What is the difference between service, emotional support and therapy Dogs?


There are three types of assistance dogs; service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. What are the similarities and differences between the work that these dogs do?

Service Dogs

  • Service dogs are trained to help people with a wide variety of physical and mental health limitations. 
  • They are trained to assist one person.
  • Service dogs are permitted to go into buildings and establishments that pets are not permitted in, such as schools, restaurants, and hospitals.
  • They need to be able to cope and work in many different scenarios.
  • Service dogs have a lot of rights that fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that can’t be taken away.

Therapy Dogs

  • Therapy dogs provide emotional support to more than one person often times in a hospital, retirement home, hospice, and other places.
  • They aren’t permitted to go into establishments that have a no pet policy.
  • They don’t live with their disabled owner.
  • Therapy dogs need to be able to cope and work in stressful situations.
  • Therapy dogs don’t have any rights under the ADA.

Emotional Support Dogs

  • Emotional Support Dogs have a primary job of providing emotional support to their owners through companionship.
  • They don’t have special training.
  • They aren’t permitted in establishments with no pet policies, however they may live with their owners in a no pet building.
  • Emotional support dogs don’t need to handle a wide variety of situations.
  • They don’t have any rights under the ADA. 

Now that we know the difference between these three types of assistance dogs, let’s take a look at what breeds are best to accomplish job.

Labrador Retrieversare good working dogs in general, so they are great at doing all the necessary tasks that would be needed for all three types of assistance jobs. They have a desire to please people, and they are smart and adaptable.

Golden Retrievers like Labrador Retrievers are excellent working dogs. They are friendly and easy to approach making them helpful to kids. 

Poodles were bred to be companions. They are smart dogs so they are easy to train, and they good at reading people’s emotions.

German Shepherds are smart and easy to train. They have a lot of energy and can keep up with people who have a lot to do. German Shepherds are really good with kids, and they have a gentle demeaner.

Pomeranians are naturally curious dogs so that curiosity can help distract their owners from their problems. They are also really smart and obedient so they are easy to train. Pomeranians enjoy being touched so their owners can pet them all day with no problems.

Border Collies are very smart and they thrive on pleasing people. So much so, that they can get depressed if they are left alone. They have good focus, so they won’t get distracted.

Pugs are a smaller dog that love being touched. They are smart and can tell when people need a little extra support. They enjoy playing with kids, but they don’t have a lot of energy so they are easy to control.

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