animal for that matter), DO NOT HESITATE! Make the move! It might as well be the best move you’ve ever done for yourself or someone else!

As always, I’m no specialist but I do everything with love and good intentions on my mind so I gave you everything I know on this matter and leave it to you to follow the links I provided to get more detailed information.

I hope you enjoyed this read and never hesitate to comment or email me!

Until next time, take care of yourself or let a pooch take care of you if need be.


4 thoughts on “What Is The Difference Between Service Dog And Therapy Dog”

  • What an interesting read. I had no idea that dogs could serve in so many different areas and was only really aware of those that assist the blind. A friend of mine recently started taking her dog with a group of others to old age homes where the dogs are used to comfort the aged. I guess she could say she has a therapy dog even though he has has no formal training in this regard. It is amazing that they can also be trained to help those with dimensia. 

    • Thank you very much Michel! I’m glas you have learned something. As a matter of fact, some regions don’t require any registration or training. May I suggest you tell your friend to look into hte requirements of her area? Just tobe on the safe side of the law you know 😉  They are amazing creatures indeed and they feel us.

      Come back soon and thanks again!

  • I agree with you totally – everyone should have a dog. Captain (my dog) came into our home years ago. I must be honest that he changes the atmosphere. I see love and passion between my family member like I have never seen before. They are not just for services but the affect and improve our emotional stability. But I also advise you not to have to own a dog if you will not love and care for them. The love and care are mutual

    • Abolutetly! Somedays it’s like having a child. Too many people dispose of them like they’re toys! It drives me nuts!

      Thank you for your input and come back often!

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