Monday, August 1, 2016

Therapy Dog Vs Service Dog

I was approached today by an individual who asked me about Maggie’s breed. This is not an unusual occurrence as Maggie is known as the “pretty” dog. After I went through the explanation of a Goldendoodle he asked if she sheds and proceeded to tell me he was looking for a non-shedding dog because he is allergic to dogs. I told him although she is considered hypoallergenic there is really no dog that is 100% allergy free- the concept is really that if none of their fur or hair is flying into the air one less likely to react negatively to a dog. This gentleman proceeded to tell me he is really looking for a service dog for his PTSD and his diabetes. Oh, so this was a totally different conversation. As I was in the middle of a therapy session I felt pulled to continue the discussion but also was obligated to conclude my session. I recommended he check the internet for links to websites for more information that could direct him to the right resources that might help him. I judged his age to be mid to late 60’s so I wasn’t sure how computer literate he was. I then suggested he check with his local library because I figured the librarian might be able to help him with the computer. So what is the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog? Wikipedia defines a service dog as a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities such as visual impairments, hearing impairments, mental illnesses (such as post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD), seizure disorder, mobility impairment and diabetes. Since each disability is different, each dog is to some extent custom-trained for the individual it will help. Service dogs may wear special vests or badges to identify them. A therapy dog is defined as a dog that might be trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, disaster areas, and to people with autism. Therapy dogs need not wear special vests or badges to identify them In the U.S. therapy dogs are not service animals and are not afforded the same privileges as them. Whereby a service dog is allowed in food establishments a therapy dog is not. I remember after one visit at an elementary school, a mother was dropping off her daughter. She saw me walking out with Maggie. I noticed her hesitate as if she wanted to approach me. I smiled at her as I recognized her daughter as being one of the children that knew how to treat Maggie properly. I approached her and told her what a good job her daughter had done and how Maggie appreciated being handled properly. At that point she opened up and said she had wanted to come over but wasn’t sure if she was allowed to approach because she thought Maggie was a service dog. I explained that Maggie was a therapy dog and petting was allowed. We continued our conversation for a few minutes while she visited with Maggie. While therapy dogs differ from service dogs they both have a purpose and they are fulfilling a large need in the world.

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