SERVICE DOG vs. PILOT DOG vs. THERAPY DOG
Many people who see our Therapy Dogs dressed in their red vests think that they are service dogs. We get a lot of questions from people in the community about the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog.
A Service Dog is specially trained for a specific person's needs. There are guide dogs for the blind, seizure alert dogs for epileptics, allergen sniffing dogs for people who are deathly allergic to certain things, like peanuts. Service dogs can go anywhere that their handler goes - into stores, on public transportation, etc., as long as the dog is clean and well-behaved. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service dogs and their access to public spaces.
Therapy Dogs are invited into a facility or event to provide therapy to people other than their handler. They go into nursing homes, hospitals, pediatric facilities and schools to provide therapy and education to the patients and students.
It is important to note that a Therapy Dog has no rights to enter an animal restricted area (grocery store, public transportation, etc), and are only allowed where they are invited to visit. Therapy Dogs are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Furry Friends Therapy Dogs visit health care facilities and schools. They do not wear their vests for the personal needs of their owner.
Angie’s Therapy Dog Class does not provide training for service dogs.
WHAT DOES A THERAPY DOG DO?
Therapy dogs specialize in pet therapy and are not to be confused with service or pilot dogs. It begins with the basic principal that when a dog walks into a room, the energy changes. A therapy dog will make people stop and smile, allowing them to think about other things rather than the challenges they are facing. This can be helpful to people in many circumstances, whether it be a health care situation or learning processes such as working with children’s reading programs. Therapy dogs and their human handlers create a caring atmosphere just by showing up for visits or related therapy work. People benefit greatly from knowing that others care for them. By simply coming in and saying “hello!” they are letting people know that the dog cares, the handler cares and both are interested in helping others get through difficult times.
IS YOUR DOG A GOOD CANDIDATE FOR THE PROGRAM?
There is a basic universal quality in all dogs; they care about people, which is the most important quality a therapy dog can have. Certain breeds are inherently better suited for therapy work than others, but most breeds are suitable. Therapy dog work is largely dependent on good training. The situation that you put the dog in plays a vital role in its success. Some dogs may not enjoy being in a group of rowdy children, while another may equate this with being in heaven!
If your dog prefers calmer surroundings, you may want to put him with a more sedate group such as senior citizens or people in hospitals that are not mobile and would enjoy the quiet presence of a relaxed dog. There is most likely a therapy activity for every kind of dog that enjoys being with people. That is the beauty of this foundation.
WHICH KIND OF TRAINING IS NECESSARY FOR A THERAPY DOG?
The preparation that is available to dogs and their owners through Angie’s Therapy Dog Class is limitless. The core elements include helping dogs with learning the appropriate responses to people, working in situations that the dog does not normally encounter and getting used to noises and equipment that are commonly encountered in a health care setting. It is also very important that the human part of the team receives training as well. The handler's primary focus is to protect his or her dog and the people they visit at all times. Proper training will allow handlers to know what types of circumstances may arise while working with their dog and how to properly handle the situation.
WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO BEGIN THERAPY DOG TRAINING?
Formal training can begin before a dog is one-year-old, but many dogs begin this training older than one-year-old. They may not become registered before the age of one but the training can certainly begin prior to that Angie’s Therapy Dog Class requires that your dog has successfully completed a basic obedience before entrance into the program. Enrolling your dog in a basic obedience class allows them to not become overloaded at a young age with too many experiences that he or she may find to be stressful. It is important that you and your dog are assured that these activities will be fun without creating too much work for him or her. Obedience training and proper socialization lays a strong foundation for therapy dog work.
HOW DOES A DOG AND HANDLER BECOME A REGISTERED THERAPY TEAM?
Therapy dog registration and testing is not provided at Angie’s Therapy Dog Class. We do give you the information prior to graduation, to find information about a tester and observer in your area.