Archive for the ‘Therapy Animal’ Category

Although they both offer vital services, a service dog and a therapy dog are not the same. These two types of dogs are not afforded the same federal rights to public access under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They provide very different services for people. On rare occasions, however, a Service Dog can also be a Therapy Dog. But to understand why this is not a common situation, we first need to clarify the differences between a service dog and a therapy dog. 

What is a Service Dog? 

The ADA defines service dogs as dogs trained to work or complete tasks for people with a disability. The work that a service dog performs must directly relate to their owner’s disability. In the case of service dogs, their presence is protected under federal law

As examples, service dogs may function as guides for people who are visually impaired or pull a wheelchair for someone with mobility problems. Some service dogs obtain life-saving medication when their diabetic owners are incapacitated. The tasks that service dogs fulfill are activities that a person with a disability would not be able to do independently, thus making a service dog an essential part of their daily life. 

What is a Therapy Dog? 

A therapy dog accompanies its owners to hospitals, schools, or nursing facilities to provide the general service of providing comfort, affection, and a sense of well-being. Although a therapy dog has an owner, they help other people by spending time interacting with them. Many hospitals now have therapy dogs to help ease the pain and anxiety of being in a hospital. These therapy dogs spend time with various patients, serving to make their time there a little brighter. 

Research shows that the presence of animals can reduce stress and change physiological responses, like lower blood pressure and heart rate. Therapy dogs not only bring affection, but they may improve the physical well-being of patients, making them more likely to recover from illness. 

A therapy dog seeks to interact with other people to give them comfort and joy. A Service Dog and Therapy Dog

Because service dogs provide an essential service to their owner, they’re almost always on the job. Service dogs receive training to be alert to the needs of their owner and to perform particular tasks. This extreme focus is why it is generally frowned upon to pet or engage with a service dog that doesn’t belong to you. Interacting with a service dog can distract them from doing their jobs well, which might endanger their owner. 

Therapy dogs, however, are continually interacting when they do their jobs. They approach various people in hospitals and schools and allow these people to pet and cuddle with them. This interaction is the opposite of the strict concentration that a service dog requires. 

Despite the significant differences between a service dog and a therapy dog, a dog can technically be both. However, it takes a very talented—and extremely patient—dog to fulfill both roles. 

Difference between service dog, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs Serving as Both

In rare instances, a highly intelligent and well-trained service dog can function as a therapy dog. A service dog trained to assist their owner with mobility issues, for example, can work as a therapy dog when the owner is sitting. When the owner is at rest and doesn’t require help, the service dog can attend to other people as a therapy dog. 

Because being both a service dog and a therapy dog requires a particular awareness of the needed roles, a dog performing both functions needs to gauge situations appropriately. This switch in behavior demands a level of intelligence that most dogs don’t possess. 

An Issue of Safety

Working as both a service dog and a therapy dog also creates some safety concerns that must be addressed. The leashes, harnesses, and other equipment that help a service dog fulfill their task might not be conducive to the therapy dog environment. Another safety consideration is the needs of the service dog owner. Service dogs should always be capable of fulfilling their duty as service dogs. The role of therapy must come secondary.

A service dog should focus on their owner’s well-being and not be distracted by others. In Summary

Can a service dog function as a therapy dog? Yes, but with considerations. The environment should be safe for the service dog owner, the dog, and the people around them. Service dogs must be aware and trained to fulfill both roles, and the safety of the service dog owner should never be compromised. It takes an exceptional dog to fulfill both roles, and you’d be fortunate to have one! 

According to the American Disabilities Act, or ADA for short, service animals must be trained to work or perform tasks for a disabled person to qualify as a service animal. PTSD dogs are a type of service dog that specializes in handling a person with any significant trauma. These dogs have rights to all public access areas and are individually trained to work with people with PTSD. Trainers authorized by Assistance Dogs International and organizations that follow the standards set by the ADI train these dogs with specific requirements in mind. Each dog is trained according to these standards, and those who will work with people with PTSD will need additional training according to the person’s needs. These dogs provide a lifetime of support, helping ease people with PTSD. What kind of services do PTSD Dogs provide? Service dogs handle people with disabilities by acting concerning that person’s needs, whether that person is blind, deaf, or severely disabled. PTSD Dogs bring a sense of love, provide good companionship, take orders when trained, help reduce stress, and help the individual meet new people. These dogs can individually act, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs, by:

Assisting in medical crises Assisting in treatment by subtle reminders Giving the individual a sense of security Helping the individual handle emotional trauma through companionship

According to researchers in the Department of Defense, this is believed to be caused by the presence of oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes bonding and trust, as it occurs when people come in contact with babies, dogs, and other cute creatures. This boost of oxytocin can help people living with PTSD by putting them at ease and making them more responsive to therapy as a result. PTSD dogs can be beneficial, but whether or not these dogs align with emotional support dogs is still being questioned, according to the VA.

