Dogs have filled various roles for people over the years but the most common is as a companion dog. Companion dogs' primary purpose is to provide companionship, comfort and loyalty to their owners. Unlike service dogs, who are trained to help with specific tasks, companion dogs simply make their person's life better by providing friendship and unconditional love.
Here's a short glossary to help you distinguish between the different kinds of dogs, including companion dogs, service dogs, emotional support dogs and therapy dogs.
Most household pets fall under the category of a companion dog. These dogs have not been specifically trained to assist their owners with tasks and they do not receive any special treatment in the public. Companion dogs and their owners must abide by any rules set in place by businesses, such as “No Animals Allowed.”
Service dogs have been trained to assist their owners with a variety of tasks based on the owner's disability. Examples of this type of dogs include seeing eye dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf and dogs that assist people with autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seizures. Some of these tasks include pulling a wheelchair, alerting a person to a noise, reminding someone to take their medication or notifying them of an oncoming seizure.
The rights of service dogs and their owners are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. No public establishment may refuse service to a person and their service dog, even if the place regularly prohibits dogs.
Emotional Support Dogs
Dogs that provide comfort as a medical treatment for depression, anxiety and other conditions are considered emotional support dogs. Although these dogs may be prescribed by a doctor, they are not considered to be service animals under the ADA because they have not been trained to learn specific tasks to help with a disability.
People with emotional support dogs may still be able to bring their dogs in public, however. For instance, emotional support dogs are allowed to accompany their owners on flights.
Therapy dogs are often used in a clinical setting to help patients improve physically, socially or emotionally. Typically, therapy dogs can be found in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes and schools.
Although occasionally therapy dogs may also be service dogs, most do not qualify as service dogs and are therefore not protected under the ADA. Public places are not required to allow therapy dogs but may choose to allow them at their own discretion.
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