Service dogs are broke down into three categories, Emotional Support Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and your true blue Service Dog. Title wise, they all sound about the same, but oh contraire mon frère.
We’ll start with Emotional Support Dogs. They can help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, lonliness, fears/phobias, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts/tendencies. “But Katie, that sounds the same as a service dog.” False.
I sort of see it like this, the emotional support dog is like your friend you go to when you just need someone to be there for you and the service dog is like you’re therapist, they know how to professionally deal with what you’re going through.
The other difference is Service Dogs are protected by the law to go anywhere with you even in none pet friendly establishments and ESDs don’t have those same rights.
I’ve met my fair share of Therapy Dogs at hospitals and I must say there are a great temporary distraction from whatever it is that brings you there. Every Therapy dog I’ve met has had a business card with things like their photo and hobbies and what not too, so that alone is a win.
Like ESDs they can only go places dogs are permitted. That is unless there is therapy dog program. I would love to get Pete or Lavern chill and trained enough to be a therapy dog, but they are going to need a LOT of work before that happens.
Like I said before, Service Dogs are different from Emotional Support Dogs because they have specific tasks they are trained to do for their handlers. But what could these tasks possibly be you ask? Well let me just freaking tell you guys, because I wasn’t even aware how specifically they are trained before this and it’s astonishing. To make this easy I’m going to list a condition, and how the service dog assists.
Anxiety: Settles owner, touches them in some way whether it be nuzzling or something of that nature, or they apply deep pressure, they sound miniscule but you’d be amaze what simple touch and pressure can do for the human body. There have been studies y’all.
Aggressive Driving (no seriously): Alert handler to episode to ground them.
Hallucinations: Alert handler to real life noises to bring them back to reality.
Memory Loss: Find items like keys etc. remind to take meds.
Self Mutilation: Settle handler, interrupt by alerting or touching.
Nausea: Touches or nuzzles, applies deep pressure.
Mobility Assistance: Opens and closes doors, helps dress and undress, retrieves wheelchair or walker, positions handler in wheelchair.
Seizures: Alerts handler before (I repeat before) seizure, braces handler to prevent/soften fall, calls 911, alerts other people for help.
These are only a few examples…
I always knew service dogs where helpful but I had no idea the extent they went to. They go from subtle but surprisingly helpful gestures like applying pressure to dressing people and knowing something is about to happen before it happens. Whaa??
All of those tasks require so much focus, it’s understandable why whey wear those, “don’t pet me” vests. If they are distracted they may not sense the seizure that’s approaching their handler and not warn them in time for the handler to get in a safe position.
I wanted so badly to list some places to train your dog to be a Service Dog but unfortunately after an hour of searching, I’ve got nothin’ for ya. If you know of a place, I’d love to hear about it. Emotional Support Dogs and Therapy dogs really just need your basic training you can get at any training facility. Ironically given the more extensive, Service Dog doesn’t technically require any test, there is an evaluation you have to pass before certifying a Therapy Dog.
I’ll list where to register as a Service, Therapy, and Emotional Support Dog below and where to get you a Service dog. But before I wrap this puppy up (pun intended) I’m sure you’re curious about one last thing… Pricing.
Brace yourself for this… The average service dog goes for $7000 - $20,000. And no, your insurance does not cover it. I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath.
There are several organizations that, if you qualify, will give you a dog free of charge. Buuuut those organizations normally have a waitlist of around 2-10 years. I know. They jaw dropping moments just don’t end. I hope you found reading this article as interesting as I found writing and researching it. I always thought service dogs were cool anyway, but now I have a whole new respect for them and the industry.
Happy Service Dog Month. Go thank a Service Dog, verbally; without touching it so you don’t distract it… Maybe even avoid eye contact just in case.
How to Register
Service Dog: The United States Service Dog Registry $50 https://www.usservicedogregistry.org/shop.php
Therapy Dog: National Therapy Dog Registry $25 for evaluation $40 yearly
Emotional Support Dog: ESA Registration Of America https://www.esaregistration.org/
Where To Get One
My attempts to find places to get Emotional Support Dogs and Therapy Dogs have been futile. I think this is because people use their own dogs for these jobs.
Freedom Service Dogs
Paws With a Cause
Canine Companions for Independence