How effective are PTSD Service Dogs at treating PTSD? Many studies related to service dogs show the benefits service dogs have regarding physical disabilities. However, studies on how beneficial service dogs are for mental health are still being determined through various studies. For instance, studies from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense suggest that service dogs can benefit traumatized soldiers. However, those results come with limited validation, and future trails can only further help negate the questions that remain and give a better understanding of the psychology of how PTSD dogs treat people with PTSD. Studies from Purdue University show that there is a lack of empirical research on the effectiveness of PTSD service dogs, resulting in mixed model results. However, the conclusion of the study proved that PTSD dogs could serve as a “meaningful improvement” for those with PTSD. Are PTSD Dogs just for Veterans?

A service dog can be any breed. You can either train your own service dog or work with an accredited trainer.

Most studies involving PTSD dogs centralize around veterans. However, experts in the field state that these service dogs can be beneficial for those with non-military related PTSD, including sexual-assault victims and those who have experienced significant traumas such as car accidents and accidental fires. However, official studies have been limited in results and need further trials to prove useful. While the ADI has specific instructions for military veterans to gain access to service dogs, those who are non-military can apply for a service dog through any approved service dog training organization that has taken the ADI standardization test. You can also adopt a dog from a shelter and train them yourself to provide a service for your disability if you do not have the means to apply through a service dog training organization.  Even with the research involving veterans, PTSD dogs don’t earn the same VA coverage as other service dogs would. While the VA covers veterinary care for service dogs that assist veterans with physical disabilities, the VA doesn’t do that for PTSD service dogs. Any treatment within the VA only includes therapies such as exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, and desensitization therapy. As for others with PTSD, those who have the medical documentation can receive a specially trained service dog for PTSD through applying at any chosen trainer organization. How do I gain a PTSD Dog? Any service dog, including PTSD service dogs, follow under the guidelines of the ADA, which state that service dogs have legal access to all public areas as long as they are appropriately leashed and controlled by their handler. PTSD service dogs usually cost on average $20,000 or more, depending on the organization, and finding the right organization to purchase a service dog can be difficult due to the lack of federal regulation on training and accreditation. While the ADI does not provide trained service dogs, it only provides guidelines for trainers and individuals to follow and a database for accredited members to search. Once you find the right organization or trainer for you, you can go through their application process and work with the trainers to help you find the service dog for you. You may also train your dog yourself if you are unable to pay the fees to specially train your dog through a trainer. 

What do you need to know about Therapy Dogs:

Dogs can have a beneficial impact on the people around them, whether they serve an individual as a service dog, provide support as an emotional support dog, or bring comfort as a therapy dog. Here are some of the differences between these types of dogs:

Service Dogs – Service dogs, defined under the ADA, are individually trained to work and perform tasks for a person with a disability. These dogs are covered under the ADA’s rights, meaning they can be brought into public establishments and live with their disabled owner even when a “no pets” policy is in place. Emotional Support Dogs – Emotional support dogs are the middle ground between service dogs and therapy dogs. These dogs provide emotional support through companionship and can be trained for a specific owner, but are not explicitly trained for people with disabilities. These dogs help relieve loneliness, depression, anxieties, and phobias. However, they are not covered under the ADA’s rights to bring animals into public establishments but can live with their disabled owner even if there is a “no pets” policy. Therapy Dogs – Therapy dogs bring emotional support through long-term care in places such as hospitals, retirement homes, schools, mental health institutions. These dogs are not covered under the ADA and are usually brought into institutions through a non-profit organization. Therapy dogs can handle various environments and bring comfort to many people in clinical, and learning settings and typically are trained, licensed, and insured under an organization.

Hence, the validation of what constitutes a therapy dog has a specific definition, but in regards to legal rights, those rights can vary. According to the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, there is a lack of objective data regarding the public’s ability to understand these animal’s roles as well as the animal’s legitimacy concerning rules and regulations overlooking them. Governing documents and company policies all have different definitions of therapy dogs and how they interact with public spaces.  The JERPH states that no specific laws governing therapy animals. Thus, this leaves the rules regarding therapy animals lacking in definition and can also lead to loopholes about how therapy dogs interact with the world.

