This video explains the differences between Therapy Dogs, Service Animals, and Emotional Support Animals.

Excerpted from the Free Online Course: Therapy Dog Training: Does Your Dog Have What it Takes?

Therapy Dogs

Certified Therapy Dog Faith visiting with college students

A Therapy Dog is a pet that’s trained with its owner, as a team, to provide comfort and stress relief to others in a variety of situations.

Therapy dogs are usually the personal pets of their handlers. They work as a team with their handler to provide a variety of services to other people. Therapy dog teams volunteer in settings such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

Therapy Dog Description:

  • Personal pets of their handlers
  • Work as a team, with their handler, to provide comfort to others
  • Volunteer in settings such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals
  • Only allowed in facilities where they’ve been invited, or that are open to any pet
  • Require training and certification

Service Animals

A Service Animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.

Service Animal Description:

  • Legally defined and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Dogs only
  • Individually trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities
  • Those tasks can include assisting the blind, hearing impaired, physically disabled, or psychiatrically or neurologically disabled
  • Does NOT include emotional support, comfort, or companionship
  • Not subject to “pet” rules

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals do not require special training and their primary role is to provide emotional comfort, companionship and affection to their owner.

Emotional Support Animal Description:

  • Provide therapeutic support to individuals with emotional or psychological disabilities
  • May also be pets
  • May include a variety of different types of animals
  • Not individually trained to perform specific tasks or recognize signs or symptoms