What do laws and policies state about Therapy Dogs? According to the Fair Housing Act, the act follows the ADA guidelines regarding service animals and thus uses the term “assistance animal” as a way to ensure housing providers of their obligations, labeling the terms “service animal,” “support animals” and “therapy animals” within that definition. While the FHA defines therapy dogs under the term “assistance,” the FHA allows housing providers to refuse access for therapy dogs onto their property but will allow service dogs to gain access to public spaces because of their rights under the ADA. Emotional support animals have access to housing, in spite of no-pets policies under the FHA. 

In the state of New York, a report issued in 2018, concluded that there are no national or statewide standards regarding training, evaluation, certification, and identification of therapy dogs. It also states that there is “confusion regarding the rights and responsibilities of [owners of] therapy dogs [and] emotional support dogs.” Hence, in its conclusion, it states that it recommends the development of those standards so it can benefit the public, their dogs, and organizations, also suggesting that therapy dogs should be licensed and identified by therapy dog tags and other accessories and should have liability insurance as part of their coverage. Another organization, Assistance Dogs International, follows the ADA guidelines in regards to service animals, but does not explicitly define the difference between service, emotional support, and therapy dogs, also using the classification assistance dogs as an overarching term. The ADI’s standards apply more so to people with disabilities, stating that whether the disability is physical or mental, the animal must be individually trained for specific tasks for that person to be considered a service dog and be given ADA rights. Thus, the ADI only provides training standards for service animal trainers and organizations, excluding emotional support dogs and therapy dogs from those standards. Unlike governing policies and accreditation organizations, companies like IHOP help define therapy dogs and the boundaries for these kinds of assistance animals. According to IHOP’s policy, therapy dogs are trained, certified, and insured to work in institutions to help educate a community, provide comfort, and act as animal ambassadors for their local community. They also state that therapy dogs do not fall under the ADA regulation and have no rights to public access. Hence, if a therapy dog were to try and gain public access to an IHOP restaurant, they would not be allowed to unless otherwise allowed by the owner of the establishment.

How can Therapy Dogs get certified?

The American Kennel Club, while does not certify therapy dogs, provides their training programs for organizations to use to be able to verify their dog as a therapy dog. The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) is considered to be a prerequisite, which includes the 10-step CGC test as a way for their dogs to get acquainted with basic dog training requirements. The AKC also offers title awards in their AKC Therapy Dog™ program, which allows the organization to recognize dogs for excellent service and meet requirements needed by their AKC approved training organization.

Approved organizations, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs, have their own set of standards for those wishing to turn their dogs into therapy dogs, which includes finding a certified tester to test the dog’s basic training and demeanor. Once the dog goes through a few test runs supervised by the examiner in medical facilities, the person can apply and approve their animal. ATD members then must follow the organization’s guidelines, which includes the ATD providing liability insurance, dog health requirements, grooming requirements, dog equipment, and safety precautions.

If you would like to register your therapy dog online, you may do so here. You can also order your identification card and therapy dog vest while registering your therapy animal. Although not legally required, having a therapy animal identification card and vest can be useful when identifying your animal as a therapy animal in public.

Can my dog become a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs can be any breed of dog, as the primary purpose of therapy dogs is to provide people with companionship and comfort. Hence, therapy dogs must be able to enjoy the company of people of all ages and be comfortable being touched. The AKC has their own outlined qualities, including:

The dog must have an undiscriminating love for the people he/she meets Have a willingness to meet new people Have a calm demeanor Have a high tolerance for physical discomfort Must not get easily scared by loud noises and sudden movements

When it comes to therapy dogs in public spaces, therapy dogs can only be allowed in open areas when that public space has a therapy dog program or is permitted by the official representative of that organization/company, according to the ATD. Because these dogs can bring support in care and education facilities, therapy dogs can They also states that the presence of a therapy dog can be overall beneficial to the people around them. The ATD says that animal-assisted therapy helps people relax by releasing serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin in the brain, reducing loneliness, providing comfort, and creating a distraction as a result. Physically, therapy dogs can lower blood pressure, diminish physical pain, motivate people, and help with social interaction. Because these dogs are not generally allocated to a disabled owner, these dogs can be specially trained to support more than one person through any situation.